Monday, February 22, 2010

Yankees vs Red Sox

One Day at Fenway, A Day in the Life of Baseball in America by Steve Kettman; 2004; 306  pages; Atria Books, New York; 0-7434-8365-0; Checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 2/18-2/22 One of the greatest rivalry’s in all of baseball and maybe in sports is that between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.  Saturday,  August 23, 2003 the teams are playing at Fenway.  Steve Kettman and a team of writers travel with some of the important members of the teams and interview others.  John Henry, Theo Epstein, Spike Lee, Peter Farelly, Senator George Mitchell are some of the more well known characters, but there are other regular fans also.  Kettman puts the game in context to start off and then we start traveling to the game with the various fans, staff, umpires and players, who we follow as they prepare for the game.  Once the game starts there is an inning by inning breakdown of the game and the action surrounding the field.  This is an excellent book that will be of particular interest to Yankee and Sox fans, but any baseball fan would do well to read this.  The insight into the front office staff, the managers and players is worth the price, but the fans and less known workers (the guy in the scoreboard, the head of the grounds crew) really make it a must read.  Grade-A

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Universal Billboard

Ball Cap Nation, A Journey Through the World of America’s National Hat by James Lillifores; 2009; 218 pages; Clerisy Press, Cincinnati, OH; 978-1-57860-340-4; 2/9-2/10; checked out from Multnomah County Library,Central
If clothes say who we are, the clothes that really say who we are are our t-shirts and ball caps.  With them we become billboards for sports teams, causes, beliefs, companies and multitudes of other things.  The author does a good job of tracing the evolution of the ball cap, from simply a piece of the equipment for a baseball player to being a piece of almost everyone’s wardrobe.  We find out how a cap is made, what the proper etiquette for wearing them, about some of the biggest collectors (90,000) and much more.  An entertaining and well researched look at the baseball cap.  Grade-A

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not just any day at the Ballpark

POW Baseball in World War II, The National Pastime behind Barbed Wire by Tim Wolter; 2002; 228 pages; McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 078641186-4; 1/28-1/30; Recommended by my Dad, Interlibrary loan from Phoenix Public Library.

What do Mickey Grasso, Augie Donatelli, Phil Marchildon and Bert Shepherd have in common?

They all appeared in major league games, three as players and one as an umpire.  They also were all POWs' during World War II as prisoners of the German Army. 

Tim Wolter takes a look at how baseball was played in Prison Camps during the war.  In Germany there were a lot of leagues and teams, some even receiving uniforms from the Red Cross and YMCA.  Some of the teams were extensive requiring double and triple headers to be played.  Prisoners in the European theatre had a better chance of playing baseball and surviving than there counterparts in the Pacific.  There seems to have been very little in the way of organized recreation in the Japanese camps.  The majority of the book concentrates on Europe, then Japan and then  the various places the Japanese held prisoners around the Pacific.  There is even a chapter on POWs' that the Americans held and tried to teach baseball. 
The book tries to take on too much and be globally comprehensive.  The section on baseball in Germany is very good as are the biographies of Grasso, et al.  The rest really doesn't contribute to the book, but was research the author had done, so it seemingly had to be included.  Grade C

Two different cultures

You Gotta Have Wa*, When Two Cultures Collide on the Baseball Diamond, *From the Japanese, meaning team spirit, unity, the ball club always comes first by Robert Whiting; 1989; 339 pages; Macmillian and Company, New York, NY; 0-02-627-661-5

In the days before Ichiro joined the major leagues the movement of baseball players was only one way.  Several American Major League players traveled to Japan to play baseball.  What they found was a game with the same basic rules but somehow completely different. They encountered practices that would put our military boot camps to shame in their intensity.  They encountered managers who spoke in the voice of God, owners who meddled more than George Steinbrenner thought about and umpires who had multiple strike zones (oh wait that’s the same).  Ties were commonplace, one did not charge a pitcher or argue with the umpires.  The game of baseball in Japan was completely different than in the USA, many of the players lasted a season or less.  Those that lasted longer, often were neglected and dishonored when they did extremely well.  Robert Whiting, who lives in Japan, gives an even handed account of what it was like for the gaijin in Japan.  He has since written a book about Ichiro and others coming to the USA which I am looking forward to reading. 

A Womens Place is at Home, right after she rounds third

Stolen Bases, Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball by Jennifer Ring; 2009; 200 pages; University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, IL; 978-0-252-03282-0; 9/17-9/23
Did you know there was a World Cup of Baseball in 2008 and Japan won it.  It started in 2004 and was won by the United States in 2004 and 2006.  The MVP in 2004 was Laura Brenneman of the USA and in 2006 it was Donna Mills of the USA and last year it was Kasumi Noguchi of Japan.  That’s right it’s women’s baseball.
Jennifer Ring has presented a conclusive case of how the game of baseball has been stolen from women twice.  Once when the game grew from rounders and girls were no longer allowed to play and again when softball became a ‘women’s’ game.  She provides ample evidence of how men have tried to make manliness the essence and have sissified softball.  However there are women making inroads.  She takes what could have been a very dry treatise on the subject and made it accesible and thoughtful.  I wonder who will be the first women to play professionally in the American Major Leagues and when it will be.  If you want more information on Womens’ baseball check out the American Women’s Baseball Federations site.  When a women makes it to the major leagues I hope all baseball fans will be there cheering her on.  I would like to see everyone who wants to play baseball be able to.  Jennifer Ring has opened my eyes.

Legging out a Single

Sermon on the Mound, Finding God at the Heart of the Game by Michael O’Connor; 2001; 180 pages; Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN; 0-7642-2395-X; 8/23-8/25 I first read this back in 2001 and had decided that I wanted to reread it.  Well when I picked it up this time I wasn’t quite as impressed.  When I first read it I would have said that the author hit a home run, but this time he just barely legged out a single. It is a spiritual autobiography and a big part of O’Connors life is baseball.  He came to a spiritual epiphany as the ball skipped through Billy Buckners legs in the 1986 World Series.  He uses baseball illustrations to illustrate spiritual truths and has quite a way of turning a phrase.

Images of Baseball

Baseball in Fort Wayne by Chad Gramling; 2007; 127 pages; Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC; 0-7385-4129-X; 6/27/09-6/28/09

This is one of a series called Images of Baseball, I reviewed a while back, Baseball in Portland. Chad Gramling who also writes the Baseball in Fort Wayne blog does an awesome job of chronicling baseball in Fort Wayne, IN in all it’s different forms.  The Kekiongas were the first team, so named for the Natives Americans that used to live in the area.  He effectively uses pictures taken over time to work with the text to chronicle the changes in baseball in Fort Wayne.  There seems to have always been baseball in some form in Fort Wayne since prior to the Civil War.  One of the most well known teams in Fort Wayne were the Daisies of the All American Girls Baseball League, which was immortalized in the movie A League of their Own.  I started following baseball in Fort Wayne when the Wizards became a farm club of the Padres, they have since changed their name to the Tincaps, but are still a Padres farm club, so it is a good place to find information on the Padres up and comers.