Monthly Archives: October 2006

The Last Nine Innings – by Charles Euchner

Every so often, a book comes along that is really special — it contributes to the way people think about a topic, and possibly encourages them to look at something in a completely different way. The Last Nine Innings is one of those books.

Rewind to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees were looking for a fourth straight ring, while the Diamondbacks, only in their fourth year of existence, were staking their claim on the game’s greatest prize with a collection of top-notch veterans and role players. One team was going home with the hardware that night – while the other would be going home with a lot of what if’s and a long wait until the next season.

Charles Euchner takes this amazing setting and breaks down nine innings of baseball – mixing physics, storytelling, play-by-play, history, medicine and statistics to literally rip every thread out of the seams of a ballgame and examine the makings of a championship game. It analyzes the amazing amount of stress and almost torture that the human body endures playing the game. It takes you inside the impact that the Diamondbacks had on baseball in the greater Phoenix area, and how they have transformed the Valley of the Sun into one of the hotbeds of youth and amateur baseball.

Euchner takes you on the field, into the clubhouse, the front office, and the heads of some of the games biggest stars, while never taking the game over your head.

This is one book that will both engage and challenge the serious fan, while entertaining and enlightening the casual one. As a serious follower of baseball, I would love to be able to put this book into the hands of anyone who has ever or will ever watch a baseball game so that they might better understand the inner workings of what happens on and off the field — and not frivolous details such as a player’s favorite food. From the moment I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Especially during this final week of the postseason, it is a timely read that will help you appreciate just what is going on between the final two teams left.

Enjoyable? Absolutely.  Worth adding to your bookshelf? Definitely. In fact, I’d suggest adding it to a friend’s bookshelf as well – it is that good, and you’ll benefit from it as much as your friend will.

What do you think about The Last Nine Innings? Log in and share your thoughts.

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

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Perfect, Once Removed — by Phillip Hoose

It’s the winter of 1955, and 9-year old Phillip Hoose (pronounced “hose”) moves to a new town in Indiana. Discovering that baseball is the path to social acceptance, he struggles to learn the game, trying to overcome his awkwardness that was on display every time he stepped to the plate or picked up a ball.

In the midst of his frustration, his parents suggest he call up one of his dad’s cousins – who just happens to be Don Larsen, and during the next season will become the only pitcher to hurl a no-hitter in a World Series history.

Such is the story of Perfect, Once Removed, by Phillip Hoose. Upon learning of his famous relative, Hoose becomes enamored with baseball as so many children do. He reads about it, listens to it on the radio, and tries to mimic his favorite stars.

While the title would suggest the book being a chronicle of Larsen’s perfect game, it is really about a young boy falling in love with the game of baseball, and continuing to be a fan of it as his own children grow up. It’s a touching story, and while I can’t relate to being related to a pro ball player, it did make me remember the ways I came to love baseball.

But as with any book, I always ask myself if I’m really a better person for reading it, and I can’t say I’m that much better off after reading Hoose’s book. This isn’t to take away from the story or the warm feelings you may get from reading it, but it just didn’t leave an impression on me the way other books have. It’s a personal narrative that doesn’t try and make an argument or open your eyes to some overlooked pieces of history, which are the books I tend to enjoy reading more than others.

I will give Hoose a lot of credit for really telling a great story — the details of the school bully, the teacher he irritated, the principal he befriended because of his relation to Larsen — it’s all there in great detail. The book kept me engaged the whole way through — and at just 160 pages or so, you don’t have to invest a lot of time to get through it. You could easily read this in less than a week.

A good read – yes. An addition to the bookshelf? No.

What do you think? Log in and post your thoughts.

 

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Taking a week off

I’ll be back next week with a new book for you — I’m taking a week off to rest my eyes and brain after the season.

In the meantime – enjoy the playoffs and have fun reading!

Patrick

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Baseball Memoirs of a Lifetime by Ken Proctor

Being that it’s the end of the season, I wanted to bring you a book that had a retrospective feel to it – and Ken Proctor’s reflections on his 77+ years in baseball is definitely a good one.

It’s rare to find such a book written by someone who’s not a superstar but who still has been involved with the game for a long time — that is what made Ken’s book stand out to me. It’s not about one team, or one season, but about how baseball has been the common thread running through his 82 years, from playing pickup games as a kid in Southern California, to playing at UCLA, to coaching high school teams, to just being a fan.

It may seem that such a book might not be interesting to the average fan – but I think if you spend some time with it, it will rekindle memories of your own. You may not have been to the same games or watched the same players that Ken did, but reading about someone else’s memories and experiences helps strengthen your own. Even though Ken and I are more than 50 years apart in age, I could still relate to the stories he told — playing madeup baseball games in the back yard or at school, going to my first game, being disappointed by a ballplayer not keeping a promise, and so on.

If you like stories, kind of like your parents or grandparents would tell you, than I think you’ll really like Ken’s book. It really is a collection of short stories and observations – chronologically ordered for the most part. You’ll also find some great stories of friendship rooted in baseball, which Ken still maintains to this day.
Not only did I recently read Ken’s book, I got a chance to sit down and talk with him about it – and many other baseball related topics as well. He really is a wealth of information and insight, as well as opinion. Stay tuned for the audio of my interview with Ken. In the meantime, you can find his book at your local bookseller or online at Amazon.com.

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