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.
Carroll & Graf and Thunder’s Mouth, both imprints of the Perseus Group, are being phased out, according to a story from the Publishers Weekly web site.
Both entities have produced admirable baseball titles. Earlier this year, C&G released The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs: Recrowning Baseball’s Greatest Slugger by Bill Jenkinson, an entertaining analysis of Ruth’s handiwork put in modern perspective.
When Hank Aaron was approaching Ruth’s lifetime mark of 714 home runs in 1974, it created a renewed interest in Ruth, who died in 1947. With Aaron still alive and kicking as Bonds approaches the 755 homers Hammerin’ Hank blasted, there’s not as much, but people still involke The Babe’s spirit.
- Voices of Summer: Ranking Baseball’s 101 All-Time Best Announcers, by Curt Smith
- Leonard Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball (one of my favorites)
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, by James Riley
- Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, by David Pietrusza
- Guys, Dolls, and Curveballs: Runyon on Baseball, by Jim Reisler
- A Great Day in Cooperstown: The Improbable Birth of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, also by Reisler.
Thunder’s Mouth released only two baseball titles including Baseball Field Guide: An In-Depth Illustrated Guide to the Complete Rules of Baseball, by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger (2006); and The Player: Christy Mathewson, baseball, and the American Century, by Philip Seib (2004).
In a previous post, I wrote that The Sporting News would no longer be printing it’s annual baseball record book. True to their word, however, they have made it available on-line at no charge. The sections, rendered as PDF files, are divided into an Introduction and user’s guide; regular season (yearly leaders, career milestones, general reference, and AL and NL team records); Division Series; Championship Series; and World Series; and All-Star games.
(Full disclosure: I contributed the section on the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos.)
To celebrate the beginning of the new season, several shows on National Public Radio have included segments on baseball books.
- Dave Winfield, author of Dropping the Ball, Gary Sheffield (Inside Power), and Cait Murphy (Crazy ’08), were all recent guests on the Leonard Lopate Show. (Also on the Winfield program: an interview with Jessica Rosner and Ben Model, regarding their collaboration on a two-disc DVD, Baseball Films from the SIlent Era: Reel Baseball, 1899-1926.)
- Zack Hample, author of Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-Experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks, spoke with Scott Simon about the game’s endearing quirks and history.
- Jonah Keri, editor of Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong, was a guest on the March 30 edition of Talk of the Nation, where he discussed the love affair fans have with statistics.
- Derek Zumsteg, author of The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball, talked Day to Day’s Noah Adams about the "hidden tricks that come with the game."
- In his regular sports commentary, Frank Deford posits on the desirability of using the instant replay by umpires:
Is there anything more insane than you and me, and thousands — maybe millions — of people sitting at home, slurping a beer and watching a replay which shows clearly that a ball the batter hit was foul, but the four umpires are standing out there in the field debating what they thought they saw when one of them called the ball fair.
According to a March 30 post on Publisher’s Weekly.com:
In honor of baseball’s opening day this Sunday (April 1), The Bob Edwards Show re-airs Bob’s conversation with Pulitzer winner David Maraniss about Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, just out in paperback. PW’s starred review considered it a “respectful and dispassionate account. Maraniss deftly balances baseball and loftier concerns like racism; he presents a nuanced picture of a ballplayer more complicated than the encomiums would suggest, while still wholly deserving them.”
On The Leonard Lopate Show (March 30), Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield will hump his book Dropping the Ball: Baseball’s Troubles and How We Can and Must Solve Them. The show also features a segment on "Baseball Films from the SIlent Era, "a new two-disc collection of early (and in many cases, extremely rare) baseball films made between 1899 and 1926. Leonard talks to producer Jessica Rosner and Ben Model, who composed music for the package.
Listen to Wingate segment (audio requires Real Media Player)
Actually, a visit to Edwards’ web site announces that he will be speaking with Alex Belth, author of Stepping Up: The Story of Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players’ Rights, and makes no mention of the Clemente segment.
The March 26 issue of Sports Business Journal features a profile of Terry McDonell, editor of Sports Illustrated Group.
I was not a sports guy. I was a magazine editor, and when I started talking to [Time Inc. editor-in-chief] John Huey, it was not clear that he was talking about Sports Illustrated. As we got to know each other and he learned a bit about my background, it came to him that it might be interesting to have me come to Sports Illustrated.
On the dangers of the medium becoming the message, of highlights and fluff taking over the story:
I think packaging is a good thing if it simplifies and if it’s got some irony in it. Packaging can have its own voice. It’s a lot better than reading sentence after sentence that tells you what people’s batting averages are. It’s much easier to read a chart. And that goes for everything from, you know, the best sports bars east of the Mississippi to the play list of the swimsuit models. But that will never replace, you know, Frank Deford on Bill Russell.
Cleveland, Ohio – The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is happy to announce that the multi-volume Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball (Ivan R. Dee) by Peter Morris was selected to receive this year’s Seymour Medal, which honors the best book of baseball history or biography from the preceding year.
Mr. Morris will receive the medal at the Ninth Annual Seymour Conference, which will be held at the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland on April 27-29 and is sponsored by the Cleveland Indians.
Game of Inches was selected from one of five finalists for the Seymour Medal Award. The judging remarks about the multi-volume work included: “The scope of these books evoke the spirit of the Seymour’s books…comprehensive, well researched, exhaustive.”
The remaining finalists included (in alphabetical order by author):
- "When to Stop The Cheering?: The Black Press, the Black Community, and the Integration of Professional Baseball by Brian Carroll (Routledge) – Judges’ comments: “This is a groundbreaking volume on an important and hitherto, largely ignored aspect of baseball history.”
- The Origins and History of The All American Girls Professional Baseball League by Merrie Fidler (McFarland & Co.) – Judges’ comments: “This book is both a great narrative tale as well as an important reference book on the women’s league. The section on the women following their baseball days is touching and informative.”
- Spalding’s World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe – And Made It America’s Game by Mark Lamster (PublicAffairs)
– Judges’ comments: “This book reads like a great novel with Spalding
reigning as baseball’s Barnum and Elmer Gantry rolled into one. This
book is as much a ‘tale of the Republic’ as Kashatus’s sad story of Albert Bender.”
- A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports by Brad Snyder (Viking)
Members of the Seymour Medal judging committee were Richard Johnson (chair), Jon Daniels and Ron Kaplan.
John Thorn will deliver the keynote speech at the conference, which is in its ninth year. Mr. Thorn is the author of countless articles on baseball history and has written, co-written, and edited more than two dozen books, including The Hidden Game of Baseball, Total Baseball, and The Armchair Book of Baseball. He was founding editor of SABR’s The National Pastime and founding publisher of Total Sports Publishing in 1998. Currently, he is editor of BASE BALL: A Journal of the Early Game, a new McFarland & Co. scholarly semiannual launching in Spring 2007, and serves as curatorial consultant to the Museum of the City of New York for an upcoming baseball exhibit.
The Seymour Medal, named in honor of Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Jane Mills (formerly Seymour), is awarded to the book judged the best work of baseball history or biography in the preceding year. The Seymour Medal Conference, held annually, attempts to continue the promotion of baseball scholarship begun by its namesakes, and to celebrate fine baseball writing in all forms.
Sometimes I wonder who reads books like this, like Mark Lamster’s Spalding’s World Tour — titles that consider the infancy of the game and the beginnings of its marketing to a broader audience. There are history buffs who follow all sorts of arcane knowledge, but will non-academic modern fans find these stories of interest? Or has baseball become something for fantasy enthusiasts? Look at the plethora of publications on the newsstands; it’s one "roto" journal after another, offering advice and analysis for picking your ideal team. Does the term "Star Trek geek" ring a bell?
Author Cait Murphy hosts a website for her book, which includes reviews, her introduction, and a foreword by Robert Creamer, author of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life and other baseball titles.
The March 19 issue of Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal features a story on how "Athletes hope books will inspire children." Titles include Alex Rodriguez’s Out of the Ballpark, David Eckstein’s Have Heart, and Eric Gange’s Breaking Barriers.
Rodriguez writes about his early failures as a little leaguer and how perserverance made him the star he is today.
Eckstein tells about not letting his diminuitive stature stand in his way of achieving his dream to become a major leaguer, as well as discussing his family dynamics that have helped overcome kidney failure in three of the five children and their father.
The publishers of Gange’s book claim that "Each volume…is filled with details of the athlete’s childhood, schools attended, favorite foods, and more." In this case, "he talks about the evolution of his goatee and the reason he likes to take the mound to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns N’ Roses."
A press release for Cecilia Tan’s new book on the Yankees, which caims to be "an informative and in-depth guide to the upcoming season and with 112 pages of thorough Yankees analysis-and full-color, high quality photography-it is unlike anything else available anywhere."
I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen it myself but honestly, after all this time, how much can there be that’s never been seen before, especially on the printed page?
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