** A review of The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball appears on The Pastime blog.
** The NY Times’ Richard Sandomir previewed the HBO special, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, based loosely on Through a Blue Lens: The Brooklyn Dodgers Photographs of Barney Stein, 1937-57 (premieres July 11). The Dodgers played their last game in Brooklyn fifty years ago, and every baseball book fans knows the significance of major anniversaries. See here for a a BaseballBookshelf profile of Stein’s daughter, Bonnie Crosby, following her program (with co-author Dennis D’Agostino) at the Yogi Berra Museum.
** The Day, out of London, Conn. offers this profile of Jonathan Mahler, author of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning, which is the subject of an ESPN miniseries beginning July 10 at 10 p.m. The early buzz is not promising (although TV Guide‘s Matt Roush hails it as something even non-Yankee fans will enjoy), from either a baseball or theatrical point of view. Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner? Stick a pair of prosthetic ears on John Turturro to turn him into Billy Martin? Add a cast of no-name supporting actors (Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson? Eric Jense as Thurmon Munson? See picture.) and you have to wonder whether this can really sustain any interest over eight episodes. According to IMDB.com, Pratt/Steinbrenner appears in all eight, but Turturo/Martin only two? Even the characters who portray the players get more screen time, and Martin was a major player in that hectic season of 1977. See here for a BaseballBookshelf profile of Mahler and fellow-Wall Street Journal scribes Seth Mnookin (Feeding the Monster) and Joshua Prager (The Echoing Green).
** Former Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi reviews **** and Baseball, Volume I: Entering the American Mainstream, 1871-1948, by Burton A. Boxerman and Benita W.Boxerman in The Forward, a weekly Jewish publication. See here for a BaseballBookshelf profile on the authors.
The things you find when you’re cleaning up. Came across this piece I did for Fastball.com, a now-defunct esoteric baseball site. It’s one of several "theme" teams I created in my obviously too-copius spare time. I’m sure there are many other plasyers who fit the bill since I worked on this.
Robert Frost at bat.
This just in from Onion Sports: Aaron credited with 50 "lost" home runs.
I usually don’t consider this type of book, but I was intrigued by the press release. There’s a new bio due out about Phillies’ slugger Ryan Howard. Titled Ryan Howard: King of Swing, it’s marketed for "fans of all ages." But one look at the cover indicates it’s not on an editorial par with say, The Teammates. Other self-referential accolades include:
- THE FIRST & BEST BOOK ABOUT
- ORIGINAL COVER CARICATURE BY GOGUE
- 120 PAGES OF HOMERUN HITTING PROSE
- QUOTES THAT WILL MAKE YOU CHEER
- BASEBALL STATS & COOL CATS
- TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR GAME
Think I’ll wait for the movie to come out.
"Casey at the Bat" has served as fodder for generations. Ernest L. Thayer’s poem (subtitled "A Ballad of the Republic") has appeared in several incarnations as a juvenile picture book, portrayed by the likes of Leroy Neiman and C.F. Payne, among others. In one of the most visually and socially dazzling versions, Joe Morse depicts the story from an urban, inner-city point of view.
"Casey" has also led to dozens of imitations and extensions of the original story ("Casey Returns," "Casey’s Daughter") Listen Garison Keeler’s version, "Casey: The Other Point of View" from A Prairie Home Companion; the poem appears at the 35-minute mark in the second part of the show. The poem has been recorded by seasoned performers such as James Earl Jones and baseball stars such as Johnny Bench and Dave Winfield, with full orchestral backup.
One of my favorites treatises is The Annotated Casey at the Bat: A Collection of Ballads About the Mighty Casey/Third, Revised Edition, released by Dover Publications in 1995, which includes many of the aforementioned versions.
The ballad has also spawned several full-length works of fictional prose, including Frank Deford’s Casey on the Loose (1989), as well as a 1986 film version starring Elliot Gould, Carol Kane, and Howard Cosell. Here’s a review of The Night Casey Was Born, a new non-fiction "biography" of the poem, written byJohn Evangelist Walsh.
Dodger photographer highlighted game off the fields
In an effort to preserve his legacy, Stein’s daughter, Bonnie Crosby, collaborated with Dennis D’Agostino to produce a collection of his
work, Through a Blue Lens: The Brooklyn Dodgers Photographs of Barney Stein,
1937-57 (Triumph Books).
Crosby and D’Agostino a former public relations employee for the NY Mets, discussed their project at a program at a June program hosted by the Yogi Berra Museum and Education Center in Little Falls, NJ.
Stein said her father taught her not only about photography “but about the emotions of the game.” He presented more than the action on the field, she said; he showed the Dodgers and their extended community of employees, families, and fans.
D’Agostino described Stein as “one of the greatest news photographers New York has ever seen. He photographed everything from heads of state, entertainers, tragedies, gangsters, etc.,” he said. “And then when the whistle blew every day
at five o’clock at the Post [where Stein had a full-time position], off he’d go to Ebbets Field to have his second job.” Flipping through the book, the reader sees the artist himself joining in the fun and managing to capture his subjects with their guards down.
Perhaps his most famous shot is one of unmitigated agony for old-time Dodgers fans: pitcher Ralph Branca, head bowed in grief after yielding baseball’s most famous home run, ‘the shot heard ‘round the world,” hit by the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson to win the 1951 National League pennant.
On the lighter side, one of Stein’s favorite photos features Marilyn Monroe at Ebbets Field in 1957 demonstrating her “athletic skills” for Israel’s Hapoel soccer team during an exhibition with a team of American all-stars.
“The Israelis were asked what they wanted to see during their visit,” D’Agostino said. Their response: “‘As athletes, we’d like to meet the Brooklyn Dodgers; as men we’d like to meet Marilyn Monroe
Photos courtesy Barney Stein Photo Collection, LLC. A version of this article appears in the June 21 issue of the New Jersey Jewish News
From Bob Timmermann at Griddle.baseballtoaster.com, a review of American Pastime, a film about baseball as played by Japanese Americans who were confined to internment camps during World War II. His bottom line: "it cover[s] a worthy subject and it avoids being preachy, even though the topic of Japanese internment could easily be covered that way."
Timmermann’s opinion aside, the few other critiques I’ve seen about this project indidcate it to be very cliche driven, but so are most other sports films so give it a chance.
ESPN The Magazine lists the following baseball titles in its bi-weekly sports best-sellers list:
- Big Papi, by David Ortiz (St. Martin’s Press) (No. 3 overall)
- Opening Day, by Jonathan Eig (Simon and Schuster) (4)
- Clemente, by David Maraniss (Simon and Schuster) (5)
- I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect, by Denny McLain (Triumph) (9)
I spoke with Joseph Rinaldi, director of publicity at St. Martin’s, at the Book Expo America in Manhattan earlier this month about the publisher’s sports line-up. Rinaldi said Papi was doing very well, in part, because Ortiz was so personable and accommodating at book signings. Opening Day is still in the "honeymoon" phase, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut. Clemente has been out for quite awhile, so its staying power is a bit surprising.
The big surprise, however, has to be McLain’s book. After all, aside from his Cy Young seasons and the fact that he won 31 games in 1968, his reputation as a troubled soul — extending well into his retirement (or banishment, depending on your point of view) — supersedes his stardom. Even with all his troubles in recent years, he’s no Pete Rose; it’s hard to conceive that McLain still generates that degree of interest.
RickLibrarian offers a review on Baseball Haiku. In my "day job" as editor of the Real Life page for the NJ Jewish News, I write a weekly haiku on the week’s reading from the Torah. While it has been generally wel-received since I started it (save for the rare reader who thinks they’re blaspehmous), I find poetry, like fiction, extremely subjective, which is why I rarely review novels or poems. Nevertheless, I did review Line Drives, a collection of poems edited by Tim Wiles of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for ForeWard Magazine.
The Museum of the City of New York will host an exhibit on "The Glory Days: New York City Baseball, 1947-1957."
Accordng to the Website,
The Glory Days… explores how and why New York City came to dominate the sport, how this changed by 1957, and how the events of these eleven seasons shaped today’s game. In addition, the exhibition uses baseball as a lens through which city life in the post-war years is examined, and contextualizes baseball’s dominance in the history of the city."
The exhibit opens June 27 and runs through Dec. 31.
The Baseball Toaster’s "Griddle" Page offers this review of The Gashouse Gang, by John Heidenry.
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Since newspapers often wind up on my bookshelf (what can I say, I’m not the best housekeeper in the world), here’s a piece from the New York Observer on the recent Alex Rodriguez affair. Well perhaps affair isn’t the appropriate word in this case. Anyway, it’s an interesting examination of how the sports media is turning into gossip columnists, contrary to "back in the day," when Babe Ruth could practically host an orgy in the hotel fountain and you’d never find a word about it in the next day’s newsprint. Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus contributed an article to June 18 issue of ESPN The Magazine on the omnipresent demands of an omnivorous press.
"In an open-locker-room, scoop-hingry sports world, where have all the boundaries gone?" reads the sub-title.
Yet Ausmus seems to believe the blame does not fall entirely on the press.
"I know every news story can’t be rosy. That’s not reality," he writes. "And there’s little we can do to stem the growing intrusion of the press. So until newspapers stop printing, ESPN stops broadcasting, and the Internet disappears, maybe some of us just need to develop thicker skins. Or do what many athletes do: don’t pick up the newspaper, turn on the TV or listen to talk radio."
Three baseball titles have been nominated for the 2007 Quill Awards, founded by Reed Business Information (Publishers Weekly) to honor the “most entertaining and enlightening titles” each year. This year’s picks were published between July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007, with the winners in 19 categories to be selected by a popular votes of a voting board comprised of over 6,000 invited booksellers and librarians.
The baseball books received three of the four nominations in the Sports category.
- Ty and The Babe: Baseball’s Fiercest Rivals; A Surprising Friendship and the 1941 Has-Beens Golf Championship, by Tom Stanton (St.Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books)
- Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, by Cait Murphy (HarperCollins/Smithsonian Institution Press)
- The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World, by Joshua Prager (Pantheon Books)