Monday, March 26, 2012

Baseball Books

From top left: 1954 Mutual Baseball Almanac, 1949 Bill Stern's Favorite Baseball stories, 1967 Major League Baseball Preview, Donald Davidson's Caught Short
Wow, the 2012 Major League Baseball season starts Wednesday morning with the A's and the Mariners playing in Japan. I am a huge baseball fan and have been all of my life. There is just something about the game that I love. I also love reading about it, so here are some of my favorite baseball books.

The four books above I love because they are from a different era, The Mutual Baseball Almanac I picked up a few weeks ago for fifty cents and I love it. It has everything player records (most say in military service somewhere), managers, how to run a club and a schematic from every ballpark that they played in that year. The 1967 Major League Preview is cool because it has a chapter about Baseball in 1970, which includes divisional play, interleague play and wild cards. The thing is that some of these things did not happen into well into the 90's.

This has been one of my favorites for over twenty years. Wood, went to all 26 ballparks in the summer of 1985 and wrote about it. I know that everybody in their dog does it now, but back then nobody really did. This is a copy that I found and bought a couple of weeks ago to replace the one that I had for a long time. That one sadly was burned and needed to go. I would love to e-mail Robert Wood to see about his feelings on the game and all of the new ballparks.

I remember reading The Wrong Stuff in high school and Bill Lee became a hero of mine. My 11th grade English teacher hated the book report I handed in, but gave me an A anyway. The "Have Glove Will Travel" copy is a printers proof and it is a great book about Lee's travels in the the game after being blackballed. Through both books you can tell that Lee truly loves the game and is a great ambassador for the game. He travels all over still playing the game he loves for free. He is what the game is about.

Robert Whiting is a great author who looks at the game from the Japanese point of view. "You Gotta Have Wa." is the primer for the Japanese game. It was written in the late 80's. It is a continuation of "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat" which was written in the 70's. "The Meaning of Ichiro" was written in the early 2000's and you can see how the Japanese game had changed from both the front office and on the field. If you like your game on an international scale, these books are for you

"Lords of the Realm takes a look at the game from business side and the labor side. It goes into the history of the game. You may think something like this would be long and boring, but it is cool and breezy. Helyar does a great job of taking a really boring subject and bringing it to life. He brings the whole front office and ownership side of baseball to life. It is well worth reading.

The Giants Hall of Fame Announcer and his 1963 Autobiography

Now, this is a great book. I first checked it out in my high school library over 25 years ago. I used to check it from a local library every year. They had to go to a local university library to get it. One day I went to a library book sale. It was fill up a bag for three dollars and I saw this sitting on the sports table with the dust cover on. Man, I jumped on this in a heartbeat. Hodges, does a great job of telling about his life and his love of the Giants. He loved the Giants for all of his life. What is really cool is that he worked with Mel Allen with the Yankees and then when the Giants moved to San Francisco he teamed with another Hall of Famer Lon Simmons.

This is one that I came about by accident. I guess I was looking for something to read and picked it up. I love the personal touches that Shropshire gives the book. Besides, looking at a bad ball club it brings the 70's into view. It just a great read about how baseball used to be before free agency and the some of the characters that can not exist in today's world.

Now, I know the Baseball Encyclopedia is the end all for stats but this Almanac is awesome if you need the quick stat. Burt Sugar (RIP as he passed yesterday at 75) does a great job and it has almost every stat and answer to trivia question that you can almost think of. He has it broken down by hitters, pitchers, all-star games, teams, etc. This is my favorite reference for baseball. I hope that somebody picks up his torch and comes out with a third edition in a couple of years. This is the newest edition which came out in 2010.  A must have.

Even though I can go, I will end with Curt Smith. Nobody covers the broadcast booth like Curt Smith. Baseball is a game on the field, but there is magic in listening to the game on the radio. Even though we are in the media age, there is a certain magic listening to a game. Whenever I go to the park, I always have a radio with me and I can get the game. The book on the right looks at the great broadcasters of the game to the 1990's before internet and everything. The one of the left came out last year and it is the current broadcasters of the game telling their stories of the game. It is a wonderful book.

I know that I left some out, but these are the books about baseball I really enjoy. I hope that everybody has read these, if not take a spin on these books.

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