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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

For an individual’s observations of the world to be interesting, his writing must establish a distinct, singular voice which sustains the promise of new and intriguing insight and information. Davey Johnson, who has guided the New York Mets to two second place finishes after a decade cellar-dwelling, has been relatively self-contained, even mysterious, according to the ever-inquisitive members of the New York media. But his reclusiveness, as his detailed dairy of the 1985 season demonstrates, is just another aspect of a complex, calculating man who, now that he has chosen to speak, displays a voice of some interest and originality.

Johnson (with his very able collaborator Peter Golenbock) offers some brief material on his background as a player and his interests outside baseball, but the bulk of the book is a chronological account of the decisions he made as the Mets challenged the St. Louis Cardinals until the very last days of the season. The key to the narrative may be Johnson’s distress that Frank Cashen, the general manager with whom he has a contentious but respectful working relationship, might suspect that “he hasn’t thought of everything.” To the contrary, Johnson demonstrates in every game situation he discusses that he has considered all of the variables and that he has a reason for everything he does. His analysis is detailed, lucid, and logical. Combine this ability with his fierce passion for victory, grudging sense of fairplay, and hard-headed, unsentimental awareness of the price one must pay to be a pennant winner, and the reasons for this success begin to emerge.

The inside information on players is brief but tantalizing. The already awesome Dwight Gooden is a picture of unflappable greatness;...

(The entire section is 435 words.)