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  • Robert Birnbaum

Let's Play Two, Part III

Updated: Apr 28, 2018


Marathon Day 2018 was one of the most miserable days in all my years in Boston. Which, meteorologically speaking, pretty much is what the first month of the Major League Baseball season has been like. It snowed in Chicago on Opening Day and photos of balaclava adorned fielders were a common sight(MLB has already had 25 weather related postponements)—optics that are counter-intuitive to my sense of this country's great sport.This climatic infelicity and a lengthy season which frequently carries into the first week of November are good arguments for shortening the season. Or devoting attention to baseball played in the Caribbean Basin.


As I have frequently opined in the years past in which I have been looking over the yearly offerings of baseball writing, there is a plenitude to write about which has proven to be alluring to many excellent writers...






The Immaculate Inning*: Unassisted Triple Plays, 40/40 Seasons, and the Stories Behind Baseball's Rarest Feats by Joe Cox


Baseball being a sport that is an ongoing battle with adversity( e.g. if you hit the ball one out of three times you are an excellent hitter),there are a number feats of whose rarity admit of commemoration (by the way, in an immaculate inning** is a pitcher throws 9 pitches, has 9 strikes, and records 3 outs)— no hitters and perfect games, hitting streaks, errorless streaks. Now that the sabermetric view of sports has become regnant, baseball broadcasts feel compelled to assault us with a fussilade of silly statistics.


SABR member Joe Cox focuses on such accomplishments as striking out 20 batters in a game, walking six times in one game, hitting and stealing for the cycle in a game (the latter is stealing second, third and home in a game – more impressive if done in an inning) and having a hitting streak of at least 40 games. Cox presents an entertaining array of outstanding performances with a historical context . If you are fond of knowing things like a pitcher who struck out four batters in an inning – one of only 33 innings Derek Wallace pitched in the major leagues; Mark Witten hitting two grand slams in an inning, and Earl Averill reaching base in 17 consecutive plate appearances in 1962 this book is for you.


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Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud That Changed Baseball  by David A. KellyOliver Dominguez(Illustrator)


Russell Aubrey ” Lena” Blackburne was a professional baseball player and that’s saying something.didn’t play very long-8 years and didn’t break any records-career batting average of .214. Lena Blackburne loved baseball. He watched it, he played it, h, winner of 11 Go who shared the 1979 broke in new baseballs. Tired of soggy, blackened, stinky baseballs, he found a better way. Thanks to a well-timed fishing trip and a top-secret mud recipe, Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud was born. For seventy five years, baseball teams have used Lena's magic mud to prepare baseballs before every game. Read the story of how Lena's mud went from a riverbank to the major leagues and all the way to the Hall of Fame.







In 1938 it became “The” mud in major league baseball. In 1968 it made the Hall of Fame.




The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty  

by Bryan Hoch


The Yankees of the New York borough of the Bronx, proximal to the world's centers of ambition Manhattan and Brooklyn,have been the preeminent major league baseball team since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Joe Dimaggio onward to Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. But the Pinstripes have fallen on hard times of late. This inside-baseball account points out should be over. The Pinstripes latest edition features future superstars Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton raising expectations of a 41st World Series appearance Reporter Bryan Hoch chats up the usual sources, general manager Brian Cashman, former manager Joe Girardi, and Yankees of the past and present. Plus there are a whole bunch of pictures...





I'm Keith Hernandez: A Memoir by Keith Hernandez


Former major leaguer Keith "Mex" Hernandez who played the majority of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets was a five-time All-Star, winner of 11 Gold Gloves who shared the 1979 NL MVP award, and was on two World Series winners— the Cardinals and Mets. A fan favorite, since 2006, he has been broadcasting for Mets games on SportsNet New Yorkand WPIX, and since last year a studio analyst for MLB on Fox. As his on air person exhibits, Hernandez is an amiable racanteur who has a lifetime of stories drawn from his baseball life—from Little to minor league bus rides to his accomplishments and competitions in the Bigs. This memoir is a useful and amusing picture of baseball life in the modern era authoritatively drawn.





Gehrig and the Babe: The Friendship and the Feud  

by Tony Castro



In the modern era of baseball we have encountered slugging duos such as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and Jose Conseco, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz but the exemplar twosome still remains Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.


Clearly there has been no shortage of verbiage devoted these two towering figures—this book claims a singular niche, their away-from-the field association. Making clear Babe and Lou were vastly different personalties, Castro covers their friendship, their feud and the end of their hostilities on Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium—when Gehrig gave his famous farewell address.


There are some books call them 'oldies but goodies' , call them 'paradigms', that serve as valuable resources . Have noted Paul Dickson's Baseball Dic tionary and the Nicholas Dawidoff edited Baseball:An Anthology so also is Larry Ruttman's American Jews and America's Game.



American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball Larry Ruttman


A history of the larger-than-life role of Jews in America’s pastimeSports Collectors Digest’s#1 Baseball Book of 2013 Compiled from nearly fifty in-depth interviews with players and labor leaders, owners and officials, sportswriters and fans, and even a baseball commissioner, American Jews and America's Gamecelebrates the relationship between Jews and American baseball. This oral and cultural history explores issues such as growing up Jewish and dealing with Jewish identity, assimilation, intermarriage, future viability, religious observance, anti-Semitism, and Israel.


Larry Ruttman admirably creates a valuable oral history from fifty astute interviews with a broad swath of people— players,. labor leaders, owners and officials, sportswriters and fans, and former baseball commissioner, Bud Selig. There’s an old baseball adage that if you tune in to a game or show up at a ballpark, there's always a chance you'll see something you've never seen before. I guarantee that you have never seen a 1-3-4-2-5-8-7 double play before, which is the nonsense that the Phillies got themselves into here


For what its worth here's from Selig's foreword to the book:


“The historian Jacques Barzun was right when he said, ‘Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.’ Larry Ruttman knows that too, and that is why I chose to write this Foreword to his book American Jews and America's Game. His stories cover almost one hundred years of American history and the place of American Jews in that history.… This is a book that celebrates family—baseball’s, yours, and mine.”


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* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EGbh1MChCk


There’s an old baseball adage that if you tune in to a game or show up at a ballpark, there's always a chance you'll see something you've never seen before. I guarantee that you have never seen a 1-3-4-2-5-8-7 double play before, which is the nonsense that the Phillies got themselves into here

https://www.mlb.com/video/must-c-ross-near-no-hitter/c-1959331483