Since I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember, I suppose that it makes perfect sense that I’ve always loved to read about baseball. Like most kids who grew up when I did, I started by reading the box scores every morning. I would spend hours pouring over the box scores, while comparing the names in the lineups to the pictures on my baseball cards. As I grew older, I started reading books about baseball. I doubt there is a single baseball book in any of the libraries in any of the elementary schools that I attended where my name doesn’t appear on the checkout card.
Despite competition from new interests in high school, namely music and girls, I still read as much as I could about baseball. It was in high school where I would discover the book that I believe to this day to be the best of all baseball books: Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. For a long time, I would read it every year. Now, I read it every few years. (This book hasn’t just influenced how I view the game of baseball, it has influenced how I view politics, relationships and management.) It also makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.
Now, the greatest of baseball books are far more than just baseball books. Most, however, do not achieve that admittedly lofty goal. Good baseball books are often funny. Sometimes, you pickup book that makes you cry. You will find those that will enlighten you about the rich history of baseball. Others will clue you into the true experience of a player and his place and view of the game.
Of course, there are also many, many bad baseball books. These often read as PR pieces meant to fluff the ego of a self-important athlete. Some are little more than desperate grasps for attention by a player whose career couldn’t live up to the hype. Occasionally, a book will aim high yet come up surprisingly shallow. A great many are just poorly written pieces of crap. Such is the nature of the book business.
For most of my adult life, I didn’t read nearly as many baseball books as I did in my youth. Sure, I would still read the occasional book, but they rarely numbered more than one or two a year. All this started to change a few years ago when my father-in-law started occasionally picking up baseball books he would find while out antiquing to give me as gifts. I now find myself as immersed in baseball books as I did when I was young.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve acquired a number of new books from Amazon and from Barnes and Noble. I’ve got biographies on Aaron, Mays, Clemente and Paige. I have Doug Glanville’s analysis of baseball in the 21st century. A book on the Big Red Machine of 1975, one of the greatest teams to ever play the game. Perhaps the book I’m looking forward to the most is a biography of long-time braves announcer Pete Van Wieren. I have a lot of fun ahead of me.
More to come …