Rage: The Legend of Baseball Bill Denehy is an always interesting and extremely compelling nonfiction book about the life, struggles with addiction and anger management issues, and short-lived baseball career of New York Mets pitcher Bill Denehy, and about how one pitch changed his life forever and eventually led to his blindness. Bill Denehy was so well thought of as being a star pitching prospect for the Met that he shares his 1967 Topps #581 rookie card with that of the Hall of Fame pitcher, Tom Seaver. In perfect Mint condition, the card can go for over $1,000.
Bill Denehy showed a huge amount of promise as a pitcher, though he confesses in Rage that his first love was really basketball, and if everything had worked out, he would have wanted to play for the Boston Celtics. In both sports and life, in general, Bill Denehy had the attitude that “winning is everything,” and he didn’t want anything to get in the way of the chance for whatever team he was playing on to win. You have to be driven to be successful, but Denehy took it to the level that if it meant throwing a fastball directly at a player on the opposing team to win, so be it.
How did Tom Seaver wind up with a record of having won 311 games with an ERA of 2.86 and being a member of the Hall of Fame, while “Baseball Bill” Denehy, who showed just as much, if not more, promise, end up with a record of 1 win and 10 loses and a 4.70 ERA? There are many reasons behind this, including Denehy’s anger management issues and addiction to drugs, but mostly it was due to one pitch that caused him to feel an ache in his shoulder that adversely affected his pitching performance.
From then on, his career hit a decided skid. The team doctor for the Mets prescribed Denehy cortisone shots. Though it wasn’t known at the time, if a person receives more than 10 cortisone shots in his/er lifetime, severe damage to the corneas of the eyes can result. Bill Denehy received 57 cortisone shots, which eventually led to his blindness. He began to experience vision problems when he was sixty, and his vision got progressively worse until he became blind.
With his career basically over when Denehy was in his mid 20s, he had to try to find some other way to support his young family and daughters. Bill Denehy was used to being a success, and his win-at-all-costs attitude had seemed to be working, more or less, when it came to sports. He carried this attitude with him when it came to other jobs he had. As he says, he “felt driven and under tremendous pressure to succeed, in part because my ex-wife’s mother thought I was a loser. I suffered great agony having never been able to prove her wrong.”
Bill Denehy writes about his earlier life in Rage, and how his win-at-all-costs attitude and his anger management issues developed. He also relates some wild and crazy moments during his short career in baseball, like when he and his teammates “once threw a dead shark into a motel pool and scared the hell out of a bunch of senior citizens.”
Though Denehy has had more than his share of misfortunes in his life, as well as his all too brief early successes, his story is also one of “redemption,” as later in his life, Denehy managed to reunite with his ex-wife and also with his “two talented daughters.” However, Bill Denehy is, understandably, upset that he has been denied a pension from MLB. He feels that certain representatives of the baseball union let him and many others down.
Rage: The Legend of “Baseball Bill” Denehy was co-written by well-known sports author Peter Golenbock, who wrote New York Times bestselling books such as Number 1 with Billy Martin, The Bronx Zoo with Sparky Lyle, and Balls with Greg Nettles. If one looks up the career record of Bill Denehy, he actually sells himself a little bit short, as his career ERA was actually 4.56.
Bill Denehy was with the New York Mets for a year, then played on the Washington Senators three games for Ted Williams, and he was with the Detroit Tigers for a year playing for Billy Martin. Bill Denehy was also a pitching coach for the Red Sox, and tutored Roger Clemens, and he coached Jeff Bagwell when he was a college baseball coach. If you love reading great books about baseball, and the people who play it, you should check out the excellent read Rage: The Legend of “Baseball Bill” Denehy.
Written by: Douglas Cobb