Pros: Light and breezy, but also very interesting and thoughtful
Cons: Did Milano HAVE to pimp her clothing line and talk about her relationships with ballplayers?
Since the release of Alyssa Milano's book, Safe at Home, I've seen a lot of reviewers bashing Milano. The particularly disturbing aspect of it all, however, is that the bashing resembles the way movies critics race to bash notoriously terrible movies. It's as though there is a contest to think up the nastiest thing to say about the actress.
This is very unfair to Milano. I once noted in a review I wrote about Brothers, a cancelled sitcom starring football legend Michael Strahan, that we want to judge celebrities according to their public talents. Hence, with Strahan being a football player, we're inclined to want to remember him as a great quarterback terrorizer and not give him half a chance as a TV funnyman. (Strahan was actually game to his TV role.) In the same way, we want Milano to be the hot TV star, and we think we know everything about her according to what she does onscreen. But Alyssa Milano has always been a huge baseball fan. She's made no secret of that. Her fandom is more than just daddy's little girl fandom too - Milano has done playoff coverage for TBS, created a line of clothes for sports fans, and writes a blog on the MLB website. To lightly dismiss Safe at Home just because Alyssa Milano wrote it is plain wrong.
Milano knows her baseball. She really, REALLY knows it. No, Safe at Home isn't an attempt to be Golenbock or Kahn. It isn't trying to be. All Safe at Home wants to be is the story of a girl and her team, and what the sport means to her.
Safe at Home is less about baseball than it is about baseball fandom. One chapter is about the heroes and villains of baseball. Another is about cheating. There is a chapter about good ways to pass the time during the offseason, a chapter about what Milano would do if given the commissioner's reigns for a few days, and a chapter about the ways baseball can potentially find you and turn you into a fan. I was a little less enthused about the fact that Milano threw in a chapter to pimp Touch, her line of sports clothing, but that's okay because the book doesn't revolve around it. It never even comes up until the twelfth chapter, and Safe at Home has thirteen chapters.
Much of Safe at Home revolves around Milano's relationship with baseball. Milano, for those who don't know, was a childhood star at one time, and we all know the tragic stories of many childhood stars. Reading Safe at Home, one gets the impression that it was her devotion to baseball which kept her grounded during her transition to adulthood. The sport also helps her feel closer to her family, especially her brother, with whom she confesses that she would like to drive from ballpark to ballpark and take in games with.
Safe at Home is interspersed with quick sidebars called Wild Pitches. These are informative little sections which trail off the given topic of a chapter and focus on things that are unique or odd. One Wild Pitch is about the two most infamous promotions that ever happened to baseball - I refer, of course, to Cleveland's Ten-cent Beer Night and Disco Demolition Night for the Chicago White Sox. Another is about the wife swap which occurred between two Yankee players, and another focuses on baseball clothing through the decades.
Alyssa Milano of course once had a reputation for being a serial dater of baseball players. I guess she suspected that a lot of reviewers would bring the subject up, so she preempted us on the issue. In one chapter, she sets the record straight on who she's dated, who she hasn't, and why she dated so many ballplayers. Honestly, I didn't need her to justify this - it's her life, after all. But what she does after getting it out of the way is segue into advice on what to do if your loved ones don't quite share your love of baseball. She talks about what she does to get her own loved ones into it and how they work.
Milano's chapter about The Numbers - baseball statistics - is short and quick and doesn't give a whole lot of great insight on what many of the numbers are. It's mainly in the book to talk about the meaning of the numbers. Her chapter about how to actually BE a better fan is funny and heartwarming and includes short anecdotes about the way her family acts in their fandom; it also offers pretty good advice on how to actually be a better fan.
Overall, Safe at Home is a very random but worthwhile read by one of the most famous and knowledgeable baseball fans in the country. It's very difficult to sum it all up in a single review. But it's breezily written and easily read and offers a lot of well-reasoned insight on how a game can be an obsession.
This review was just published on Lit Bases, my blog on baseball literature.