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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball

Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball

1 rating: 3.0
A book by David Wells

<p>This is a guy who ...</p><ul><br>Grew up among Hell's Angels, taking their Harleys for solo joyrides at age eleven ...</li><br>Prepares for every outing by blasting Metallica, AC/DC, and Godsmack at eardrum-bursting … see full wiki

Author: David Wells
Genre: Sports & Recreation, Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: Harpercollins
Date Published: September 01, 2004
1 review about Perfect I'm Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls,...

As Loud as Boomer!

  • Jul 15, 2006
Rating:
+3
Pros: Wells has a sense of humor about himself, and he's FUNNY!

Cons: Remember your problems with Faithful? Boomer has them, but to a much lesser extent (thankfully)

The Bottom Line: The sleeve says Wells is one of the funniest human beings on this or any planet. I won't contest that.

Perfect I’m not shocked me. No, it wasn’t the extreme political incorrectness or the lack of typical sheltered conservative values. That stuff is merely David Wells being David Wells, and it’s what any baseball fan would expect. If you know of David Wells’s reputation, it’s probably why you bought the book in the first place. No, the most shocking thing about Wells’s autobiography is that it’s actually well-written. (To be fair, though, Wells does mention that he passed every subject when he graduated from high school.)

Another thing: One of the main requirements in autobiography writing is having a sense of humor about yourself. No sense of humor, no unique, fun anecdotes. No unique, fun anecdotes, your book will find a permanent spot on an insomniac’s night stand. It is, after all, the fun personal anecdotes that really make autobiographies, because they represent some of the memorable experiences which made people into what they are. (My all-time favorite autobiographical anecdote is still Marlon Brando’s story of how he stole the bell clapper from his military school, buried it in the yard, and then formed a search group to find it which he used to accuse everyone he didn’t like.) David Wells grew up right in the middle of a division of the Hell’s Angels near San Diego. He then played minor-league baseball in some of the most backwoods places in the country (or more properly, the continent). He makes it to the major leagues, and becomes a career journeyman, and pitches a perfect game while he’s hung over. If this man can’t have a sense of humor about himself, there’s reason to lose all hope in the concept of autobiographies.

There’s a little disappointment in the first few chapters of Perfect I’m Not. Wells mentions on the back cover that he used to take his Hell’s Angels friends’ choppers out for joyrides when he was a preteen, and a quote at the beginning of chapter three in which one of his older friends tells Wells he wants Wells to wear a helmet... At least until he’s 12. But Wells neglects any anecdotes about his joyrides. Instead, he prefers to talk about his mother (NEVER insult his mother) and his high-school baseball team. The chapter on his childhood is on the longer side, but it makes up only a brief section of what Wells wants to say. That chapter is the only insight we get to those years, because Wells didn’t go through the typical “scrapping poor, abused, tragic hero” childhood. He states repeatedly that he was loved and, despite the complete absence of his biological father, never lacking in positive male role models. (Although admits he was curious about his real father, whom he met while playing minor-league ball and formed a good relationship with.)

After talking about his more youthful days, chapter four goes into baseball, baseball, baseball, and Wells stays that course through the rest of the book. He goes off on the side in a few brief sections to talk about things like the use of steroids (he doesn’t mind, long as the user isn’t using certain other drugs after games), an offseason in which he had to live in a friend’s truck, and hunting with Kirk Gibson (Gibson is even allowed space to give his point of view). Again, though, they’re all shorter than Wells’s tour of duty with the Chicago White Sox, so when he trails, it’s always entertaining, and he always gets back on path quickly to realize his dream of playing for the New York Yankees.

The most fun anecdotes in the book are in the chapters when Wells first gets drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, placed on their rookie league team, the Medicine Hat Blue Jays (I’ve never heard of Medicine Hat - and I live just minutes from the Canadian border), and working his way up through Toronto’s farm system with stops in Kinston, Knoxville, and Syracuse. Wells talks about the weird culture shock he finds in Kinston, North Carolina, where black people and white people seem to be divided right down the middle, and talks about his team’s ways with his constantly changing roommates. My favorite part was about Wells’s time playing winter ball in Venezuela. Rooming with Cecil Fielder, switching hotels after the cockroaches drove him nuts, an explosive case of Montezuma’s Revenge, and a crazy bus driver with a plastic Jesus glued to his dashboard, among other things, conspire to drive him back to San Diego before the winter ball season is over.

Wells can sometimes come off as a little arrogant when he talks about the teams he played for, the managers, owners, and fans. He’s simply ruthless when it comes to those things, and he’s honest to the point of brutality. To Wells, the rudest baseball fans in the country are the ones who root for the Cleveland Indians, and he mentions one particular incident in which Indians fans successfully distracted him by insulting his mother. While the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him and brought him his first World Series ring, Wells doesn’t like either the organization or its fans. He doesn’t really present such harsh opinions of the Baltimore Orioles or the Chicago White Sox (of course his stint with the latter was very short, and he was on the disabled list for most of the time), and he seems a little torn about the Cincinnati Reds; he hated (now ex-)owner Marge Schott with a passion (This woman pinched pennies so hard she gave Abe Lincoln headaches. he says of the Hitler-praiser’s money-grubbing ways) but loved their general manager (Jim Bowden was a rare bird in baseball, a straight-shooting, honest, top executive with a real love of the game.) and got along well with manager Davey Johnson (after head-butting Johnson: It’s actually a pretty good testament to Davey’s temperament that he was able to laugh what could have easily gone down as the beginning of a really bad relationship. Laughing over that story, and the subsequent lump on my forehead, for weeks after the fact, Davey and I actually grew closer than ever.)

As for the Detroit Tigers, Wells loved his time there and was hoping to settle in for the long haul. He also, in so many words, calls Sparky Anderson the best manager he ever played for. Finally, whenever Wells gets to talking about the New York Yankees, the team he rooted for as a kid, received the chance to play for, and won a perfect game, a World Series ring, an all-star game appearance, and ALCS MVP honors with, suffice it to say that his experience was exactly what he hoped it would be, even if it was shorter than he would have liked. Wells is a machismo kinda guy, but he simply turns to mush whenever the Yankees are brought up. He loves the organization to death, calls their fans the best fans in baseball and is friends with George Steinbrenner. This is a myth dispelled about the book, by the way. When it came out, a rumor spread that he used it to let out his grievances against the Yankees. Total grievances against the 26-time champions: Zero. And on their owner, Wells says I laugh out loud when Gregg relays the news, loving the Yankees’ interest and shaking my head in disbelief that George Steinbrenner, billionaire owner of the New York Yankees, has taken it upon himself to endure lunch at a burger joint and check me out in person. This is an owner who gives a s***. This is why the Yankees are THE YANKEES. Granted, a hundred-million-dollar payroll can make a contender out of any team, but there’s more going on here. For all his faults, you can’t deny that George Steinbrenner, the man, not just the wallet, is a tangible, positive factor in the Yankees domination of baseball.

For those wondering about David Wells behind the baseball, don’t bother looking for too much information about Wells’s family life or partying and boozing habits. While both were involved in the night before Wells threw his perfect game, there’s very little he has to say. He does mention, in one of the opening chapters, that his concern about his family is the reason he stopped injecting himself with cortisone painkillers, got season-ending surgery, and went on a diet. Otherwise, however, don’t bother looking for fathering tips. Yes, the man has a wife and a couple of kids, and the way he writes, he intends to keep them. But giving out information on any of that would be very uncharacteristic of him. And they don’t keep him from writing a couple of pages about the groupies baseball players run into. He says the booty buffet is sweet for awhile, but most players get bored and walk away from it after some time. The ones that don’t get scared off for various reason which he goes into depth about.

Although Wells wouldn’t want to hear it, he doesn’t come off as the big, scary, must-be-called-sir a****** he thinks he does. There are times, in fact, where he comes off as a warm, fuzzy teddy bear. The main point is in the second chapter, where he talks about how he thought of going into retirement. For most of the book, he appears to be rough around the edges, but otherwise likable. There’s territory in the land of the a******* where even he doesn’t tread - part of which, believe it or not, is a certain type of groupie. Wells is a type of guy who a guy could go to a bar and chug some beer and watch football with. There’s never a point in Perfect I’m Not in which you’ll hate the guy - at least, not if you’re not a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays or Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox (then again, Wells is currently having a solid season with the BoSox. And you can’t forget their fans, who have a sense of entitlement and hate everybody).

Wells goes through a few games like a play-by-play announcer, and these are the parts where Perfect I’m Not gets boring. It’s almost as bad as Stewart O’Nan’s obsessive, endless call problems in Faithful. But other than that, Perfect I’m Not is surprisingly well-written. Wells’s style is very funny and full of clever metaphors. Wells could have a career as a comedy writer in the wings when he retires if he’s able to do this all the time.

Perfect I’m Not is an appropriate title, but only barely. If Wells didn’t include those game-calling sections, though, calling the book Perfect I’m Not would have been humble. But I doubt humility would be a good fit for David Wells, so while the book isn’t perfect, it is just as engaging as a Yankees/Red Sox ballgame.

Recommended:
Yes

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