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Spring is here and if you haven’t already treated your ears to the crack of a bat or the slap of a mitt, there’s plenty of time to do so. For your reading pleasure, here’s a whole slew of brand new baseball books to put you in the right mood for the season.
“God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” by Mitchell Nathanson
Like Larry Doby, Dick Allen isn’t as big a name as he might be. In 1947, the Philadelphia Phillies became the last National League team to desegregate. Their first black superstar was Dick Allen (born in 1942), who hit frequent home runs out of the park. So why isn’t he better known? Apparently the athlete’s attitude and behavior, as portrayed in the press, produced a public image that was hard to shake. A fascinating read.
“The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams” by Michael Tackett
Since the 1960s, an amateur summer baseball team run by Merl Eberly and his wife, Pat, produced more than three-dozen future major leaguers under manager Eberly. He never took a salary and many players who trained under him remained in contact with him until his death. If you need a book about the affirmative side of sports, this is the one for you.
“Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution” by Brian Kenney
Hope you like sabermetrics, because this book is swimming in them. Using statistical analysis to interpret baseball records and player performance, the author discusses pitcher wins as a category, starting and bullpen pitcher usage, and the uselessness of the bunt and batting average. It’s pretty entertaining but if the ideas of no longer classifying pitchers as “starters” or “closers,” and placing a greater emphasis on defensive stats strike fear in your heart, then this is not the book for you.
“Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League” by Douglas M. Branson
Two books this season look at players that came just after Jackie Robinison broke the color barrier but are almost completely forgotten. Larry Doby (1923–2003) became the American League’s first black player only a couple months after Jackie Robinson entered the National League. Relatively reserved, Doby didn’t demand the spotlight. Does that explain why he hasn’t gotten much recognition?
“The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team” by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
And speaking of statistics, in this book former Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Mr. Lindbergh teams with Mr. Miller, current Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief and coauthor of Baseball Prospectus 2016, to share what happened when they convinced the owners of the independent Sonoma Stompers to allow them to handle daily operations. The experiment? To determine whether sabermetrics (there’s that word again) could create a championship team. So what happened? Better read the book.
Coming to the Evanston Public Library soon.