Now available: At long last I’m happy to announce the official release of my latest book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War. Support your local  local bookstore and tell your friends!

Merci.

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Back on schedule…

By now most of you are familiar with my caveats, so I’ll just mention them briefly: The list includes only print editions of books; calendars (even though Amazon includes them on their lists), no audiobooks (as much as I enjoy them), and no kindle (because I’m old school).

Second, 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.

Third, sometimes the list-makers will try to pull a fast one by including a book in a category to which it should not be listed. 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. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles here.

Finally, adults only here. That is, no books for younger readers (although no erotic fiction that features baseball as a theme either. And goodness knows there are a bunch of those).

So, with all that said…

  1. Image result for astros song, chronicleThe Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, by Rich Cohen
  2. Astros Strong: Houston’s Historic 2017 Championship Season, Houston Chronicle
  3. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams and John Underwood
  4. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci
  5. Bill James Handbook 2018
  6. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  7. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond, by Michael Silverman
  8. Papi: My Story, by David Ortiz with Michael Holley
  9. Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, by David Ross with Don Yeager
  10. Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law

There are no baseball titles on the current New York Times monthly sports bestseller list.

Same old same old. I don’t really expect the interest in the Houston Astros to last. All duesrespect, they don’t have the same lore and legend as did the Cubs when that team won the World Series in 2016.

And I know I don’t count Kindle sales, but I have to say I was right: the recent death of Bobby Doerr has sparked renewed interested in David Halbertsam’s The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, which is the 12th-best selling print title according to my rules. October 1964, another Halberstam title, is second overall as a Kindle release for the amazing price of $1.99.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They DieToday: 1,489,616; last time: 1,463,374. Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War ranks 268,446, last week 1,057,340. Whoa, what happened there? Not complaining. Makes a nice Hanukka present.

If you have read either of those books, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing an Amazon review; it’s never too late. (And thanks to those who have.) Doesn’t have to be long or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it. Although I would warn you to understand what it is you’re reading. My editor tells me I shouldn’t worry over bad reviews and normally I don’t. But one Greenberg reviewer complained because apparently he felt it wasn’t long enough and that it wasn’t a full biography. Sorry, but caveat emptor: The title clearly states this book covers just one season in his career. If you’re disappointed for that reason, then that’s on you.

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Mike Shannon, editor of Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine, recently sent along a notice about the finalists for the prestigious 2017 CASEY Award, celebrating its 35 year in recogniing some of the best books on the game. Where applicable, I have included a link to either my review of the book or a “Bookshelf Conversation” with the author.

  • Image result for spitball magazineCasey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character, by Marty Appel (Conversation)
  • Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swinging A’s, by Jason Turbow (Conversation)
  • Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame that Lasted Forever, by Kevin Cook
  • Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador, by Dennis Snelling
  • Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, by Paul Dickson (Conversation)
  • Lost Ballparks, by Dennis Evanosky and Eric J. Kos
  • The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic, by Richard Sandomir (Conversation)
  • Smart Baseball: The Story behind the Old Stats that Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones that are Running It, and the Right Way to Think about Baseball, by Keith Law
  • The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record, by John Eisenberg (Review)
  • The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age, by Sridhar Pappu (Review)

The annual CASEY Awards Banquet will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in early March. For continuing information on the Banquet and a history of the CASEY Award, please visit spitballmag.com.

Now, I’m not a judge this year, but I do have my favorites. I have not read Snelling’s bio on O’Doul, nor Lost Ballparks. I also haven’t finished Smart Baseball, but I think it’s a real eye-opener. As for the rest, if you asked me which I would pick, I would have to go with Sandomir’s book on the making of TPOTY since it combines several of may favorite things: baseball, that movie in particular, and the actor who, despite all the problems (the lefty-righty business), made Gehrig most relatable.

Image result for sandomir, pride of the yankees

 

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I recently posted about the passing of the venerable author/editor. At the time, I was still waiting for The New York Times to weigh in. That came on Nov. 9 in this obituary by Daniel E. Slotnik.

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Bobby Doerr, seen here in 2011, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.The last member of The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship — David Halberstam’s excellent project on  baseball and life published in 2011 — passed away yesterday at the age of 99.

A Hall of Fame second baseman who batted .288 with  288 home runs, and 1,247 RBIs, Doerr played his entire career (1937-51) with the Boston Red Sox, making his debut as a 19-year old and retiring at the relatively young age of 33. He was the oldest living Major Leaguer at the time of his death. He was a nine-time All-Star but led the league in just three categories: 155 games in 1943; a .528 percentage in 1944; and 11 triples in 1950.

Teammates told the bittersweet story of Doerr, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky who continued to remain close friends decades after they stopped playing on the Sox. Here’s my review of the book from Bookreporter.com. I’m guessing it will get a relatively bump in sales in the immediate future.

As of this posting, stories and tributes to Doerr appeared in:

 

Image result for bobby doerr

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These are my favorite posts, taking a look at what new baseball books are on the horizon.

A few notes: Traditional print rules the land here here. There may be a Kindle edition involved, but no Kindle-only titles are included herein. Second, Amazon does not want top make my life easier. I practically never include books for younger readers, but there’s no filter for that so I have to do it myself. Also, there’s a surprising number of “adult fiction” that features a baseball theme. Sorry, not here. Finally, the book has be only about baseball, so that excludes a release like Fun City: John Lindsay, Joe Namath, and How Sports Saved New York in the 1960s, which actually came out in 2015 but for some reason was listed among the 2018 titles.

So here we go.

The first honor, by my narrow limits, that qualifies as the first baseball book of 2018 goes to Tom Gamboa: My Life in Baseball, by Gamboa and David Russell. It comes out via McFarland on January 5. McFarland, for those of you who are unfamiliar, specializes in eclectic topics and people.

Next we have Beep: Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind, by David Wanczyk (Swallow Press, Jan. 9).

Third, Ron Shandler’s 2018 Baseball Forecaster: Encyclopedia of Fanalytics from Triumph, another publisher that specializes in sports titles, Jan. 15.

The others — in order of release as per Amazon — include:

  • Baseball America 2018 Almanac
  • The Call to the Hall: When Baseball’s Highest Honor Came to 31 Legends of the Sport, by Kevin Warneke and David C. Ogden (McFarland)
  • Motor City Champs: Mickey Cochrane and the 1934-1935 Detroit Tigers, by Scott Ferkovich (McFarland)
  • Whitey Herzog Builds a Winner: The St. Louis Cardinals, 1979-1982, by Doug Feldmann (McFarland)
  • The Immaculate Inning: Unassisted Triple Plays, 40/40 Seasons, and the Stories Behind Baseball’s Rarest Feats , by Joe Cox (Lyons Press)
  • Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota, by Steven R. Hoffbeck (McFarland)
  • Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher, by Rich Westcott (Temple University Press)
  • Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox, by Bill Nowlin (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Game of My Life: New York Mets: Memorable Stories of Mets Baseball, by Michael Garry (Sports Publishing)
  • Koufax Throws a Curve: The Los Angeles Dodgers at the End of an Era, 1964–1966, by Brian M. Endsley (McFarland)
  • Baseball Rowdies of the 19th Century: Brawlers, Drinkers, Pranksters and Cheats in the Early Days of the Major Leagues, by Eddie Mitchell (McFarland)
  • Baseball America 2018 Prospect Handbook
  • 50 Greatest Players in Indians History, by Robert W. Cohen (Blue River)
  • Manager of Giants: The Tactics, Temper and True Record of John McGraw, by Lou Hernandez (McFarland)
  • Babe Ruth and the Creation of the Celebrity Athlete, by Thomas Barthel (McFarland)
  • Baseball Greatness: Top Players and Teams According to Wins Above Average, 1901-2016, by David Kaiser (McFarland)
  • New York Yankees Openers: An Opening Day History of Baseball’s Most Famous Team, 1903-2017, by Lyle Spatz (McFarland)
  • 2018 Minor League Baseball Analyst, by Jeremy Deloney and Rob Gordon (Triumph)
  • Painting the Corners Again: Off-Center Baseball Fiction by [Weintraub, Bob]Painting the Corners Again: Off-Center Baseball Fiction, by Bob Weintraub (Skyhorse)
  • Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer, by Skip Lockwood (Sports Publishing)
  • Fall from Grace: The Truth and Tragedy of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, by Tim Hornbaker (Sports Publishing)
  • Baseball Italian Style: Great Stories Told by Italian American Major Leaguers from Crosetti to Piazza, by Lawrence Baldassaro (Sports Publishing)
  • The Baby Bombers: An Inside Look at the Young Stars Forming the Next Yankees Dynasty, by Bryan Hoch (Diversion)
  • Try Not to Suck: The Exceptional, Extraordinary Baseball Life of Joe Maddon, by Bill Chastain and Jesse Rogers (Triumph)
  • Dick Bosman on Pitching: Lessons from the Life of a Major League Ballplayer and Pitching Coach, by Dick Bosman and Ted Leavengood (Rowman & Littlefield)
  • Why Baseball Matters, by Susan Jacoby (Yale University Press)
  • Gator: My Life in Pinstripes, by Ron Guidry (Crown Archetype)
  • Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball, by Bob Tewksbury and Scott Miller (Da Capo Press)
  • Home of the Braves: The Battle for Baseball in Milwaukee, by Patrick Steele (University of Wisconsin Press)
  • Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and the Stadium that Launched a Dream, by David Benham and Jason Benham (Thomas Nrlson)
  • A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle, by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith (Basic Books)
  • Alou: My Baseball Journey, by Felipe Alou and Peter Kerasotis (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige’s Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic, by Averell “Ace” Smith (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking, by Russell A. Carleton (Triumph)
  • Gehrig and the Babe: The Friendship and the Feud, by Tony Castro (Triumph)
  • Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier, by Gaylon H. White(Rowman & Littlefield)
  • Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America, by David Rapp (University of Chicago Press)
  • The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team Who Helped Win World War II, by Anne Keene (Sports Publishing)
  • The Hometown Team: Forty Years of Boston Red Sox Photography, by Mike Shalin and Steve Babineau (Sports Publishing)
  • Miracle Moments in New York Mets History: The Turning Points, The Memorable Games, The Incredible Records, by Brett Topel (Sports Publishing)
  • The Dodgers: 60 Years in Los Angeles, by Michael Schiavone (Sports Publishing)
  • Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey, by Ira Block (Skyhorse)
  • A Game of Moments: Baseball Greats Remember Highlights of Their Careers, by Ron Gerrard (McFarland)
  • Pinstripe Nation: The New York Yankees in American Culture, by William Carlson Bishop (University Tennessee Press)
  • Baseball and the Occupation of Japan: America’s Pastime as a Tool to Promote Social Values, by Takeshi Tanikawa (McFarland)
  • Being Ted Williams: Growing Up with a Baseball Idol, by Dick Enberg (Sports Publishing)
  • Once Upon a Team: The Epic Rise and Historic Fall of Baseball’s Wilmington Quicksteps, by John Springer (Sports Publishing)
  • Hawk: Duck Snorts, Chip Shots, and My Free-Swinging Life On and Off the Field, by Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Jeff Snook (Triumph)
  • Warren Spahn: A Biography of the Legendary Lefty, by Lew Freedman (Sports Publishing)
  • The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America’s National Pastime, by Alex Irvine, Tomm Coker, and C.P. Smith (Ten Speed)
  • Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line, by Emily Ruth Rutter (University of Mississippi Press) 70
  • Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond, by Davey Johnson and Erik Sherman (Triumph)
  • I’m Keith Hernandez, by Keith Hernandez (Little Brown and Company)
  • Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, by Jon Weisman (Triumph)
  • Breaking Babe Ruth: Baseball’s Campaign Against Its Biggest Star, by Edmund F. Wehrle (University of Missouri Press)
  • The Integration of the Pacific Coast League: Race and Baseball on the West Coast, by Amy Essington (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House, by Curt Smith (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Age of Ruth and Landis: The Economics of Baseball during the Roaring Twenties, by David George Surdam and Michael J. Haupert
  • Bat Flips and Fat Lips: Pulling Back the Curtain On Baseball’s Unwritten Rules, by Gregg Zaun and Danny Knobler (Triumph)
  • Joy in Tiger Town: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series, by Mickey Lolich and Tom Gage (Triumph)
  • A Franchise on the Rise: The First Twenty Years of the New York Yankees, by Dom Amore (Sports Publishing)
  • An October to Remember 1968: The Tigers-Cardinals World Series as Told by the Men Who Played in It, by Brendan Donley (Sports Publishing)

A few notes:

The release dates listed here run until the middle of the year; no doubt there will be more. The majority of the books come from McFarland and Triumph, both of which do tend to announce early. Topics which seem more scholarly usually come from university presses. I have also omitted a number of “series books.”

We have the requisite titles about the New York Yankees. But three books about Babe Ruth? Plus two about Ted Williams and one on Mickey Mantle. Plus there’s the seemingly annual nod to Shoeless Joe Jackson.

I’m Keith Hernandez isn’t just an introduction by the popular Met and broadcasters. It’s the famous line he delivered during his guest stint on Seinfeld. But do we really need a fourth book by the outspoken star? There are also books written by lesser players (all due respect) such as Gregg Zaun, Skip Lockwood and Dick Bosman.

Anniversaries are always popular, especially when they’re major (25th, 50th, etc.), hence the books on the Detroit Tigers. And when you think about it, perhaps Sports Publishing should have waited until next year to release Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War, since that would have been a milestone anniversary of his 1938 season. But a few books about the 1968 season that came out this year have already told us not to wax too nostalgic; the Tigers were not the gathering place that Detroit residents gathered to escape from the racial unrest that plagued many larger cities in the U.S.

As for me, I’m most looking forward to are Babe Ruth and the Creation of the Celebrity Athlete, although Glenn Stout seemed to cover at least a part of that in The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend (2016); The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House, by the always reliable Curt Smith; The Comic Book Story of Baseball: The Heroes, Hustlers, and History-Making Swings (and Misses) of America’s National Pastime by Alex Irvine, whose past work has generally been in the area of fantasy and pop culture; and finally, the existential Why Baseball Matters, because I’m sure a lot of fans have asked themselves why they should bother with the sport, especially when their favorite teams are doing poorly.

I’m also quite interested to see how Bill Nowlin, who’s made a career on writing about the Red Sox, portrays team owner Yawkey, who’s generally regarded as a racist who screwed the Sox out of many successful seasons by refusing to have black players on the team.

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On this Veterans Day…

November 11, 2017 · 0 comments

I was flipping through the dial and chanced upon Strategic Air Command, one of the many movies aired today in honor of Veteran’s Day.

This one features Jimmy Stewart, one of my favorite actors, in the lead role of Dutch Holland, a star player for the St. Louis Cardinals who served in World War Two, reminiscent of Ted Williams. Rather than go into it all, I invite you to check out this previous entry on the topic. But this wasn’t just acting for Stewart; like Williams, he served actively during WWII as a bomber pilot. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

In addition, here’s another previous entry on books about ballplayers and war.

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A day late and a dollar short…

By now most of you are familiar with my caveats, so I’ll just mention them briefly: The list includes only print editions (no kindle or audio versions) because I’m old school.

Second, 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.

Third, sometimes the list-makers will try to pull a fast one by including a book in a category to which it should not be listed. 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. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles here.

Finally, adults only here. That is, no books for younger readers (although no erotic fiction that features baseball as a theme either. And goodness knows there are a bunch of those).

So, with all that being understood…

  1. Image result for astros song, chronicleThe Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, by Rich Cohen
  2. Bill James Handbook 2018
  3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  4. Astros Strong: Houston’s Historic 2017 Championship Season, Houston Chronicle
  5. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams and John Underwood
  6. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci
  7. Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, by David Ross with Don Yeager
  8. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond, by Michael Silverman
  9. Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law
  10. 2017 World Series Champions: Houston Astros, by Major League Baseball

Pretty much the regular lineup, with the addition of another one of those books about the hometown World Series winner slapped together by the hometown newspaper.

There are no baseball titles on the current New York Times monthly sports bestseller list.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They DieToday: 1,463,374; last time: 1,423,296. Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War ranks 1,057,340, last week 1,034,477.

If you have read either of those books, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing an Amazon review; it’s never too late. (And thanks to those who have.) Doesn’t have to be long or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it. Although I would warn you to understand what it is you’re reading. My editor tells me I shouldn’t worry over bad reviews and normally I don’t. But one Greenberg reviewer complained because apparently he felt it wasn’t long enough and that it wasn’t a full biography. Sorry, but caveat emptor: The title clearly states this book covers just one season in his career. If you’re disappointed for that reason, then that’s on you.

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By now most of you are familiar with my caveats, so I’ll just mention them briefly: The list includes only print editions (no kindle or audio versions) because I’m old school.

Second, 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.

Third, sometimes the list-makers will try to pull a fast one by including a book in a category to which it should not be listed. 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. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles here.

Finally, adults only here. That is, no books for younger readers (although no erotic fiction that features baseball as a theme either. And goodness knows there are a bunch of those).

So, with all that being understood…

  1. Image result for 2017 WORLD SERIES PROGRAM DODGERS VS. ASTROS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PROGRAMThe Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, by Rich Cohen
  2. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  3. Bill James Handbook 2018
  4. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci
  5. Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law
  6. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams and John Underwood
  7. 2017 World Series Champions: Houston Astros, by Major League Baseball
  8. The Cooperstown Casebook: Who’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques, by Jay Jaffee
  9. 2017 World Series Program Dodgers Vs. AstrosS Championship Game Program
  10. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond, by Michael Silverman

I have mixed feelings about putting in the items about the World Series. These have become standards, quickly-put-together glossies taking advantage of the event while it’s hot. But since they are print editions… I wonder how long it will be before see have a real title about the Astros and their success.

There are no baseball titles on the current New York Times monthly sports bestseller list.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They DieToday: 1,423,296; last time: 1,405,004. Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War ranks 1,034,477, almost twice as good as from last week (1,034,477). I’ll be speaking at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival next month at their Sports Night program with John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro, co-authors of One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime. Perhaps that’s where the bump came from.

If you have read either of those books, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing an Amazon review; it’s never too late. (And thanks to those who have.) Doesn’t have to be long or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it. Although I would warn you to understand what it is you’re reading. My editor tells me I shouldn’t worry over bad reviews and normally I don’t. But one Greenberg reviewer complained because apparently he felt it wasn’t long enough and that it wasn’t a full biography. Sorry, but caveat emptor: The title clearly states this book covers just one season in his career. If you’re disappointed for that reason, then that’s on you.

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Ray Robinson was among the last of his generation of sportswriters and authors. I had the pleasure of speaking with him on several occasions in my capacity as sports editor for the NJ Jewish News. He passed away yesterday at the age of 96.

Marty Appel, shown with Robinson (right) at the dedication of a plaque at Lou Gehrig’s birthplace, was kind enough to allow me to use his tribute, posted on Facebook yesterday.

A special friend….and a New York treasure, author/editor Ray Robinson passed away at 5 pm today at New York Hospital, a day after suffering a stroke at his apartment on East 90th Street, where he lived for 63 years. As some of you may recall, his wife Phyllis died on March 13 at 92. Ray’s devotion to her care as she suffered through Alzheimer’s Disease was perhaps his finest hour. They were married for 68 years. Ray would have turned 97 on December 4.

Ray was sharp to the end, and he looked forward to every phone call that kept his mind alert and active. Loved to talk politics, media, and of course, baseball. He was a Columbia graduate and graduation day was the day Lou Gehrig died in 1941. Gehrig was special to him — he met Lou, and wrote a classic biography of him, as well as books about Knute Rockne, Will Rogers, Yankee Stadium, Christy Mathewson, Tim McCarver, and many more. He was the editor of the great annual paperback, “Baseball Stars of 19XX” which were must-have books back in the day. There, he employed the likes of Jimmy Breslin, Dick Schaap, George Vecsey, Al Silverman, Arnold Hano, Al Silverman, Charles Einstein, and many more – often for $20 an article! He was, improbably, the editor of Seventeen and Good Housekeeping magazines for many years, as well as the long defunct Pageant and Coronet.

He was an EIGHT DECADE author, published from the 1940s to the 2010s. He did an ebook on baseball and US Presidents in this decade. Everyone wanted a column from him each year on Gehrig — he was in the bleachers on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day in 1939. (He probably wrote a dozen Gehrig guest columns for the Times). He was on the Board of Directors for the New York (Lou Gehrig) Chapter of the ALS Association.

I knew him for some 45 years. We used to have lunch at Billy’s (no longer there) on First Avenue. He was a vital part of our monthly “Larry Ritter Lunch Group” which is now in its 26th year and we have met in recent years near his home — so he wouldn’t be away from Phyllis for long. Otherwise he was always happy to walk to wherever we met.

We did events at Columbia together and attended a plaque dedication at Lou Gehrig’s birthplace some years ago. Ray was old enough to have lived through and experienced the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, World War II, the Kennedy assassination, a few more wars, 18 presidents, and the computer/internet age (which he managed to ignore, still working his typewriter).

I take pleasure in believing that there were no questions I neglected to ask him. Remarkable to get first hand accounts of almost everything that has mattered in the US for the last century.

Bob Costas texted me today: “What a life. What a good man.”

Ray and Phyllis had three children – Nancy, Tad and Steve ….. plus his family of admirers who had the pleasure of his company on a monthly basis — at least — for all these years.

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By now, most of you are familiar with my caveats, so I’ll just mention it briefly: The list includes only print editions (no kindle or audio versions) because I’m old school.

Second, 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.

Third, sometimes the list-makers will try to pull a fast one by including a book in a category to which it should not be listed. 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. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles here.

Finally, adults only here. That is, no books for younger readers (although no erotic fiction that features baseball as a theme either. And goodness knows there are a bunch of those).

So, with all that being understood…

  1. Image result for beckett baseball guide 39The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, by Rich Cohen
  2. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci
  3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  4. Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law
  5. Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide #39
  6. The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age, by Sridhar Pappu (My review on Bookreporter.com)
  7. Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, by Paul Dickson
  8. Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, by David Ross with Don Yeager
  9. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams and John Underwood
  10. Bill James Handbook 2018

Two new titles for this list: the Bill James annual and the Beckett price guide. Don’t remember ever seeing one of those in the top 10 before.

Finished the Cohen book earlier in the week. Top notch stuff. Look for a review on Bookreporter.com tonight and a “Bookshelf Conversation” podcast in the next week or so.

Recently finished The Year of the Pitcher (here’s my review from Bookreporter.com). Very reminiscent in the serious and dark tone of The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers, by Michael Leahy, winner of Spitball Magazine‘s coveted Casey Award. I spoke with Pappu last week and will be posting that as a podcast very soon.

There are no baseball titles on the current New York Times monthly sports bestseller list.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They DieToday: 1,405,004; last time: 1,364,205. Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War ranks 1,034,477, down from the last time I checked (348,522). I’ll be speaking at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival next month at their Sports Night program with John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro, co-authors of One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime. Perhaps that’s where the bump came from.

If you have read either of those books, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing an Amazon review; it’s never too late. (And thanks to those who have.) Doesn’t have to be long or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it. Although I would warn you to understand what it is you’re reading. My editor tells me I shouldn’t worry over bad reviews and normally I don’t. But one Greenberg reviewer complained because apparently he felt it wasn’t long enough and that it wasn’t a full biography. Sorry, but caveat emptor: The title clearly states this book covers just one season in his career. If you’re disappointed for that reason, then that’s on you.

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Wow, has it really been more than a month since the last one of these? Yikes.

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my time. More about that at another time perhaps.

In the meantime…

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. Image result for the year of the pitcherThe Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, by Rich Cohen
  2. The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, by Tom Verducci
  3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
  4. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Tales from the Diamond, by Michael Silverman
  5. Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages, by David Ross with Don Yeager
  6. Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, by Paul Dickson
  7. Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law
  8. The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age, by Sridhar Pappu
  9. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams and John Underwood
  10. I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson, by Jackie Robinson with Alfred Duckett

It’s only natural the the Cubs return to the post-season generate renewed interest in those books, although they’ve been pretty popular for the past year. Reading the Cohen book right now and thoroughly enjoying it. Hope there’s an audio version, because the writing style really lends itself to that forum.

Recently finished The Year of the Pitcher (here’s my review from Bookreporter.com). Very reminiscent in the serious and dark tone of The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers, by Michael Leahy, winner of Spitball Magazine‘s coveted Casey Award. I spoke with Pappu last week and will be posting that as a podcast very soon.

There are no baseball titles on the current New York Times monthly sports bestseller list.

Not on either the Amazon or Times‘ lists? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They DieToday: 1,364,205; last time: 1,226,181. Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War ranks 348,522, up from the last time I check (1,065,631). I’ll be speaking at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival next month at their Sports Night program with John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro, co-authors of One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime. Perhaps that’s where the bump came from.

If you have read either of those books, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing an Amazon review; it’s never too late. (And thanks to those who have.) Doesn’t have to be long or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it. Although I would warn you to understand what it is you’re reading. My editor tells me I shouldn’t worry over bad reviews and normally I don’t. But one Greenberg reviewer complained because apparently he felt it wasn’t long enough and that it wasn’t a full biography. Sorry, but caveat emptor: The title clearly states this book covers just one season in his career. If you’re disappointed for that reason, then that’s on you.

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Lest we forget: Bob Motley

Lest We Forget

Bob Motley, the last surviving Negro Leagues umpire, passed away Thursday at the age of 94. I had posted about Motley when he turned 91. He was the author of Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues, which he co-wrote with […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, September 15, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, September 8, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

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Bits and pieces, Sept. 6, 2017

2017 Title

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but here we go… This whole unpleasant business with Charlottesville has opened a can of worms when it comes to deciding which people who had previously been recognized by way of statues, parks, and roadways should have those honors stripped. Case in point: Tom Yawkey, former owner of the Boston […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, September 1, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

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I’m still here

Ron Kaplan appearance

Working my new job has thrown my life into a degree of unpredictability, with its seven-day-a-week schedule and hours that can begin as early as 4 a.m. and end after midnight. Sadly, this has taken a toll on my reading and blogging time, both here and on my other two sites, Kaplan’s Korner on Jews and […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, August 25, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, August 18, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

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Baseball Best-Sellers, Aug. 11, 2017

2016 title

As you may have notice, these entries have been falling off in the last several weeks. My apologies. A new full-time job — very different from what I had been doing as the sports and features editor of a weekly community newspaper in suburban New Jersey — has put new and strange demands on my […]

Read the full article →
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