Baseball books: Class is in session.

AuthorKaplan, Ron
PositionBook review

Work Title: Baseball books: Class is in session

Work Author(s): Ron Kaplan

Sports And Fitness

Byline: Ron Kaplan

The notion that baseball is a metaphor for life has been around since man first took bat to ball. In reality, it's more appropriate to say that the national pastime is a metaphor for education; academic disciplines that baseball can teach include history, mathematics, science, journalism, and even philosophy, just to name a few. If one were to spend a semester at "baseball college," a typical day of classes might consist of all the subjects needed for a general liberal arts degree. With the start of a new school year, a.k.a. Opening Day, here's a list of suggestions to keep the studious fan up to date.

American History, Contemporary

If they serve no other function, titles that incorporate any kind of ranking or employ words like "best" and "greatest" act as a catalyst for discussion/argument. So does "forever," as in Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty and The Say Hey Kid: The Year That Changed Baseball Forever by John Rosengren (Sourcebooks, 978-1-4022-0956-7). This volume focuses on the 1973 season, when Hank Aaron moved closer to Babe Ruth's career home run record, a broken-down Willie Mays called it quits, and George Steinbrenner began his reign as lord and master of the New York Yankees. Readers may wonder what was the triggering event that made this a watershed season in the eyes of the authors.

Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events That Shaped Modern Baseball, by Larry Burke and Peter Thomas Fornatale (Rodale, 978-1-59486-189-5) will no doubt kindle some arguments as well. The authors contend that their selections were meant to "focus on the external changes that have shaped the game we know and love" and that they "set aside...the discussion for the game on the field." But at least a few of these "events" will leave some puzzled as to how they made such a major impact on the sport. Ball Four and its effect on how we read about sports is worthy of such magnification, as was the establishment of the players' union, but other suggestions seem downright silly and contrary to the author's "mission statement." After all, the debut of the designated hitter and Cal Ripken's consecutive game streaks took place on the field. Likewise, their assertion that the 1962 New York Mets heralded the age of expansion is erroneous, since the American League added two teams the year before.

American History, Older

Fans of baseball's Pre-Golden Age will appreciate the scholarship that went into Chief Bender's Burden, Tom Swift's sad but sweet biography of the Native American pitcher who toiled for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in...

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