Originally written on More Hardball  |  Last updated 2/23/13
These are the guys who get the power hitter to swing through the last pitch of the World Series. They go toe-to-toe with Derek Jeter in the 8th. Challenge Roberto Clemente with high heat in the 9th. Get called in to face Jim Rice with the bases juiced and the game on the line. When their teams are in a jam, they never decline the ball.The Closer.Some are anonymous. Some are infamous. Some are journeymen. Some are the face of the franchise. Some are soft-spoken. Some are mitt-pounding “Mad Hungarians”. Some are mercurial. Some are models of consistency and reliability. Some have a rubber arm. Some spend their careers attempting to recover from or elude injury. Some are remembered for failure. Some are remembered for sheer dominance. Closers are a unique breed, but there is something that connects them all: The ninth inning.In “CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game”, Foreword by Brad Lidge (Running Press, March 2013), co-authors Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin cover all of those who have owned in the ninth in an effort to get into the mind of the closer and trace the evolution of the position and the role. The book highlights all of the great closers, from all-time greats like Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Trevor Hoffman to lesser-known closers who proved their mettle under the bright lights like Joe Page, Steve Farr and Gene Garber.They are a fraternity that includes Hall of Famers, Cy Young Award winners, All-Stars, MVPs and World Series Champions. They sport some of the most colorful monikers in the game—like “Wild Thing”, “Mad Dog”, “Rags”, “Quiz”, “Flash”, “K-Rod”, “Tug”, “Goose” and “Mo”. They come in all shapes and sizes—tall, short, bespectacled, hats-askew, clean-shaven and handlebar-mustachioed—but they are all the perfect mix of the mental and physical elements of the game.For each and every one of the pitchers highlighted in CLOSER, they embraced the role and embraced the pressure-packed and adrenaline-filled moments. Some are hot-wired to be a closer. Most are not. They work on developing their go-to pitch—the forkball, the splitter, the submarine-style riser, the knuckler, the fastball, the unhittable drop curveball, the cutter; they build routines; work on control; develop the warrior mentality that will serve them when Josh Hamilton digs in with a 3-1 count. Closers must be dominant. They must be feared. Or they hand the ball to someone else.There is no average outing for a closer and the book delves into the unrelenting pressure and scrutiny in a game that demands perfection. It’s hard to put their moments on the mound into words, but CLOSER does it extremely well.  CLOSER also covers:*How some pitchers reinvent themselves as closers by plan or necessity.*How in the earlier eras of the relief pitcher, the three-inning save was commonplace.*How smaller pitching staffs in earlier eras meant that pitchers couldn’t be as specialized.*The tragic story of Donnie Moore.*Joe Carter’s dramatic 1993 World Series ending blast off of Mitch Williams.*John Rocker’s controversial interview with Sports Illustrated that seemingly derailed his career.*The near unanimous revelations of the two most respected closers in baseball history.Neary and Tobin’s prose is humorous and insightful as they offer readers all of the insights and anecdotes of those men who thrive in the late innings. They highlight the shining moments and memorable disasters and baseball fans will relish every single page.  CLOSER splits the great relief pitchers in the history of the game into three categories—“The Early Years”, “The Transition Years” and “The Modern Day Closer”—so that it can more accurately celebrate the greatest performers in the eras they played. As the game has changed and become more specialized, so has the role of the closer.We celebrate all of the pitchers from Elroy Face to Fernando Rodney with full knowledge that different things were asked of different pitchers throughout the years, but all were elite closers and specialized in one thing—getting Major League hitters out.  About the AuthorsKevin Neary has been a fan of the game his entire life. He worked with the Philadelphia Phillies for nine years. For the past twenty years he has worked for the Walt Disney Company, and is the co-author of Major League Dads.Leigh A. Tobin worked for the Philadelphia Phillies for more than twenty years in PR as the writer of the club’s publications and later as the Director of Media Relations. She is the co-author of Major League Dads.“CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game” Authors: Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin, Foreword by Brad LidgePublisher: Running Press Format: Hardcover; 288 pages;Retail Price: $15.00ISBN-13: 978-0-7624-4679-7Publication Date: March 2013
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