Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Baseball Field Guide by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger

It’s been said that to understand baseball, you have to understand its rules. But how many of us want to read the official rules of baseball? That’s where the Baseball Field Guide by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger comes in.

It adds illustration and explanation to the rules of baseball – and will definitely add to your knowledge of the rules. For instance – do you know the sixteen ways a batter can be called out? The book explains each one of them in simple language. It even gives you a concise definition of the ever popular and frustrating balk.

From casual fan to professional spectator, the Baseball Field Guide will definitely enhance your appreciation and understanding of the game.

With the baseball book review, I’m Pat Lagreid.

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Stepping Up: The Story of Curt Flood and the Fight for Baseball Players’ Rights by Alex Belth

Every off season we talk about free agents on the market – but the idea of a free agent has always been a part of baseball. Prior to 1975, players were subject to the reserve clause, effectively ensuring that they were the property of the team they played for, and giving them little bargaining power in negotiating their contracts.

The change in this system is chronicled in Alex Belth’s new book – “Stepping Up: The Story of Curt Flood and the fight for baseball player’s rights.”

You may have heard of Curt Flood, and for good reason. When he refused to accept a trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies in 1969, it set off controversy in baseball about how players’ contracts were setup.

This book will definitely appeal to those fans who are interested in the historical and business side of the game. Belth integrates the political unrest in the US in the late 60s and early 70s as well as Flood’s own struggles on and off the field to paint the picture of this change in baseball. It borders on a Flood biography, but don’t expect it to be that – while Flood is the main character, the story line is about the change in baseball’s labor terms.

With the baseball book review, I’m Pat Lagreid.

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The Knucklebook by Dave Clark

When I was a kid, my uncle Ted used and I used to play catch, and every once in a while he’d slip in a knuckleball. Dancing through the air, it both fascinated me and made me laugh at how it moved unlike any other pitch.

Author Dave Clark shares my love and fascination for the knuckler, with his new work The Knucklebook.

It’s basically everything you’d want to know about the knuckleball – its history, how to throw it, how to hit it, how to defend it, and how to coach both for and against it. All this is just over 120 pages.

If you’ve ever thrown or caught a knuckleball – and share in the fascination of this unique pitch, I think you’ll enjoy this book. It elaborates on it in several ways, without being long winded, and shows some aspects of the knuckler that you might not know of.

If you want to learn more about the knuckleball, check out Dave Clark’s website dedicated to the spinless pitch at http://www.knuckleballhq.com, or his book at http://www.knucklebook.com.

With the Baseball Book Review, I’m Pat Lagreid.

 

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Baseball & Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter’s Box

My Uncle Ted recently turned me on to a book that I know you’ll either love or hate by just reading the first chapter – it’s called Baseball & Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter’s Box. It’s a collection of 24 short essays written about the philosophical side of baseball – from the warrior ways of Japanese baseball, to a philosophical analysis of teamwork, being an umpire, and the devotion of fans.

 

The first chapter looks at the philosophical nature of home plate – each batter starts at home, and is only rewarded with a run after making it through the obstacles that await him – the pitcher, the defense, and the reliance on help from his teammates. The passage also talks about the importance of home for fans – gathering places where people can come together through a common bond of baseball and discuss what was, what is, and what might be.

 

If that first chapter doesn’t light a fire for you, don’t bother reading the rest of the book. But if it does, and you like looking at the deeper meanings of baseball, I think Baseball & Philosophy will be a great addition to your library. You definitely don’t need a philosophy degree to appreciate the discussions in the book – just an open mind.

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You Never Forget Your First by Josh Lewin

With September upon us, we’ll see several new faces in each of the dugouts of the major league clubs, and among those new faces, several will be part of a big league ball game for the very first time – certainly a memorable moment in any ballplayer’s life.

Josh Lewin has compiled the memories of some of baseball’s biggest names for his latest book – You Never Forget Your First. In it, you’ll read how the first day in the show came about for Roger Clemens, Albert Pujols – even Edgar Martinez.

When I first got into the book – I thought it would be full of stories that would tug at the heart strings – a collection of emotions from relief and vindication, to eager anticipation and nervousness, even to sadness because a parent or spouse couldn’t be at the first game.

And while there is that in the book, it gets condensed fairly tightly. Each of the 120 players profiled only gets 2-3 pages each, half of which is a short bio on him, and a reprint of the box score from the game, leaving less than a half page for the player to tell his story. I can only imagine some of the details that got left out.

Nevertheless, it’s still a fun book to read – simply because the stories can differ so much, and it gives you a little more insight into your favorite ball players.

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The Baseball Uncyclopedia – by Michael Kun and Howard Blum

Whenever my buddy Neal and I go to a ball game, we always end up having these hilarious conversations about baseball – which turn into hilarious conversations about other things. It’s the same way that Michael Kun and Howard Bloom came up with the idea to write The Baseball Uncyclopedia.

Two guys on opposite sides of the country with a mutual love of baseball, e-mailing questions and observations back and forth – most of them with a humorous twist – until they had talked about enough things to write a book. Like what Moises Alou of the SF Giants does to keep his hands soft, or why a walk isn’t as good as a hit. Or what the best ballpark in baseball is.

This has quickly become one of my favorite books. You’ll easily pick up on the humor that these two guys share, and at the same time learn some baseball history. You might also be challenged to think about some things you thought were a certain way, when in reality they’re not necessarily what you thought they were.

The Baseball Uncyclopedia is highly recommended. I can’t imagine reading it and being disappointed. It’s an easy book to read without being overly simple and it makes you both think and laugh.

With the Baseball Book Review, I’m Pat Lagreid.

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Bury My Heart at Cooperstown by Frank Russo and Gene Racz

One of the main reasons I love baseball – and reading about baseball – so much, is that there are so many things to write about. The history, the stories, the stats – it’s all there to spend some ink on.

And just when I thought I’d pretty much seen it all as far as topics, along comes Frank Russo and Gene Racz with their new book, Bury My Heart At Cooperstown. What makes this book so special? It’s dedicated to the deaths of ball players. That’s right – it’s about how ball players have died.

Ken Hubbs? Crashed his plane in a blizzard in Utah two weeks after he got his pilot’s license. Fred Holmes? Died in a fight in a mental hospital. George Stirnweiss? Drowned in a train after the motorman had a heart attack and the train plunged off an open lift bridge.

This is by far the weirdest baseball book I’ve read, and while I won’t say it’s required reading for a baseball fan – it’s an angle I’ve never seen covered. You might recognize a lot of the names in the book – which was the biggest obstacle that kept me from really getting engaged with it.

With the Baseball Book Review, I’m Pat Lagreid.

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