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"A book about Ozzie F'n Guillen?"
Rick Morrissey most certainly could have spit out such a question when his literary agent David Black suggested the topic for a new book. It would have been appropriate considering Guillen's penchant for cursing, but instead the Sun-Times sports columnist and former Oak Parker went ahead and penned Ozzie's School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse and the Doghouse.
Armed with the cachet of being a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a familiarity of writing about the White Sox for over a decade, Morrissey approached the easily excitable Guillen during a recent spring training about the nonfiction endeavor.
"Ozzie was fine with it," Morrissey said. "In fact, he was very nonchalant about it which helped the process."
Released in May, Ozzie's School of Management pulls back the curtain a bit more on the already highly visible and unquestionably vocal former White Sox shortstop and skipper. Morrissey revisits the Guillen-era with the Sox in a ten-chapter (aka, Ten Commandments of Ozzie) format.
"The structure of the book is a bit tongue-in-cheek considering all the 'how to management' books," Morrissey said, "but I'm not making fun of those books. I just thought it would be interesting to turn that concept on its ear. Here's this crazy guy who is the manager of the White Sox, and I wanted to take a closer look at how he handles people, situations, and on-field strategy."
The result is an entertaining and often revealing 272-page description of Ozzie being Ozzie. The book explores Guillen's interaction with his players, his well-publicized and often tumultuous relationship with White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams, his managerial work during the Southsiders' magical 2005 World Series run, and even an afterword on the Venezuelan's splashy new venture, managing the Miami Marlins.
Morrissey's maiden voyage in writing a sports biography also addresses Guillen's undying fealty for his wife, Ibis, and three sons, along with his varied interests ranging from watching South American soap operas to bullfighting. It's also a remembrance of rollicking times not far removed on West 35th Street.
"Everything is kind of cozy now with the White Sox being in first place and Robin [Ventura] as the manager," Morrissey said. "As a newspaper guy, Ozzie made things a lot of fun for me and my colleagues. I think Ozzie was his own worst enemy the last couple of years with the Sox with all the bickering between him and Kenny Williams. A lot of fans just got sick of it. Perhaps in three or four years, people will realize he's the only manager over the last 88 years to win a World Series for the White Sox, and it's been over 100 years on the other side of town."
Regarding treatment of his players, the book of Ozzie holds one basic tenet between the lines: play the game the right way and you'll never have a problem with me. That's why Guillen steadfastly supported veteran players like Juan Pierre and notably Adam Dunn despite their struggles due to their professionalism, while he once pulled Alex Rios out of a game against the Colorado Rockies for not running the bases hard.
Like virtually anyone in life though, Guillen often has contradictory forces at work. For example, he is extremely protective of his players, but not hesitant at all to criticize them publicly, a no-no in many big league clubhouses.
Whether you agree or not with Guillen throwing players under the White Sox bus, his candid approach certainly ensured a wild ride for Sox fans. Former major leaguer/author Doug Glanville described Morrissey's book in a similar fashion with Morrissey assuming role of tour guide.
"Rick Morrissey squarely puts you in the passenger seat of a baseball bus driven by Ozzie Guillen. I expected Ozzie would ignore the speed limit, flip off a cop, and run over a few mailboxes, but I didn't expect much about his wisdom, patience and sixth sense for baseball and the baseball family. I would love to pass on Guillen's words to my young son, only problem is I have to wait until he's 21."
This leads to the final point about Morrissey's book and its profanity-laced quotes from Guillen. "Right away, I thought about all the language and swearing Ozzie uses," Morrissey said. "Five minutes later, I decided that I can't write a book about Ozzie without his swearing because that's just him. It's an accurate portrayal of the guy."
The self-confessed culprit for Guillen's expletive-filled approach towards the English language, which includes more F-bombs than a Scarface and Carlito's Way double feature, is ESPN baseball analyst and former big leaguer John Kruk. The former Phillies slugger was a minor league teammate of Guillen in the Padres' organization.
"I take 100 percent responsibility," Kruk claims with a chuckle in the book. "He learned how to use it in lot of different ways — a verb, an adverb, a noun, a pronoun. It was free flowing. I apologize to people for that part of Ozzie's life. I feel like it's my fault."
As for Morrissey, writing a book about Guillen is another accomplishment in the sports columnist's already successful career. Named an Associated Press Top 10 columnist six times, he's worked at the Rocky Mountain News, the Charlotte Observer, the Fort Wayne Journal, the Chicago Tribune (for nine years) and now the Sun-Times.
He said his sports journalism roots were planted in Oak Park.
"I remember writing a few things in grade school that my teachers liked," Morrissey said. "I also liked the affirmation from my teachers. I've always enjoyed reading and writing, and my mother [the late Dorothy Morrissey] always encouraged it."
Morrissey attended Fenwick and played basketball for the Friars, and then graduated from Northwestern University.
"I loved growing up in Oak Park," he added. "There were so many kids around so it was a lot of fun."