During these down days away from Twins baseball -- when I'm not so sure I even want to see the Twins play baseball again -- I accidentally read a book about baseball. How do you accidentally read a book about baseball?
Well, I know of this author, John Fante, but I hadn't read 1933 Was a Bad Year, which happens to be about a high school senior (it's not a children's book at all), presumably written in the 1930s. A fun short novel about a left-armed high school boy in Colorado who believes without a doubt that he's destined for the Big Leagues, and the narrator is crafty enough to not let us know if he's honestly good or if he’s deluding himself. The book is set during is a snowy spring and not an actual baseball is thrown.
A book I really like, and have read twice, is The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. J. Henry Waugh Proprietor, by Robert Coover. All about the dark obsessive underbelly of a baseball fan. Mr. Waugh lives increasingly in a fantasy world in which he creates entire sports teams, but not only that, he creates their wives, their after-game dinners, their drinking habits, the owners who own and trade and trade them, etc. The whole nine imaginary yards. It's based on a dice game J. Henry plays, which determines the course of action – similar to Strat-o-Matic baseball. But what happens when the outcome that is necessary to keep the illusion alive is not what in the dice roll?
When I was in Junior High (full disclosure: I’m 63) I read Going, Going Gone, and then, this winter, I found it on Amazon and I reread it. It’s still pretty good, surprisingly. About a high school boy who’s a confident home run slugger who willfully ignores his defensive weaknesses. He just assumes his hitting will get him to the Bigs. He learns, after being benched by a his tough-minded coach, and support from his teammates, that defense is as important as offense.
The Kid Who Batted 1.000, written by Bob Allison, tickled me when I was a kid. (No, not that Bob Allison.) A country boy can’t hit, but he sure can take a walk ... Hey, Astudillo, you ought to read this one! ... He walks and walks and walks. He’s a miracle walker! But when push comes to shove, and a hit is needed and a walk won't do, will the kid come through? It's a children’s book, after all.
The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams. Man, I wish I’d known about this book when I was in high school! Ted was knowledgeable about the craft of beyond belief. It’s a must read for any age, 1975 or 2075. Was he not the greatest hitter of all time? Perhaps, knowing that he missed whole seasons flying fighter jets in both WWII and Korea.
The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam. About the enduring friendship between four Red Sox greats, Williams, Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and some other guy. As I recall it tells of their youthful on-the-field exploits as well as it explores their lifelong friendship as they age out of their playing days into old age. I loved this book but don't remember much about it.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud. I found the prose dull as dust, didn’t get very far into it before I put it down. Same with The Art of Fielding, published just a couple of years ago, and quite popular; I expected to like it but lost interest and laid it down to rest next to The Natural.
Like a chicken, I've just scratched the surface of possible baseball books ...
Have you read any of these books?
What did you think?
What other baseball books have you read that you would recommend or steer us away from?