It never fails to amaze one to see the volume and variety of sports books - -terrible economy or not - -that keep being published. It is a testament to the scope and hold our games have on us and the "acts of faith" by publishers and writers to serve up these tomes - - some of top quality and others middling in many ways. None of the volumes reviewed below fit into the latter category - -all belong on your sports bookshelf.
"A Talk in the Park" by Curt Smith (Potomac Books, $27.50, 308 pages) is a worthy work focused as it is as its sub-title proclaims on "nine decades of baseball tales from the broadcast booth." Active and retired "voices" participate, 116 in all, in compelling oral history story-telling.
There is Pat Hughes recalling Harry Caray broadcasting with a tea bag dangling from his ear, Bob Wolff and the longest ever wild pitch, Lou Piniella exposed in all his varied poses - -lovable and excitable and clothes and unclothed. Ranging, riveting, really great stuff, "A Talk in the Park" is baseball history as well as very up close and personal memories of changing times in broadcast booth by those who lived it. NOTABLE
"The Greatest Game Ever Pitched" by Jim Kaplan (Triumph, $24.95, 241 pages) is billed the pitching duel of century - -Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn. Its focus is a summer night in 1963 before almost 16,000 plus, a game that went 16 innings and way past midnight. Kaplan meticulously, marvelously brings back the time. TERRIFIC READ
"Clubhouse Confidential" by Luis "Squeegee" Castillo with William Kane (St. Martin's, $25,99, 293 pages) is a behind the scenes and no holds barred looked at the New York Yankees for whom he worked for as a bat boy and clubhouse attendant from 1998 to 2005. A star in his own rights, a guy who had the Bleacher Creatures calling his name, Castillo lays it all out - -wild nights and days, gambling, an inside look at the privacy of the Yankee clubhouse, what it was like to know and work with Bernie Williams, David Cone, Joe Torre, Don Zimmer, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, etc. "Clubhouse Confidential" is a bit self-serving, but I guess that's the nature of the genre. Tighter editing would have improved the read but for Yankee fans this is the real deal.
"A Glove of Their Own" by Debbie Moldovan, Keri Conkling and Lisa Funari-Willever (Franklin Mason Press, $15.95, illustrated by Lauren Lambiase) is a beautifully executed and carefull conceived tome. Reading it one is taken back to early days of playing the game - mine were on the "mean streets" of Brooklyn, stickball, and I did not have a glove of my own or a bat either. The book begins "In our town there's a park, with an oak tree so tall. We meet there each day, so we can play ball. The spot is home plate for our everyday game. Sticks are the bases; they work just the same." And from that beginning, the reader is swept away . . .HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
EXCELLENT E-BOOKS: For the casual fan or the totally involved, "Ballpark E-Guides" overseed by Kurt Smith http://www.ballparkeguides.com/index.html is well worth your attention. The price is right, too, just five dollars each to download with PayPal or major credit card.
Just a couple of examples that stand out for their content and execution are Yankee Stadium E-Guide http://www.ballparkeguides.com/fenway-park.html and Fenway Park E-Guide http://www.ballparkeguides.com/yankee-stadium.html. The e-guides are attractive and accesible and offer such features as All About Baseball Tickets, Parking, Food, best way to get to the Park, what to eat when you get to the game. "Tightwad Tips" is worth the price of admisison.
2011 marks Harvey Frommer's 36th consecutive year of writing sports books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 41 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball." His acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history was published in 2008. Frommer's newest work is REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION (Abrams).
He is available for speaking engagements and interview. FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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