Living On The Black

Two days before taking the mound in the most important game of his five-year stint with the Mets, Tom Glavine wasn't confident about his bread-and-butter pitch, the changeup.

"You go through these periods during a season and you understand them," he revealed prior to facing the Marlins on the final game of the 2007 season. "But this was the worst possible timing. I was going to pitch a game on Sunday that might mean our whole season and I really didn't know what I was going to have going out there."

The Mets were deadlocked with the Phillies for the East Division title that afternoon, needing a big game from their lefty ace. They never received it. Glavine didn't get out of the first inning, putting his team in a 7-0 deficit.

The drama of the Mets collapse during the final week of the season is one of many backdrops in John Feinstein's "Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember," ($26.99, 515pp). Feinstein, who began chronicling various players and teams over 20 years ago with "Seasons on the Brink" about Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers, spent the 2007 season with Glavine and Mike Mussina of the Yankees.

One of the elements that have catapulted Feinstein into a best-selling author is his access. He originally intended to spend a season with David Cone in 2000, however, Cone was committed to another project. He settled on Glavine and Messina because of their contrasts. Glavine is a lefty who hadn't gone to college and was a vocal union leader during the player-owner battles in the '90's. Mussina is a right-hander with a Stanford education who was not as outspoken on labor issues as Glavine was. It also helped that their teams are separated by just five miles.

However, the duo shares one common thread.  When it comes to the art of pitching Glavine and Mussina are two of the most cerebral guys around.  "They're like scientists out there," Tigers manager Jim Leyland says in the book. "They don't beat you with their arms so much as they beat you with their minds."

Feinstein was blessed with a season that included Glavine's painstaking quest of 300 victories, the epic collapse of the Mets and Mussina's path to 250 wins, despite being dropped from the starting rotation for a brief spell. In many respects Feinstein was witness to the most emotionally-charged season of their careers.

"Neither one of us ever imagined we would pitch as long as we have, get paid anywhere close to what we've been paid, or pitch as well as we've both pitched," said Mussina.