Review roundup, April 3

April 3, 2013

Time to play catch-up. This is the period when many newspapers run their reviews of baseball titles to coincide with the beginning of the season. A few books are getting a sizable proportion of attention. And if I understand the concept of zero-sum games, that means others which might be just as good but lack the publicity machine that some large house and publicist can throw into their project. (and no, I don’t mean 501).

So, in nor particular order, but just from what I’ve noticed:

Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game— An unusual theme by an unusual writer. While religion and the national pastime is not an especially rare topic, the fact that it was penned by John Sexton, president of New York University, makes it an eyebrow raiser. In addition to the reviews, which have been rosy, Tom Oliphant, who contributed to the book, was featured in this piece on CBS News. I may be mistaken, but the High Holy Days usually refers to the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, not the beginning of baseball season. All those bright minds could have come up with something a bit more creative and accurately named.

Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel (a former Montclair softball crony of mine)

The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption, by Stuart Banner, has already been written up in The New York Times and

Closer: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game, by Kevin Neary and Leigh A. Tobin. Here’s one from The Palm Beach Post. I picked this up at the local Barnes and Noble and thumbed through it, but to be honest, didn’t think it was something I wanted to request as a review copy. It has capsule profiles on a number of relievers along with a few statistics. It reminds me of this commercial for Planet Fitness. These guys have a single job to do, they often have a certain outsized personality and desire for attention, but otherwise are just not that interesting as a group. Just sayin’. A lot of others disagree because they’re giving the book mostly positive reviews.

The Los Angeles Times published this collection of reviews, including Stuart Banner’s The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption; Fran Zimniuch’s Baseball’s New Frontier: A History of Expansion, 1961-1998; Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball, edited by Michael G. Long; The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Race Made Baseball America’s Game, by Edward Achorn; Gerald C. Wood’s Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend; The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream, by Tom Clavin; and Dunkel’s Color Blind.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel similarly considered several titles in this piece, including The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych, by Doug Wilson; Phenom: The Making of Bryce Harper, by Rob Meich; Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, by Lucas Mann; Facing Ted Williams: Players from the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, by Dave Heller, and several more.

Veteran Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter Stan Hochman contributed this to, in which he discusses books about former Phillies’ skipper Terry Francona (thumbs up) and the team itself in The Phillies Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle of the Philadelphia Philliesby Tyler Kepner (two thumbs up).

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram ran this small piece featuring The Francona Years, Mike Piazza’s Long Shot, and Nailed!: The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra and a more in-depth item on Robert Weintraub’s The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age, which I’m reading right now.

USA Today ran this slide-show on baseball books for kids, including a rendition of the famous Abbott and Costello sketch, “Who’s On First.” Somehow I don’t think that translate very well to the printed page.

My daughter is a student at NYU, majoring in photography and, to be honest, I worry about prospects more than my own. With everyone having a point-and-shoot or a smart-phone camera, whatbodes for the future of professionals in that field? Brad Mangin, a Sports Illustrated shutterbug, will shortly publish Instant Baseball: The Baseball Instagrams of Brad Mangin, which is already getting nice buzz from some techie sites, including CNET (and, again, CNET).

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered a couple of Cardinals-centric titles.

New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy — with whom I will be appearing at a May 2 event at the Montclair Public Library — recently released Who’s on Worst?: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History. He was a guest on Only a Game to discuss the book.

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