You would think as a baseball fanatic and a writer (or so-called writer) I would be one of those people whose library is chock full of baseball books. But actually, most of the time when I read for pleasure (and reading is one of my most passionate pleasures), I tend to avoid “baseball books.”
Nothing personal, baseball book writers (and frankly, I hope to some day join your ranks). It’s just that I want to avoid the potential burnout factor … plus my tastes run to the gamut of chick lit, humor, history, and pop culture.
But recently I received an e-mail from Dan Gordon, one of the authors of the book “Haunted Baseball” and I was intrigued enough to hop over to Amazon and take advantage of the awesome one-click shopping option.
I am SO glad I did. This book had me riveted from the get-go … it’s a fascinating page-turner that discusses everything from ghost stories to legends to all sorts of unusual supernatural experiences of dozens upon dozens of players. The fact that many of the players interviewed are contemporary guys, both in the Majors and Minors, that I know made it that much more personal for me. But I don’t think you need to know the players involved personally to enjoy the book.
A few particularly noteworthy stories to “tease” … a really cool tale (tail???) involving the Cleveland Indians, especially slugger Jim Thome, and a certain seagull … a heartwarming story that might make anyone who views Ken Griffey Jr. as one of those selfish me-me-me players in a totally different light …
… and one story that really hit me personally even though it’s not about a superstar like the other two … if you look a few posts down at that picture of me with MOST of the Buffalo Bisons from 1997, one of the players missing from the shot was infielder Enrique Wilson. He was late getting to the field that day, coming over with his best friend, catcher Einar Diaz (whom we called “Smiling Jack” because of his ever-present dazzling grin).
Enrique was a favorite of mine, a guy who could do a hilarious “Beavis and Butthead” imitation. (That’s him on the left at the 1996 Double-A All-Star Game in Trenton when he was with Akron). He eventually moved from the Indians to the Pirates to the Yankees and was with the Bronx Bombers in 2001 when they fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the World Series.
That loss saved his life. Literally. Read why in the book.
Anyway, right now I am reading “Word Freak” by Stefan Fatsis about competitive Scrabble and it’s making me want to play Scrabulous with everyone I know on Facebook. Two of my friends were kind of enough to start games with me when I made that comment in my “current status” and they are kicking my scrabula$$ but hopefully I can recoup my current losses. I know tomorrow I am going out and buying a Scrabble dictionary. I LOVE THIS GAME.
Among the OUTSTANDING and AMAZING books I have read in recent months that have nothing to do with baseball:
“Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley, an absolutely riveting book about the six gentlemen who were captured in the legendary photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II. I am not a big “war book” reader but what happened here was we had TiVo’d Clint Eastwood’s movie of the book and were watching it and I just couldn’t keep up with it. I didn’t know who was who, I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and I kept dozing off. And yet I felt like this was a story that had tremendous potential and, frankly, I am definitely a member of the school of “I’d rather read the book than watch the movie.” So the next day I bought the book and I absolutely could not put it down. I bought two more copies to give to relatives and now I’d actually like to watch the movie again, this time feeling like I “know” the six soldiers as well as the others whose stories are told.
And two of the best books I have EVER read, which fortuitously I read back-to-back on my pre-season vacation:
“Candy Girl” by Diablo Cody, who won the Oscar for original screenplay for the brilliant “Juno.” A memoir of her time as a stripper in Minneapolis, it is one of the most hilarious and remarkable books I have ever read. She is amazing and my new idol and I would be struck dumb with awe if I ever met her and, as anyone who knows me can attest, I would not be struck dumb (as in speechless, not stupid) by ANYONE.
And the book that may have had the biggest impact in my household in the last six months …
“Love Is A Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield. Another memoir by a writer from one of my favorite magazines, “Entertainment Weekly,” that chronicles his romance and marriage and, tragically, loss to an untimely death to a clearly amazing woman. And it is chronicled through the mixtapes the couple made for each other. I always considered myself the queen of the mixtape. My daughter Dana, of a later era, is the goddess of the mix CD. I tried to explain to her they are one and the same and that they are ALL mix tapes. It’s a term like Kleenex … and then this book came out and we both read it back-to-back and we both sobbed and wept and sighed.
Two notes worth mentioning about this amazing book. One is that it turned us on to a song neither of us knew and which is now on both of our all-time Top 10: “Thirteen” by Big Star (I have no idea why the YouTube I’ve linked is a Harry Potter compilation but it was the one clear recording of the original song that I could find). The other is that Sheffield talks at the end about an unnamed singer-songwriter who also lost someone he loved … and Dana and I both immediately recognized that it was our mutual favorite singer-songwriter, Mike Viola, which we found sort of ironic and bizarre.