Those who tried but didn’t quite squeeze themselves into the 30 baseball books in 30 days of April ’11 list, some for reasons beyond our control:
== “Before the Machine: The Story of the 1961 Pennant-Winning Reds” by Mark J. Schmetzer (Clerisy Press Publisher, 256 pages, $15.95, available at the publisher’s site (linked here): “The Cincinnati team is one of the freaks of nature,” says Dodgers vice president Fresco Thompson late in the 1961 season. “They are leading the league with a club consisting mostly of castoffs and nondescripts. This whole Cincy team defies form, but you have to give the guys credit. They have banded together, many in a last-ditch stand, and they are trying to show their former employers that unloading them was a mistake.” Schmetzer, a Cincinnati native who wrote for a team fan newspaper starting in the 1980s, goes back to the 50th anniversary of the team (pre-Pete Rose) and tries to make it come alive again. Whether he succeeds much or not depends on if you’re a die-hard Reds fan. Dodgers fans will only want to look back on this to try to figure out what went wrong. On Aug. 13, the Dodgers, two years removed from a World Series title, led the Reds by 2 1/2 games. On Aug. 15, during the Reds’ 5-2 win over the Dodgers at the Coliseum, Frank Robinson snared an apparent single to right field by Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax and proceeded to throw him out at first base instead. “If someone did that to me, I would want to sit down and cry,” said Cincinnati shortstop Eddie Kasko. The next day, the Reds swept a Wednesday doubleheader against the Dodgers, 6-0 and 8-0, before some 72,140 fans, leaping past the Dodgers and into first. For good. It is also revealed that Dodgers coach Leo Durocher had been jeering at Robinson during the series, trying to get under his skin. It only got Robinson mad, and he retaliated with his bat and arm. The Reds would sweep a Sunday doubleheader against the Dodgers a couple weeks later in Cincinnati, beating Don Drysdale in the second game. Reds third baseman George Freese would end up hitting nine homers against the Dodgers in ’61.
== “21: The Story of Roberto Clemente” by Wilfred Santiago (Fantagraphics Books, 200 pages, $22.99, available on Amazon.com), a graphic novel by an illustrator and writer from Puerto Rico, received a nice write up in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated (linked here), which included: “Santiago’s book owes a strong narrative debt to David Maraniss’s 2006 biography of Clemente, but it is driven by Santiago’s skill as a visual storyteller. His figures are drawn in a cartoon style, but mixed with clippings from newspapers and magazines they convey a hyperrealism that highlights the relationship between Clemente and the world around him. “You don’t have to make something realistic to make it feel real,” says Santiago. … Clemente proves to be an ideal subject for a graphic novel — a famously stylish player who attacked the game with controlled violence; a great fielder, famous for his laser throws; and a bad-ball hitter who stroked wicked line drives. … Santiago captures Clemente’s relentless vitality as a player, frames the story around the historical and religious traditions of Puerto Rico, and handles Clemente’s tragic death with restraint, all with a gimlet eye and the sensitivity of a true artist. It is a classic story given new life in this fresh, innovative telling.” If we could only have found it at the book store. Sports shelves? Graphic novels? You give it a shot.