The first 27+ baseball books spread over 24+ posts in the ’22 lineup

Our progress through the season to date (April 15 to end of June):

Day 24: “The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position by Position Ranking of Baseball’s Chosen Players” an updated version by Howard Megdal. Before we get into the frolic, it is poignant to note how Megdal writes in his introduction why this project remains important at a time when there is a rise in hate crimes, bomb threats and horrible verbiage still against Jews. ‘Celebrating Jewish excellence in baseball is not a difficult thing to do … It is a supremely Jewish thing to do, too: Finding joy in the argument, in the discussion of statistical evidence and sense memory and arcane topics, in cultural pride.’ Here’s a mensch who doesn’t mince words. Hear, hear.

Day 23: “The Catch: A Novel,” by Alison Fairbrother for Random House. You had us at baseball. And for some reason, something called a “lucky baseball.” … Definitely best suited for a younger woman with all sorts of life and abandonment issues … We try to roll with it as far as need be to find out – why is this baseball so special? We didn’t. Explaining the book to my wife as I handed it to her to see if she was interested in reading it, she asked for a summary. I gave it to her. She asked further: So who ended up with the baseball? I admitted that half way through I found I had lost interest in that story line, flipped to the back, started skimming paragraphs backwards, saw how it ended, smiled, and was done.

Day 22: “Sho-Time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played” by Jeff Fletcher for Diversion. Fletcher had already started to write an Ohtani tome in 2018. But things derailed when Ohtani’s UCL issues flared up and his already brief MLB career could have been doomed. But after what Ohtani did a season ago, it was time to pick up the project, and not just as a rehash mashup. “My goal was to go beyond a surface-level description of what he did in that amazing season, providing the context that explained it,” Fletcher writes about why he pitched it all again. To everyone’s benefit, he does that and then some.

Day 21: “Mexican American Baseball in the South Bay” edited by Richard A. Santillan and Ron Gonzales. The latest edition of the Latino Baseball History Project at Cal State San Bernardino appears to be the most prolific, an oversized book that dwarfs the projects printed previously by the Arcadia Publishing Company/Image of Baseball over the last 10-plus years. The editors also call this book “a forward-looking game-changer” for the series, with a “wealthier narrative” that also incorporates the cultural and community roots. It has emerged from an hiatus during the COVID-19 shutdown with a renewed look on the commitment to documenting the game from its Mexican-American prism.

Day 20: “Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original,” by Howard Bryant for Mariner Books/HarperCollins. On page 407 of the index, we come upon “Henderson, Rickey, character traits. There are topics logged: “charisma,” “ego,” “forgetting names,” “as hot dog,” “intelligence,” “love of gambling,” and ” ‘Rickey being Rickey’.” But we’ve been instructed not to get too absorbed with much of that, because Bryant is almost as much the headliner for this piece as Henderson. Bryant speaks from a depth of experience, research and a need to mythbust.

Day 19: “The Umpire Is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self,” by Dale Scott with Rob Neyer for University of Nebraska Press. “Scott’s appearance at the Dodgers’ upcoming Pride Night lines up nicely with the release of a gratifying autobiography about his life and career that is one of the more enjoyable and poignant reads of this baseball season. We much we appreciate the education and entertainment, context and comedy, and true human feelings spread out along the way.”

Day 18: “Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and The Steroids Confession That Changed Baseball Forever” by Dan Good for Abrams. “Good isn’t asking us to do what he hasn’t already done for the greater angst: Look at this player, this man, this husband and dad, for what he did, who he was, and what legacy he left the game. Honest to goodness. It is worth the journey. It isn’t easy, but it’s good for the soul. Thank you, Dan. We feel your pain.”

Day 17: “Swing And A Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me,” by Paul O’Neill with Jack Curry, for Grand Central Publishing. “We’re supposed to, what, buy this one, read it and ponder the wisdom it imparts? Because … ? Because, he’ll forever be known as a Yankee Great, with a capital ‘Why’ and an understated ‘Gee.’ … And you’re still in the media of NY spotlight, so you’re entitled to impart whatever you can be paid for.”

Day 16: “The Real Hank Aaron: An Intimate Look at the Life and Legacy of the Home Run King,” by Terence Moore for Triumph Books. In a lineup of books already done by and about Aaron, documenting all that happened from various angles and perspectives, we embrace as well Moore’s Hall of Fame-worthy contribution adding another layer of introspection. It’s a personal touchstone we’re grateful he decided to share.

Day 15: “Grassroots Baseball: Route 66,” photos by Jean Fruth, with Jeff Idelson, Mike Veeck, Johnny Bench, Jim Thome, George Brett and more. A photo spread that executes and excites, having a narrative fleshed out by the photographer who experiences the trip and conveys it with visual artistry. It makes it personal, professional and prolific. Get your kicks with this picture-perfect portfolio that captures more than the essence of the game and its long and winding journey. Bring your best baseball friend, and don’t forget Winona.

Day 14: “Remarkable Ballparks” by Dan Mansfield for Pavilion Books. (With 67 ballparks included), there are only 24 of the 30 MLB parks … That leaves more stunning vistas of ballparks we often don’t get to see in Japan or South Korea (three each), Mexico and Cubs (two each) and one in Germany, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and China. For those, the book serves a heartwarming and globally significant purpose.

Day 13: “Stumbling Around the Bases: The American League’s Mismanagement in the Expansion Eras” by Andy McCue for University of Nebraska Press, and “A Brand New Ballgame: Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck, Walter O’Malley and the Transformation of Baseball, 1945-1962” by G. Scott Thomas for McFarland.

If we adjust our compass for more encompassing MLB movement in the future, will it learn from its past? For those who love to reconstruct baseball history, wonder what would have happened if some things fell differently, and why franchises ended up here, there and everywhere except when logic came in play, here are two more viable entries to pour through and try to reconnect the dippin’ dots of days gone by. Bill Veeck, enjoyably, is all over it in both editions.

Day 12: “Classic Baseball: Timeless Tales, Immortal Moments” by John Rosengren for Rowman & Littlefield. It’s logical to seek out Rosengren’s new collection of baseball-related pieces he has written over the years for a worthy Father’s Day gift this June But may we also suggest it’s a nice thing for mom to settle in with on Mother’s Day and enjoy it all, too. So here’s to you, mom. And, yes, dad can read it too. But you first.

Day 11: “I Am Not A Baseball Bozo: Honoring Good Players who Played on Terrible Teams: 1920 to 1999,” by Chris Williams for Sunbury Press. Love the concept, appreciate the fun cover and all the research that was put into it, enjoy the random asides and comic relief from this member of the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research. … But at some point, this runs out of steam, and substance, and we can’t put our finger on just why. …

Day 10: The Science of Baseball: The Math, Technology and Data Behind the Great America Pastime” by Will Carroll for Skyhorse Publishing. Carroll may not only know what a slide rule is for, but he’ll cut to the chase as to the benefits of the revised “Utley Slide Rule” when it comes to protecting the game’s stars from a change of further injuring themselves. Stay healthy, everyone.

Day 9: “Stolen Dreams: The 1955 Cannon Street All-Stars And Little League Baseball’s Civil War” by Chris Lamb for University of Nebraska Press. A big-league reminder about how the game reflects and can magnify a cultural wound. One of the few authors best positioned to do this book is Lamb.

Day 8: “Baseball Rebels: The Players, People and Social Movements That Shook up The Game and Changed America” and “Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles Over Workers’ Rights and American Empire,” both by Pete Dreier and Robert Elias, for University of Nebraska Press and Rowman & Littlefield.

Is there irony in how, rather than an act of rebellion, we see one of conformity and convenience to find two publishers willing to carry their material on overlapping topics and expecting someone to pay $80 for the complete set? Any way to get a coupon toward 50 percent off the purchase of the second one once you prove purchase of the first?

Day 7: “Is This Heaven? The Magic of the Field of Dreams” by Brett H. Mandel for Globe Pequot/Lyons Press/Rowman & Littlefield. Where else on the planet would you rather be this Earth Day? Does Dyersville, Iowa sound too cornball? Someone had to dig up some dirt about how this whole Field of Dreams thing went from Hollywood movie set to stand-alone tourist attraction.

Day 6: “The Saga of Sudden Sam: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of Sam McDowell” by Sam McDowell with Martin Gitlin for Rowman & Littlefield. They call these things cautionary tales. They are better reads when you sense there will be a positive outcome. As this appears to be.

Day 5: “Whispers of the Gods: Tales from Baseball’s Golden Age, Told by the Men Who Played It” by Peter Golenbock for Rowman & Littlefield. Two chapters alone on Jim Bouton? We’re in. If only we could hear the audio instead of just read the stenography. And talk it up now with your dad to make sure he’s good for this as his upcoming Father’s Day gift, lest there be any doubts he fits the demographics of this.

Day 4: “Valentine’s Way: My Adventurous Life and Times” by Bobby Valentine with Peter Golenbock for Permuted Press. It not be an accident that a publishing company that touts itself as one that has pushed out “hundreds of works as an industry-leading independent publisher of sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic and horror fiction, as well as pop-culture and historical non-fiction” has taken this one on. The official list of genres on their website also include coloring books, military non-fiction, supernatural, paranormal romance, zombie, thriller, humor, reference books and dystopian. Valentine’s tome surely permeates many permutations as well as checks a lot of boxes for them.

Day 3: “Red Barber: The Life and Legacy of A Broadcasting Legend” by James Walker and Judith Hiltner for University of Nebraska Press. To someday tell the story of Vin Scully, we need first know Barber’s. Barber, like Scully, made his baseball listening audience more intelligent. So does this book. Forever we are thankful for both, as this monumental effort makes us feel even more enlightened. Still, Barber valued the concise nature of telling a story. It’s an awful huge ask to get a reader to commit to this dense, expansive documentation of his life, no matter how much information can be excavated by today’s modern methods.

Day 2: “How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink” by Pedro Moura for Public Affairs Publishing. You may not find a more important explanation about how the game got here and where it could be going next, based on how the Dodgers want to set an example. It can be something one will reference back to years from now when trying to explain why most have lost any sense of loyalty. A typical “three outcome” AB now a days ends up with either a walk, strike out or home run. Moura’s book adds that rare consequence when someone hits a pitch off the opposing team’s “opener” into the exaggerated shift and finds wild success simply by putting the ball truthfully into play and benefiting from the consequences.

Day 1: “True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson” by Kostya Kennedy for St. Martin’s Press. On Jackie Robinson Day, one can’t ignore this 75th anniversary, and another opportunity to open up the lens for scholarly interpretations, public reflection and, of course, some shared profits along the way. Thankfully, it is with a regal prose and elegance storytelling that Kennedy comes up with a new framework for interpreting Robinson’s impact and legacy.

Also: “Not an Easy Tale to Tell: Jackie Robinson on the Page, Stage and Screen,” edited by Ralph Carhart for Society of American Baseball Research.

And, for openers: What got us through the winter pandemic of ’22: “The Baseball 100,” by Joe Posnanski. An 880-page volume released last September that took what he once posted on The Athletic. Longer than Homer’s “The Odyssey” but no where near JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” it made it into book form and Spitball Magazine, the literary baseball publication, gave this its CASEY Award for top baseball book of 2021. It has more than 900 five-star ratings on Amazon for good reason.

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