As I work on my historical book about the Milwaukee Brewers, I’ve done the student thing and taken on some “required reading” assignments. Some of these assignments directly relate to my project, and others are more on the fringe. My first such assignment was reading Dave Baldwin’s baseball memoir, Snake Jazz. I actually discovered Mr. Baldwin while doing project research. He was a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in parts of the 1970-71 seasons. Dave was nice enough to answer some questions when I contacted him, much of which centered around being left behind in Portland with the AAA team when the Brewers headed to Milwaukee to kick off the 1970 season. Seems the Brewers were pushing a youth movement, and anyone over 30 years of age had a target on their back. That left Dave and also Ken Sanders in the Portland bullpen. By the end of May the Brewers had already made many roster moves, and called both Dave and Ken up to the big leagues.
I’ll stop there as I don’t want to give much away. Let me just say that Snake Jazz is one of the best baseball memoirs I have ever read. Dave starts with his childhood in Arizona, throwing at home and then progressing through various youth teams. The nice part about this book is his entire baseball journey is covered – so it’s a true memoir, as opposed to the ones that touch on the minor leagues and spend most of the time on the big leagues.
Dave has a wonderful sense of humor and the book keeps a relaxing pace. He breaks apart pieces of each chapter with headers relating to that part of the story. An example is ‘Ted Being Larger than Life’ from when Dave was managed by Ted Williams as a Washington Senator. I must also mention there is a chapter about Dave’s time spent with the Brewers, and even hardcore fans of the team should learn plenty from this section.
There is a fascinating twist on this book and Dave Baldwin. While he was pitching, he also attended the University of Arizona during the offseasons, earning a Ph.D in genetics and M.S. in systems engineering. After his baseball career ended, Dave went on to work as a genetics researcher, system engineer, and professional artist. He has written many articles about science and baseball.
Snake Jazz is a great read. If you’re a baseball fan or curious about the early Milwaukee Brewers, put this on your required reading list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
For more information, see Dave’s Snake Jazz website. He has a lot of supplemental information and photos on the site.