Bigger Than the Game: Dirk Hayhurst’s latest, bravest and most emotionally moving book yet

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Dirk Hayhurst has a new book out. It’s his third. The first was about life in the minors. The second was about breaking into the bigs. This one — called Bigger Than the Game — is about the life of an injured and then re-habbing pitcher who, whether he knew it or not, was soon to be out of baseball altogether.

While one might feel that the drama of breaking into the game and hitting the bigs would be the greatest, Bigger Than the Game is easily the most emotionally affecting of Hayhurst’s books. Part of that is because we know so much about him now through his other books and TV and radio appearances or, if we’re lucky enough, because we’ve met him in person. His struggles mean more now than when he was just an oddity of a minor leaguer telling us interesting anecdotes from the inside. As I read Bigger Than the Game I knew what would happen to Hayhurst. Where his life would take him between the time of the events he was describing in the book and the present day. It made every moment on the operating table, in rehab and in the clubhouse seem so much more significant, And, at times, so much sadder.

Not that it’s a dreary read by any means. Hayhurst, for everything he went through in his childhood and his baseball journey, is nothing if not an optimist. And a good-humored one at that. He is able to find laughs and the brighter side of some very dark things on a pretty consistent basis. His teammates in Toronto may not have treated him well when he was trying to come back from his visits to Dr. Andrews, but Hayhurst usually has the last laugh. Or, if not a laugh, a positive and reflective insight to it all. He has constantly landed on his feet and you don’t doubt that he always will. And, best of all for us, he’ll tell us a lot of neat stories about things in baseball we can’t possibly know first hand as he stands back up again.

There are some weighty issues raised by Bigger Than the Game. Drug abuse. The stigma attached to a player reaching out for psychological help. Locker room bullying. The isolation a player can feel when he’s neither part of a team nor home with his family. Any of these may be tough to get through in someone else’s hands. But we’ve come so far with Hayhurst by now. We trust him and his voice. He’s a wonderful guide through this thorny thicket. And he continues to be one of the bravest writers to ever wear a baseball uniform.

Go here to get a copy of Bigger Than the Game. You’ll be happy you did.

Mark Buehrle had “definitely no more than three” beers before saving Game 3 of the ’05 World Series

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David Ortiz is not the only Sox player who will see his number retired this week. In Chicago, retired White Sox starter Mark Buehrle will have his 56 retired as well.

He definitely earned it. He won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox, defining what it meant to be a workhorse starter in the 21st century, tossing 200+ innings in every full season he pitched on the South Side. And, of course, he helped lead the White Sox to a World Series victory in 2005, starting the Chisox’ Game 2 victory, tossing seven innings.

He also got a save in that series. That came in Game 3, which went 14 innings, thus necessitating Buehrle’s services after Ozzie Guillen went through eight other pitchers. Buehrle only had to toss three pitches in a third of an inning to get that save, but he got it.

And, as he writes in The Players’ Tribune today, he did it with a slight handicap:

The thing a lot of people talk about with that one is this rumor that I drank a few beers before I got the save in our Game 3 victory.

There’s been some stuff that’s come out on that topic, but I feel like you all should really hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. So, here goes….

In short: Yeah, sure, O.K. fine, so I had a few. I can admit to that.

But you gotta let me explain.

He explains that he didn’t think he’d be pitching that night, which was a fair guess at the time. And that he got his drinking done pretty early, checking in with the coaches a lot. So, fine. But how many beers did he have?

And it was just like one or two beers . . .

. . . It was only like three beers….

Max.

Definitely no more than three, though.

I swear.

Mmhmm.

All of this, of course, makes one think about the whole Chicken and Beer incident in Boston. And how that became so overblown that it cost people their jobs and stuff. The only difference there is that (a) the guys drinking the beer were in no way coming into any games; and (b) the Red Sox lost. Change (b) and Josh Beckett and company become legends.

Anyway, congratulations on your honor, Mark. You earned it. Have a beer on us.

Red Sox claim Doug Fister off waivers

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SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Red Sox claimed Doug Fister off release waivers from the Angels.

Fister, 33, opted out of his contract with the Angels the other day after posting allowing seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15.2 innings at Triple-A Salt Lake City. He was presumably told that he would not be making it to the big club any time soon. With Boston’s pitching injuries, specifically to Eduardo Rodriguez, he may have a better shot of pitching in the majors for the Red Sox.