Read My Mind ©
Jun 27, 2016 12:08PM
● By Michael Harris
With baseball season in full swing, I thought it would be fun to feature books about this beloved game. No other sport is called "the great American pastime." What makes baseball so special? It’s the great sports “equalizer."
Anyone, boys and girls alike, can play baseball. And you don't have to be particularly big, strong, or fast to be a great baseball player. You'll never hear of a football player nicknamed "Wee Willie” (Keeler) or a basketball player called "Pee Wee" (Reese), but both became Baseball Hall of Famers. That's why I love baseball.
Now, why do I hate the Dodgers? As a kid, my favorite teams were the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. But in 1958, my baseball world was turned upside down. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and their enemy, the New York Giants, moved to my hometown, San Francisco. From that point on, I became a diehard Giants fan and a committed Dodger hater.
My dislike (no, hatred!) for the Dodgers was recently rekindled when I saw a new book by Molly Knight entitled The Best Team Money Can Buy: How The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Fighting To Become Baseball's New Superpower. Being a Dodger hater, I was expecting to hate this book as well. But I was pleasantly surprised at this well-written and thoroughly detailed description of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2012 transition to new ownership and management.
The rich new owners spent millions of dollars to field “the best team money could buy,” but they still couldn’t manage to make it to the World Series for the 25th year in a row. The inside scoop into the Dodger organization will remind baseball lovers of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, the story of Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, and his underpaid team. Both are good reads, even for Giants fans.
For a nostalgic look back to baseball in the ‘50s, read historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wonderful memoir, Wait Till Next Year. A diehard Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Goodwin learned how to score baseball games by recording every pitch. After school, she would listen to the games on radio and then "replay them,” pitch by pitch, for her father at dinner. This is a rich and sweet remembrance of a bygone era and one family’s devotion to each other and their favorite team.
Why I Love Baseball is Larry King's tribute to this great game and my inspiration for this column’s title. King painstakingly remembers his "lifelong love affair" with this “timeless” game. King does a better job than I could ever do of explaining why baseball is the best of all team sports. This book is a true delight.
David Halberstam’s The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship is the story of Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky's 1300-mile road trip to visit their dying Boston Red Sox teammate Ted Williams. It's a heartwarming and poignant story of what friendship really means. (Also, read Halberstam’s powerful book October 1964, which weaves the story of the changing of the guard in baseball with the 1964 civil rights struggle.)
Other great baseball books, including Eliot Asnnof’s Eight Men Out, the story of the Chicago White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, where a fictional baseball player comes back from scandal to lead his team into the World Series, and W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, the story of “Black Sox” player Joe Jackson and the basis for the movie Field of Dreams.
When they yell “Play ball,” I hope you’ll find time to enjoy these great books about the sport I love.