Friday, October 30, 2009
1. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber
Fans and players alike seem to enjoy complaining about umpires, but what is being an umpire really like? They are supposed to make calls as they see them and not make an impact on the game, but what happens when their calls are wrong? What are the "magic words" that will get a manager or player thrown out of the game? From umpiring school to the minors to the majors, follow Bruce Weber as he straps on the mask and chest protector and learns first-hand what it's like to be one of the men in blue.
2. The Yankee Years by Joe Torre
Joe Torre gets writing credit, but Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated actually synthesizes the information in this narrative of Torre's time as manager of the New York Yankees. From his inauspicious hiring by owner George Steinbrenner after the 1995 season to the end of his tenure following the 2007 playoff loss to the Cleveland Indians, read about everything that went on behind the headlines. See what it was like to lead the team to four championships in five years. Learn how Torre dealt with Steinbrenner's management style and find out how the players felt when Alex Rodriquez joined the team in 2004. Read about what happened later that same year, when the Red Sox came back from the brink of elimination in the ALCS to win four in a row and get to the World Series for the first time in 86 years--at the expense of Torre's Yankees. Through the good and the bad, get inside the head of this brilliant manager.
3. Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember by John Feinstein
John Feinstein is a newspaper columnist as well as a prolific author of sports books, and in this one he follows pitchers Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina through the 2007 season. Both pitchers were near the end of their careers--Glavine chased 300 wins that year, and Mussina contemplated retirement--and they both are given plenty of opportunities to speak in their own words. Read what they have to say about what it's like dreaming about playing in the majors, being on winning as well as losing teams, changing teams, aging as a player, and having to adjust their game to stay competitive. Both pitchers are introspective and have near-encyclopedic knowledge of every game they've played, making for fascinating if slightly tedious reading. Serious students of the game, especially of pitching, will enjoy this one.
4. National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, DC by Barry Svrluga
At first glance this book may seem to appeal only to those few diehard fans of the Washington Nationals, who relocated to DC from Montreal before the 2005 season. However, any baseball fan will be interested to read about what goes on in the front office and how personnel decisions are made. Most fans will experience long stretches of losing but true fans stick with their teams no matter what, and so those true fans of any team will understand what it was like to watch the underdogs perform above expectation and bring the excitement of baseball back to a city bereft of the game for thirty years. Barry Svrluga was the Nats' beat writer for the Washington Post at the time, and he planned to write the book from the start of the season. Thus he was around from the time the team moved and set up office in trailers to the conclusion of the season, when the overachieving Nationals went 81-81. Really, it's more interesting than it sounds. Give it a shot.
5. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss
Sportswriter David Maraniss writes eloquently about this 1960s Pittsburgh Pirates star. Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American player voted into the Hall of Fame, and this book demonstrates why. Clemente was one of the best ever at his position of right fielder, he won Gold Gloves and MVP awards, and he was a perennial All-Star. Off the field he generously donated his time and money to charities in his native Puerto Rico and elsewhere in Central America. In fact, he died in a plane crash while delivering emergency aid packages to Nicaragua following an earthquake in 1972. He was and remains an inspiration.
photo courtesy of Flickr