Day 6: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — Dodgers, Giants and a rivalry story that just needs to be revisited again … but why?

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  • The book:The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption”
  • The author: John Rosengren
  • Vital stats: Lyons Press, 288 pages, $25.95
  • Find it: At Lyons Press, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com, and at the author’s site for the book, fightoftheirlives.net
  • The pitch: We are going here again … because?
    Honestly, it’s road we’ve sprinted across every which way many times in the past, this Marichal-Roseboro thing. We saw the one-man play “Juan & John” by Roger Guenveur Smith in 2011, months before Marichal came out with his own  autiobiography. We’ve also read Roseboro’s account in his own 1978 book.
    But Rosengren, who did his own version of the Hank Greenberg story a year ago at a time when a recent documentary and bio about the Tigers Hall of Famer had also been well circulated, had his reasons for wanting to revisit Marichal-Roseboro nearly 50 years later.
    The incident from a Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick Park that was televised back to L.A. on KTTV-Channel 11.has turned into a story of forgiveness, on many levels, and a friendship that ensued. There is redeeming value in telling it again, as long as there is fresh information.
    We’re not finding it all that much here.
    “There’s not a specific news hook for the book now,” Rosengren told us recently. “When I set out to write it several years ago, it was simply a story I found significant and worth telling. Seems to me a story about forgiveness and redemption is always timely.
    “It is like the Greenberg book — this story has been told by others, including Marichal and Roseboro, but never, I felt, in its entirety, which includes the cultural background, the context of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry and the aftermath, from the way it haunted both men to its conclusion of the two reconciling.”
    Rosengren adds that while he never saw the “Juan & John” play, he “spoke to (Smith) several times during the course of my research. He was helpful. I do tell the story in my book that he tells in the play of him being a 10-year-old Dodger fan at the time of the fight and burning Juan Marichal’s baseball card in retaliation.”
    Something we had been much up to speed on prior to this was the account of the first Marichal-Roseboro matchup afterward. Because of Marichal’s suspension, he did not face Roseboro again in the 1965 season. In spring training of ’66 in Phoenix, Roseboro hit a 2-2 pitch into right field for a base hit. No incident to report — except the ball kicked over the head of Jesus Alou and Roseboro used his catcher legs to go around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
    “A small drink of revenge,” wrote Rosengren, “but not enough to quench his thirst.”
    In their first regular-season meeting of 1966, a month later, Roseboro faced Marichal in the second inning with one on and one out in Candlestick Park.
    “The threat of danger did not permeate the atmosphere that Tuesday evening the way it had in Phoenix, but the animosity was present,” Rosengren wrote.
    Roseboro struck out.
    For those who haven’t read or seen much about this, it’s another entry point. For those who have been through this before …
  • More to know:
    = A Q-and-A with Rosengren from L.A.-based David Davis in theclassical.org. Davis will moderate a panel discussion including Rosengren at the L.A. Times Festival of Books called “One for the History Books: Pivotal L.A. Sports Stories” on Sunday, April 13 at 12:30 p.m. in USC’s Andrus Gerontology Center. On Saturday, April 12, the Baseball Reliquary will host a discussion about the book at the Arcadia Public Library at 2 p.m.
    = A review by MLB.com’s Mike Bauman: “This is an important book, not only because it takes an informed and sensitive look at one of baseball’s most infamous incidents. The story it tells offers the evidence of real human redemption, even in the most difficult circumstances. Out of ugliness, in this case, grows hope.”
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