Then peruse NRO’s Bookshelf. We asked friends and contributors of the Corner: What books on America’s pastime do you recommend for the beginning of baseball season?
EDWARD JOHN CRAIG
I’d recommend the Baseball Encyclopedia, but to suggest that to a fan is rather like observing that people ought to keep a good dictionary or a Bible in their library.
For a more readable window into the last half-century of the old ballgame, pick up Jim Kaat’s 2003 memoir, Still Pitching: Musings from the Mound and the Microphone. The former player, coach, and broadcaster (I know I’m not the only Yankee fan who misses Kitty’s sober and insightful color commentary) provides a wealth of candid, but unfailingly gracious, anecdotes about his MLB contemporaries. He also does something else that too few basebal bios do, obsessed as they usually are with settling old scores and grabbing headlines: he talks about baseball, how it’s played and how it should be played. You don’t need to be a Senators, Twins, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees, or Cardinals fan to enjoy this one.
– Edward John Craig is the managing editor of NRO.
In Pafko at the Wall: A Novella, Don DeLillo recreates “The Shot Heard Round the World” — New York Giant Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the 1951 National League pennant. DeLillo writes with the reverence of a true fan, understanding baseball is Chesterton’s democracy of the dead both on field and off.
– Mollie Ziegler Hemingway writes for GetReligion.org.
I’m actually more of a fan of baseball movies, as they move faster than the actual game — The Natural – being an eternal favorite.
But I did have the pleasure of knowing one of the premier baseball writers of all time, as our family’s agency represented Larry Ritter — just a swell guy, who when he came to NY from his house in Connecticut would always order corned beef on white with mayo at the Stage Deli to the accompany peculiar looks from the waiters.
Back in the mid 1970s our literary agency did Ball Four: The Final Pitch by Jim Bouton, a surprise bestseller, that opened the door into the real life of the club locker room.
– Keith Korman is co-author of Banquo’s Ghosts and a literary agent at Raines & Raines.
JOHN J. MILLER
Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball’s Lunatic Fringe, by Sam Walker, is a hilarious and insightful look at the strange and fascinating world of rotisserie leagues.
– John J. Miller is NR’s national political reporter.
Jim Brosnan’s The Long Season was the first of the inside baseball books — that is, it was written by a player and it took the reader inside the game and clubhouse and the mind of an athlete, in this case a slightly better than average pitcher with a skeptical temperament, a wry sense of humor, and a writer’s gift for phrasing and irony. This was not, praise the Lawd, an expose of the “dark side of sports” or any such of a thing. It was a pleasure to read when it came out in 1960 and today it makes one long for a better time.
Also, if you can find it, you really must read Richard Donovan’s multi-part profile of Satchel Paige that appeared originally in Collier’s and has been anthologized, but not widely enough.
– Geoffrey Norman is editor of vermonttiger.com.