The list is in for finalists for the 2013 CASEY Award for “Best Baseball Book of the Year,” as designated by Spitball magazine.
- Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, by Lucas Mann
- Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel
- Going the Distance, by Michael Joyce
- Heart of a Tiger: Growing Up with My Grandfather, Ty Cobb, by Herschel Cobb
- Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age, by Allen Barra
- Mr. Wrigley’s Ball Club: Chicago & the Cubs during the Jazz Age, by Roberts Ehrgott
- The Powers, by Valerie Sayers
- Spitballing: The Baseball Days of Long Bob Ewing, by Mike Lackey
- The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Race Made Baseball America’s Game, by Edward Achorn
- The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age, by Robert Weintraub
Unlike the Seymour Medal handed out by SABR, which considers non-fiction/history/biography, the CASEY makes it’s choice on the entire scale of baseball literature, including kids’ books; We Are the Ship, a picture book about the Negro Leauges by Kadir Nelson, won the award in 2008.
As usual, there are a few surprises. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a noise? Similarly, if a baseball book is nominated as a “best” but few people have heard of it… In this case I’m referring to the inclusion of Sayers’ The Powers, a novel about America in 1941. I mean, with all due modesty, I had never heard about this one. From the Booklist review:
It’s the summer of 1941, and America is engulfed by the drama of WWII. A constant flow of distressing news is filtering in from Europe, and the impending military draft is about to change the lives of nearly everyone. On the home front, 18-year-old friends Joe D’Ambrosio and Bernie Keller are vying for the affections of Agnes O’Leary. In addition to navigating the tricky waters of romance, Joe is trying to maintain his pacifist ideals, while Bernie struggles to come to terms with his German heritage. Agnes relies on her developing passion for photography to help her manage her uncertain love life. Also on everyone’s minds is baseball. Joe DiMaggio is in the middle of his record-breaking hitting streak, and he is feeling the pressure. A fascinating mix of baseball novel, love story, and history lesson, The Powers is a trip back in time to an America on the edge of great change. Highly inventive and richly detailed, it is the story of people struggling to face an uncertain future with the help of a young ballplayer named Joe.
Going the Distance is also a novel, self-published. According to the Amazon blurb, it is:
…a baseball novel with a difference; a multilayered love story, a celebration of both America’s game and the New York landscape. John “Jack” Flynn was a major league pitcher with all-star promise. But on the day of the 1979 All-Star game, he finds himself back in the North Country of New York where he was born, his career cut short by an injury, no recollection as to how he came to be back there with a beautiful woman he doesn’t recognize beside him in the passenger seat of his car. The mystery of this passenger is but the first of many mysteries in this richly poetic, deeply moving, and sometimes comic novel.
They both sound lovely, but should they be considered on a par with the some of the other publications? Baseball fiction is frequently not wholly about baseball. The criteria for nomination is pretty open, again, as opposed to the Seymour Medal. (Looking at the list, my choice would be Barra’s Mantle/Mays biography.)
I have served as a judge for the CASEY and it’s interesting to listen to the panelists explanations — if there are any — supporting their choices. Judges for the 2013 CASEY are Jay Goldberg, owner of the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse; C. Paul Rogers, co-author of The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant and Memories of a Ballplayer: Bill Werber and Baseball in the 1930s, among other writings on baseball history; and Gary Cieradkowski, creator of the Infinite Baseball Card set.