http://jknightbooks.com/images/jonathan-knight-photo.jpgAll of Jonathan Knight‘s books have been about Cleveland sports. While those might seem to be of interest only to denizens of that city, his latest — The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy — is much more “universal,” appealing to fans not only of the local Indians but to fans of baseball, fans of movies, and especially fans of baseball movies. I’m all in for anything that goes behind the scenes, so this book touches all the bases, as it were.

I spoke with Knight about what made Major League such a cinematic All-Star.

 

http://jknightbooks.com/images/making-of-major-league-sc.jpg

 

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Whenever I learn of a situation where another library closes or a cache of baseball material is thrown away due to lack of space, money, or interest, I refer to this scene from the 1960 film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

http://radio-indiana.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/SI-first-Issue.jpegThat’s how I felt after reading Jeff Pearlman’s piece in The Guardian, “The heartbreaking farewell: the world’s greatest sports library checks out,” about changes at the iconic Sports Illustrated that seem to necessitate the casting off of so much historical data. There seems to be some question about exactly what will happen to the stuff: will SI move all this somewhere else? Will it be turned into confetti? Will some enterprising data-philes hang out near the SI office and scoop up big plastic garbage bags full of unrealized treasure?

A particular “Eloi moment” from Perlman’s article:

[A] few weeks ago a young sports fan asked me if Sports Illustrated still exists in print. My verbal reply, “Of course.” My mental reply, “F******ck.” (My edit; Perlman went full “u.”)

But I can’t be too disheartened; at least the kid knew that SI was a thing. Young folk just get their information in different ways these days. As long as they’re reading something.

http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2008/03/20/791374/BWAttachment791374-7.jpgSeveral years ago, the publication created SI Vault, ostensibly a digital replication of every issue. I particularly enjoyed the advertisements that served as a sort of time capsule of styles and tastes through the years. (Somewhere I have the first pages of a project I had planned about the passage of time as revealed through those ads.)  What a joy that was. But somewhere along the way it abandoned that presentation and offered only the text, without of the “Illustrated” part that put SI on the map in its toddlerhood. How much work could that have been? It’s a simple scan turned into an Issuu situation. The current SI Vault interface makes it unwieldy and not a whole lot of fun.

 

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NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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.

  1. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  2. The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse, by Molly Knight
  3. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  4. Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak, by Travis Sawchik
  5. Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty, by Bengie Molina
  6. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams
  7. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, by Charles Leerhsen
  8. The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season, by Barry Svrluga
  9. Jeter Unfiltered, by Jeter
  10. The Mental Keys to Hitting: A Handbook of Strategies for Performance Enhancement, by H.A. Dorfman

New York Times: On the August list, Knight’s book about the Dodgers debuts in the number three slot and is the only baseball title in the top 10 sports books. Jeter’s Unfiltered is #12 with another new arrival, Dick Flavin’s Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses at #13, followed by Pedro at #16. Flavin is the PA announcer at Fenway Park and the team’s poet laureate.

Not on either list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. As of this post, the ranking is 698,721, up substantially from last week’s 1,007,394. But I’m never satisfied; we can do better.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. There haven’t been any in awhile. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated. And thanks to those who have.

 

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I have a pretty set routine with the podcasts I listen to. On my Monday commute to work, it’s always (barring repeats and clip shows) Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. On the Friday commute home from work it’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Many of the others regulars — WTF, The Leonard Lopate Show, Fresh Air, Hang Up and Listen —  depend on the topic and/or guest.

Then there’s Extra Hot Great. I have a hard time with this television-centric program only because it’s almost always, well, great. Usually I don’t want it to be over, knowing I have to wait a week for the next one. And when it’s not on because of one reason or another, I go through withdrawal.

Almost every EHG includes “The Canon,” an inside-baseball analysis of one episode of a TV program meant to be indicative of the best of the series as voted on by that week’s panel which usually consists of hosts David T. Cole, Tara Ariana, and Sarah D. Bunting, plus a revolving “valued guest.”

http://www.thejfiles.com/xxxhomepage/imgs/eps6/theunnatural/ungrey1.jpgIn the latest podcast, Bunting — an unabashed baseball fan surrounded by seemingly non-fans; I’ve written about her in the past  — offered “The Unnatural,” an episode from the sixth season of The X-Files.

Now, I was never a regular consumer of the cult classic show, but if I catch wind of anything that has to do with baseball, I’m in. Well, just about; I never watched Baseball Wives or the season of The Bachelorette which featured a former pro ballplayer.

Long story short, “The Unnatural,” written and directed by David Duchonvy (FBI Agent Fox Muldur) tells the tale of an extra-terrestrial who visits earth in the 1940s, falls in love with baseball, and decides not to return to his native planet. At least I assume it’s a male ET; who knows if such a construct exists on the home world. He shape-shifts into the form of Josh Exley, an African-American (Josh Gibson nod?) so he can excel at the game yet play in relative obscurity in a pre-Jackie Robinson world. In the episode, Excley is challenging the single-season record of 60 home runs set by Babe Ruth.

Trying to avoid spoilers, for both the X-Files and EHG episodes, here’s my two-bits:

  • https://m0vie.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/xfiles-theunnatural1.jpg?w=468The baseball-loving alien (an extension of the late 19th/early 20th century immigrant/assimilation experience?) is played by Jesse L. Martin, perhaps best known for his role on Ally McBeal, Law and Order, and The Flash. For someone who’s supposed to be an elite  great athlete, his on-field scenes looked less than such. He’s certainly no Charlie Sheen or Kevin Costner (although he is better than Tim Robbins, Anthony Perkins, and William Bendix).
  • Am I the only one who finds actors wax way too poetical when discussing baseball. Listen to both M. Emmett Walsh and Duchovny’s soliloquies, especially when the latter tries to “convert” his partner, Agent Scully, to the joys and deeper meanings of the game. Maybe it’s because I’m already sold that I find such dialogue a waste of time.
  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-DbquiMQdbWA/TqU14RTVmZI/AAAAAAAABZg/MWOSJgNIjqI/s1600/vlcsnap-2011-10-18-17h52m17s3.jpgExley’s team is based in Roswell, of course. Was New Mexico a bastion of social progress? It would appear so, based on the very deferential treatment he receives from his bodyguard, a white cop portraying Walsh at a younger age.
  • At the end of the episode, Muldur is taking batting practice. The balls seem to come in quick succession, don’t they? It’s only later in the scene that we see they’re delivered via a hand-fed pitching machine.
  • His batting lesson with Scully is miles behind the Costner-Susan Sarandon version in Bull Durham. (And the line describing the bat as a fine “piece of ash?” Really? What are we, 12?)
  • I would have preferred this as a longer episode; things just moved a bit fast for me and seemed rushed. Just sayin’.

You can watch “The Natural” on various on-line streaming services, as well as Netflix and Amazon.

 

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Remember me?

August 27, 2015 · 0 comments

Hi, there, been awhile. Allow me to introduce…

I won’t go that far.

Yeah, you know, summertime and all. Have actually been doing some non-baseball reading (I know, right?) but have been trying to get back into the swing of things.

Based on the disappointment of receiving the annual report on 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die (no royalties again) plus the early lack of buzz about The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games, I’ve been thinking about the wisdom of following through on a new major project I’ve been considering for the past couple of years. As much as I enjoy the process, the realities don’t offer enough return on investment of time and effort. To be determined.

In the meantime, I’ve just finished two interviews that with be the subject of “Bookshelf Conversations” over the next several weeks, including Jonathan Knight, author of The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy, and Dick Flavin, Red Sox poet laureate and author of Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses

Once all the holidays are over, I hope to kick things up a notch or two. Stay tuned.

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MookieThe Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in NYC will host a fundraising event with former NY Met favorite Mookie Wilson on Thursday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m.

Wilson published his memoirs, Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets, with Erik Sherman last year.

Jay Goldberg, the owner of Bergino, said in an e-mail:

In brief, the event came about strictly because of the mensch Mookie [is]. Erik and I tried to put together a book event last year [but it didn’t work out]. We kept thinking about a way to do an event with Mookie, so I brought up the idea of something for charity. Erik spoke with Mookie about his availability. They finally came up with a date that worked for all. Mookie said he’ll do anything, sign anything, whatever we want — but it has to be for the Viscardi School.

Frankly, I had never heard of the Viscardi School. But after visiting them, I completely understood Mookie’s feelings. It’s an amazing place.

Goldberg elaborates about his experience with Viscardi here.

Admission for this special event is $175. There are still a few spots open for this worthy event. For information visit the Bergino website or contact Bergino@aol.com or 212-226-7150.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51X6Ex3b8VL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

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NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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.

  1. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513IdVuLciL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse, by Molly Knight
  2. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  3. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  4. The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season, by Barry Svrluga
  5. Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak, by Travis Sawchik
  6. Jeter Unfiltered, by Jeter
  7. The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy, by Filip Bondy (My Bookreporter.com review here and Bookshelf Conversation here)
  8. The Mental Keys to Hitting: A Handbook of Strategies for Performance Enhancement, by H.A. Dorfman
  9. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams
  10. Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty, by Bengie Molina

Pretty much the same as the last BBS post, with the return of William’s classic.

New York Times: On the August list, Knight’s book about the Dodgers debuts in the number three slot and is the only baseball title in the top 10 sports books. Jeter’s Unfiltered is #12 with another new arrival, Dick Flavin’s Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses at #13, followed by Pedro at #16. Flavin is the PA announcer at Fenway Park and the team’s poet laureate.

Not on either list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. As of this post, the ranking is 1,007,394, down a hair from last week’s 1,061,795. That million mark is psychologically damaging to my psyche so help a brother out. (I’m hoping the slide is being offset by sales of the new book.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. There haven’t been any in awhile. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated. And thanks to those who have.

 

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Since I posted the first of these on a Thursday, which is known on social media as a time of reflection, I thought to make it a regular thing under this rubric. These are kind of fun; it’s like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get. (Actually, I never understood that famous quote from Forrest Gump. If it’s a box of chocolate covered cherries, don’t you know exactly what you’re going to get?)

On the one hand, I’m happy to report that I’m catching up/running out of these old links. On the other hand, it’s been cool reminiscing.

I highly recommend Pocket as a way to hold onto links you come that you want to keep. Unlike bookmarks, Pocket keeps the entire page and makes it relative easy for you to find stuff you “pocketed.” I have keepers going back six years — more than 5,000 links — and I’ve decided it’s time to start cleaning house so here are some submitted for your amusement, perusal, and education. Some are not current, but in a sense, they’re timeless.

 

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bbiconThe Sports Illustrated for Kids blog ran this Q&A with Dick Flavin, public address announcer for the Boston Red Sox and author of Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses.

bbiconThe Kansas City Star ran this profile on W.P. Kinsella, author of too many great baseball stories to mention.

bbiconhttp://img.deseretnews.com/images/article/contentimagetall/1582331/1582331.jpgThe Desert News posted this review of Base Hits and Home Run Relationships: What Women Wish Guys Knew, by Trina Boice. I’m curious, since the review heads the piece “Mom-son duo offer advice…” why his name is not on the cover as well. But kudos for the frankness when the reviewer writes, “The baseball analogy gets a little cheesy, of course, but it shows that this book does not take itself too seriously, preventing the preachiness that pervades too many self-help books.” Personally, I have a get peeve about non-baseball books trying to get attention by using baseball metaphors.

bbiconMaybe I’m Montreal-biased, but I always thought their logo was one of the best in the big leagues. Confirmed.

bbiconAnother book about Mickey Mantle? Apparently so, according to this item on The Night Mickey Mantle Came to Town, available only as a Kindle e-book.

bbiconSeems this sounds very familiar: An aging ballplayer trying for one more chance at success with the stock characters and issues of any number of baseball novels: daddy issues, sportswriters, ageism. Still I might give Approaching Twi-Night a shot, at least trying a sample from Amazon. Here’s a Q&A with the author, M. Thomas Apple. You have to take it with a grain of salt as it’s posted by a company that markets books for authors. The questions are extremely generic and would seem to apply to any of the clients, regardless of subject matter.

bbiconHere’s a piece from NewYork.CBSLocal.com on one of those formulaic books from Triumph, Numbers Don’t Lie: Mets: The Biggest Numbers in Mets History.

bbiconAnyone who takes over when LA Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully steps down will be in the spotlight, so why not Molly Knight, author of the best-seller, The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse?

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Any parent knows your kid will have this one TV show you absolutely cannot stand, be it Barney or in my situation, Full House. My daughter is now a college graduate and we were recently near a movie theater that was screening The Man from UNCLE. Now, I remember the original series from the mid-1960s, when spy/secret agent shows were all the rage. So I wondered: for what demographic is this movie aimed? Certainly not for boomers like me.

Full House is getting a reboot with Fuller House. We get the play on words in the title; did the producers really have to hit us over the head by making the name of the lead actor J.D. Tanner-Fuller?

Obviously, just as TMFU, this show was not made for someone like me. God bless.

Since the series is based in San Francisco, it seems “natural,” that it be cross promoted by the Giants.

I guess I have a different criteria for what I consider “hilarious.” (I also feel embarrassed for Dave Coulier, who appears at the end of the video, reprising the shtick he did on FH as third banana Joey Gladstone.)

This piece from The Sporting News suggests “15 more TV show intros we’d like to see remade by MLB teams.

Um, no. Sticking a few ballplayers on screen to the music doesn’t make it worthwhile. Just like all the different versions of the “Harlem Shake” a few years back.Although kudos to Mets PR exec Jay Horwitz for not give a f*** about what he looked like in the Mets’ version.

Remember? No? Good, it means you’ve moved on with your life.

 

 

 

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51lMCeHHCRL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWhile most baseball fiction leave me unimpressed, I was an early adopter of the work of Troy Soos, author of the Mickey Rawlings series of historical baseball mysteries. That’s quite an accomplishment when you think of the amount of work it takes to do any one of those well.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/74/Author_Troy_Soos.jpg/200px-Author_Troy_Soos.jpgSoos, who published first his first Rawlings book, Murder At Fenway Park, almost 20 years ago, recently released The Tomb That Ruth Built. Since the series is sequential, Rawlings, a brainy but average utilityman, has changed  teams several times between his literary “debut” in 1912 and his current stint with the New York Yankees in 1923. Other titles include Murder at Ebbets Field, Murder at Wrigley Field, Hunting a Detroit Tiger, The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, and Hanging Curve, which was published in 1999. It would be almost 15 years before Tomb was released as Soos took on a series of  non-baseball historical fiction as well as well as the non-fiction Before the Curse: The Glory Days of New England Baseball, 1858-1918.

Hard to believe I’ve know Soos for this long.  I did a profile of him in 1998 for the now-defunct Mystery Review (which you can read here).

We spoke recently about the challenges of such detail-driven writing as well as plans for Mickey Rawlings’ future.

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NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on with the show…

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. http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Natural_3D_white_NC.jpgThe Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse, by Molly Knight
  2. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  3. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  4. The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season, by Barry Svrluga
  5. The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy, by Filip Bondy (My Bookreporter.com review here and Bookshelf Conversation here)
  6. Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak, by Travis Sawchik
  7. The Mental Keys to Hitting: A Handbook of Strategies for Performance Enhancement, by H.A. Dorfman
  8. The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, by H.A. Dorfman
  9. Jeter Unfiltered, by Jeter
  10. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, by Charles Leerhsen

Pretty much the dsame as the last posting, although Malamud’s Natural jumps up. Wonder if some students have this as a summer reading assignment and aer trying to get it in at the last minute.

New York Times: On the August list, Knight’s book about the Dodgers debuts in the number three slot and is the only baseball title in the top 10 sports books. Jeter’s Unfiltered is #12 with another new arrival, Dick Flavin’s Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses at #13, followed by Pedro at #16. Flavin is the PA announcer at Fenway Park and the team’s poet laureate.

Not on either list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. As of this post, the ranking is 1,061,795, down significantly from last week’s 984,265. That million mark is pstchologically damaging to my psyche so help a brother out.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. There haven’t been any in awhile. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated. And thanks to those who have.

 

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Brought to you as a public service announcement (vintage cigarette ads)

"Oddballs"

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of Mickey Mantle. And while he didn’t die from lung cancer, he and many of his fellow athletes — role models — didn’t mind picking up a few extra bucks shilling for the tobacco industry. One of the reason’s the Honus Wagner T-206 is so rare is […]

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Throwback Thursday (aka, links dump)

"Oddballs"

Since I posted the first of these on a Thursday, which is known on social media as a time of reflection, I thought to make it a regular thing under this rubric. These are kind of fun; it’s like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get. (Actually, I never understood […]

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Bits and pieces, Aug. 11, 2015

"Oddballs"

Been following the adventures of Brad Balukjian, who’s traveling the country in search of his baseball heroes for a book project. He was a guest on a recent edition of Slate’s excellent sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen. We had a Bookshelf Conversation prior to his departure and I hope to have another one upon his […]

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What is so rare as a day in June?

"Oddballs"

Evidently this book, according to John Thorn. In a recent column, the official historian for Major League Baseball offers what will undoubtedly be an introduction to most baseball lit fans of “The Krank — Baseball’s Rarest Book.” “The Krank: His Language and What It Means is a humorous glossary of baseball terms,” writes Thorn, referring to […]

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I’ll use my own chocolate syrup, thank you very much

"Oddballs"

Another example of the “anything to separate the fans from their money” philosophy.   Be sociable, share the Bookshelf! Tweet

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Baseball Best-Sellers, Aug. 7, 2015

2014 title

NOTE: I have been posting these things long enough now that a few have commented that the introductory section isn’t necessary anymore. But I’m leaving it in because, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio when asked why he played so hard all the time, there may be people who’ve never read the best-seller entries before. So on […]

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Throwback Thursday (aka, massive links dump, continued)

"Oddballs"

Since I posted the first of these on a Thursday, which is known on social media as a time of reflection, I thought to make it a regular thing under this rubric. These are kind of fun; it’s like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get. (Actually, I never understood […]

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Guest review: Dorothy Mills on Throw Like a Woman

2015 title

It’s always a pleasure to post a review from a friend of the blog. In this case we have Dorothy Mills, baseball historian and author of such books as A Woman’s Work: Writing Baseball History With Harold Seymour; Chasing Baseball: Our Obsession with Its History, Numbers, People and Places; and Drawing Card: A Baseball Novel, […]

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