The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci
3 words: personal, detailed, inside baseball
Oh my goodness. Such a good book!
If you’re a Cubs fan, then: of course.
If you’re not a Cubs fan, but you are a reader who likes learning the inside story of building a culture of teamwork and success, then this book is also for you.
There’s so much to love here.
First: The people. Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon were of one mind when it came to assembling the perfect team. They agreed that the character of the players mattered as much as their athletic talents. So this team is made up of strong people who are devoted to the group, rather than to themselves. And they’re darn tough guys who have faced and overcome tough times with grace.
And Maddon himself. The guy’s fascinating. (I’m kind of thinking I need a “Try Not to Suck” t-shirt to add to my fleet of Cubs shirts.)
Maddon: a reader’s gotta love him. To draw out Addison Russell, he assigned him to read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and talk to him about the book every 50 to 100 pages.
I adore this!
Second: The behind-the-scenes stuff is fantastic. For example, that whole story about Rizzo borrowing Szczur’s identical bat and having immense good luck with it during the World Series? Partly fiction!
Third: Even though we obviously know the outcome (spoiler alert: Cubs win the World Series), this book is a page turner. The chapters alternate between each World Series game and the back story that brought the team together from 2012 to 2016.
Fourth: All that psychology. Here’s Maddon: “Too many times in the past, in the postseason, I know we’ve got the other team by the look in the other team’s eyes. There’s a distant look. They’re anticipating bad. It’s almost like a concession look. I never want us to be that team. So know that something bad is going to happen. Know it is. Expect it to happen. And when it happens, we have to keep our heads and fight through it.” (p. 283)
I mean seriously: Isn’t that good?
And then there’s this scene from the rain delay in Game 7, when Epstein eavesdropped on the players-only meeting. “‘I saw our guys meeting and it snapped me back,’ he said. ‘It reminded me of how much I admired them and how tough they are, how connected they’ve stayed with each other, and the great things human beings can accomplish when they set out to achieve for other people, not for themselves.’” (p. 347)
Verklempt! I read this section at Panera and got all verklempt (in public). I try to avoid displays of readerly overwhelm, but sometimes it does a sneak attack. This book got to me.
We might need a short musical break here…
Give this book a whirl if you like… baseball, stories of Overcoming, workplace narratives, the behind-the-scenes story, camaraderie, building an organizational culture
Anyone else read any great sports books lately?