A few weeks ago, I was catching up with an ol' college friend Tom, who shares the same passion about baseball and more specifically, baseball books that I do. We traded reading suggestions, much like boys swapping baseball cards. He remembered I was a Cub fan, but I did not recall that he was a follower of the Yankees. This didn't surprise me because the Yankees were owned by CBS from 1964 to 1973 and the Game of the Week broadcast was usually a Yankees game. ( I didn't become a Cubs fan until probably the mid-60s. I remember starting to dislike the St. Louis Cardinals as early as 1967.) I guess the Yankees did dominate at this time as evidenced in this weird picture of my older brother Neil and I wearing Yankee hats. My younger sister Kay was there too. Our family dog Pepper was looking back at our father who was resting in the shade. In distant background were the cornfields of Illinois, far from the Yankees of the Bronx. Such was influence of that franchise.
I sent Tom a link to my baseball category from the blog, and in exchange he sent me a list of his favorites. Tom who pitched in college also likes books about pitchers such as Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, and Sparky Lyle. Here's several others from Tom's list with few of my comments in parenthesis:
- Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams and One Season to Remember (2009) by John Feinstein. A book about Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina in 2007. I recall the book alternated between each pitcher as the season progressed. (I have read a few of Feinstein's books including Season on the Brink (1986), the one about Indiana University basketball coach and sociopath Bobby Knight. Tom and I were undergrads at IU when the Hoosiers won the 1976 National Championship.)
- Clearing the Bases (2002) by Allen Barra. I really enjoyed this book. This book "answers" the great baseball questions. (Yes, one of the early practitioners-writers of looking at statistics more closely to resolve baseball debates.)
- The Boys of Summer (1972) by Roger Kahn. A book about the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940's and 1950's. ( I am ashamed to say I haven't read it, but I need to since I was born the day after the Dodgers won their only World Series in 1955. )
- The Glory of Their Times (1966) by Lawrence Ritter. A book about the late 1800 and early 1900 baseball stars. ( I have it on my shelves and it deserves a re-reading. This was a book that inspired a lot of writers to find out where a lot of all time greats ended up and then interviewing them.)
- Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game is Really Played (2014) by Jason Kendall and Lee Judge. This book is surprisingly good. I always liked Jason Kendall, and this book didn't change my feelings. (The Pirates catcher with uncommon speed for a receiver always murdered the Cubs.)
- The Baseball Codes: Bean Balls, Sign Stealing and Bench Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime (2011) by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca. A good book about the "unwritten" rules of baseball.
When I was a kid, I read a series of fictional baseball books by Duane Decker. The stories were about a team called the Blue Sox (very much like the Yankees of the 50's). The stories ran for years and the lineup of players were consistent from book to book. Each book was about a new player breaking into the lineup. In fact, if you read the whole series, you can see a player break into the lineup and 10-15 books later the player has aged and will be replaced by a new player. The books are out of print and are very expensive to purchase. I have collected 8-9 of the books.
Tom is not joking. Those Decker books are pricey. Get thee to the attic.