The Boys Who Would Be Cubs by Joseph Bosco: a review

Joseph Bosco documents the 1988 season of the Peoria Chiefs, largely from the perspective of manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Rick Kranitz, both of whom have had some major league success since the book was published. While it’s a largely sympathetic portrait of the Chiefs, it’s a rather off-putting book and many people dislike it. So it’s worth mentioning some of the things which bother folks:

  • The book’s written in something which resembles present tense, which makes following the story painful.
  • The language is unabashedly profane.
  • While there’s no actual sex in the book, there’s much discussion about the players’ sex lives.
  • The players are usually identified by nicknames which are not always obvious.
  • Rick Wilkins, the most recognizable of the players, is portrayed as boorish, immature, and self-centered.
  • Chiefs owner Pete Vonachen, a hero to many people (including me), is shown to be petty and difficult, though Bosco obviously likes the man.

Ignoring Scott Sanderson, who pitched a few innings on a rehab assignment, only two members of this team made it to The Show. Both–Wilkins, and Frank Castillo–had decent careers. Most of the rest were out of baseball within a couple years of their Peoria season.

Bosco’s claimed intention was an exploration of the reasons players succeed or fail; instead, he’s chronicled the ways coaches teach and motivate players. His book does this better than any other in my library; it’s a fascinating read.

Not a book for everyone, obviously. But if you can discount the difficulties, worth your time.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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