“The Baseball Book of Why:
The Answers to Questions You’ve Always Wondered About from America’s National Pastime”
John C. McCollister
The publishing info:
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot/Rowman & Littlefield
Released March 20
The review in 90 feet or less
Why isn’t the Major League Baseball season starting today? Why am I watching the MLB Network just to see a bunch of guys talking on video screens from their homes? Why is SportsNet LA showing a replay of the Dodgers-Giants Opening Day game from 2013 — Clayton Kershow throws and shutout and hits a homer?
Why do I have an Anne Lennox song haunting my brain right now?
Question authority, we were told. Answer the call, we’re encouraged to do.
Today, we have a lot of quarantined questions that lead to awkward answers.
This paperback from McCollister — a former Lutheran pastor, federal arbitrator and fan of the game who has done many history books about the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers — isn’t going to blow your mind when it comes to taking up some 100 questions about why things happen in baseball as he lends his knowledge on explaining them.
It’s somewhat bias in what questions he chooses to answer — many have Pirates-centric references that seem a bit regional for a national-based publication. (Although, we admit we never knew how the Pittsburgh Pirates got their name, and now we do).
In a world of Google-the-question/quickly-find-the-result, a book like this may seem a bit naive, even outdated. It’s likely more geared for younger kids, read to them by their parent or older sibling, as a way to transfer information from one generation to another.
== Why are the Los Angeles Dodgers identified by such a strange name? That isn’t really answered here, other than “the name ‘Dodgers’ had to remain with the franchise” when Walter O’Malley moved them from Brooklyn to L.A. after the 1957 season. Did he really have to? It then explains the whole trolley dodging exercise and how sportswriters used it as a way to ID the team in the 1930s (after, of course, they were known as Bridegrooms, Grooms, Superbas and Robins before Dodgers evolved into the vernacular)
== Why did the Chicago Cubs hold spring training on Catalina Island for almost 30 years? Owner William Wrigley Jr., was instrumental in developing the land.
== Why is the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual award to a broadcaster called the Ford C. Frick Award? Because the former commissioner is said to have “helped foster the relationship between radio and the game of baseball.” (Still, we’d lobby to see this changed to the Vin Scully Award)
== Why hasn’t Marvin Miller, the late head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, been inducted into the Hall of Fame? That actually happened last December by vote of the Modern Baseball Era Committee, to be part of the Class of 2020. But McCollister likely didn’t know that happened.
So why have this book with its cool-to-look-at retro cover among our list of all those that might seem more procreative or compelling?
Because upon further research — the book’s back cover –McCollister never got to see this one come out.
He passed away on Dec. 19, 2019 at his home in Las Vegas.
How it goes in the scorebook
A moment of silence.
In 1983, McCollister published the book, “The Christian Book of Why,” trying to explain those burning esoteric religious questions such as “Why do Christians bake hot buns for Easter?” And “Why do Christians throw rice at weddings?”
McCollister also wrote a prayer that he called “The Baseball Invocation,” which is at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
you who are called the great umpire,
in this game of life we are unsure as to what uniform we should wear.
While we may be Angels in spirit, in reality we are Giants in pride,
Dodgers of responsibility, and Tigers in ambition.
When it comes to faith, we find ourselves in the minor leagues.
When it comes to good works, we strike out.
When it comes to knowledge of your word,
we are not even sure of the ground rules.
Therefore, we are thankful for your mercy when we are in foul territory,
for your forgiveness when we commit one error after another,
for your uplifting spirit when we are in the pitfalls of a slump.
Oh God, let our game plan be your will
and our response a sell-out crowd with standing room only.
And, when our number is retired here on earth,
may we head for your home base and rejoice to hear you call out “safe.”
In the name of Him who gives the final victory to all who believe,
Christ Our Lord, Amen.
If baseball is like religion, we can find even more potential quirks to work through. So, why are stadiums referred to as cathedrals? Why does baseball have so many “threes” in its vernacular — strikes, outs, bases — while the Bible has many references to things done in “threes,” including the Holy Trinity?
Maybe there are other books done on this “why?” theme in the past. From 1989, there’s “The Answer Is Baseball A Book of Questions That Illuminate the Great Game,” by Luke Salisbury. In 2003, there was “Why Is the Foul Pole Fair: Answers to 101 of the Most Perplexing Baseball Questions,” by Vince Staten.
But today, we’ll carry around this one. To honor McCollister, who didn’t live long enough to see where are struggling. Rest in peace with your number on earth retired.