Time to intro the 2023 baseball book reviews, which time and time again we ask: Does it still need an introduction?

Time for the 2023 Major League Baseball season. It’s on the clock. Ready or not. Every second counts.

From 2003, Harcourt, 416 pages. It stands the test of time.

Time is all we heard about during the off season, into spring training, and leading up to this moment in, well, time.

Amendments to some of the key rules are something that could be described as a) hand-wringing, as pointed out in a swell piece by Joe Posnanski in Esquire and followed up on his outstanding Substack blog posts, or b) compared to the way bread is sliced, as laid out by political commentator Scott Jennings.

(By the way: This nifty gif was part of a New York Times story that came with the headline: “Baseball’s Too Slow. Here’s How to Fix It.” From 2017. So last decade, man.)

It seems no matter how you cut, toast or butter it up, we’ve also got a time-stamp on this new edict that every team has to play every team for the first time, which adds more flight time for a lot of teams.

It leads us to wonder: Is there enough time any more to do this annual baseball book review project?

Our 2023 list is in well-enough order. Launching it and delivering on a consistent basis will have its own time-related challenges.

Among the books we’re looking forward to taking our time with dissecting:

= “Daybreak at Chavez Ravine: Fernandomania and the Remaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers,” by Erik Sherman (out officially on May 1)

= “A Damn Near Perfect Game: Reclaiming America’s Pastime,” by former Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly (released last February)

= “Cooperstown at the Crossroads: The Checkered History (and Uncertain Future) of Baseball’s Hall of Fame,” by G. Thomas Scott (released last October)

= “The Tao of the Backup Catcher: Playing Baseball for the Love of the Game,” by Tim Brown (due in July)

This may also be the right time to announce (if you’ve made it this far) that we are deep into the process of writing our own book – a tribute to/appreciation of Vin Scully, and the life lessons he’s left us with. University of Nebraska Press has signed on. The target date is spring, 2024. More details to come.

Timing is everything. We’ve asked a few dozen people to contribute essays to this project, adding to our own prose. It’s hurry up and wait as the clock ticks.

Meantime, as we ponder why the Dodgers’ regular-season schedule includes playing the Diamondbacks of Arizona in eight of their first 10 games, we’ve also been reading up as a prep to this season:

== The usual breeze through Bill James’ 2023 Handbook (ACTA Publications, $32.95), which this time includes a farewell essay to Scully.

== Catching up on major titles that came out during the winter, that we didn’t feel like we had the time to add to this new spring, ’23 list, but missed a cutout for ’22. They include:
= “America’s Classic Ballparks: Celebrating Parks Past and Present,” by James Buckley (Becker & Mayer Books, 208 pages, released Sept., 2022)
= “28: A Photographic Tribute to Buster Posey,” by Brad Mangin (Harry N. Abrams Publishing, $28.99, released Aug., 2022, www.busterbook.com)
= “The Book of Joe: Trying Not to Suck at Baseball and Life,” by Joe Maddon and Tom Verducci (Twelve Publishing, $30, released Oct. 2022, with this excerpt; plus an exceptional Q&A by Kelly Candaele for his CapitalAndMain.com site)
= “The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series,” by Tyler Kepner (Penguin Random House, $30, released Oct. 2022).

== Jayson Stark explains the “dramatic” ins and out of the new schedule in The Athletic.

== The L.A. Times’ Patt Morrison (one of our Scully book contributors) has a history lesson for Los Angeles baseball fans. Did you know: The first documented baseball game in town was a high school girls’ match, in 1874. So now you know. And you’ll learn more here than perhaps any Google search you ever attempt. Plus, see her post cards.

== A USA Today list of the 100 MLB names you need to know for 2023 (starting with Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson at No. 1. The Dodgers have seven on this list — Miguel Vargas (No. 11), Ryan Pepiot (20), James Outman (26), Bobby Miller (43), Michael Grove (53), Michael Busch (63) and Gavin Stone (65). The Angels have one: Chase Silseth at No. 38.

== An ESPN list of the Top 100 players, ranked, in the game today (with two members of the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles in the slots of Nos. 1 and 2 — and no others on the roster in the rest of the 98 spots; the current AL MVP is listed No. 3 behind these two AL players through no fault of their own abilities. Members of the Dodgers take spots at Nos. 5 and 9, as well as Nos. 46, 47, and 87)

== Ryan McGee, author of “Welcome to the Circus of Baseball: A Story of The Perfect Summer, at the Perfect Ballpark, at the Perfect Time,” which comes out next week (Doubleday, 272 pages, $29), posts his five best baseball bios for The Wall Street Journal and why:
= “Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks,” by Bob Wood, 1988
= “The Teammates,” by David Halberstam, 2003
= “The Big Bam,” by Leigh Montville, 2006
= “Joe DiMaggio,” by Richard Ben Cramer, 2000
= “We Would Have Played Forever,” by Robert Gaunt, 1997
It’s more interesting to read the comments on pieces like this.

== The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has its list of new baseball books.

== A review copy of a new book by former CNN and Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza called “Power Players: Sports, Politics and the American Presidency” (Twelve Publishing/Hachette, 320 pages, $30, coming out April 18), which seems to be equally embraced and accepted by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Don Lemon and ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser. It’s about presidents and the sports they played – which gets straight to George H.W. Bush’s ballplaying days at Yale (as well as White House horseshoes) and his son’s ownership of the Texas Rangers as well as participating in the most meaningful first-pitch ceremony after 9/11 at the 2001 World Series.

== It reminds us: We’ve been trying to land a review copy of “Sports and the American Presidency: From Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump (New Perspectives on the American Presidency),” edited by Adam Burns and Rivers Gambrell. It’s from Edinburg University Press, published in November, 2022, with a hardback (and ebook) markup price of $120. Must be an incredible shipping cost. There is some overlap with Cillizza’s assessment, but in this one, there seems to be more on how Bill Clinton tried to save baseball from the 1994-95 strike, Babe Ruth’s celebrity endorsements for the 1928 presidential campaign and Jackie Robinson’s odd alignments with various presidents in the 1960s and ‘70s. This book must be so well regarded that Amazon.com has a payment plan of $10 a month for 12 months to purchase it if you wish.

== Two more self-help books for the reader’s and writer’s soul: “Between The Listening and The Telling: How Stories Can Save Us,” by Mark Yaconelli, who has an Masters in Christian spirituality and a spiritual direction diploma from San Francisco Theological Seminary (Broadleaf Books/1517 Media, $24.99) and “I Never Thought Of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times,” by Monica Guzman, a self-confessed liberal journalist who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and Donald Trump supporters. It’s a guidebook on how to talk with people rather than about them in asking better questions and listening more intently.

Sooner or later, we’ll let the first review drop (we’ve powered through a few this winter to get traction) and see how the flow goes. So as Scully might say, pull up a chair with a reading lamp.

1 thought on “Time to intro the 2023 baseball book reviews, which time and time again we ask: Does it still need an introduction?”

  1. I’m glad to hear that you’re back on it this year! Your reviews have been a highlight of the past few seasons, and I’m looking forward to seeing you navigate through the new books. (I’ll put in a plug for SABR’s Yankee Stadium book, which is out this week and to which I’ve contributed… :-))


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