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Library News

By: Virginia Volkman
For: Red Rock News
Date: March 18, 2011


It was an e-mail from the Chamber of Commerce regarding a spring training marketing opportunity that got me thinking about baseball.  My interest in the sport goes back to my childhood when I followed it closely, through my grandfather, then a scout for the New York Yankees.

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s baseball was a summer game that rolled into the fall, but never beyond mid-October.  I remember it well, because my grandparents always made the trip up north to the Adirondacks after the World Series was over.  I followed the games with my sisters and brother, through the pennant race and the final game of the series, knowing that shortly after the last game we’d get a first-hand account of the season.

For a Yankee fan, spring training took place in Florida.  It was during that time that we’d get postcards with pictures of orange groves and water-skiers being pulled by an enormous boat in Cypress Gardens.  We got the inside story of up and coming catcher Elston Howard, the first black player to become the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

Summer games were listened to on the radio and occasionally we’d get a chance to head south and watch a game at the ballpark.  When school started it wasn’t long before baseball scores were announced on the loudspeaker and since the games were played during the day we often listened to at least some of the Word Series during class.  That’s when baseball was truly the national pastime.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the old days of baseball, check out the over-sized book “Take Me Out to the Ballpark:  An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present, Featuring Every Major League Park, Plus Minor League and Negro League Parks” by Josh Leventhal.  You can’t miss it in the shelf – it’s shaped like a ballpark.

A book that captures the author’s childhood feelings about baseball is “The Final Season” by Tom Stanton.  When the ballpark of the author’s youth, Tiger Stadium, began its eighty-eighth and last year in 1999, Stanton decided to attend all of the home games.  It’s a story of three generations of baseball fans.

Another book from the baseball shelf is “The Machine:  a Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series, The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds” by Joe Posnanski.  It captures all of the passion and tension, drama and glory of this extraordinary team considered to be one of the greatest ever to take the field.

An up close and personal look at the sport can be found in “Bat Boy:  My True Life Adventures Coming of Age with the New York Yankees” by Matthew McGough.  Despite having no connections with the ballclub, McGough dreamed of sitting in the dugout with the fabled Bronx Bombers.  Miraculously, he got the job, and in April 1992 he began two years of adventures as a bat boy.  His story captures the lure of the game and his own coming of age.

From the new book shelf you can choose from a number of biographies.  “The Last Hero:  A Life of Henry Aaron” by Howard Bryant, chronicles Aaron’s childhood in segregated Alabama, his brief stardom in the Negro Leagues, and his historic rivalry with Willie Mays.  “The Last Boy:  Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood” by Jane Leavy is “one of the best sports biographies… beautifully written and thoroughly researched” according to Doris Kearns Goodwin. 

For more than three hours of old-time baseball, “Summer of 1957” is the DVD to watch.  Included are two vintage Ted Williams commercials, original baseball footage of the great old ballparks and the teams that made them famous, and clips of the ball players on the golf course.

For a more current look at the sport try “The Eastern Stars:  How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris” by Mark Kurlansky.  The author tells the story of the small Caribbean town in the Dominican Republic that has sent 79 boys and men to play in the Major Leagues.  Baseball began in the sugar fields where the hardball was sometimes fashioned from molasses.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Virginia Volkman is Director of the Sedona Public Library.