Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baseball Through Biographies

baseball field with players
Washington Nationals Opening Day 2017
Devoted baseball fans know to count down to Pitchers and Catchers report day every February. This marks the start of spring training and the beginning of the end to a long winter without baseball. However, I usually start wishing for the return of baseball by late November (the World Series usually ends in late October or early November). Of course, for many others, thoughts don’t turn to baseball until after opening day.

Regardless of your level of baseball interest, how can the library support your love for America’s pastime? Well, baseball has long been a subject for fiction and nonfiction alike, but here are a few great selections from recent years.

Pedro cover showing Pedro Martinez pointing at the sky Pitchers are, by default, at the center of the action on the baseball field, and some draw significant attention with their off the field action as well. Pedro by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman is the memoir of the colorful Hall of Fame pitcher who retired in 2009 after 18 seasons in the majors with teams including the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets. In the book, Pedro discusses his quest to overcome the negative perceptions caused by his small stature and become a dominating pitcher, as well as his historic run with the Boston Red Sox to end their 85 season World Series drought.

Phenomenon cover showing Ankiel looking at the camera Of course, most pitchers don't have Martinez's record-breaking career. Rick Ankiel debuted as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000, but was never able to pitch successfully at the major league level. After struggling unsuccessfully against a condition known as the yips, he left baseball only to later return as an outfielder and play seven major league seasons for a variety of teams, including the Washington Nationals (2011 & 2012). Ankiel's new book, The Phenomenon, written with Tim Brown, tells the story of the condition that derailed his original career plans and the process he went through to overcome these challenges.

The streak cover showing gehrig at top and ripken at bottom For those interested in local players, Cal Ripken, Jr. will be one of the subjects of the forthcoming The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record by John Eisenberg. Rather than being a biography, the book explores the environment of baseball in the early and late twentieth century. New York Yankee Gehrig's streak of playing 2,130 consecutive games stood from 1939, when Gehrig took himself out of the lineup due to playing difficulties caused by his not-yet-diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—now commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. The record stood until 1995 when it was broken by the Orioles' Cal Ripken, Jr. whose streak ended at 2,632 consecutive games.

42 cover showing actor playing Jackie Robinson standing on baseball field Prefer to watch instead? Check out the 2013 movie 42 (PG-13) about Jackie Robinson's major league breakthrough. The movie shows that Robinson's role as the first black player in the majors was anything but accidental. Robinson's life both in and out of baseball has also been the subject of numerous biographies for readers of all ages.

Happy reading!


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