Tuesday, April 08, 2008


"Vindicated" Heads the List of an Avalanche of 2008 Baseball Books,
Jose Canseco is at it again. And this time, despite the naysayers, he is as his new book title says, "Vindicated" (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $25.95, 259 pages). The latest tome is all about "big names, big liars and the battle to save baseball" in the words of its sub-title.

"Vindicated" is stunning and swift reading from the former big leaguer who hammered 463 homers in a 17 year career. To add authenticity to his claims Canseco yielded to three lie detector tests. There are lots of big names who get the up close and shocking commentary from Canseco. For the startling revelations he provided in his first book "Juiced," the Cuban born superstar was dissed as a liar. This time around with all that has come out about steroids and big stars ­ the liar label cannot be trotted out. A bit padded and not deserving of its price tag ­ appendices, photos, repetitions ­ all of which could have been trimmed, "Vindicated" nevertheless is worth the read.

As an oral historian and sports author, I was most anxious to read "Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events that Shaped Baseball" by Larry Burke and Peter Thomas Fontale with Jim Baker (Rodale, $24.95, 290 pages). With three authors and 8 monumental national pastime events as the crowded agenda, "Change Up" reads as if it were a book proposal, a book first draft or a lengthy committee report.

Subject matter includes:
the 1962 Mets
Ball Four (Jim Bouton's epic effort)
The Designated Hitter and
Ichiro Comes to America.

We have mix and match and match and mix and a mish-mosh of oral history, narrative, sub-heads interfering with headlines. Too much. At times the book reads like a reading comprehension test.

From Skyhorse publishing comes two paperbacks - "Mets By the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman ($14.95, 320 pages) and "It Takes More Than Balls" by Deidre Silva and Jackie Koney ($14.95, 304 pages.) The tome trained on the Mets is a must have for the Flushing team's fans providing as it does a lot of team history by uniform number.
An interesting feat. The other Skyhorse book with the unfortunate title is billed as "the savvy girls' guide to understanding and enjoying baseball. It is a primer of sorts, nothing more and nothing less. Fortunately, it does not claim to be more than that.

NOTABLE CHILDREN'S SPORTS BOOK: "The Aurora County All-Stars" by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt Children's Books) $16.00, 256 pages) for 10 and up is a remarkable book about Jackson, age ,the captain and star hurler of his team has a lot going for him including the concerns of a broken elbow, lots of secret time spent with Mean-Man Boyd. Enticing, interesting reading.

1 comment:

Deidre said...

I read your blog from time-to-time and I've read dozens of baseball books, including some of yours and others that you've recommended. I am a SABR member, have spoken at a few of their conferences, and am also the author of "It Takes More Than Balls," (the book title and subtitle, as you probably know, was not our decision.)

I was interested in your comment that the book is a primer, nothing more or less. Most of the comments we've received from baseball writers is that it's witty and breezy approach to baseball. The worst criticism from the sporting world, so far, is that the book is far more than a primer. A few expressed "concern" that the book offers, perhaps, more information than would interest a casual fan. Criticism or not, the inclusion of historical anecdotes and lesser known players and managers, etc., was not by mistake. Rather, our goal was to try to have the reader feel better acquainted with today's game by offering a good-read that offerd thorough historical context, from why salaries are so astronomical to why statisticians are driven to distraction coming up with ways to compare players across generations. One of the pieces that is most enjoyed is where we write about desegregation of the game (in the section called "Branching Out") and point out that some of the game's most iconic players of the early 1900s -- black and white -- never played against the full spectrum of talent and how different things would have been had white pitchers faced Josh Gibson or if Gehrig’s and Paige’s prime years had actually been head-to-head. This "argument" is nothing new to you or me, of course, but it's interesting to fans who are interested in knowing more about baseball's colorful and often controversial history. Again, our thorough research and historical framework makes this more than a simple primer -- though the title may suggest nothing more, nothing less.

I have followed your work for a long time and would like to know more about your thoughts on our book, as this doesn't plan to be my only one. If you have the time or inclination please feel free to contact me at Deidre@TheSavvyGirls.com.

Best, Deidre Silva