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Red Reviewer: The Real McCoy by Hal McCoy

Hal McCoy's memoir makes for very entertaining reading

Earlier this month, long time Reds beat writer and 2002 J.G. Taylor Spink award winner Hal McCoy published a memoir titled The Real McCoy: My Half Century with the Cincinnati Reds. The book attempts to cover McCoy’s decades of experience covering the Reds in just 224 fast-paced pages and mostly succeeds, although the end result sacrifices any real depth or insight in favor of cramming in as many anecdotes as possible.

The good news, however, is that those anecdotes are mostly delightful. McCoy shares stories of his interactions with players, managers, front office personnel and other writers from throughout his long career. Some of the stories will be familiar to Reds fans, others will be completely new, and several are laugh-out-loud funny.

The best news of all concerning this book is that it avoids the trap that so many Reds histories fall into: overemphasis on the Big Red Machine era. Certainly McCoy covers those years in his book, but not to the detriment of the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000’s. It’s refreshing to see a Reds book that spans from the early 1970’s all the way to the firing of Dusty Baker spend as much time on Eric Davis as it does on Joe Morgan.

Unfortunately, though, a relatively short book that covers so much time will necessarily only hit the high points. There are a few spots where I would have liked McCoy to go into more detail on a topic instead of zipping along to the next thing. He describes the experience of being a beat writer during the Pete Rose gambling investigation without offering any new insight, despite the fact that his perspective would have been a unique one, having covered Rose for so long. And despite the fact that he was a baseball writer in the late 1990’s, he only mentions PED’s once in passing, when he could have gone into much more detail on the media’s role in shaping that story from then until now.

Overall, though, it’s a light but very entertaining read, and is perfect for any Reds fan. If McCoy’s intention was to convey the feeling of spending an evening listening to great stories from the ballpark, he completely succeeded.