Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: A bible that still carries weight, especially when held right-side up

2020 new cover
Not quite actual size. But you get the picture …

The New Baseball Bible:
Notes, Nuggets, Lists and Legends From
Our National Pastime


The author:
Dan Schlossberg
Publishing info: Sports Publishing/Skyhorse, 465 pages, $19.99, released March 17
Links: At the publisher’s website (which still only lists the 2017 edition); at Amazon.com; at BarnesAndNoble.com; at Powells.com; at Target; at Indiebound.org; at the author’s website

The review in 90 feet or less

Bibles should be thumped in higher regards at this moment in time. Because they can serve a higher purpose. Right-side up, especially, with favorite passages recited in order to help put things into perspective.

179704_4001272630637_1112735565_n-285x205In the beginning, Dan Schlossberg created a lot of this.

It may seem like night and day since he proclaimed “The Baseball Book of Why” in 1984. Or even “The Baseball Almanac: Big Bodacious Book of Baseball” of 2004 for Triumph Books, followed by “Baseball Gold: Mining Nuggets from Our National Pastime” in 2007 and Baseball Bits: Little-Known Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the Dugout to the Outfield” in 2008. There are many others in between for the former Associated Press sports editor from New Jersey, a regular writer for Street & Smith’s Official Baseball Yearbook, Sports Collectors Digest, The Sporting News and official World Series programs. His resume includes more than three dozen books.

For this particular book of numbers, facts and stories that’s about as large as old Sears catalogue (with a typeface that still reminds us one, along with the muddied black-and-white photos), the lineage goes back to “The Baseball Catalog” of 1980 (and a millennium edition in 2000) from Jonathan David Publishers. This is now the third version of “The New Baseball Bible,” which Sports Publishing took over with a version in 2002, and last updated it in 2017 before the latest refresh.

So, what’s new?

2017 coverLComparing this one to three years ago – which we can, having both editions here in front of us – the cover tweaks include noting that Schlossberg is now identified as a “former AP sportswriter” (he now can be found contributing to Forbes.com), the forward is now by official MLB historian John Thorn (versus former Dodger Jay Johnstone) and the preface comes from former MLB umpire Al Clark (instead of writer Alan Schwarz). The cover collage also adds Mike Trout as the main figure in the center, replacing Ken Griffey Jr., while Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews are added (and a group of three old-timers we’d be hard pressed to identify are left off).

And a yellow coloring of the book title instead of white.

Improvement overall already.

Ramping up from 408 pages to 467, the most notable additions:

== Aside from chapters on Beginnings of Baseball, How Some Rules Apply, Umpires, Playing the Game, Equipment, Ballparks, The Game, Famous Faces, Managers, The Brass (commissioners and owners), Trades, The Supporting Cast (stadium announcers, organists, vendors, etc.), The Media, Big Moments, The Language of Baseball, Superstitions and Other Traditions, Spring Training, Other Leagues and Other Lands, Fans, The Expansion Eras and A New Century, there are three additional chapters: Cooperstown (all things related to the Hall of Fame), After 108 years (the Cubs’ 2016 title) and Turbulent Times (labor pains, Astros’ scandals and a change in how offense is played).

The most poignant addition of having Thorn do the new forward and talk about for all the baseball history he has written, Schlossberg has been more than a kindred spirit, matching him publication for publication going back to the mid 1970s. It’s akin to watching the Beatles/Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson look and admire each other and then have it inspire their next pieces of work.

“For all these years, Dan and I have been friends rather than rivals, belonging to a mutual admiration society, population: two,” says Thorn, who later adds that the only book he can ever compare “The Baseball Bible” series to “as a foundation of wit and wisdom” is Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four.”

And then on page 258, there’s an appreciation piece Schlossberg did on the passing of Bouton in 2019 (it’s also at this link at Forbes.com), among the many stories the author adds to this edition from recent stories and essays he has written over the last few years to add depth and context.

quote-this-is-a-game-to-be-savored-not-gulped-there-s-time-to-discuss-everything-between-pitches-bill-veeck-53-81-14

As Schlossberg continues to include in his introduction: “The idea here is to inspire older, more traditional fans but also to woo the younger generation back from its flirtation with the faster sports of basketball and hockey. As Bill Veeck once said, ‘Baseball is meant to be savored but not gulped’.”

At a time when other sports like the NBA and NHL seem to have a plan on how to come back from a pandemic interruption, however, the MLB continues to be, as Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke recently put it, “having a bench-clearing brawl with itself.”

History, save us.

Which leads us to the final chapter – not Exodus, but not so far off with “Turbulent Times.”

Under the “Labor Pains’ chapter, there’s no dancing around that “looming over everyone was the expiration of the Basic Agreement at the end of the 2021 campaign … many issues remained to be decided.”

And if you want to highlight some more joyous/dubious tidbits:

IMG_0952== Photos of Vin Scully open Chapter 6 on “Ballparks” and Chapter 13 on “The Media” – and among the tidbits of information offered on the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster is one on page 251:
“Two-thirds of Dodgers fans were deprived of hearing Vin Scully’s last season because of a continuing dispute between the team and Time Warner Cable.”
Well, kinda not really. The team owns SportsNet LA, and Time Warner Cable is in charge of distributing it. The dispute was between TWC/Spectrum and the other cable/dish systems that wouldn’t pick up distribution, and that overlapped with the final three seasons of Scully broadcasting run with the team (2014, ’15 and ’16) – aside from the fact fans on radio could hear him do a simulcast for the first three innings.

== Page 109: “A Sandy Koufax statue was erected outside Dodger Stadium during the 2020 season. Located next to another statue, honoring fellow Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the statue stands in a plaza beyond the ballpark’s center-field fence.”
Hmmm. OK. We shall see.

== The Angels’ Mike Trout, reference only three times in the 2017 edition, is in seven times now, including: He’s one of four to ever go from unanimous Rookie of the Year winner to an eventual unanimous league MVP (the others: Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda and Albert Pujols); he was the highest-paid player in 2018 ($34,083,333) and 2019 ($39 million) in the game (compared to the $100,000 that Hank Greenberg made in 1947) and became the game’s first $400 million man in ’19); he’s the youngest player to ever reach 100 homers and 100 steals in his career and the first to win consecutive All-Star Game MVP honors.

== Page 122: “Bobby Grich, white infielder, and Don Baylor, black outfielder, were among the first interracial roommates in the game.” With the Orioles? The Angels? In college?

== Page 125: “The Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League became the first professional team to fly in 1928.”

== Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray once said Mark Grudzielanek’s name three different ways during the same at-bat.

== Roger Kahn, the “Boys of Summer” author who died last February after the book was already in the process of printing, is quoted on page 243 as saying three things in baseball haven’t changed over the last 100 years:

“No manager ever thought he had enough pitching, no player ever  thought the umpire was right and no owner ever admitted to making money.”

How it goes in the scorebook

Juvenile nonfiction? That’s the genre this ends up getting placed here. But at Thorn points out, it’s “a book for fans from eight to eighty.”

It only means this brings us back to our younger days, and how we consumed information through printed materials – newspapers, magazine, annuals and books like this – and marvel at how this remains the way we are most comfortable consuming all this.

As a kid, these are the kind of books we would eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and every between-innings snack. As an adult, this is what we may need to keep reading – the “reading room” especially is in need of this update – to keep some sanity.

It is somewhat disappointing that the quality of photos and overall look of this continues to feel outdated — not in a classic, nostalgic way, but more a 1970s-in-need-of-a-tear-down feel, especially when compared to what else is available. Perhaps that’s why the price for something this voluminous remains under $20. The book feels like a fixer-upper, but the foundation remains strong.

One last search

In Schlossberg’s introduction, he writes: “This volume even attempt to fix a few twisted facts from the films “Field of Dreams” and “42.”

Through an exhaustive search of the index (which often can be frustrating), and pouring through new chapters and old to see if we could find it, we still haven’t. Any help?

For what it’s worth

The point is, Dykstra didn’t win Game 3 with a ninth-inning homer, in the game in question. Dykstra’s homer came off Boyd came leading off the game in the top of the first.

2 thoughts on “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: A bible that still carries weight, especially when held right-side up”

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