This’ll Get You Through Until Pitchers And Catchers Report

As it happened, the first story I read began on page 61, “The Ballad of Joe Moock.” It’s Steve Rushin’s poetic tribute to all 112 third basemen in the New York Mets organization through 1998. I began reading aloud to my children who began laughing, and I had a feeling this compilation of baseball-centric writings had promise.

As it turns out, it had promise and then some.

Many stories feature people or stories I’d never heard, like Japanese-American Fibber Hirayama and his experience playing in the land of his parents, or, the much-better-known Stan Musial, and his battle to finish his career with honor.

Others I had read before, forgotten, and then happily reacquainted myself with. There was the year “The Bird Fell To Earth” by Gary Smith about Mark Fidyrich and “The Guiding Light” about Negro League player Buck O’Neil.

And then there’s George Plimpton’s “Dream Of Glory On The Mound” which holds a special place in my heart because his adventures have given me the courage to take on many an athletic endeavor, flimsily cloaked under the guise of journalism. Because he proved it was possible, I joined a women’s roller derby team, flew a plane with absolutely no experience and made a compelling case to be the eighth receiver on the depth chart of a minor league football team with six receivers.

“Love, Hate and Billy Martin” was written by one of the best in Frank DeFord. Martin was somewhat of a charicature by the time I became aware of him.  DeFord really showed who the man was inside. It’s one of the best pieces in the book.

And, of course anything about Ted Williams  or Yogi Berra really can’t miss, can it?

But, above all is “Baseball’s Johnny Appleseed” by Harold Peterson that follows the birth of the game of baseball and it’s spread from the east coast to Hawaii. Hint: Abner Doubleday is not who you think he is.

All told it is a terrific look at the past which ends just as baseball’s name was being drug through the mud by pill-poppers and syringe-stickers. Thankfully, the rest of the book reminds us what was great about the game and the people who play it.

And it will get you through the next 90 days.

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