With Christmas being less than two weeks away (Christmas is two weeks away? Excuse me I have to run to the store), I thought we could talk about our favorite baseball books of the year. I like getting books for Christmas and, of course, I like baseball books.
Here are a few that I have read or I am reading:
Power Ball by Rob Neyer
Rob writes about changes in the game of baseball in the past little while. He frames it around watching a single game, a game from September 8th, 2017, Houston Astros visiting the Oakland A’s. He uses the game as a background to discuss the changes in the game since Moneyball.
There are little bits, like back in 1969 17% of pitchers were 6’4” or over, now it is 30%. Back in 1969 15% of pitchers were listed as being shorter than 6 foot (of course there has always been a fair bit of lying) and now it is 8%.
And he writes about bigger issues, the shift, how power has be come such a bigger part of the game and how baseball writers since the dawn of time, have been telling us that baseball is dying. Who knows, maybe they are right this time.
I’m a big fan of Rob’s writing, it’s been way too long since we’ve had a book from it. But this one is worth the wait.
Now Taking the Field by Tom Stone
I like baseball books that you can randomly open to any page and read, that you don’t have to start at the beginning and read to the end. Now Taking the Field is a book like that.
The idea behind Now Taking the Field is to pick the all-time ‘dream team’ for each major league franchise. How would you put together the best team possible for each major league franchise.
reI have minor quibbles with the guys with the highest WAR in each spot, but that’s kind of minor. And I could use a little more information about each player, but the book is over 600 pages so you really don’t need it longer (but then the Blue Jays section is just 13 pages).
A funny line (after the news of last week), in the Jays section about the possibilities of current Jays one day making the list he says Troy Tulowitzki could become the backup shortstop....I don’t think so. Being fair, after Tony Fernandez, we don’t have much for SS in our history. Alex Gonzalez (the first) is his choice as backup SS.
The fun reads are the old franchises, Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox are fun to read about because they have so much history (I think it is cool that he picked Alex Rodriguez, even with all his baggage, as the top 3B in Yankees’ history).
You can order the book directly from ACTA Sports.
Sports Illustrated: The Story of Baseball in 100 Photographs
I guess the title gives it away, it’s a bunch of photographs of baseball history. They sent me a review copy.
Again, I like baseball books you can open to any page (though this one is a little to big to take to the washroom). I just opened it at random and got a picture of Ralph Branca sitting on the clubhouse steps right after he gave up Bobby Thompson’s ‘Shot Heard Around the World’. In little write up about the picture they tell the story of Branca asking a priest after why this happened to him and the priest answered ‘because Branca had the strength to handle it.’
Another page there is a great picture of manager Ralph Houk kicking dirt on an umpire. Another page has a picture of Carlton Fisk waving his World Series home run fair. And, of course, you can find pictures of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Roberto Clemente and many of the all-time greats. It is one of those coffee table books that can sit out forever.
You can get the book from Indigo.
Blue Jays Art Colouring Book by Chris Ripley
I just got this in the mail yesterday. I really like Chris Ripley’s art. I have several of his prints (and a couple of his originals) up around the house. If you haven’t seen his work, here is his website (you can order this book there).
It is a lovely book. You can colour in Jose Bautista’s bat flip, Roberto Alomar’s arms up after his playoff home run, the giant Canadian flag for Canada Day and even John Gibbons (a coloring book version of a piece that I own the original).
If you have any Blue Jays fans who like adult colouring books, this would be a great present. I’m not sure I want to mess it up with my colouring, but we are going on a holiday after Christmas, and I think I’ll bring it along.
I reviewed Baseball Cop back here. If you are looking for a book that confirms all your worst fears about the corporate side of baseball, that’s the book for you.
In the world of non-baseball books, some of my favorites from the last year:
Trevor Noah: Born a Crime.
He tells the story of growing up in South Africa. It is terrific.
Dave Bidini: Midnight Light
Dave tells stories of visits to northern Canada. It makes me want to go up there some day.
Reed Tucker: Slugfest
Tells the story of the 50-year battle between DC and Marvel comics. I guess you have to be a comic book fan to like it, but I really enjoyed it.
Tom Wilson: Beautiful Scars
Singer Tom Wilson tells the story of finding out, in his 50s, that he was adopted and that, his heritage is Mohawk. He tells the story well, with humor and heart.
Derf Backcerf: My Friend Dahmer
A graphic novel writing and draw by someone who knew serial killer Jeffery Dahmer when he was in high school. We all knew people in high school who were.....different. This is the story of one of those types. Of course, this one grew up to kill 17 people.
Anyway, share with us the baseball books (and other books if you like) that you would suggest for Christmas presents.