Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Zisk Book Review by Mark Hughson

Baseball Lives by Mike Bryan

This was a nice find. Baseball Lives was published in 1989, but it reads like an "internet wormhole" where you just keep going deeper into obscure tangents of the original subject. The entirety of baseball, as a game, as a business, as a way of life, is told by the people who live it: Owners, managers, scouts, trainers, PR people, bus drivers, equipment managers, bat makers, groundskeepers, statisticians, ushers, beer vendors, broadcasters, gamblers— ANYONE you could think of.  (And yes, some players as well—Dennis Eckersley, Andre Dawson, and Bruce Bennedict all get to tell their story).

Baseball Lives is full of minutia, and for the most part the details are behind-the-scenes, rather than typical baseball trivia. There was a grounds crew guy who had to facilitate the burying of ashes in left field where Enos Slaughter played. There was a scout who traveled to see how well Ty Gainey fielded the ball, only to have the pitcher pitch a perfect game and Gainey didn't touch the ball once. Fun anecdotes like these help one appreciate the game a bit more.

You get a lot of different perspectives on the game.  The director of marketing for the Padres didn't want to talk about his job at all.  He wanted to tell the story of his childhood and being a Yankee Stadium rat and how he befriended Roger Maris. The director of media relations for the Twins was quite busy in 1987.  So busy that he didn't even see his team win the World Series.  He was right there, but he was working his job, not watching the game. Those that work directly within the MLB organization obviously love/fear for their jobs, others can afford to keep things interesting and spill a little dirt.

With over fifty mini-chapters it's a great book for subway rides or plain old bathroom lit. Some might find it ultimately skimmable/surfable, others might dive into the abyss.

Mark Hughson lives in Syracuse, NY and (still) roots for the Oakland Athletics.  His favorite headline about Pat Venditte is "Amphibious Pitcher Makes Debut."

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