Monday, February 26, 2007

Capsule Book Reviews

OK, time to clear out some of the stuff I've been meaning to review. For a couple years, in some cases.

The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz. Almost everyone in this book is a butt-head of one kind or another, from Henry Chadwick to Bill James. Good read.

Stengel: His Life and Times by Robert Creamer. Great bio. You should read this. My favorite part: Casey sits down next to one of his players and says, "Nobody knows this, but one of us has been traded to Kansas City."

Baseball Dynasties
by Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein. Welcome to the graveyard of sabermetric ideas that never caught on! Did you know that Joe Morgan had a .379 ROV in 1975 and an .850 OW%? What useful information, and how he must have contributed to his team's Standard Deviation Score! Nice to flip through when you need to kill a few minutes. Fun inter-capsular fact: The Numbers Game reports that Epstein got fired from the Orioles for being a butt-head.

A Homeric Dictionary by George Autenrieth. I've never seen a book that more perfectly did what it set out to do. It's got every word in Homer, and that's it. The first word is aaatos. Georg doesn't know what it means.

Rogers Hornsby by Charles C. Alexander. Eh. Hornsby is one of the most perfect jackasses that ever lived, and his life is a series of squandered opporunities, opportunities that he got only because he could hit the hell out of a baseball. It's hard to make a biography compelling when its subject is so unpleasant in such a banal way, and Alexander ain't Creamer.

You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner. Here's a gimmick you'll get tired of after about 50 pages. But these things weren't meant to be read like a novel, so it's not Ring's fault.

Lizard Music by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. It's no Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror, but this is a good one. It's best before the lizards show up.

Peach: Ty Cobb in His Time and Ours by Richard Bak. Bak makes a couple of important points: 1) Cobb's racism was considered excessive by his contemporaries, but not to the point that it's the only thing they ever talked about, and 2) dude had plenty going against him even without it. He also says that Al Stump made all that stuff up -- the stuff they made the Tommy Lee Jones movie out of. Like, he never actually murdered anyone. Who knows? Not even the guy Ty Cobb didn't murder could answer these questions.

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges. You'd think that if you put Borges, ancient writers who got everything wrong but in interesting ways, and weird creatures together, you'd have a winner. But that's what the 2002 Mets thought when they added Mo Vaughn and Robby Alomar. The results here are similar.

Spalding's World Tour by Mark Lamster. I'm a sucker for dudes with handlebar moustaches and heavy, high-collared uniforms spelling base ball like it's two words, but this was kind of flat. Unfortunately, Spalding and company going on a trip around the world is somewhat less interesting than what was happening in the States at the time. "And then they went here, and Monty Ward hit a triple, and the local newspaper said blah blah blah . . ." Meanwhile, the owners were spending their winter shivving the players right in the back, prompting the eventual creation of the Players League. Which is more interesting than the fact that Cap Anson wasn't good at cricket.

2 comments:

fliegel said...

Hey I noticed you linked to my blog, The National Review (http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/). I just wanted to say thanks and let you know that I am putting a link to your site up on mine.
thanks again,
-Charlie

Ryan said...

My pleasure, and welcome aboard.