As the Red Sox and other baseball fans commemorate Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ final and famous at-bat, we are waxing nostalgic with a wonderful little commemorative edition of John Updike’s 10/22/60 The New Yorker essay about the event. Updike prepared the bound reissue just before his own passing in January 2009. They’re both gone now, two greats in their own fields, and today they are intertwined in baseball history, as you can see with this presentation by The Library of America.
The essay itself is the biggest reason to buy the book, simply to read it again and put yourself back in time at that “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark.” There are more reasons, though. One is the replication of Updike’s original manuscript, printed oversize onto the inside of the front and back covers, rendering his own hand-editing marks and manual-typewriter strike-thrus. And more importantly, Updike also included the footnotes that he had added in a 1965 collection, Assorted Prose, elaborating on key points in the original essay.
For example, Updike wrote this in 1960: “Hence his refusal to tip his cap to the crowd or turn the other cheek to newsmen.” There is a “3” footnote after “cap” and then you read at the bottom of the page: “But he did tip his cap, high off his head, in at least his first season, as cartoons from that period verify. He was also extravagantly cordial to taxi drivers and stray children…” Such elaborations are very important if you’ve only read the original.
Updike begins the new Preface by writing: “‘Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu’ was a five days’ labor of love executed and published in October 1960. For many years, especially since moving to Greater Boston, I had been drawing sustenance and cheer from Williams’ presence on the horizon, and I went to his last game with the open heart of a fan.”
Now we remember Teddy Ballgame’s legacy and his singular sendoff . . . and also the way it was captured in some of the best baseball prose there ever was. — Mark Newman
In 1969, Jim Bouton, at one time a star pitcher for the Yankees, had lost his fastball and was relying on throwing a knuckleball to preserve his career in the Major Leagues. He had been acquired by the Seattle Pilots, an expansion team that was playing in an older stadium with an uncertain future.
What followed was a mostly nondescript season, though only four other Major League pitchers appeared in more games than Bouton did that year. But it was a season that made him famous beyond his World Series years with the Yankees, and forever changed the landscape of sports journalism.
Teaming with sportswriter Leonard Shecter, a friend from his days in New York, Bouton kept a daily journal of his observations of that season. It became his bestselling book, Ball Four. This is the 40th anniversary of its publication. More
Reviewed by Ben Platt of MLB.com
For most people old enough to remember the 1970s, they think of Watergate, disco, polyester, the bicentennial and an entire generation trying to put the war in Vietnam and the turbulence of the 1960s behind them and just party and have some fun on the dance floor.
In the baseball world, the 1970s represented dramatic changes for the game and its players, both on and off the field. Traditional sensibilities often clashed with a new wave of younger players who came of age in the preceding decade and wanted do things their way.
Author Dan Epstein chronicles every year of this strange decade of baseball in his new book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funny Ride through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s, which is in bookstores now.
“It took a long time to put together,” said the author. “It was an incredibly pleasurable research process, because I love baseball and a lot of this is from my childhood, and I’d say it took 10 years — the first five of me talking about it and giving me an excuse to buy a lot of old Sports Illustrated issues and team yearbooks and the next five getting the proposal together, shopping the idea and actually doing the research and writing the book.” Read More | Click here to buy the book
Reviewed by Michael Bauman of MLB.com
What you look for in a biography, particularly a biography of a controversial individual, is balance. And balance is precisely what you get in Bill Madden’s biography of George Steinbrenner, Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball.
The Yankees owner has been a man apart from his peers in many ways since he bought New York’s American League franchise in 1973. Steinbrenner has been adored by many Yankee partisans for his win-at-all-costs approach. And he has been detested by the ever-present legions of Yankee haters for some of the same reasons. More | Click Here To Buy Book
The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron by Howard Bryant
Reviewed by Ben Platt of MLB.com
Henry Aaron is simply a baseball legend. A five-tool player for the Braves and Brewers who quietly went about his business for 23 seasons, he amassed both fielding and hitting statistics that rank him in the upper pantheon of baseball immortals.
Aaron not only played the game well, but he played it with a grace and dignity that inspired author Howard Bryant to detail the Hall of Famer’s life and career in his biography, “The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron,” which is in bookstores now.
“When I wrote my last book ‘Juicing the Game,’ about steroids, and were talking about the choices these players had to make, it made me really start to wonder about these themes that are now considered quaint — honor, integrity, accountability. All these things that people seem to laugh at and consider you a Pollyanna for believing,” said Bryant… Read More | Buy the Book
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Phillies: An Extraordinary Tradition
Reviewed by Ben Platt of MLB.com
It’s been a great run for Philadelphia Phillies fans for the past few years, with the team making back-to-back appearances in the World Series and winning it all in 2008. Now fans can remember not only the team’s recent success, but they can celebrate the organization’s long history through rare photos, articles and memorabilia with the publication of the new book, “Phillies: An Extraordinary Tradition.” The book is now available in bookstores, Citizens Bank Park and in the Fans section on Phillies.com
“The whole idea was to come up with faces and places in Phillies history and capture it,” said Larry Shenk, the Phillies’ former director of public relations from 1964-2008, who edited the book with Scott Gummer. “I didn’t want the book to be a chronological thing, year-by-year, with wins and losses and all that stuff. I wanted something with pictures in it that people had not seen — I’ve been around a few decades and I hadn’t seen some of these photos before.”
Coming in at 252 pages and with well over 400 photos, the book is true eye candy for people from the City of Brotherly Love as well as baseball fans that appreciate the history of a team that was established in 1883…. Read More | Buy the Book | Autographed Copy
90% Of The Game Is Half Mental by Emma Span
Reviewed by MetsGrrl
90% Of The Game Is Half Mental by Emma Span is a fantastic book that every baseball fan will enjoy. It’s witty, it’s entertaining, it tells good stories in a dry and painfully honest tone. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. You will find yourself cracking up out loud on the subway while reading the book, which is probably one of the best endorsements I could give it.
But I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. There, I said it.
See, Emma – who, full disclosure, I am friendly with and met in person at a tweetup once – is a Yankees fan. The last thing I wanted to read was a book written by a Yankees fan about how awesome the Yankees are, or even touching, heartfelt stories about growing up a Yankees fan and becoming a sportswriter and getting to cover the Yankees. Any Mets fan, or any fan of any NL team – wait, ANY OTHER TEAM – can probably understand where I am coming from on this.