A sure sign that the hot stove league is in full flower is the appearance of "The Hardball Times Baseball Annual" (ACTA Sports, 352 pages, $19.95, paper). As Casey Stengel remarked a long time ago: "You could look it up," and there is so much to look up in this terrific tome, so much to learn, so much to read.There is subject matter focused on the first World Baseball Classic, the effect of steroids on baseball, the division races in 2006 and the highly entertaining postseason.
Sidebar features add to your reading pleasure: John Scheuerholz, general manager extraordinary is profiled, the history of the Federal League is documented, top minor league players are given interesting close ups. There is also a highly intellectual look at the 100 best pitchers of all time - as ranked by the "Hardball Times" Number one Roger Clemens through Number 66 Bob Friend to Number 100 Waite Hoyt. And if all of the above is not enough - there are stats galore. "The Hardball Times Baseball Annual" is truly a hot stove league treasure.
"Speed, Guts and Glory, 100 Unforgettable Moments in Nascar History" by Joe Garner (Warner Books, $26.99, 240 pages) is an omnibus tour of some of the great moments in the sport. The gang is all here from Dale Earhardt to Jeff Gordon to Tony Stewart and on and on. If you are a fan of Nascar you must own this beautifully edited, incredibly laid out, master effort. It seems there is a bit of a publishing swell out there to rank things in sports. In addition to "100 Unforgettable Moments in Nascar History" there is also "The 100 Greatest Days in New York Sports" by Stuart Miller ($35.00, 464 pages). The book has an interesting premise and features such events as John Starks of the New York Knicks and his dunk over M.J. in the 1993 eastern conference NBA Finals, the Giants manhandling of the Chicago Bears in the 1956 NFL championship game, Babe Ruth's record setting 60th in 1927 at Yankee Stadium, the Subway Series return in 2002 - Mets/Yankees, and on and on and on. If you are a die-hard Big Apple sports fan - and want to read the old stories again - this is the book for you. However, it could have been a better read with more careful editing - -there is repetition and some clumsy sentence structure throughout.In the same collection category - there is "Sports Illustrated Great Football Writing" edited by Rob Fleder ($26.95) and "The Best American Sports Writing", Michael Lewis guest editor (Houghton Mifflin, 416 pages, $28.00). Both are replete with wonderful and entertaining writing about their respective sports.
UP AND COMING: From Public Affairs in spring 2007 - THE GASHOUSE GANG by John Heidenry and from Simon and Schuster from Jonathan Eig will come a book on Jackie Robinson's first year. There is also to look forward to "CRAZY '08" -by Cait Murphy, Smithsonian Books, about the fabled 1908 baseball season.