The book: “The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia: Baseball Stuff You Never Needed to Know and Can Certainly Life Without”
The author: Robert Schnakenberg
The vital stats: Triumph Books, 277 pages, $14.95
The pitch: The stuff here is on a need-to-know basis, so don’t let the cover fool you.
There’s always a place on the shelf for a book celebrating the egregiousness of baseball by Schnakenberg, a SABR member who appears in photo on the back page with a silly grin on his face and a T-shirt that reads “Khaaaaaan!”
Where else do Billy Bean (the former Dodger outfielder who came out after he retired), Billy Beane (the A’s GM linked to “Moneyball”) and Beanie Babies (a popular promotion at ballparks in the mid ’90s after the strike) share facing pages?
A few entries, just to whet the palate:
== “Berman, Chris”: Burly ESPN personality whose shtick-laden play-by-play has earned him the ire of many baseball purists. … Berman only occasionally broadcasts baseball games, but when he does he grates on the nerves of traditionlists with his promiscuous use of hacky, punny nicknames …
== A list of five must-have CDs for your MLB collection, led by “Denny McLain at the Organ,” “Just a Thought” by Stickfigure, the debut album from Jack McDowell, “Covering the Bases” by Bronson Arroyo, “Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old” by Peter Gammons and “Tim McCarver Sings Selections from The Great America Songbook.”
== “Sterling, John”: Stage name used by Harold Moskowitz, bombastic New York Yankees radio play-by-play man whose contrived calls irritate purists.
== “Owens, Roger”: Legendary Dodgers (sic) Stadium peanut vendor …
== “Olbermann, Marie”: Late mother of onetime ESPN SportsCenter anchor turned MSNBC gasbag Keith Olbermann, who briefly became a minor celebrity afte she was struck in the head by a ball thrown by New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch during a game at Yankee Stadium on June 17, 2000 …
An entry on “Koufax, Sandy” is more about his appearences on “Mr. Ed” and being a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme rather than his achievements on the mound; an entry on “LaCock, Pete” mentions that, along with Dick Pole and Rusty Kuntz, has “the smuttiest-sounding name in baseball history.”
Ya know, stuff like that …. Gotta be documented somewhere. We’re glad iit’s here and we’re here to validate it.
Keep it near the water closet and you’ll finish it cover to cover after about a dozen trips — then re-read it again.
How it goes down in the scorebook: Is Rollie Fingers leering at Alyssa Milano on the cover? We hope that was intentional.
Also: As long as we’re on this kind of genre, also find “Red Sox Fans Are From Mars, Yankees Fans Are From Uranus,” by Andy Wasif (Triumph Books, 206 pages, $14.95, linked here), who has churned a few other books of this nature (linked here).