Spring is upon us and that means baseball! My earliest baseball memory is watching Mark Fidrych beat the Yankees on a tiny black and white tv, and I have been a fan ever since. Now back in those youthful days we would buy packs of baseball cards for a quarter, scrounge for any sort of something that could be used as a ball, and make our own homemade jerseys. To keep up with baseball you had to pore over the box scores in the morning paper and watch This Week in Baseball on the weekends. You might get to watch two games on television, the Saturday Game of the Week and Monday Night Baseball (Al Michaels and Howard Cosell!)
Nowadays I can get any baseball statistics I could ever want (and many I didn’t even know existed) with a few clicks of the mouse. I can watch multiple games every week. Indeed, for a fee to the cable gods I can watch any game I want. I can read countless blogs and opinion pieces, and I can get up-to-the-minute score and news updates on my Twitter feed. I can play in a wide variety of fantasy baseball leagues and I can shop on eBay for every type of baseball memorabilia imaginable.
So which way is better? The answer is neither. Nostalgia is potent, of course, but I work in a library and I know the power of knowledge. In that vein I offer to you a variety of baseball books, movies, and even ebooks for you to consider. There is nothing quite like hearing the crack of the ball on the bat, and while you can’t play baseball in the library you can at least get something to help you get through those long, long commercial breaks.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud
This one could well have fit into my previous blog about movies based on books, as many people will remember the Robert Redford movie more than the original book. A classic piece of baseball literature, the novel tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a supremely talented baseball phenom who is shot down, literally, by a femme fatale. Fifteen years later, his legend largely forgotten, he makes a comeback. Like the heroes of mythology he must overcome a series of obstacles in order to find that moment in the sun.
The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn
Perhaps the kings of baseball nostalgia are the Brooklyn Dodgers. Beloved by their borough, they broke many hearts when the team relocated to Los Angeles. In their New York heyday they often came up short in comparisons to the mighty Yankees, until that magical 1955 season when they finally won it all. Kahn’s book uses that year as its central focus, but goes behind just being a recap of the year. Besides setting the stage, he also tells us what happened to those fabled Boys of Summer as the years progressed. I always appreciate nonfiction that reads as smoothly as fiction does, and this is one of those books.
Baseball, PBS Documentary by Ken Burns
Now if one really wants to know the history of baseball than this series, done by Ken Burns, is your answer. Originally aired on PBS in 1994, the Emmy winning series covers baseball decade by decade, and is full of wonderful interviews of not just players by of fans as well. Newer or casual fans will be enchanted by the mystique of America’s Pastime, while even grizzled veteran fans will learn new things. There is also a companion book.
Free Baseball, by Sue Corbett
Since baseball is after all a game, albeit a game that had $9,000,000,000 in revenues in 2014, I thought I would include a kids book. Felix, an eleven year old originally from Cuba, knows his father was a famous ball player there. But eager to leave their past behind them his mother won’t tell him the details. When the opportunity presents itself Felix hides on the bus of a minor league baseball team and pretends to be a batboy. Why? Because the team has a Cuban player, and Felix hopes that from him he can learn something of his father. Well written and authentic, this book is aimed for grades 4-7, but will appeal to a wider range of readers as well.
Bull Durham, directed by Ron Shelton
There are plenty of good baseball movies, but my favorite remains Bull Durham. It has a great cast, and I like how it shows the flow of baseball. One player is on the way up, another is on the way down, and the fans are always there. I guess it is best described as a dramedy, but the baseball parts are very authentic. Also, not a children’s movie.
The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
There are many great baseball biographies and memoirs out there. I chose this one because, well, the Yankees. Joe Torre managed them for 12 years, and each year they went to the playoffs and they won four World Series in that time. He managed other teams before and after that, and was also a heck of a player back in the day, but this book focuses on the era of his greatest successes, and gives you an inside look at one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. Oh, and Verducci is no slouch either, being one of todays premier baseball writers.
The Complete Book of Collectible Baseball Cards, by Robert Lemke and others
Ah, baseball cards. They no longer come with bubble gum, which is good since that low grade stuff did more harm than good. But baseball cards are still very collectible, even if the investment opportunities aren’t what they once were. Now, this book was published in 1985, so it is not much use as a current guide. It does have a big nostalgia factor, however. If you did ever collect cards back in the day it is fun to flip through and be reminded of some of those old cards. It is also fun to see their predictions about which of those 80s cards and players were going to be big.
Incidentally, I sold my collection to a friend in 1990. He turned around and traded all 12,000 of those cards to a dealer in exchange for two cards. They were two good cards.
ebooks, by lots of people
All of our libraries have plenty of baseball books, plus some baseball movies, but also keep in mind that we have baseball ebooks too, through the library’s e-iNC site. Just like with books you can search by author or title, or just do a search for baseball and see what strikes your reading fancy. If you need any help with our ebooks you can visit our help page or call any of our libraries.
Youth Baseball Drills, by Peter Caliendo
The libraries also have a wide variety of instructional materials, like this nice new one. Books on coaching, books on playing, books on softball, and books on rules and learning the game. They come in a variety of styles and age ranges, so we are sure to have something that fits your needs.
Okay then! This is just a sampling of the plethora of baseball materials you can get at the library. If you need help finding anything, or would like reading recommendations you can ask any of our helpful staff, or drop me a line in the comments below. Play ball!
All of the baseball titles mentioned in this blog can be found in our library catalog here: