February 23, 2004
With spring training in session (for pitchers, catchers and voluntary workouts), I find myself devouring every bit of news about my favorite team (the Phillies) and anticipating the upcoming season.
I am especially fond of interesting baseball books, here are my favorites of the moment:
The Great American Novel, by Philip Roth: I've read this wartime farce several times, and I'm always laughing out loud throughout the book.
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., by Robert Coover: This is an amazing novel that follows a clerk and his fascination with his dice-based baseball simulation. Eventually the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur, and that's where the novel takes off. I particularly enjoyed this book because I played baseball board games as a kid. My brother and I would eagerly await each year's shipment of the Strat-O-Matic cards, and draft our own teams for our own league.
You Gotta Have Wa, by Robert Whiting: Superficially, this book examines Japanese baseball and its differences with the American game, but it actually transcends that and examines both Japanese and American culture.
The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg, by Nicholas Dawidoff: Major league catcher Moe Berg was a riddle wrapped in an enigma. A Princeton graduate with a Columbia law degree, Berg played 15 major league seasons, spied in World War II for the OSS and was a mystery to almost everyone during his lifetime. This book tries to open his life to the world.
Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, by Bill James: Bill James is a leader in statistical analysis of baseball, and his theories are taking hold in the evaluation and valuation of players and strategy.
Veeck As In Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck, by Bill Veeck: Baseball's master showman shares his history.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis: Billy Beane, young GM of the Oakland Athletics, has turned the baseball world on its head with an emphasis on statistic-based scouting. The book manages to make the subject come alive.
Summer of '49, by David Halberstam: Chronicling the 1949 pennant race between the Yankees and Red Sox, Halberstam (my mother-in-law's high school classmate) writes of the titans of the day, Dimaggio and Williams while postwar America.
Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, by Jules Tygiel: This is an excellent look into the integration of major league baseball, but the book is more than that. The state of baseball (as well as the country) before and after integration is studied, in both the Negro and major leagues.
In honor of the national pastime, does anyone have a favorite baseball tome I may have missed? This seems like a great time to read a baseball book...