Baseball books worth reading
My annual week in Colorado has multiple missions. Recharge the batteries for the football (and now NBA) push. Escape the heat and soak up the 68-degree afternoons in the mountains. Eat like a horse. Play with my granddaughter all day long. And read as many books as I can consume.
My goal is three books in Colorado and I always take four, because I’m an optimist. I’m learning that my granddaughter has moved quickly into the front seat of priorities. She’s two; we play and read and sing, and when she’s tired, then I start thinking of that other Colorado stuff I used to do.
Anyway, last week I topped out at two books — I’m just finishing the second — and as usual, the books were baseball. I don’t really care to follow baseball much anymore; I check the standings and read the paper, but in terms of watching games or keeping up with the rosters and who are the great young players, not going to happen.
But the history, I still can’t get enough. This year, my first book was “Ball Four.” I’ve probably read 500 baseball books in my life, but never this classic. I had read excerpts and heard stories, but never fully read Jim Bouton’s 1970 masterpiece. His diary of the 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and reminisces about his Yankee days in the early ’60s.
Bouton was a baseball pariah after writing the book for his frank look at the baseball culture. Read it now and it’s tamer than the sports page. But in 1970, when Bowie Kuhn was commissioner and baseball had its head in the sand, you can see why Bouton’s book was scandalous.
Here’s what I like about “Ball Four.” It’s flat-out funny. I laughed out loud 25 times. And it reads smooth and fast. The best books read that way. The pages just flow. “The Color Purple,” the best book I’ve ever read, is that way. And so is “Ball Four.”
Some things from almost 40 years ago don’t hold up. Fashion. Television. Mores. Even some books. Some of the books I read years ago, when I look at them now, they can’t hold my interest in this 21st-century world. But “Ball Four” still packs a punch.
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