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Baseball books in play

Books about the Dodgers and Angels are making publishers' rosters, but notable attention also is being given to the Red Sox, Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

March 06, 2011|By Jon Thurber | Los Angeles Times
  • New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio in March 1951.
New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio in March 1951. (Associated Press )

Ah, the sounds of spring. The crack of the bat, the smack of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt, the ka-ching of cash registers totaling up sales of books on baseball out this season.

Just as ESPN seems to lean toward the American League East for broadcasts, book publishers this season also are looking in that direction, especially to the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and — surprisingly — the Tampa Bay Rays.

Citizens of Red Sox Nation may find the team's unlikeliest of heroes in knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and his book "Knuckler: My Life With Baseball's Most Confounding Pitch" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Those who view a trip to Fenway Park as a religious experience should consider "Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

The Rays come under scrutiny in Jonah Keri's "The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First" (ESPN Books). In this unlikely baseball tale, two former Goldman Sachs colleagues assume control of the team and leverage their brokerage skills to transform a flailing franchise.

Of course, there have to be several on the Bronx Bombers, notably "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Robert Weintraub's "The House That Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redemption of 1923" (Little Brown), which tells the story of another baseball shrine. Nearly 12 years after his death, Joe DiMaggio continues to be fodder for baseball books: His 56-game hitting streak gets a detailed look in Kostya Kennedy's "56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports" (Sports Illustrated).

Even books about the Dodgers this year have a mostly New York flavor. Jimmy Breslin profiles the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who broke baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson in "Branch Rickey" (Viking). Another Dodgers great of that era comes to bat for a biographical treatment in "Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella" (Simon & Schuster). And the new Dodgers manager and former Yankees Gold Glove winner is the subject of "Donnie Baseball: The Definitive Biography of Don Mattingly" (Triumph).

Moving west, Shawn Green, the former Dodger, Blue Jay, Diamondback and Met, gives readers a memoir of his time in the game that has a decidedly Zen-like title, "The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph" (Simon & Schuster). Ommm…. Angels fans have the club's own story of its years in operation in the forthcoming "The Official History of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" (Insight Editions), which marks the team's big 5-0 as a franchise.

What about fans not aligned with either coast? The best bet for the season may be George Vecsey's biography "Stan Musial: An American Life" (ESPN), which tells the story of the great St. Louis Cardinals slugger and Hall of Famer who played from the early 1940s to the early 1960s.

Another good bet is Dan Barry's book on the longest game ever played, a minor-league affair between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox in "Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball's Longest Game" (Harper).

Or fans might consider "Nobody's Perfect" (Atlantic Monthly Press), in which umpire Jim Joyce and pitcher Armando Galarraga team to describe last season's perfect game that wasn't when Joyce missed the call at first base and how it has influenced their lives.

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