By Dr. Harvey Frommer
This is the time of year that the usual assortment of
baseball books as tie in to the new season surface. Generally, the
quality is mixed. The 2014 sports season is a departure. Generally, the
quality is excellent. So let’s take a look.
Leading off the list is “A Nice Little Place on the
North Side” by George F. Will (Crown, $25.00, 223 pages). It is so
refreshing almost joyful to have this terrific tome by an ultimate fan
of the Chicago Cubs and one of the best writers anywhere. This trim love
letter to Wrigley Field is so appealing when stacked up against the slew
of hastily put together (some in need of much editing) “picture books”
on the subjects from publishers looking to capitalize on the 100th
anniversary of the ball park on the North Side.
George Will was born in Champaign, Illinois in May
1941, a day his Cubbies lost to the Giants for their third straight
defeat. Never at a loss for words or puns throughout the book, Will
comments: “Had I been paying attention then, this book may never have
It’s a good thing he did pay attention and became one
of the best of the long suffering fans of the denizens of the “friendly
confines.” A Nice Little Place on the North Side is a wondrous,
carefully crafted work.
Another book that fits the bill for the top of your
sports bookshelf is “They Called Me God,” by Doug Harvey and Peter
Golenbock (Gallery Books, $27.00, 274 pages). This combo of Hall of Fame
umpire and Hall of Fame to be sports author is tough to beat. Part
gossip, part baseball history, part story time, all winning prose, “They
Called Me God” put you behind the plate through the eyes of an umpire
who was there for 4,673 games. We are there for Roberto Clemente’s
3,000th hit, Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit homer, Pete Rose’s debut and
hundreds of other “inside” baseball moments. The book’s sub-title brags:
“The Best Umpire Who Ever Lived.” That might be too over-the-top but to
call “They Called Me God” one of the best baseball memoirs ever is not.
Dan Epstein’s “Stars and Strikes” (Thomas Dunne Books,
$28.99, 400 pages) is an irreverent, swinging, tome with an attitude
that bemuses and amuses. Carefully researched, written with all kinds of
style, featuring the Big Red machine, the bird Mark Fidrych mighty Mike
Schmidt, the “Junkman” (not Eddie Lopat but Randy Jones, owners
Steinbrenner, George, Veeck, Bill, Turner, Ted and Finley, Charles, the
work is a roller coaster ride of baseball and America in the
Bicentennial summer of ’76 as the book’s sub-title proclaims.
Engrossing, insightful, entertaining, vast in its
scope and depth, Mark Ribowsky’s (The Last Cowboy, Liveright|Norton is
almost 700 pages, $28.99) devoted to one of the true icons of American
sports Tom Landry. A player, a coach, a legend, Tom Landry always seemed
bigger than life - -and he was. He comes to life on page after page and
in great detail in this book that belongs on the sports bookshelf of
“The Million Dollar Arm” by J.B. Bernstein (Simon and
Schuster, $16.00, 233 pages, paper) is a whirlwind narrative From Mumbai
to the major leagues, from cricket to baseball. This is a true story of
a men with golden arms and the American dream.
“Collision Low Crossers” by Nicholas Davidoff (Little
Brown, $29.00) is as its sub-title announces a Year inside the Turbulent
World of NFL Football. The author, granted full access to all things New
York Jets, takes full advantage of that blessing. The result is a funny,
insightful and no holds barred look at day-to-day life in the sports
that is now truly America’s Game.
For golf enthusiasts there are “Every Shot Counts” by
Mark Broadie (Gotham, $35.00, 255 pages), “Own Your Own Game” by Dave
Stockton ($25.00, 127 pages). The Broadie book makes maximum use of the
revolutionary strokes gained approach to help every golfer improve
performance and strategy. The slim Stockton tome makes a point of
maximizing one’s mind to play winning golf.
# # #
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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