Before May officially strikes, we may have more baseball books for you to consider, even as we’ve done our best to give the top 30 we came across during the month of April:
The book: “2009 Who’s Who in Baseball” (94th edition, byWho’s Who in Baseball Magazine, Co., $9.95, edited by Pete Palmer) is listed on Amazon.com. Kinda. The latest information says “Currently unavailable: We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” Because it sells out so fast? Maybe. For those of us old enough to have grown up reading this as really the only pre-Internet resource of information when it came to anything MLB related for stats, bios, etc. Rather than us trying to explain it, here’s an Amazon.com review from Steven A. Peterson of Hershey, Penn., (born in Kewanee, Ill.: “I’ve been buying — and loving — these little volumes since the 1960s (I think I still have the 1964 book somewhere in my library). To get ready for the new baseball season, this jam-packed book of facts and figures is a great resource as you prepare to watch the games of the new year unfold. The concept is simple: list players with their batting and pitching statistics back to their first entry into professional baseball. The first entry is Bobby Abreu. 241 home runs, 1084 RBIs, .300 life time batting average. First played in the big leagues in 1997 (Houston). Last entry — Joel Zumaya (batters are first and pitchers second in the book). Lifetime record is 8-8 with a 2.76 ERA. One of my favorite juxtapositions. . . On pages 170-171, we have Frank Thomas, followed immediately by Jim Thome. Fascinating comparison. Thomas: 8199 at bats, 2468 hits, 495 doubles, 521 home runs, 1704 RBIs. Thome: 7344 at bats, 2048 hits, 397 doubles, 541 home runs, 1488 RBIs. And that’s part of the fun of this book. Comparing players, trying to develop your ratings of who are the best and who remain the rest. . . . So, if you enjoy baseball statistics and want the basics of who has done what with their careers, this is a portable and useful volume. Highly recommended!” One more quick review from Donald B. Harris of Williamsburg, Va.: “(It is) an unpretentious excellent source for any baseball lover … After searching around and buying nerdy books which were laden with statistics but had no humanity, I found this one. Handy size, easy to navigate. A great resource for any serious baseball fan.”
The book: “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” by Selena Roberts (Harper Collins, 272 pages, $26.99): Set for release on May 12, but now moved up to this Monday, the “stalker” Roberts (according to A-Rod) had excerpts already used it as an explosive Sports Illustrated issue recently, and more of it came out in a New York Daily News story on Wednesday (linked here) — use of steroids as a member of the Yankees, and also as a teenager. From the book blurb on the jacket: “Rumoured to be on the verge of a personal and professional collapse so profound it would rate as one of the most dramatic falls in major league history. Through exhaustive reporting and interviews, Roberts will detail A-Rod as a plunge-in-progress, a once-in-a-generation baseball talent tortured by an internal struggle between the polished family man he wants to be and the unabashed hedonist he has become. The storyline will include his dalliances with strippers, infatuation with Madonna, details of his record-breaking $315-million contract, shady real estate empire and further evidence of steroid use, but will also tunnel deeper into his behavior. Roberts will reveal the root of Alex’s identity crisis – the night his father abandoned him – and, in so doing, answer the question: who is the real A-Rod?”
The book: “Bert Sugar’s Baseball Hall of Fame: A Living History of America’s Greatest Game” by Bert Randolph Sugar (Running Press, 272 pages, $35). Due out in June, this one arrives in time for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s 70th anniversary of its first induction class — it opened its doors on Monday, July 12, 1939. Since then it has had three major expansions, including a recent $20 million renovation. “To get a better sense of the Hall of Fame you would have to be in Cooperstown,” says Bob Costas in his endorsement quote.
The book: “The Making of a Hitter” by Jack Perconte (forward by Mike Scioscia) (Second Base Publishing, 181 pages, $19.95): You remember Perconte, right (stats linked here)? A 16th-round draft choice by the Dodgers in ’76. Made the big leagues in ’80. Hit .231 in 22 games (32 at bats over two seasons) before he was traded to Cleveland, then Seattle, then the Chiago White Sox. Actually played a full season with the Mariners in 1984 and hit .294 with 180 hits (third in the AL with 152 singles), 29 stolen bases … OK, marginal at best. So why not start a hitting academy and then publish a book that teaches kids at different levels how to tan the horsehide. Well, the Jack Perconte Sports Academy in Naperville, Ill., is now the Centerfield Sports Academy (linked here), and Perconte has this book, with a rather scruffy photo of himself on the back page and throughout the publication, with the slogan: “Remember, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect. He says in the intro: “Even though I was fortuante to have played in the major leagues for a few years it was surprising how little I really knew about the fundamentals until I began to teach … I did feel qualified to teach because at one time or another I did about everything wrong fundamentally as a hitter.” Isn’t that how it always works out? We don’t doubt Perconte’s intentions, but somehow this comes off as something Kenny Powers would do in “Eastbound & Down” for HBO. Without the cursing. Since, at the top of the cover, it says it’s by “Jack Perconte, former major leaguer.”
The book: “Sweet Spot: 125 years of Baseball and the Louisville Slugger,” by David Magee and Philip Shirley (forward by Ken Griffey Jr.) (Triumph Books, 182 pages, $27.95). At a time when bats only make news when they break and nearly injury players on the field, this anniversary celebration of the biggest lumber company for the sport is filled with archived photos that you’d only find in the Hillerich and Bradsby Co.’s library. The history covered includes Babe Ruth and his R43 model, which he notched after each homer in 1927, the first bat crafted by Bud Hillerich for pro player Pete Browning in 1884, to bats used by Dustin Pedroia and Derek Jeter today. Transcripts of personal interviews by those who used the company’s bat include Steve Garvey, Dusty Baker, Tony Gwynn, Mickey Mantle, Pee Wee Reese, Ted Williams, Robin Yount and George Brett. The “powerized’ factory and museum in Louisville, Ky., still attracts nearly a quarter million visitors a year, showing how the company started as a family business, built its tradition and faced the challenges posed by aluminum bats.
The book: “No Girls In The Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball” by Marilyn Cohen (McFarland, 228 pages, $35), which looks at how women are still striking out in the world of baseball — from umps to commentators to … players. Even as the author, a professor of sociology and urban studies at Saint Peter’s College, reminds us of when teenaged girl Jackie Mitchell once struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition. Also read a review of this on Ron Kaplan’s website (linked here)
Also be on the lookout for: “Pull Up A Chair: The Vin Scully Story” by Curt Smith (due out at the end of this month; we have mention of it linked here) as well as “Vin Scully: I Saw It On the Radio,” a tribute book compiled by Rich Wolfe (Lone Wolfe Press), where 120 people — fellow broadcasters, players, fans, and others, ranging from John Wooden, Roger Owens, Eric Karros, Jon Miller, Dick Enberg, Ralph Branca and Yogi Berra, have something to say about how Scully impacted their life. The self-published book has been spotted in Ralphs supermarkets and has its own website (www.vinscullybook.com)