Baseballs' Best Shots
is Picture Perfect
Any book with Nolan Ryan in his power windup decorating the cover can't be bad. Since I wrote his autobiography, "Throwing Heat," I am partial to the man.
I am also partial to "Baseball's Best Shots" (Dorling Kindersley Publishing/Major League Baseball, $30, 160 pages). This book is a keeper.
From the insightful foreword by Johnny Bench through the 120 moving, nostalgic and exciting photographs of players, stadiums, managers, fans and equipment, "Baseball's Best Shots" takes us through every decade of Major League Baseball.
Rich Pillin, manager, and Paul Cunningham, administrator of Major League Photos, did the photo selection. Thousands of images were considered. The results do not disappoint.
There is a 1950 shot of Joe DiMaggio "boning the bat," using a large beef bone to compress the grain of the wood to make it last longer. There is Hughie Jennings of the Detroit Tigers in a grainy black-and-white shot from 1910, Alex Gonzalez of Toronto in a full color 1998 photo breaking his bat on impact with the ball and Bo Jackson of the
Kansas City Royals breaking his bat across his thigh after striking out.
Two facing pages, one captioned "Game Face" and the other "Clown Face" showcase in black-and-white photography a couple of baseball's legendary faces. There is the deadpan visage of "Hack" Wilson, whose 190 RBIs in 1930 is a single-season record, and the highly animated face of a young Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel, who began his big league career in 1912 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
My favorite photograph is a 1998 double-page shot of the anything-but-sedate bleacher crowd at Wrigley Field. Bare-chested guys dominate the image as they cheer on Sammy Sosa. It is a wondrous photo of smiling fans having fun at the ballpark.
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, as they should, get good exposure in "Baseball's Best Shots." Most baseball fans probably have seen the caught-in-a-time-warp photographs many times: the Babe embracing a muted Iron Horse on Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium in 1939, both icons decked out in cowboy uniforms during a 1938 barnstorming tour.
There is also the all-time classic shot that won a Pulitzer Prize: Babe Ruth, cap off, head bowed, in his final appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1948 before his death from cancer.
Ruth, Gehrig, Sosa, McGwire, Honus Wagner, Derek Jeter and so many others are beautifully showcased in "Baseball's Best Shots." An index and more text would have helped. And the book's subtitle, "The Greatest Baseball Photography of All Time" is publisher hyperbole. There is not one photo by the legendary Barney Stein, who captured the magical images of the Brooklyn Dodgers so well.
Nevertheless, this book is compelling stuff.
"Sports: The Complete Visual Reference," by Francois Fortin (Firefly Books, $39.95, 372 pages) is the perfect gift book for any sports fan. Filled with thousands of color graphics and carefully researched text focused on the origins and rules of 127 sports played around the world, it is at once a book for browsing and for decorating the coffee table.
"All Roads Lead To October" by noted author Maury Allen (St. Martin's Press, $24.95, 320 pages) provides an up-close look at the quarter-century tenure of George Steinbrenner. It is a heck of a read!
If pastiche is your dish, then "Pitching Around Fidel" by S.L. Price (Ecco/HarperCollins, $24.00, 279 pages) is a book that will appeal to you. The book ranges far and wide on the topic of sports and culture in Cuba and includes interviews with stars like Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth
College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage
in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
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