If experiencing the game of baseball were limited to actual participation or in-person attendance, the sport would mean much less to all of us that it does. Because we read about the game, we can enjoy it long after the fact, and in a whole new form: digested, chewed, analyzed, stat-icized. The electronic media have also played a big part — letting up "be there" for games many miles too far for a drive. This two-sided richness of enjoying baseball is at the two-sided center of this edition of The SABR Review of Books.
The SABR Review of Books is here to provide literary opinion, so we begin with a survey of a blue-ribbon panel of baseball writers and researchers, asking the question, "What books would constitute the essential baseball library?" We compiled the results and added the comments of the participants. What we got is an intriguing forum that sounds like a SABR bull session — full of savvy and conversation.
The recent release of several books on or about baseball broadcasting is the other main section of this issue. First is Curt Smith’s magnum opus, Voices of the Game. It’s the first full-scale history of broadcasters and broadcasting. Accompanying that review are views of books by two characters who played big roles themselves in Smith’s book: Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell. Joep Oppenheimer reviews the former, Jim O’Donnell the latter. Then we asked videophile and sports broadcaster himself, Bill Borst, to review the baseball videos now available.
Baseball’s literary legacy is much more than histories and narratives. It has spawned major works in both fiction and poetry. Yet while the wedding between baseball and poetry has been fruitful, baseball fiction often leaves an unfulfilled feeling. Why is that? We asked Luke Salisburgy, who has tackled the challenge of writing baseball fiction himself, why it’s so goshdarned tough to do well. Poet Ira Stone provides us with a “Mediation” on the linkage of baseball and poetry, advising that “These poets did not seek to write about baseball. . . . These poets surprised themselves in creating poems wrapped in the mythology of baseball . . .”
Comparisons seem to be at the heart of nearly any baseball discussion, so it’s only fair that two articles in this issue start with that premise. Adie Suehsdorf reviews Say It Ain’t So, Joe and One Last Round for the Shuffler, two works that treat similar baseball characters: one a legend for his faults, the other barely a memory. For the first issue of The SABR Review Frank Phelps was asked to review Anton Grobani’s Baseball Biography, and he did, but between contribution and publication, we got word of a “new and better” bibliography, this one by Myron Smith. So we asked Frank to review it. The result is a side-by-side comparison of the two. Must reading for baseball bibliophiles.
Always fascinating are those behind-the-scenes looks at the game that go beyond clubhouse chatter, into the worlds of power and prestige. Merritt Clifton analyzes what the notorious Bowie Kuhn said about himself in Hardball, and Don Warfield’s book on Larry MacPhail is discussed by Philip Bergen.
This issue’s “personal favorite” feature looks lovingly at Pitching in a Pinch, by Christy Mathewson. Rob Johnson even explains how he spent years searching for a copy of it he could call his own. And we all know that feeling.
But that’s far from all: we have reviews of Joe Durso’s Baseball and the American Dream, by Darrell Berger; Pete Cava on The Dixie Association; Lawrence Rubin squares off with The Sporting News on their “Fifty Greatest Games”; Glenn Stout discusses Maury Allen’s Maris; and more.