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Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments
My team is done for the year, but the grand old game keeps on rolling.
The baseball playoffs are well underway as the season works its way towards the end. Being a fan of the game, this has always been a time I look forward to. With the Fall Classic just around the corner - what better time is there to read about the game? Joe Posnanski's Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments is a gem. If you are a fan, it has to be on your list.
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I had been anticipating the book and pre-ordered it so I could start it as soon as it was available. To my surprise, it didn't grab me from the start. Soon enough, however, I was hooked, all-in, and glued to its pages. In that shift alone we learn much about the game, the way it grows on us, captivates us, thrills us, and sometimes causes us to look inward.
Baseball has a unique relationship with America. There are other institutions where we can trace cultural and societal changes over time as well, the military for example, but none are as far reaching as the game that mirrors life itself. Readers will catch these moments throughout the book, moments which illustrate where we've come from, moments that define how we've changed, and some that illustrate how much further we have yet to go. The book is purportedly about the game, but the game is played, managed, and observed by people on a journey.
It is full of interesting and often quirky insights. We gain new understanding of old stories, characters, and myths. One thing I really appreciate is how Posnanski includes everyday fans as part of the stories. Indeed, some of the moments are very personal and more about the fan than the game itself. I think this is why I like the book so much. It's personal - to the players involved and the fans watching.
A fan of the game since childhood, I have my own angle on this, my own moments, as every fan will have. When I think of my moments, I instantly remember the game and what happened that made it so memorable to me personally. Today, athletes are taught to be demonstrative when they make a big play, as a way of locking in the emotion and success of the instant. Fans have been doing that since the earliest days, of course, and I can imagine that had I grown up in Brooklyn I would have heard groans coming from several homes along the block when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the Series, again.
My moments include the only time I skipped class in high school to watch Sandy Koufax pitch in the Series. Then there was the time I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Silver Spring, Maryland while on a business trip, and watched my youngest son kiss his girlfriend when Mike Piazza hit one out at Dodger Stadium. I was in the stands for Fernando's no-hitter, and, again when we watched the O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase during pre-game warmups. Putting myself in good company here, I saw Gaylord Perry get caught red-handed with a fingernail file in Seattle. My very first memory of going to a game is of sitting next to my cousin, whom I idolized, when he caught a Ted Williams home run ball. A couple of decades later, I and my two young sons were in the stands when Ozzie Smith hit one out against Tom Niedenfuer, spelling doom to the Dodgers’ playoff hopes.
And, of course, there are what our family called “the ‘71 tapes,” a reference to my father, a die-hard Padres fan, recording every Dodgers game of the season and sending them to me in Southeast Asia where I and my buddies would listen to them two to three weeks later, hanging on every word. Every time I think of those tapes, I see him listening to Vin as he tended the recording process, packaged them up at the end of each series, and made the walk to the post office to send them my way. Love and baseball make a great couple.
Yes, the game has been a part of life, sometimes mirroring its ups and downs but always present in the past, the now, and the future. It just rolls on, giving us hope that tomorrow may bring something good, something to shout about.
There is much more to this book than just the game and its rich history. It is, first and foremost, a love letter to baseball. Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Roger Maris, Pee Wee Reese, and oh so many others, their stories and back stories told as we've never heard them. This one is a must read for every fan who loves the game, its sights, sounds, and smells, and maybe most of all, the way it brings a young boy’s joy no matter the age.
Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments. Imagine having to pick just fifty. Well done, Joe. Well done indeed.