Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring Reading

Nothing signals the start of baseball season like the arrival of some good reading material, and this year promises to be one of the best crops in recent memory thanks to the diversity of subject matter and the quality of the authors. Obviously, the two Barry Bonds books will get the headlines when they arrive in stores, but if you're already sick of hearing about the giant creatine machine, you'll still have options for a lot of good reading.

A few titles to watch, some of which are out (marked with an asterisk) and others are arriving later in the spring:

"Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero" by David Maraniss -- This is one I'll wait in line for. Maraniss is a fantastic writer, having penned a biography of Vince Lombardi that is my favorite sports book of all time. He's also written a solid biography of the pre-presidential Bill Clinton and a gripping Vietnam account. Here he takes on one of the most idolized baseball stars ever. If this book is anything like his Lombardi work, Clemente's legend will be done more than adequate justice.

"The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth" by Leigh Montville -- Montville wrote a great biography of Ted Williams and now tackles an even bigger subject, literally and figuratively. Ruth is already the subject of a formidable biography by Robert W. Creamer and a recent book by Jim Reisler on his breakout 1920 season, and he stands as a transcendent figure in the game's history. But Montville handled Williams well and I'm excited to see what he does with Ruth.

"Catfish, Yaz, And Hammerin' Hank: The Unforgettable Era that Transformed Baseball" by Phil Pepe* -- This book came out eight years ago under the title of "Talkin' Baseball" and is now rereleased in a larger format with more pictures and a DVD on the 1970s. They say that the era in which you grow up is always your Golden Age of the sport, and for me, it was the years in which the hair was long, the parks were concrete bowls, and the uniforms were ugly. Those aesthetics aside, the game itself was well balanced and the talent deep and formidable.

"When Chicago Ruled Baseball" by Bernard A. Weisberger -- To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cubs-White Sox World Series, this historian and professor tells the tale of when the city of Chicago was the capital of the baseball world. Now that the White Sox are back on top again, the work should be particularly timely. If nothing else, it should be a look back at a different and interesting time in American history.

Black and Blue : The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys, and the 1966 World Series That Stunned America" by Tom Adelman* -- Adelman wrote a fascinating account of the 1975 season called "The Long Ball," in which he covered in great detail one of the best World Series in history. This time he takes on a less competitive, but just as remarkable series between Baltimore and Los Angeles. The Dodgers failed the score in the series' final 33 innings and were swept by the Orioles. The year featured was also a time of great social change in America, as is often the backdrop for sports.

Clearing the Bases : Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer's Search for the Soul of Baseball" by Mike Schmidt with Glen Waggoner* -- This one interests me as a fan of the Phillies and Schmidt growing up. Schmidt was always careful to protect his image, which often was perceived as ambivalence and earned him scores of boos from the merciless Philadelphia fans. So it will be intriguing to see how much of his own soul he bares as he searches for the soul of the game he played so well.

"Baseball Between the Numbers" by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts*
-- The folks from Baseball Prospectus, writers of the best stats-oriented baseball book since the Bill James Baseball Abstract series, take a look at multiple areas of the game through their prism. Essays cover topics as diverse as the four-man rotation, the overrating of RBIs, the impact of salaries on ticket prices, and the economic effect of new stadiums. Perhaps they might want to choose a cover subject other than Bonds (who merits his own essay in the introduction) when the book goes to paperback. (Speaking of James, he's the subject of yet another new book.)

"Shades of Glory : The Negro Leagues & the Story of African-American Baseball" by Jules Tygiel and Lawrence D. Hogan* -- The Negro Leagues are one of the forgotten eras in baseball history, thanks to the efforts of a team of historians and the wonderful stories of should-be Hall of Famer Buck O'Neil. The Hall is the driving force behind this history of African-American baseball, thanks to a $250,000 grant from Major League Baseball for research on the Negro Leagues and black baseball in general. Its publication coincided with the election of 17 players and benefactors from the Negro Leagues history.

"The Best of Baseball Digest : The Greatest Players, The Greatest Games, the Greatest Writers from the Game's Most Exciting Years" by John Kuenster -- It just hit me as I was typing this. Does every nonfiction book have to have a colon in its title? In any case, who didn't look forward to reading Baseball Digest as a kid? The articles, player profiles, stats, trivia, and my personal favorite section: The Game I'll Never Forget, made it a quick and enjoyable read. Kuenster has been editor of the publication since 1969 and he selects articles dating back to the 1940s. (The magazine began publication in 1942.)

Red Legs and Black Sox : Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series by Susan Dellinger* -- While "Eight Men Out" is a terrific account of the Black Sox scandal, this looks like a wonderful addition to the subject matter, as it is written by the granddaughter of the Reds' Edd Roush, a Hall of Famer. Dellinger probes not only the White Sox behavior but that of the Reds players and their own association with gamblers as well as the leagues' association with shady activities.

"In the Best Interests of Baseball: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig" by Andrew Zimbalist* -- The book examines Selig's reign in light of other commissioners and the nature of the office itself. Zimbalist is an economics professor who has written several previous books about the game, so his arguments would likely focus on the economic impact Selig's decisions have had on the game. While it is true that Selig has presided over a period of economic expansion, one senses that his body of work may be judged on how he handles the Bonds case.

"The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved" by Fay Vincent -- Speaking of commissioners, Vincent has spent his time since vacating the office interviewing many players of the past and presents his first volume in an oral history of the game. This volume will include interviews with Dom DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Johnny Pesky and O'Neil, whose chapter would probably be worth the value of the book alone.

And of course, there's Bonds:
"Game of Shadows : Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports" by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams

"Love Me, Hate Me : Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero" by Jeff Pearlman




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