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A Brief Review of
The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life
Hardback: Crown Books, 2015.
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Reviewed by Dave Baker.
Everyone loves a good story and Mike Matheny has provided one. The Matheny Manifesto was written for sports parents by someone who is an expert on that subject, but the book will appeal to a broader audience. Namely Cardinal fans and anyone who is interested in coaching as leadership. This book grew out of a letter that he wrote after he was asked to coach a little league team. That letter was his way of establishing the rules. Not the infield fly rule kind, but rather rules that relate to behavior and expectations. His intention is to make sports a positive experience for everyone and that is admirable. One of the most important things he writes is to be careful about what we tell kids. (106)
Mike’s coaching philosophy and tips on character building are in chapter four. That chapter concludes with the story of Jackie Robinson. In chapter six there is a good summery of John Wooden’s coaching and leadership philosophy. Throughout the book there are references to other managers and coaches. Another example is Billy Martin. That guy was a jerk but I will give him credit for overseeing the golden years of the Yankees.
As a player Mike was the catcher. Typically the catcher is also the team captain so it makes sense that he would go on to become a manager. His predecessor is Tony La Russa and under his leadership the Cardinals world series. His story is documented in One Last Strike. Comparisons between the two is inevitable. In the majors every manager is expected to leave their team in better condition than they found it. That is good for people who need a challenge, but easier said than done. Mike came on board Spring 2012. He is an alumni of the University of Michigan and his faith comes through in the narrative. There are several stories from his experiences playing youth sports. From reading the book I can tell that he is authentic and he writes from the heart. He was the subject of a feature article in Fellowship of Christian Athletes magazine and he actively supports that organization. Last November Sports Illustrated reported that baseball commissioner Bud Selig declared St. Louis to be the best baseball town in America. The team was the subject of a feature article in Sports Illustrated in May 2013. They have Catholic Family Night scheduled for April 15. Apparently there is more than one kind of Cardinal in the dug out. There is more on character development in chapter twelve and the book concludes with a note from Bob Costas.
For me the book evoked a cherished memory. When I was growing up on wanted to be the bat boy for the Cardinals. Today I still day dream about playing for the team. There is a little Walter Mitty in all of us.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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