“They come and they go…. I’ll be around here longer than you or anybody else here. I’m here to protect this game. I do it by making or breaking the likes of you. And after today whether you’re a goat or a hero, you’re gonna make me a great story.”

Max Mercy, in The Natural

Although he says it in a nasty way, Max Mercey, as portrayed by Robert Duval, is right. Before there was radio and television, the only way to learn about your teams and ballplayers was through the printed word. I won’t go into great detail here but there are several excellent collections of writers of the era. And there were still great scribes, like Red Smith, Jim Murray, Ira Berkow, Leonard Koppett, Shirely Povich, Jerome Holtzman, and others who probably had a tougher time once broadcasting became staples of fans’ education.

So when Roger Angell receives the Spink Award, it’s cause to celebrate. Normally, the honor goes to a full-time member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, so it comes across as even a greater honor for the veteran New Yorker columnist.

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times published this piece on Saturday.

And here’s Angell’s acceptance speech. I usually don’t watch these things and now that I have, it would have been nice if they edited it a little better; it somehow seems disrespectful to include people who are yawning while Angell speaks. It is sweet, however, to see Joe Torre get misty-eyed when Angell pays him tribute.

Well done, sir.

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Among the other things I’ve neglected to post recently was the cornucopia of recent NPR programs featuring baseball, in one form or another.

On All-Star Game Tuesday (July 15) Leonard Lopate interviewed Ken Griffey Sr., author of Big Red: Baseball, Fatherhood, and My Life in the Big Red Machine

You can listen to that segment here:

On the same program, Lopate chatted with Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts, authors of Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era.

You can hear that one here:

On the “Bluff the Listener” segment of the July 12 edition of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, this one was one of the options for the category “promotions gone wrong, “as offered by panelists Brian Babylon:

It seemed like a nice gesture – handing out free, promotional ponchos to fans at Chicago White Sox games. And those ponchos with hoods would not have been a problem if it hadn’t rained. But the rain started, and the hoods came up – the pointed, white hoods. You can’t blame the fans. They couldn’t have seen what they’d look like. They couldn’t have possibly known what a crowd of people, identically in white robes and pointed hoods, would look like to people at home watching the game on TV…


BABYLON: Until it was the next day, when photos went viral on the Internet, that White Sox marketing department realized that they had made a terrible mistake. It was free poncho night, not Klan rally night.


BABYLON: It was so bad that former Clipper owner Donald Sterling immediately put a bid to buy the White Sox.


BABYLON: This was the worst promotion since the ill-advised, Parkinson’s awareness, baseball bobble heads of 2012.

I thought, this has to be one of the bluffs. Shockingly, I was wrong; that was a real thing.



(That’s even worse than the Colorado Rockies misspelling the name of their All-Star Shortstop on a giveaway promotion.)

In last week’s “Lightning Round” closer, Derek Jeter got props:

PETER SAGAL: Retiring Yankee, Derek Jeter received a three-minute standing ovation at this week’s blank game.



Sagal closes his show with a promo for How To Do Everything, which recently featured this piece on keeping the scoreboard (not scorecard) at Wrigley Field. (Wish there was video for this; something things don’t translate too well to audio.)

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The author of this Huffington Post piece makes a compelling argument.

roger--768x949.jpgMost latter-day fans of Kahn know him from his nostalgic look at The Boys of Summer, which — hard to believe — was published more than 40 years ago. But he was also a beat writer for those Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as a staple of SPORT and many other magazines.

From the HuffPo article by Robert Miraldi:

[I]t is his books about baseball that should be most remembered. In 1955 he co-authored an almanac about baseball and followed in 1962 with a baseball book for juveniles. In 1982 he wrote a novel about baseball. In 1985 he took a part ownership in a minor league baseball team and then wrote a charming account of the season in the acclaimed Good Enough to Dream. Books about Joe DiMaggio and Pete Rose followed in 1986 and 1989. (The Rose book was a disaster because, just before publication, news about Rose’s gambling surfaced.)

In 1993 Kahn brought readers back to The Era: 1947-1957, When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers ruled the world and warmly recreated his Memories of Summer: When baseball was an art and writing about it a game.

He explored the nuances of pitching in his 2000 book, The Head Game. And in 2002, he recaptured the memorable and tumultuous season when the New York Yankees battled the Boston Red Sox for a championship in October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and the Yankees’ miraculous finish in 1978. In 2004 an anthology with many of his best baseball articles were collected in Beyond the Boys of Summer (which I edited and which includes a bibliography of his work up to 2003).

Good Enough was indeed a sweet story, given that he writes a lot about his relationship with his daughter, which I, in turn, can relate to. It was included in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die.

Kahn has a new title coming out this fall via Rodale: Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball. Do I need to say how much I’m looking forward to it?

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It must be a bittersweet time for Derek Jeter. On the one hand, he knows his “expiration date.” On the other hand, he knows his expiration date. How many fictional scenarios contain the premise of knowing when one will draw his last breath?

Of course, retiring as an athlete isn’t the same as retiring permanently from the land of the living, but there are some metaphorical similarities. Maybe that’s why he’s already busy with the next phase of his life, having it overlap with his current position.

According to Yahoo Sports, his first book is already available as a pre-order.

From the Yahoo article:

The book is fiction, but based on Jeter’s experiences. He’s listed as the “author” with Paul Mantell as a “contributor. Mantell has a history of this sort of thing. He co-wrote books with Tiki and Ronde Barber of NFL fame.

Jeter Publishing has announced two other titles too, but neither is this far along. From AMNY.com:

Chronicle of Jeter’s last season
A title has not yet been announced (perhaps because the story is not yet finished) for a chronicle of Jeter’s final season, to be told primarily through photographs taken by Chris Anderson. Publication date: Fall 2014

“The Ed Lucas Story”
After going blind at just 12 years old, Ed Lucas went on to study broadcasting and become the first person without his sight to cover baseball in such a capacity. His story is also in development to be told in film form. Publication date: Spring 2015

I found this interesting: On the Amazon page for The Contract, Paul Mantell is listed as “contributor.” As opposed to co-author? This piece in the New York Post refers to Mantell as a “collaborator” and flat out states that the book was “authored by Jeter himself.”

According to his page on the Simon and Schuster website (the parent company for Jeter’s imprint), Mantell “is the author of more than 100 books for young readers, including books in the Hardy Boys and Matt Christopher series.”

I would love to see the job description for contributor for this project. Can it really be that Jeter actually wrote this? If not, given his reputation as a stand-up guy, I think a bit more disclosure is in order.


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Note: Just like Chuck Lorre’s “vanity cards” at the end of The Big Bang Theory, you should read these list stories to their conclusion; the end is always changing, even though the theme is basically the same, finishing up with a self-promotional message.

On with the show…

Here are the top ten baseball books as per Amazon.com, as of this posting.

Caveat 1: Print editions only (at least for now); because I’m old school.

Caveat 2: Since the rankings are updated every hour, these lists might not longer be 100 percent accurate by the time you read them. But it’ll be close enough for government work.

Caveat 3: Sometimes they’ll try to pull one over on you and include a book within a category that doesn’t belong. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles from my list. For example, for some reason a recent listing included Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit at the University of North Carolina Ended the “The Carolina Way”, which, far as I can tell, is not at all about baseball, at least not in the main. For the sake of brevity, I will be omitting the subtitles, which have become ridiculously long in in some cases in recent years, also at my discretion.

  1. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
  2. The Closer, by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey. (Bookreporter.com review; drops to #19 in the NY Times non-fiction hardcover best-seller list for July 27.)
  3. http://img2.imagesbn.com/p/9781250031839_p0_v1_s260x420.JPGA Nice Little Place on the North Side, by George F. Will
  4. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  5. Where Nobody Knows Your Name, by Michael Feinstein (Bookshelf review and Conversation)
  6. Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells All, by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge (Bookreporter review)
  7. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams.
  8. The Mental Game of Baseball, by H.A. Dorfman
  9. Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era, by Elfrink and Garcia-Roberts.
  10. The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, by Ben Bradlee Jr.

Note that the Jim Brosnan books that were in the top 10 the last time I posted the best-seller list are now absent. How quickly we forget.

Also — two titles about Williams, but neither were written by his daughter Claudia.

Not on this list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Ya’ll are gonna do something about that, right? Only 10 copies left on Amazon, so don’t delay ;) Just sayin’.

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Shades of Pride

July 24, 2014 · 0 comments

Recall if you will the scene in The Pride of the Yankees in which Lou Gehrig follows Babe Ruth’s promise to hit a home run in the World Series for “sick Little Billy” with two blasts of his own.


Fast forward to earlier this week and the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo. (If the video below doesn’t work you can access it through the link <—.)


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Congratulations to Gregg K. of Shohola, PA, winner of Philadelphia’s Top 50 Baseball Players, by Rich Westcott.

http://a5.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Publication/v4/24/4c/8f/244c8ff0-1487-be49-d391-3cfef6e7b714/9780306823114-frontcover.225x225-75.jpgNext up for grabs: the tenth anniversary edition of The Last Best League, by Jim Collins. The updated version contains a “where are they now” epilogue. Here’s a “re-review” I posted earlier this month.

A reminder of the new rules:

This is now a random pick. I didn’t think it was fair for those who did leave a note in weeks where the rest of you lazy buggers might not. But the rest applies. Comments have to be posted on the site — not as a “like” or comment on Facebook (although that’s greatly appreciated) or any other social media or via e-mail — wins.

Comments do not have to pertain to the particular post you are currently reading but they do have to be related to the overall scope of the blog, please; no “My team’s great, your team sucks” nonsense. Y’all have been good about that. Keep it up.

If you’ve won a book in the last three months — and you’ll know who you are — you can’t win again. Share the wealth. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your thoughts, though. Please do.

Not mandatory, but I would appreciate the winners taking a picture of him- or herself with their giftee so I can post it on the blog. So far, none of you have done that.

That’s it. Simple enough, no?

Have at it.


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Even if they might not have a logo on them.

In cases where new inductees have played for multiple teams, it’s become something of an issue as to which cap they want on their plaque. There have been rumors that some teams will pay for the privilege of having their logo on display in Cooperstown and that the Hall has stepped in to make the decision for players, to the annoyance of some.

This article by The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir of The New York Times reports that Greg Maddux and Tony LaRussa — who were associated with several ball clubs — have opted to go with the blank look their chapeaux.

This isn’t the first time: as the article indicates, Catfish Hunter is logoless which Yogi Berra, who spent just about all of his “important” years with the New York Yankees, is shown in profile. And some of the early players dare go go bare-headed.

The Hall of Fame plaque of Catfish Hunter features a cap with no logo.

By the way, titles about the class of 2014 include:

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http://thecollagist.com/storage/Ostergaard.png?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1396132336544A Fan’s Notes from Left Field, by Josh Ostergaard. Coffee House Press, 2014.

(Not to be confused with Confessions from Left Field: A Baseball Pilgrimage, published by Raymond Mungo in 1983.)

To be honest, I did not have high expectations for this one after reading the review in the NY Times‘ Sunday book supplement a few weeks back. It somehow reminded me of The Art of Fielding, another “literary” treatise (albeit fictional) that was getting more credit than it seemed to deserve. Maybe part of it is jealousy. A whole page for one book where 501 didn’t even sniff a mention in “Paperback Alley?”

While I maintain my opinion of TAOF, I acknowledge my mistake regarding Snake Curve, a quirky journal of Ostergaard’s thoughts and memories of the game.

He follows a roughly chronological format, with passages akin to blog entries ranging in length from a paragraph to several pages. Most of these pieces seem to concentrate on the Yankees (points off), with an “us vs. them” leaning (bonus points) when it comes to player against management, particularly the franchises know for them conservatism, like the Yankees and Reds when it comes to tidy hair styles. In fact, there are a disproportionate number of items concerning grooming. Hmmm.

Ostergaard seamlessly meshes baseball with pop culture and politics, both in the U.S. and around the world. Many of these are amusing, while some are more serious and thought-provoking, such as how many home runs hit were eventually lost to rain outs and similar officially incomplete games? No way to know. Or pointing out that Pete Rose and Mark McGwire were each presented with the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, bestowed on those players who exemplify, on and off the field, the qualities of the Yankee Clipper — yet neither man has actually been inducted into the Hall because of what many might describe as character flaws.

Some of the entries are downright ponderable:


Does anyone know how many games old Pud Galvin really won?

Who’s on first?

That’s the entire item.

Oddness aside, Devil’s Curve is a pleasant pastime, easily suited to inning changeovers and calls to the pen.


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Not to mention redesign the score books.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/911E31czH-L.jpgYou hear a number of sports pundits clamoring about throwing out the records of those who have used performance enhancing drugs. But really, everyone knows how impractical that would be. What would become of the record books? Since baseball is a zero sum game, if you take away a home run from a batter, you have to deduct it from the pitcher who gave it up as well. And what would you do about games won by home runs? Would they become losses? Would pennants and championships similarly have to change?

I got a similar vibe after reading Tom Verducci’s article on the effects of defensive shifts in Sports Illustrated. Verducci’s concern is how this impacts on offensive production but for me there’s another consideration.


I was at Sunday’s game between the Yankees and Reds with my daughter and couple of friends. Rachel used to manage her high school baseball team and was tasked with keeping the score book, so she knows what she’s doing. But we were stymied when the Yankees went into a shift in which shortstop Derek Jeter moved over — relatively speaking — to third, while third baseman Kelly Johnson joined Brian Roberts (second base) and Mark Teixeira (first) on the right side of the bag.

One question is why wouldn’t they just slide Jeter over to his left, but the much bigger issue is how do you adequately represent the situation in which the ball is hit to the nominal third baseman who is now playing what should be second base as he makes the play to first? In the books it would be 5-3 and you would never know he was nowhere near third.

There are probably fielding metrics now under development to account for shifts, but how will this translate to casual use? Asterisks are popular; perhaps there will be some designation in the box score noting these anomalies. But to paraphrase Sheriff Brody in Jaws, we’re gonna need a bigger scorecard.


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https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/t1.0-9/p370x247/10438344_10152466914814333_225006155999028542_n.jpgA few weeks ago, I believe I was among the first in baseball circles to mention the passing of Jim Brosnan. In fact, I take at least some credit for his obit in The New York Times since Bruce Weber, who wrote the piece, had not heard of Brosnan’s death prior to my e-mail to him inquiring whether the late ballplayer/author was worthy of a fuller tribute in his publication. Weber may have learned of this eventually, but I’m still taking credit.


Bobby Plapinger, owner of R. Plapinger Baseball Books out of Ashland, Oregon, send out the following as an e-mail blast yesterday. Reproduced with permission.


* * *

For some reason I’ve never kept a copy of Jim Brosnan’s Pennant Race for my personal library. I’ve bought and sold lots of 1st editions, even a few signed ones, but never kept one for myself. I think it’s because of the white dust jacket. Because it shows stains, or “rubbing” (those annoying gray marks) or any kind of dirt, excuse me “soil” (bookseller’s term—sounds so much more impressive than dirt, don’t you think?), the dust jacket is seldom found in “fine” condition. I figured eventually a fine one would turn up & that would be the copy I’d keep.

But I never found one…and…I really never thought about it all that much. Until three weeks ago. That’s when I saw Ron Kaplan’s “Lest We Forget” post about Jim Brosnan & learned that Brosnan had died on June 28.

I was going to write my own remembrance, but Ron—and the few others he mentioned who actually covered Brosnan’s passing—did a really good job of covering Brosnan’s playing—and writing—career. They had already talked about how important Brosnan’s diaries, The Long Season and Pennant Race, were in the history of baseball bibliography. About how they were the first of their kind, the first to be written by a real player without the help of ghostwriters. About how books like Ball Four & every other confessional, and/or behind-the-scenes, and/or story-of-a-season book that came after owe an incredible debt to Brosnan. (I don’t know if Jim Bouton read Season and Race, but I’m sure Leonard Shecter and Dick Schaap did!) About how, unlike a lot of “important” or “foundational” books in other fields, Brosnan’s are wonderful, informative, insightful, and eye-opening—even to today’s readers. About how, having written two of the best baseball books for adults ever, he stopped writing them, and published only a few books for younger readers and some stories in “Boys Life.”  Though no one else mentioned that one of his kids’ books—his biography of Ron Santo for Putnam—is one of the hardest books to find in “collectible condition.”   I think that has more to do with demand (still sort of high) and supply (as always, low) than with Brosnan’s prose, admirable as it is.

So… I was going to write about how even though I loved his books & his writerly attitude, we had never met, or even corresponded. Over the years, I have come into contact with a fair number of people who have written baseball books. But Brosnan was never one of them.
I did, somehow, get his address, and for a while, would send him catalogs. This was when the only way I knew if someone received the catalog in the mail was if you called (or wrote) me. But Brosnan never did.

And yet—HE KNEW WHO I WAS. As I typed those words just now I felt the same shiver that ran down my back the first time someone called me saying that Jim Brosnan had suggested I might have the book they were looking for. I can’t remember if the shiver returned the next time it happened, but I DO know that there were, over time, more than a few people who came to me because Jim Brosnan sent them in my direction.
And I can’t tell you how—is honored the right word?—that made me feel. That this writer whose work I respected so much but who I’d never had any sort of actual contact with, would not only be aware of the existence of my little baseball book business, but would recommend it to others.

That’s what I was going to write. On or around July 2, when I saw Ron’s post. Then, as happens, life & “other stuff” intervened between then and now, and it seemed to me that post would be a little “stale”, and I wondered a bit if I really wanted to write again about people who died & how I really DON’T want to go there…

 And then, last week, arriving in a small group of books I purchased by mail, was a 1st edition of Pennant Race.  And damn if the dust jacket isn’t nearly as white & pristine as the day it was published. The nicest example I’ve seen in years. I didn’t believe it when I opened the package. I almost don’t at this moment.

Sorry—I’m keeping this copy.


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Unless you’re too injured.

I don’t know about you, but I think the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game is a colossal waste of time. As power-hitting professional athletes, hitting batting practice speed balls, you should expect them to hit it over the wall.

But the upshot is injury. The Colorado Rockies’  Justin Morneau, who hit two in the first round and did not advance, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a neck injury. Just sayin’. And he’s not the first to suffer a second-half letdown after appearing in HRD.

And then there’s Chris Berman.

One more time, Chris?

Sorry, once more?

(Not actually from HRD, but what the heck.)


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‘Bookshelf’ reviews: A trio of titles

2014 title

Although technically these were written for Bookreporter.com before I went on vacation. The books in this “all-Star” feature include: I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever, by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is […]

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Back in business

Because I can...

As Douglas MacArthur once said, “I have returned.” Visiting the San Francisco area for vacation was relaxing, apart from driving on California 1… Fortunately, we were going north, so oncoming traffic was on the left and inland was on the right. If we had been going south it would have been oncoming on the left […]

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The Bookshelf Conversation: Heather Quinlan

Baseball Movies

Can you believe it’s been almost 30 years since the NY Mets won their last championship? That’s a generation. Not that I’m complaining. Could be worse (see, Chicago Cubs). But anniversaries are great for books and movies, so Heather Quinlan is taking up the challenge for ’86 Mets: The Movie. As you can tell from […]

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Ted Williams: A chilling account


Sorry, but there’s really no way to do this respectfully. Every time I try to come up with something, it just leads to puns, innuendo, and euphemism, so I’ll just go with it. In her recent memoir, Ted Williams, My Father, Claudia Williams has nothing good to say about Alcor Life Extension, while saying almost […]

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We’ll meet again (Bits and pieces, July 10)

2012 title

don’t know where, don’t know when… Taking off tomorrow for a little vacation. Not sure of the accessibility/availability issues, so trying to squeeze in a few so my mailbox won’t be so full when I get back. There have been at least a couple of baseball mysteries with the title Strike Three, You’re Dead, one […]

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Because every new project needs helping hand


I am working on a “Bookshelf Conversation” podcast with Heather Quinlan, producer of a new documentary about the 1986 New York Mets. Quinlan is trying to raise $50,000 for her project via Kickstarter. (There are similar sites , but who has time to go through them all? Perhaps this will motivate you to investigate further.) […]

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Jim Brosnan: An Appreciation

Author Profile / interview

As discussed last week, Jim Brosnan’s contribution to the world of sports memoir has gone under-noticed. Only a couple of obituaries have appeared — The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post among them. Nothing of consequence from ESPN, or even MLB.com. I reached out to a couple of literary gentlemen for their […]

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Book of the Week Contest: Philadelphia’s Top 50 Baseball Players

2013 title

All right, so it’s not exactly weekly. So sue me. Congratulations to Patrick M. of Mexico City, winner of Francona: The Red Sox Years. Next up for grabs: Philadelphia’s Top 50 Baseball Players, by Rich Westcott. A reminder of the new rules: This is now a random pick. I didn’t think it was fair for […]

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