A False Spring by Pat Jordan: a review

Perhaps the best book ever written about minor league baseball, A False Spring explores the reasons one youngster failed to fulfill his potential.

This is a powerful and frustrating memoir of Pat Jordan’s three summers pitching in the low minor leagues, written when the author was in his thirties. At heart, it’s an exploration of why he failed, and that story is pretty brutal: Much of the problem was immaturity; he comes off as a cocky kid, with obvious talent but no ability to put the talent to use. Except for a Winter Instructionals interlude, the path is ever downward, and the ending inevitable.

There’s a Midwest League connection: Jordan spent 1960 with the Davenport Braves. Unfortunately, it’s the book’s weakest chapter. The author knows this, and discusses the reasons; it’s closely tied to the greater failure of his baseball career.

The book’s honesty is absolutely painful, though occasionally a bit forced. And Jordan’s ability to sketch a portrait with a few sentences is really quite remarkable; almost everyone he turns his attention to comes to life on the page. I was particularly taken by his description of Travis Jackson’s need to be physically involved in baseball’s rituals, contrasted with his relative disdain for the ordinary necessities of the manager’s job.

The author describes his career as a series of unnumbered photographic slides, scattered purposelessly on a table. This fundamental inability to find a way to tie the episodes of his young life into a coherent whole was, he judges, the reason he failed so miserably. That’s perhaps not entirely fair, but it’s a good first approximation.


This review was originally published on LibraryThing.