32 hits and a new postseason

 Ozzie Smith still makes us "go crazy", and Bruce Sutter was a postseason legend, too.

Ozzie Smith still makes us "go crazy", and Bruce Sutter was a postseason legend, too.

The MLB postseason gets underway tonight with the first Wild Card Game between the Twins and Angels, so this is a good time to note that nearly a fourth of the legends in DIAMONDS FROM THE DUGOUT -- 32 of the 115 -- have a postseason hit listed in response to the question, "What hit meant the most to you and why?"

The most fun part of the journey of writing this book over the last eight or nine years was hearing surprising answers from legends who are known for iconic hits. For example, Carlton Fisk, Joe Carter, Luis Gonzalez and Aaron Boone are remembered for famous walk-offs in the postseason, but none of them considered those their own most cherished hit. Buy the book and you'll see why they hold on to something that is more personally meaningful.

Meanwhile, some of the legends in DIAMONDS FROM THE DUGOUT went right where the average fan might have expected. In doing so, however, legends like Edgar Martinez, Ozzie Smith and Chris Chambliss share new thoughts that provide insightful life lessons to the rest of us. I start the book off with "The Double" by Edgar, not only because so many of the greats from this book's roster (nine in all) were right there on the scene that night, but also because of the lesson he imparts to readers. I have always wanted to know what truly was in his head as he stood there in the batter's box on that forever-replayed game video, and here it is.

I am thankful to my friend Bob Costas for providing the Mickey Mantle story in proxy, as I was not able to ask The Mick my nine-word question as he signed a baseball for me ($50) at an Atlantic City card show during the 1991 season. Bob's hit was a Mantle homer in the World Series, appropriate for the legend who set the record for most Fall Classic homers. And as if that's not enough, James Caan was kind enough to provide a Mantle hit as well. There's an obvious Reggie Jackson postseason hit, with Tom Brokaw and Joe Piscopo narrating.

Other postseason hits in the book come straight from these guys: Johnny Bench, Alex Rodriguez, Tim McCarver, Dave Parker, Robin Young, Ron Swoboda, Albert Pujols, Joe Morgan, Bob Watson, Tim Salmon, Dr. Bobby Brown, Alan Trammell, Steve Garvey, Brian McCann, Dave Winfield, Mike Shannon, Jim Sundberg, Mark Teixeira, Sandy Alomar Jr., Tino Martinez, Mike Lowell, Kenny Lofton, Jorge Posada, David Eckstein and Torii Hunter.

Tony Gwynn had plenty to say about hitting when John Rawlings and I interviewed him and Stan Musial for two hours one day in the 1990s. A postseason hit did not come up, nor was this question raised back then. But when I asked Tony's brother Chris last year what hit he thought would have meant to Tony, he offered one from San Diego's 1994 National League Championship Series against the Cubs.

It has been a long journey of discovery, and sadly some of the legends I'd hope to ask are gone. When people ask me why I wrote this book, I tell them one of the main reasons is leave one more story behind for the heroes of our lives. You know how much it hurts inside when an Ernie Banks or a Harmon Killebrew or a Stan the Man leaves us; it rips out your inside. I wanted to be able to do a little something about it and leave an answer from them like this.

Another postseason is about to begin, and new legends are about to be made. One day, they might tell the story of a postseason hit that mattered the most to them. Or maybe not.