Here’s a quick quiz for baseball fans. Note: Those whose arms are in tomahawk-chop mode this time of year might have a little edge.
The Atlanta Braves’ trade for what player was a key component to their 1995 World Series title?
Spending time with what well-known pitcher was like hanging out with John Wayne?
What did Chipper Jones’ teammates sometimes call him? (And no, it’s not “Larry.”)
You’ll find the answers – and plenty more inside information — in a new book that looks at baseball from a strategic perspective: the catcher’s position.
“The Cy Young Catcher” was co-written by Charlie O’Brien, who played Major League Baseball for 15 years, and Doug Wedge, an attorney who lives in Mountain Brook.
During his career in the majors, O’Brien was the catcher for 13 Cy Young Award winners. Some of the pitchers, like Greg Maddux, were at the top of their games when O’Brien was their teammate. Others, such as Chris Carpenter, were just starting out.
A family connection led Wedge and O’Brien to team up to write the book. Wedge is married to O’Brien’s sister, Shawn.
“Over Christmas in 2010, we were at Charles’ house,” said Wedge, who said O’Brien’s relatives usually call him Charles, not Charlie. “I’d read a Sports Illustrated article earlier where he talked about catching for 13 Cy Young Award-winning pitchers. He said some you click with, and some you don’t see eye to eye with.
“I love writing – I’m always working on something – and I love researching, too. So back in Birmingham, I did some research on Greg Maddux and came up with a series of questions for Charlie. I brought my tape recorder. I thought it would be cool to hear him talk about people, some at their peak, like Maddux, and others who were still honing their crafts.”
Wedge and O’Brien worked on their project for a couple of years, Wedge said.
Each chapter in “The Cy Young Catcher” focuses on one of the 13 award-winning pitchers: Pete Vuckovich, David Cone, Frank Viola, Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, John Smoltz, Steve Bedrosian, Maddux, Tom Glavine, Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens, Carpenter and Jack McDowell.
“I thought it would be cool to talk with the pitchers and get a quote from each one,” Wedge said. “All of them responded.”
The book is published by the Texas A&M University Press, which has a series called the “Spirit of Sports.” Wedge and O’Brien’s book was released March 22.
The two authors will sign copies at the Birmingham Barons’ May 1 game at Regions Field against the Tennessee Smokies. O’Brien will catch the game’s first pitch, Wedge said.
The 208-page book is available in Birmingham at Little Professor Book Center in Homewood, at Books-A-Million and on Amazon. The retail price is $29.95.
Wedge is from Enid, Okla., and went to college at the University of Tulsa.
“I was an English major, so I wanted to go to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, which has a master’s program in Southern literature,” he said. “I also went to law school there.”
A job offer brought him to Birmingham in 2009.
He and Shawn have one son and three daughters. Jack, 15, and Sloan, 13, are students at Mountain Brook Junior High. Sophie, who’s 12, and Sadie, 8, attend Cherokee Bend Elementary School.
His children are keen on sports, from cross country to volleyball, and come by that honestly, Wedge said.
“The O’Briens are crazy athletic,” he said. “There are nine kids. Shawn played junior college basketball. There are 41 grandkids, and about half of them have gone to college on some kind of athletic scholarship.”
Wedge said he likes writing short stories. One of them, “What Are You Doing?”, was a winner of the 2008 South Carolina Arts Commission’s Short Fiction Contest.
“I’m not a baseball expert but more an uneducated fan,” Wedge said.
Fellow baseball fans should find plenty to like about “The Cy Young Catcher.” O’Brien, who was with the Atlanta Braves during the team’s championship season in 1995, has high praise for his Atlanta teammates and manager, Bobby Cox.
He also writes about the difficulty and mechanics of being a catcher.
“I liked listening to Charles talk about stealing strikes and framing pitches – nuts and bolts stuff,” Wedge said.
And in case you’re wondering, the answers to those questions are Marquis Grissom, Roger Clemens and “Chirper.” O’Brien writes that Jones “had all of the tools” but “may have talked too much” to the press.
O’Brien, now retired and living in Oklahoma, finished his MLB career in 2000.
“He wanted to play in three different decades, and he did that,” Wedge said.
Wedge said he plans to keep writing, especially after the thrill of seeing his name on a book cover.
“The Texas A&M Press sent out the first copy of the book to me on Saturday, March 7,” he said. “That was an unreal moment.”