I watched the San Francisco Giants, my local team, win the first game of the 2012 World Series last night and I was ecstatic. There are few things more compelling than the games of October: the scent of fall in the air, the roar of the crowd and the crack of the bat.
Baseball fiction is a special experience for me, as well. I have several favorite baseball books on my shelves and I wanted to share a few with you. I know there are many more, so please recommend new ones in the comments.
An Old Favorite: “It I Never Get Back” by Darryl Brock, 1989
“Sam Fowler is taking a modern-day Amtrak home to San Francisco when an unscheduled stop somewhere west of Cleveland gives him the opportunity to stretch his legs. Instead, Sam finds that time has stretched and mysteriously transported him back to 1869.”
A veritable field of dreams, this book takes us back to the Cincinnati Red Stockings and lets us see the beginnings of baseball. I loved the old world charm of the story and the vivid characters and of course, the baseball.
A Real Baseball Story: “Wait Til Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1997
“Set in the suburbs of New York in the 1950’s, this is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s touching memoir of growing up in love with her family and baseball. She recreates the postwar era, when the corner store was a place to share stories and neighborhoods were equally divided between Dodger, Giant and Yankee fans.”
For Goodwin, it was all about the Dodgers. This memoir shows use her family through the lens of baseball and does it in a compelling and touching way. She writes “I was not just Doris Helen Kearns, but a Catholic, a resident of Southard Avenue, a Dodger fan, a Rockville Centre girl. Everything was wonderfully in order. But things would soon change, and when they did, I, too, would be different.” The book also has a number of photographs that help us re-live her story.
A Modern Miracle: “Money Ball” by Michael Lewis, 2011
In 2002, Billy Beane, the A’s manager, took a decidedly different path from traditional baseball. Short on funds, he used a different view of baseball statistics to sign the best skills he could buy on a limited budget. The ragtag collection of players were not ones that any pro scout would give a strong vote for, but together, they created a winning team.
Micheal Lewis writes so compellingly about business and finance, that he can find the magic in the numbers here. Baseball statistics, an often arcane and mystical science, yields up something amazing and the rests unfold as the season progresses. I really enjoyed rooting for this team and understanding what would go on to change the game of baseball.
Most Recently read: “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach, 2011
“At Westish College, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big-league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.”
This book involves the mystique of baseball, in the form of Owen Dunne’s reverence for his ‘bible,’ “The Art of Fielding” by the fictional Aparicio Rodriguez. The philosophy that Owen finds in the book is at turns simple (“147. Throw with the legs.”) and majestic (“The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.”) The stories of the five main characters are all coming of age experiences, regardless of their ages.