Day 17: 30 days of baseball books in April, 2014 — OK, kids, they call this a ‘page turner’

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  • The book: “How to Speak Baseball: An Illustrated Guide to Ballpark Banter”
  • The author: By James Charlton and Sally Cook, illustrations by Ross MacDonald
  • Vital stats: Chronicle Books, 127 pages, $14.95
  • Find it: At ChroncleBooks.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at Amazon.com

    howtospeakbaseball
  • The pitch: So there was Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt talking the other day on a Philadelphia radio station about ways to speed up the game:
    “I think the umpire at home plate should not call balls and strikes. I think they should have a force field over home plate and if the pitcher throws and the ball touches the force field a little bell goes off and it’s a strike. That would expand the strike zone to the point where the hitters would now have to swing the ball, which would shorten the game. … You’d think it would be something very easy to do with what they can do electronically in our world today.”
    In our world as we know it today, “force field” is not a baseball term. Those things that Schmidt talks about may be forcing the issue.
    HowtoSpeakBaseball_eCards3Not that we’re too much of a traditionalist to consider it. But before the language of the game gets all wishy-washy — and don’t think a whole new set of phrases will come about with the new video review challenges — track down this book, give it to a young fan, and have a laugh over all the different words used to describe baseball through the years that you’d think have gone out of style, but they really have not been forced out of the lexicon of those who hold the language dear.
    Chronicle Books, which has specialized in this kind of retro-classic look books, makes the artwork of MacDonald as the star, with the phrases as the launching point in a discussion about why certain plays and things got their names, and why we may think they’re just too corny to keep referring to them.
    What’s a Ribbie? Of course, “a run batted in, or RBI. If you are trying to say, ‘RBI,’ it sounds like ‘ribbie.’”
    Explain that sometime to Yasiel Puig.
    If this eventually leads to tracking down the Dickson Baseball Dictionary for a clarification, all the better.
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