The Code: Baseball’s Unwritten Rules and Ignore-at-Your-Own-Risk Code of Conduct – by Ross Bernstein

The Code by Ross Bernstein

If you’ve played baseball, you’re undoubtedly familiar with The Code…the unwritten rules about how the game is played.

But a lot of us aren’t as familiar with how the game works beyond hits, runs, and errors, and that’s what makes Ross Bernstein’s new book, The Code a worthwhile read.

Bernstein covers how the game is supposed to be played when it comes to fights, arguing with umpires, life in the clubhouse and more, providing a thorough explanation to the code of conduct that governs baseball.

The book is highlighted by lots of quotes and thoughts from current and former big leaguers about who explain how the code gets carried out on and off the field, and share insight on some famous breaches of the code that a lot of us remember from recent years – such as Robin Ventura charging Nolan Ryan after getting hit by a pitch, or Ben Davis breaking up Curt Schilling’s perfect game with a bunt.

However, an almost over-reliance on player comments could also be seen as one of the big drawbacks. The abundance of the shaded gray boxes definitely help to provide color to the context, but at the same time almost become distracting because it breaks the path that Bernstein is taking the reader down.

The book will definitely help fans understand and appreciate the hierarchies and protocols that help set the tone for what you see happen between the white lines. While baseball is played with a gameplan and certain strategies, there is a good amount that has to be improvised, and oftentimes according to the long standing code. If you’ve ever started to sense the tension on the field at a ballgame increasing, chances are it gets covered in this book.

Maybe a hitter took a little too much time admiring his home run, or a runner went into second a little harder than would normally be expected. Some things are subtle and can’t be picked up from the stands, while others are clear as day – especially if you know what to look for.

At 272 pages, it feels just a bit longer than it should be, given the topic. The code is pretty cut and dry – it could probably fit on a single sheet of paper. The explanation and how it gets carried out take up the majority of the book, along with commentary from all the players and coaches that Bernstein brings to the book. But the chapters are fairly short, and you can easily jump around and move to the topic that most interests you.

From bean balls and brawls to bunting to break up a no-hitter, it’s all covered in Ross Bernstein’s The Code, something that wouldn’t be a bad read if you’re looking for a different topic of baseball to read about. It’s not one that I would clear off the bookshelf for, but you’ll definitely have a better appreciation for the game after reading it.

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