Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
The Baseball Miracle of the Splendid 6 and Towny Townsend by Patrick Montgomery pleasantly surprised us with its fascinating documentation of several baseball legends including Coach Towny Townsend and his “Splendid 6.” The Splendid 6 were products of Towny Townsend's amateur traveling league who made their mark in the major leagues and in life. They consisted of Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynold, BJ Upton, and Justin Upton.
Now, before you turn away because you're not interested in baseball as a sport, just know that neither were we. But this book was a paradigm shift. It really engaged, fascinated, and excited us, because it's more than about baseball, it's about who these men were on and off the field, particularly Coach Townsend himself. This book is just as much about human beings battling cancer and existential questions about their place in the world than about a battle between men with helmets, bats, and gloves. This is a biographical book about great people doing great things against unspeakable odds.
Let's get down to it... Towny Townsend saw a need for amateur sports and athletics in his Virginia community of Hampton Roads. He saw that the local baseball team of Lake Taylor High was poorly led and the morale and discipline of its players was very low. He presented the idea of starting a baseball team (and later league) to several community leaders who didn't recognize him from his earlier fame and eventually, the amateur team, the Blasters, was born. Coach Townsend, through the Blasters, sought to not only build great players but also great human beings who would succeed inside and outside of the sport.
According to Patrick Montgomery, “The Blasters, as an organization, was looking not just for playing ability but also the right mixture of attitude, coachability and desire.”
With the Norfolk, VA area's population blooming and more kids wanting to play sports, Townsend expanded his team into a league
Through the Blasters, Coach Townsend countered the scammy traveling leagues that were popping up, preying on the hopes and dreams of young players and making a killing in the bank. Townsend recognized that many amateur athletes do not make it to the big leagues, so he knew that this was more than about baseball and more than about making money. In fact, making money was not a priority with his league. He did it because he loved doing it.
This book does a fantastic job at capturing the heart and passion of Coach Townsend and his vision for the sport of baseball.
Much of Townsend's philosophy and mindset can be summarized by the advice his father gave him in this beautiful quote: “Be kind to people on the way up, Towny, because you will see them on your way down.”
Coach Townsend's journey is perilous. He loses a large portion of his tongue and eventually his life to cancer. However, just because you know how his story ends doesn't mean his last days aren't captivating. In fact, his last days are some of the most interesting parts of the book.
This book also makes a strong and impassioned argument for the inclusion of the Splendid 6 in the baseball hall of fame. This book taught us a ton about how the hall of fame works, especially how selection, voting, and induction work. It's actually incredible political and based mostly on milestones (like 500 home runs) over character. Now, there are discussion of the likes of Pete Rose (caught for gambling) and another nominee who got in despite domestic abuse. This is despite the Splendid 6 doing far more, in many cases, to expand the positive reach of the sport and care for their communities. They are, in a sense, the unsung heroes of MLB, and this book seeks to sing their song.
Now, there are some other fun and interesting things in this book such as the story about Babe Ruth's drinking habit (including during prohibition). Look at this hilarious quote regarding that:
Sometimes, when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work, and their dreams would be shattered. I think, “It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.
If that doesn't make you laugh, what will? That just shows the personality that the Babe had.
Also, did you know that Babe Ruth may have been instrumental in the continued war against cancer? Did you know that nitrogen mustard (like mustard gas) was tested on him to kill and treat the cancer cells he developed? Babe signed off on that because he believed the research gathered would help a lot of people. And it did!
Yes, there are a few minor grammatical errors like a missing word or duplicate word here and there, but it's nothing major.
If you love baseball, or you love sports, or you love great stories about great people, check this out on Amazon!