I just finished the first round of edits on the manuscript for my forthcoming book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War (scheduled for release April 4, 2017. Just sayin’.)

The last chapter deals with Greenberg’s final playing season as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. There’s a famous incident in which he had occasion to converse with Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line that year. The two of the collided at first base in a May 15 game. Greenberg helped Robinson to his feet and gave him some words of encouragement, for which the Brooklyn rookie was most grateful.

“Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg,” Robinson told the pres after the game.

That made me think of this:

In the movie 42, about Robinson’s first season, the first black player was hit in the head by a pitch from Fritz Ostermueller. That game took place on May 17 against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Well, Greenberg was in the lineup for the Pirates that day. In fact, he hit a two-run homer to give his team the only runs they would need in a 4-0 win over Brooklyn. The Pirates had only four hits and Greenberg had two of them.

Too bad they didn’t include the Robinson-Greenberg conversation in the movie.

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https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Kx9WUhgGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJohn Carvalho, author of Frick: Baseball’s Third Commissioner, has the honor of closing out the  2106 “season” at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan.

Carvalho will share his thoughts with Clubhouse owner Jay Goldberg on Thursday, December 15, at 7 p.m.

Ford Frick is best known as the baseball commissioner who put the “asterisk” next to Roger Maris’s record. But his tenure as commissioner carried the game through pivotal changes — television, continued integration, West Coast expansion and labor unrest.  During those 14 years, and 17 more as National League president, he witnessed baseball history from the perspective of a man who began as a sportswriter.

 

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Perhaps best known for her portrayal of the avaricious owner of the Cleveland Indians in Major League, Ms. Whitton died on Sunday at the age of 67. Here’s her obituary in the New York Times by Richard Sandomir, who has moved from from his previous  post as the sports media columnist to the “dead beat.”

Jonathan Knight wrote a very fun book that will tell you more: The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy.

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Emmy-winning MLB Network anchor Brian Kenny and Billy Bean, MLB’s VP for Social Responsibility and Inclusion, will be the featured speakers  visit on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ.

Kenny and Bean will talk baseball, followed by a signing of Kenny’s new book, Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution, beginning Tuesday at 7 p.m. Kenny and Bean, who came out as gay after he left the San Diego Padres in 1995, will also discuss how the sport is changing from a cultural and social perspective.

Bean published his memoirs, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life in and out of Major-League Baseball, in 2003.

Here’s the Bookshelf Conversation I had with Kenny back in July.

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What’s wrong with the national pastime? Seems like everyone has an opinion, but some strike me as more informed than others. That’s the feeling I came away with after reading Lincoln Mitchell‘s new book, Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball. I can always tell how much I’ve enjoyed a book by the number of pages I dog-ear and the notes I wrote in the margin, which, in this case, was extreme.

Mitchell is a writer, pundit, and specialist in political development based in New York City and San Francisco. Among many other things, he  was the national political correspondent for The New York Observer, a member of the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International Affairs from 2006-2013,  and worked for years as a political consultant in New York City advising and managing domestic political campaigns.

He also hosts “Painting the Corners: The Baseball and International Affairs Podcast” which brings together people from worlds of baseball and foreign policy to discuss the two topics in an informal conversational setting.

I usually like to put up these interviews ahead of the author’s appearance at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan, but I blew it this time. My apologies to all parties involved. You can hear Mitchell’s discussion with Bergino owner Jay Goldberg here. You can still catch him at The Baseball Center on 74th and Broadway this Thursday at 7 p.m.

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But not for me…

December 2, 2016 · 0 comments

With apologies to George and Ira Gershwin…

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lFf-GMBLB5g/VzomG3QqKFI/AAAAAAAAOpw/KHp8rgHsf2EpFGCMUDXhFQMPXUGG4bRJgCLcB/s400/baseballstats.jpgThey’re writing books on stats
but not for me
New ways to look at stats
but not for me…

In this week’s look at the top 10 baseball titles on Amazon, we have Incredible Baseball Stats by Kevin Reavy and Ryan Spaeder.

To be honest, I received an advanced reader copy several months ago but haven’t read it. And I probably won’t.

With all due respect to the authors, who no doubt put in a lot of hard work and research to get their product published, this is the type of book I have to let side to the curb as time and space start to run out.

There are certain types of books that are obsolete almost as soon as they come out. Books about stats and trivia fall into this category. As the saying goes, how many ways can you say “ham and eggs?” How many ways can you offer lists of the most career home runs or strikeouts by a pitcher with five letters in his name that start and end with the same letter (I just made that one up, but it’s probably within the realm of possibility, isn’t it?).

I’ve reached a point where there is just so much room available to store books and only so much time to read them. Books about stats are unfortunately the first victim, probably to be followed by biographies of obscure players from the first half of the century, not to mention titles which continue to include the words “greatest,” “best,” or “forever.”

Respectfully yours,

RK

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Do we really?

December 2, 2016 · 0 comments

They say Cardinals fans are among the most intelligent and passionate in the game. I’m sure followers of other teams might want to debate the notion. But if the request is made, someone should answer the call. In this case, the Vivo El Birdos potion of SB Nations says, “We need another book about the ‘80s Cardinals.”

I was going to post a few Cardinals titles but there was too much dreck thrown into the search. Hey, amazon: if I take the time and trouble to select “books” from the dozens of search options, why am I seeing jerseys and other items that are obviously not books?

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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.

NEW: To give a sense of context, I’m including where each book falls in the overall Amazon rankings.

  1. https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lFf-GMBLB5g/VzomG3QqKFI/AAAAAAAAOpw/KHp8rgHsf2EpFGCMUDXhFQMPXUGG4bRJgCLcB/s400/baseballstats.jpgSports Illustrated Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Champions Commemorative Issue
  2. Won for the Ages: How the Chicago Cubs Became the 2016 World Series Champions, by the Chicago Tribune via Triumph
  3. LIFE Chicago Cubs: Champions at Last
  4. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond, by Jeff Silverman
  5. 2016 World Series Champions – Chicago Cubs, by Major League Baseball (3,447)
  6. The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
  7. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  8. Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts in Baseball History, by Kevin Reavey and Ryan Spaeder
  9. The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, by Jeff Passan
  10. Baseball Prospectus 2017 (pre-order; release date Feb. 10, 2017)

I’ve given up on the rankings. Too much work, to be honest, especially when the titles remain the ame from week to week. You’d think the opposite would be true, but no.

Cubs titles continue to dominate, but all the baseball books have moved up noticeably in the overall rankings.

NY Times: No baseball titles on the current list. Nor are there any sports titles in the paper’s annual 100 Notable Books listing.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Today: 439,160; last week: 1,201,165. Makes a great holiday gift.

If you have read 501, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page; it’s never too late. 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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(Note: I published this piece on one of my other blogs, The Worried Journalist. Just call me Double-Duty Kaplan.)

When I was a kid I once got in in trouble for spending twice my allowance because I bought the latest issues of Baseball Digest and The Sporting News on the way back from running errands. This amounted to an extra fifty cents. Mind you, this was back in the late 1960s. I only realized much later what dire financial straits my family was in. So those extra two bits (kids, ask your parents) was a big deal.

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I was just tooling around my email and saw a thread from the SportsJournalists.com site earlier this month announcing further layoffs at TSN (including apparently “two of its three baseball guys”).

One sad comment:

I honestly didn’t realize the Sporting News still existed until just now.

I thought it had gone under years ago.

Two of its three baseball guys.

Thanks a lot, millennials. You think you invented pop culture? It’s people like you who are killing off pop culture. Just because it doesn’t apply to you doesn’t mean it’s not important. For decades The Sporting News — founded in 1886 — was known as the “bible of baseball.” The writing was top notch and covered not just the majors but the minor league as well from the highest level to the lowest bushed. Granted, the publishers may not have been the most progressive when it came to reporting on minority ballplayers, but it was a symbol of America. Newspapers would carry photos of soldiers in World War II reading TSN to get a taste of home.

Now it’s barely a website, covering multiple sports in the most vanilla of fashion.

Sad indeed.

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Feeling a Draft

November 30, 2016 · 0 comments

Baseball America recently announced the release of their new release, their Ultimate Draft Book: The Most Comprehensive Book Ever Published on the Baseball Draft: 1965-2016.

Don’t you love their modesty?

Did you know that more than 70,000(!) players have been selected since the inception of the draft? Picture a full stadium, and then some. Impressive.

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When I was a kid, there was only Topps. And only one set of Topps. Now there are so many, of varying degrees of quality and inteerest, it’s hard to keep up. Case in point: the 2017 Inception set. Maybe this is all a dream.

2017 Topps Inception Baseball Header

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Now hear this: Ron Darling

November 30, 2016 · 0 comments

Ron Darling and Joe DonahueNot exactly sure why this is relevant a year after his book was published, but here he is talking with WAMC, the NPR affiliate of Albany, NY about his book, Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life.

 

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Guess I’m living in the wrong town

Author Profile / interview

Larry Gerlach, author of The Men in Blue: Conversations with Umpires recently made news when he decided to give his baseball book collection to Colorado Mesa University earlier this month. According to the article from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, some 1,400 books were involved. It’s not a contest — I’m sure some of you […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, November 25, 2016

2016 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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Donald Trump, major leaguer?

"Oddballs"

There has been speculation about what might have been for Cuba and the world had Fidel Castro passed muster for scouts in his baseball tryouts. Tim Wendell wrote about in his novel, Castro’s Curveball. Now it seems the same could be said about our president-elect. From Philly.com: “Report: The Phillies once scouted Donald Trump as […]

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Lest we forget: Ralph Branca

"Ripped from today's headlines..."

One of the last “Boys of Summer,” Branca probably knew how his obituary would begin immediately after he gave up “the shot heard round the world” to Bobby Thomson. This was the topic of Joshua Prager’s The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World. Here’s […]

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Stories about new HoF candidates = back of old baseball cards

"Ripped from today's headlines..."

Tyler Kepner published this story in today’s NY Times about the new batch of players eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. I totally agree with his assessment that most of these fellows will not meet the five-percent of votes needed to remain on next year’s ballot. The only names that jumps out as a possible/probable […]

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Spitball announces Casey finalists

2016 title

Spitball — “The Literary baseball Magazine” — recently announced the slate of finalists for the 2016 CASEY Award: The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams by Michael Tackett Bucky F*cking Dent (novel) by David Duchovny Game […]

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The Bookshelf Conversation: Al Yellon

2016 title

The warm feelings about the Chicago Cubs’ first world championship since 1908 has also had an impact on the world of baseball literature. To be fair, the Cubs have always been right up there when it comes to books about a team, comparable to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox, but almost for the opposite […]

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The holiday season is upon us

2016 title

As good as these baseball books are, they wouldn’t be my first choices for gift-giving — I lean more towards coffee-table volumes — but Will Leitch, writing for the Wall Street Journal, offers his considered opinion in this piece. Be sociable, share the Bookshelf! Tweet

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