EXTRA INNINGS: Additions to LJ‘s ANNUAL BASEBALL ROUNDUP
Baseball’s Best Short Stories, Expanded Edition. Chicago Review, dist. by IPG. Apr. 2012. c.448p. ed. by Paul D. Staudohar. ISBN 9781613743768. pap. $18.95. SPORTS
This expanded edition of a collection first released in 1995 adds eight stories to the original 26. From Casey at the Bat (granted, not a short story, but as necessary to any compilation of the literature of baseball as the national anthem is to a game) to Alibi Ike to the infamous Sports Illustrated April Fool’s hoax, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, all the seminal pieces are here. Likewise, writers well known in the world of sports and beyond‚ Ring Lardner, George Plimpton, Zane Grey, Damon Runyon, Robert Penn Warren, and poet Richard Wilbur, to name a few‚ are represented. Baseball might or might not retain its status as our national pastime, but as shown by the presence of works by more contemporary authors such as Michael Chabon, T.C. Boyle, Tobias Wolff, and Garrison Keillor, it still continues to act as a muse and metaphor for life for our writing elite.
Verdict Baseball fans and those who appreciate its cultural impact will welcome this. Highly recommended.‚ Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL
Hayhurst, Dirk. Out of My League: A Rookie’s Survival in the Bigs. Citadel: Kensington. Mar. 2012. c.406p. ISBN 9780806534855. $24.95. SPORTS
Hayhurst writes an engaging tale not to be confused with George Plimpton’s 1961 book of the same title about Plimpton’s attempt as an amateur to pitch against the MLB All Stars. Hayhurst’s story is authentic baseball: picture a smart young college student from Kent State University trying to live out a baseball dream. He bounces around the minors for years before his call to glory with the San Diego Padres in 2008. His big league time is short-lived, however, but he learns many lessons‚ especially about the importance of family‚ along the way. In short, this is a humorous, heartfelt, but gritty tale of the nomadic baseball life. It’s a sequel to the author’s best-selling The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran. Hayhurst has contributed pieces to www.baseballamerica.com, and his literary skill carries the tale here.
Verdict Pat Jordan’s memoir, A Flase Spring (1975), republished in 2005, sets the standard for baseball books about aspiring rookies who ultimately fail to make the grade. Hayhurst’s new book measures up very well against it. Recommended to all baseball fans.‚ Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Lamb, Chris. Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign To Desegregate Baseball. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2012. c.408p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780803210769. $39.95. SPORTS
The story of Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color line in Major League Baseball is well known, but few realize that African Americans played in the major leagues before Robinson‚ he was the first in the 20th century‚ and that the campaign once again to integrate the nation’s pastime racially had gone on for decades prior to Robinson’s 1947 debut as a Brooklyn Dodger. Lamb (media studies, Coll. of Charleston; Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training) fills in the blanks in the standard historical account. The book’s real value is Lamb’s research into how the press played a major role in maintaining the status quo by not challenging baseball’s color line. The mainstream press largely ignored Negro League baseball and perpetuated the lie that black players would be warmly accepted into the majors if they only had the talent to compete.
Verdict Lamb’s writing is often bogged down by repetition, but the book is a valuable resource for students of baseball history and for readers concerned with the history of race relations and the media in this country.‚ Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA