PARADISE COVE, MALIBU – First off, Happy Memorial Day! Another holiday Monday start for yours truly and it’s a good one; being the unofficial start to summer and all. Remember to remember those who paid the ultimate price for your burgers and beers today (in my case drumsticks with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and Santa Maria style tri-tip, if you’re in the neighborhood).
Now, contrary to popular opinion and a whole segment of the publishing world devoted to “beach reads” (which has a huge overlap with its sister genre: “airport reads“), I’m not sure the beach is the best place to read. There are a million distractions: a lot of eye candy to consume in the local bikini selection, the ever hypnotic droning of the surf, the buzzing of planes with those giant signs trailing behind, fearless seagulls, and sand in everything. Still, why buck tradition? Since I like books about baseball, here are some that may have slipped under your radar (no Field Of Dreams, Bronx Zoo, or The Natural on this list, though they’re fine examples).
BULLPEN GOSPELS: Few things are as irritating as finding out that a guy who is good at something totally cool -like being a baseball player -can also be a very good writer. So this guy Dirk Hayhurst is somewhat annoying. A self proclaimed “non-prospect,” he writes about life in the minor leagues (he was in the Padres organization) with humility and self-deprecation, and like Spinal Tap he captures the sights, sounds, and smells of life toiling on the farm. A lot of his anecdotes pretty much revolve around the theme you’d expect–that a lot of ballplayers are simply gross, from their eating and bathroom habits, to finding big laughs at sticking their asses in each others’ faces–but these are buoyed by a profoundly personal nature in how he openly discusses his battles with doubt and the fears that the thing he’s devoted so much time to might not be in the cards for him. It’s not a metaphor-for-life kind of baseball book, because for these guys, baseball is a job and grinding it out every day is their life.
WILLIE’S BOYS: Here’s something a little surprising… the movie 42, a period piece about baseball starring an African American nobody’s heard off, (that’s three big strikes), has been out for seven weeks now and is still in the box office top ten and made over $91 million. Not too shabby. Too bad it isn’t a very good movie. Yes, yes, Jackie Robinson had to hold his temper – but you never feel like you get to know who he is in it. Not so in WILLIE’S BOYS, where you get to know the Say Hey Kid as a marvelously gifted high school kid playing on the Birmingham Black Barons, a team of veterans who realize that their league is circling the drain while the door hadn’t truly been kicked in for them on the Big League level…and how they circle around their recognized prodigy and worked together to get him the proper chance to make it at the highest level.
DRIVING MR. YOGI: A book not just for Yankee fans…but for old Yankee fans and their even older fathers. This is the kind of thing people who hate the Yankees must really hate…a book about Yogi Berra getting a lift in Ron Guidry’s big truck to Spring Training in Tampa every year. The fact that only in the Yankee universe could something like that be even considered a viable book proposal is enough to make you sick. Here’s another anecdote about them playing golf! Uh oh, Yogi said something silly again! However, if you are a Yankee fan, this is some good syrupy nostalgia about a surprisingly earnest friendship, and the best part of the book goes into Yogi’s feud with The Boss, and how The Boss was the one who blinked and begged him back. That’s one of the greatest things in all of sports history.
That’s three and I’m past my word count here, so I’ll leave it at that. There are dozens of others I could include, and I’d love to hear some of your suggestions… I’m always interested in a good baseball book. Be safe out there today!
Tune in for Hubit Chakockoff tomorrow.