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Thread: Opening Day

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Opening Day

    For our non-American friends, "opening day" can refer to the commencement of either the fishing or the baseball season. The latter occurred this Sunday, presaging the Spring.

    Baseball is no longer our "National Pastime". Modern Americans prefer less leisurely, more gladiatorial contests, like gridiron football. Nonetheless, baseball has produced the best literature of any major sport (at least in America -- if soccer or cricket can compete, let me know). Here are some of my choices for great baseball literature:

    1) The Glory of Their Times -- Lawrence Ritter. An oral history recounting stories of baseball players from 1900-1930. Often imitated, never equaled.

    2) Historical Baseball Abstract -- Bill James. James started the fad of applying mathematical theory to sports, and his Historical Abstract is a good example of his prowess. However, he's also a oood writer, and his anecdotes about the players he ranks are better than his stats.

    3) Ball Four -- Jim Bouton. It's hard to believe that the book caused such a stir by revealing that Micky Mantle ran around on hotel rooftops "beaver shooting", but it did. The book is funny, and a good personal memoir of a pitcher trying to master the enigmatic knuckleball.

    4) Boys of Summer -- Roger Kahn. A tribute to baseball and Brooklyn, which now hosts a basketball team.

    5) The Macmillan Baseball encyclopedia -- Before the internet, this was where we got our stats, and pouring through its pages is far more fun than surfing the net. Who hit the most homers, or won the most games over a 5 year stretch? Find out here.

    Fiction:

    You could look it Up -- James Thurber. A midget pinch hits in order to coax a walk out of the pitcher. The story came to life when Branch Ricky inserted tiny Eddie Godel into his lineup.

    Alibi Ike or You Know Me, Al by Ring Lardner. Classic American dialect humor. Must reading for any baseball fan.

    The Great American Novel -- Philip Roth. The Rupert Mundys may be the greatest Major League ball team ever. (Roth did steal some of his funniest bits from The Glory of Their Times).

    The Natural -- Bernard Malamud. Considerably better than the movie.

    Northanger Abbey -- Jane Austen. One of the first literary mentions of baseball, a game which the youthful Catherine Morland preferred to more feminine pursuits.

    Poetry: Casey at the Bat, and, of course Franklin Adams' tribute to Tinker, Evers, and Chance. For non-Americans, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance were the shortstop, second baseman and first baseman for the Chicago Cubs the last time they won the World Series, in 1908. Franklin Adams of the New York Daily Mail (the New York Giants were the Cubs great rival) wrote:


    Baseball's Sad Lexicon

    These are the saddest of possible words:
    "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
    Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
    Tinker and Evers and Chance.
    Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
    Making a Giant hit into a double–
    Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
    "Tinker to Evers to Chance."

    "Double" refers to "double play". Those were the days, when journalists wrote poetry. The 1906-1910 Cubs still have the best 5 year record in the history of Major League baseball, and, on this opening day, the Cubs are the betting favorite to win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Spring fever.

  2. #2
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    Always love collections of stories and recollections of former players, managers, etc.

    Only one that comes to mind at the moment is Catcher in the Wry by Bob Uecker, but there are any number that are enjoyable.

    Go Brew Crew!

  3. #3
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    oh my ecurb! we have to add Kinsella's "shoeless joe" to the list---the book that inspired field of dreams. great book, great movie.

    plus Michael shaara's "for love of the game."

    ive read bunches of baseball biographies, team histories and period pieces. if anyone's looking for recommendations, please hit me up.

    and oh, everyone who played baseball as a kid, please please please watch the movie "the sandlot!"

    and if you like casey at the bat, you might enjoy knowing there's a smattering of people who weren't satisfied with the ending, so there's been some re-writes that make for good reading.

    I can add this too---one of the more romantic treatments of a sport I ever read was "soccer in sun and shadow" by Eduardo galeano. I don't like soccer much at all, but I loved the book.
    Last edited by bounty; 04-11-2016 at 10:13 AM.

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