Thursday, October 29, 2009

World Series Reading

Did you catch game one of the World Series last night? Baseball fever is in the air! For non-sports types like me, it can always seem a little alienating to turn on the news and hear all the hype for the current big sports event. Instead of crying into my morning coffee though, this baseball season I'm trying to embrace the hype in a way I can appreciate: a little baseball reading.

The shelves at the library are filled with wonderful, interesting looking baseball history titles. A recent one is called Change Up: an oral history of 8 key events that shaped baseball. As the title suggests it examines specific changes over the sport's last decades. Booklist magazine said that "Serious fans of the game will find this one of the most eye-opening and fascinating baseball books of the year."

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning : 1977, baseball, politics, and the battle for the soul of a city by Jonathan Mahler is a great example of how the American love of baseball can be seen in the context of wider history. It focuses on the a troubled year in New York City history, drawing parallels between the struggles of the city and its Yankee's team. The book was a New York Times notable selection and was made into a TV movie by ESPN.

Someone I was surprised to discover has authored a baseball book is American actress Alyssa Milano. A long time baseball fan, her recently released Safe At Home: confessions of a baseball fanatic is actually a book that fans and non-fans (of Milano and baseball come to think of it) could enjoy. Described as a memoir of Milano's passion for the game, the publisher says the book gives "a fan's perspective on the heart-ache, headache, and joy that make every baseball season worth following. From arguing about the importance of baseball history to appreciating the quiet months of the off-season to criticizing Major League Baseball's response to the steroid scandal..."

Milano is a Dodger's fan and probably not too excited about this year's World Series lineup. American novelist Jane Heller, however, is a Yankee's fan through and
through. Although more well known for her humourous fiction titles like An Ex to Grind and Best Enemies, Heller has also recently penned a memoir called Confessions of a She-Fan: the course of true love with the New York Yankees.

A little older than those titles is Roger Kahn's 1972 The Boys of Summer, which follows his love of baseball, and his years covering the Brooklyn Dodgers as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Considered a classic of baseball writing, it was recently re-released by Harper Perennial Classics.

I'll finish off with a book I've flipped through a bunch of times over the last few years, because it takes a look at something that's always fascinated and frustrated me about modern sports - the endless supply of stats that are thrown at you when you watch a sports event. Curve Ball: baseball, statistics, and the role of chance in the game is written by scientists, mathematicians and Phillies fans Jim Albert and Jay Bennett - I'm sure the authors will be watching the upcoming games and jotting down a few numbers.

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