Follow Here To Purchase For the Love of Baseball: A Celebration of the Game That Connects Us All

EDITORS: Lee Gutkind and Andrew Blauner

PUBLISHER: Skyhorse Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62914-247-0 Hardcover

Ah, baseball. As an old Baby Boomer, I still have the patience and attention span to truly enjoy baseball. I haven’t always been able to follow it as I did as a child, when knowing all about baseball was my major hobby. Now, having retired and having found the MLB Network, I can again give the game the attention it deserves.

In fact, that’s part of the problem with this review. The book came out at the beginning of the 2014 season, and I’m writing the review as spring training is about the ramp up for 2015. I was too busy watching the games to spend the necessary time to read the book with the attention it deserves. I also got seriously bogged down with information about the Polo Grounds lights and poles moving to a new home in Phoenix.

This book has something for every baseball fan. It contains 24 essays—really magazine articles, more than anything else. The range and depth of coverage is staggering.

In these pages you will find reflections on past glories of the game. An essay talks about the loyalty of fans whose teams rarely win. Another tells of the development of baseball parks over the years, but spins off to tell us all about Babe Ruth, who had a lot to do with the size and shape of modern baseball parks. I got bogged down seriously in a long article about the writer’s baseball glove. It told me everything about that individual glove’s history, then went on to generalize about the physics and aesthetics of glove design and manufacturing. No detail is left out. I would have been happier if a lot of those details had been left out.

A woman laments that she could not actually play with the Big Boys. We feel her pain. Another tells us about her daughter’s league where it takes eight strikes to get an out. George Plimpton tells us how lonely and demeaning it is to be relegated to playing right field. We read an ode to baseball caps. I really enjoyed learning about a kid who persevered his way into a job as the New York Yankees bat boy.

We learn about pesapello, the odd variation of baseball played in Finland, where a pitch is arched at least three feet over the batter’s head. If the batter doesn’t hit it and the ball lands on home plate, it’s a strike. If it misses home plate, it’s a ball. Two balls is a walk. Bases are not symmetrically placed and the distance between them varies. A fly ball caught by an outfielder is not an out, it’s a “wounding.” You get 11 woundings or 3 outs in an inning. The whole concept is mind-boggling.

We learn about umpiring in Slovenia in an amusing essay that includes shots at our own

American umpires’ famous blown calls. A personal essay tells of life with Casey Stengel, the legendary Yankees manager. One of my favorites is the story of Art Williams, the first black Major League umpire. We learn what it really means to be an umpire, one of the hardest jobs on the planet. (Things have changed in the umpiring world, however, after the 2014 adoption of instant replay.)

I had a really hard time getting through 20 pages of exquisitely detailed information on the lights at a spring training field in Phoenix, which had originally been the lights at the Polo Grounds in New York. Why anyone would want to know that much about the lights escapes me completely. I would pick up the book, read a page or maybe two, then put it down, shaking my head. A week later, I’d try again, with the same result. (Reviewers believe that we have to actually read the book—all of it. Luckily, you could skip over this story—unless you are a luminaphile, which is a word I just made up to describe lovers of lighting facilities.)

The final offering gives us the history of baseball’s distinctive pitches. I’ve always wondered exactly what a “slider” is and how it differs from the more ubiquitous curve ball. Would you believe that no one has ever been identified as the inventor or originator of the slider? It took 80 years of pro ball before it became common, but no one knows where it came from. Fascinating stuff.

So now you know what’s in the book. It covers all the bases, to use an obvious metaphor. Well, almost all the bases. I just realized there’s no treatise on the history of the actual bases. I enjoyed most of the articles, but got bogged down in an excessive quantity of details in several of the stories. You, of course, could skip over these few items and still enjoy the fascinating stuff in the rest of the book.

If you love baseball, this book will teach you a lot, amuse you, and help you to deepen your fascination with the Great Game.