Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 14 May 10 07:14
That's a wonderful book, which I've read several times.
Emma Span (emmakspan) Fri 14 May 10 09:43
Yes, "The Glory of Their Times" is a terrific book. It's hard to convince people to read it, but no one I've loaned it to hasn't loved it. I'm also a huge Roger Angell fan - he's one of my favorite writers of any kind (and still going, though he's so old he saw Babe Ruth play live). And people don't tend to think of Bill James as a stylist, but he's a very good writer and his Baseball Abstract really changed the way I thought about the game when I read it in college, and indeed the way I think about conventional wisdom in general.
Paula Span (pspan) Fri 14 May 10 09:59
I'll put in a plug for, not a book, but a classic long article, Al Stump's story of the last days of Ty Cobb, which appeared in the pulpy True magazine. You know the story? Stump, ignoring the counsel of everyone who knew Cobb, signed on to ghost his autobiography. The result was so whitewashed that Stump suffered pangs of conscience about it ever after, and once Cobb died, he wrote this amazing saga (he basically moved in with the ailing but ever-belligerent Cobb, he virtually watched him die) as penance. I have only seen it in the anthology called "The Art of Fact," which I use to teach feature writing at Columbia, but I bet it's anthologized in other places as well. I just learned from a student a week ago that in the movie "Cobb," based on Stump's book and article, Stump had a walk-on role.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 14 May 10 10:17
The Stump article is amazing, just a wonderful piece of proto-New Journalism work. It's as significant, I think, as Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" and Tom Wolfe's "Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamlined Baby." I'm also a devotee of Roger Angell's writing on any subject but especially baseball. Sadly, he seems to have given the baseball beat at The New Yorker to Ben McGrath, who is a very fine reporter but, well, he isn't quite Roger Angell. (Even more sadly, and I don't know how widely discussed this is, but Roger Angell's daughter Callie recently committed suicide. Here's the NY Times obit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/arts/artsspecial/11angell.html?ref=obituarie s ) Recently, I saw a quote from someone, and I wish I could remember which author said this, to the effect that more good baseball books are published in a single season than have ever been published about other sports. If you agree, why do you think this is so?
still pulsating like a giant termite queen (crow) Fri 14 May 10 13:35
I read Prophets of the Sandlots, by Mark Winegardner, a coupld of years ago, and really liked it. It's about major league scouting. I think there are way more books about golf than about any other sport, because so many people play it and it's an easy gift idea. Oh wait you said =good= books.
Emma Span (emmakspan) Sat 15 May 10 21:05
Steve, I used that quote about good baseball books in my book, actually, but so far as I know it's originally from Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell: "More good baseball books appear in a single year than have been written about football in the past 50 years." That Stump article is completely fantastic, yes. I came across it originally in the excellent "Baseball: A Literary Anthology," which also has Talese's DiMaggio article, Bill Veeck's account of little person Eddie Gaedel's MLB at-bat, Updike's fantastic piece on Ted Williams' last game, and all kinds of great stuff.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sun 16 May 10 02:58
Thank you for the clarification on the Boswell quote. I think he's right. As a writer yourself, Emma, and also as a sporstwriter who has covered other sports, what do you think it is about baseball that lends itself to literature, or at least excellent writing, seemingly more so, or at least more frequently, than other games?
beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sun 16 May 10 12:12
another vote here for Sugar, which I watched recently and really loved.
Adam Perry (adamice9) Sun 16 May 10 21:30
Just saw this forum was happening and wanted to say that I read Emma's book last week and loved it, especially after reading the incredible Harper's collection "Rules of the Game" and writing a piece in Boulder Weekly (http://tinyurl.com/2344vws) about how much we need more sports writing today that's actually *writing*. Even the new book "Baseball Codes"...it's interesting, but it's just about baseball. I loved how Emma delineated her passion in such culturally rich, self-deprecating and diverse ways. My favorite baseball book is definitely "Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero," and not just because I grew up in Pittsburgh. Clemente was a fascinating person. Anyway - Emma, as someone who (like me) has friends who just don't understand your sports obsession, how would you suggest getting my daughter (who is 5 months old) into sports eventually even if my partner (who grew up in New Mexico and has *never* played or watched sports) is against it?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 17 May 10 10:02
Roberto Clemente's story and its tragic ending offer a good reason why baseball movies are generally poor. The real thing is already beyond amazing; what can Hollywood do to improve on it? Yet this isn't the case with literature, interestingly. "The Boys of Summer" by Roger Kahn, about the Brooklyn Dodgers (especially the '55 Dodgers who finally brought a championship to Brooklyn), is another great classic. I think it'd fail as a film, though. Partly that's because a great writer can draw things out of taciturn and/or under-educated and/or foreign-born ballplayers who speak with a heavy accent that a camera just can't seem to. Some of my favorite baseball journalism was the series of essays Roger Angell wrote back in the 1970s dissecting a particular baseball skill -- hitting, catching, pitching, etc. He talked to players and coaches who were experts, and their sometimes-less-than-articulate analysis nevertheless revealed great wisdom and intelligence. They all really thought hard about what they do.
Adam Perry (adamice9) Mon 17 May 10 11:55
Steve, I definitely don't think it's possible for Hollywood to "improve on" Clemente's story, but it's a story most of the world - and, I'd say, even most the sports world - isn't familiar with and should be. Imagining the sports superstars of today dying in a plane crash while racing to get supplies to a post-earthquake disaster area is seriously hard to do. As is imagining a superstar staying with the Pirates for an entire career. :-)
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 18 May 10 17:18
We've reached the late hours in this particular inkwell.vue interview, but there's no reason why the ballgame can't go into extra innings. Emma, I hope you stick around for a while, as I'm sure there are plenty more questions from the grandstand. No true fan leaves before the last pitch, you know. Thank you, everyone, for participating in a very enjoyable discussion about the National Pastime -- the way girls and women see it.
Emma Span (emmakspan) Tue 18 May 10 23:38
Thanks everyone, and thanks, Steve, for all the good questions! Adam, to answer your very good question - although I don't have kids, I imagine the best way to get one of either gender interested in the game is simply to watch a lot with them. I didn't care about baseball the first time my dad had it on the TV... or the second, or the 20th, really. But eventually I came across players and storylines that hooked me - and then visiting the old Yankee Stadium really sealed the deal. (Of course, unless you have a time machine, that last step could be tricky. But maybe a spring training game in a few years would be a good start? Or, lots of minor league teams have not only very affordable tickets, but lots of attractions, activities and mascots geared at kids). A few weeks ago another baseball writer asked me which baseball players I thought were really heroes - not just in the context of the game (e.g. Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone) but "in real life," actual heroes. Jackie Robinson is the obvious answer, and other trailblazing black players - Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, Lary Doby and more. But beyond that I was stumped for a second - Lou Gehrig, maybe? But then I remembered: Clemente, of course. Thanks again, everyone! I appreciate all the questions and feedback.
Adam Perry (adamice9) Wed 19 May 10 13:56
Hmm...I'm trying to think of a genuine hero, on and off the field, in today's MLB.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 19 May 10 14:00
Everybody has some charity they have been made to do... and no doubt there are contract clauses that forbid dangerous humanitarian missions.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 19 May 10 14:02
Those two trends perhaps make it harder to know who has a heroic spirit, changing things from two directions.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 19 May 10 15:51
It depends on how one defines "hero," of course. Lots of today's MLB players donate substantial amounts of time and money to charity, and quite a few have set up their own foundations to support one cause or another. The former Red Sox Mo Vaughn has become a very respected developer of housing for the indigent and poor in Boston and elsewhere. Is this heroic? Not by my definition of "hero," but I greatly respect these efforts by the players who make them, most especially the players -- there are quite a few -- who do it quietly and without fanfare. A recent issue of Sports Illustrated carried a feature story about "the most courageous man in sports," as the subtitle had it. To be honest, I forget his name -- Something Thomas, I think -- but as a top notch rugby player for Wales, he is the only out gay man anywhere professionally playing a major sport. That took guts to become so, and probably not a little heroism too.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Thu 20 May 10 12:11
I want to thank Emma, Steve and everyone who contributed to this discussion. It has been a pleasure. Inkwell has now moved on to a new author conversation, but this topic will stay here indefinitely so please continue to post if you wish.
Adam Perry (adamice9) Fri 21 May 10 09:42
By the way, does anyone else find it odd that the new book about Hank Aaron is called "The Last Hero" when a major book about Robert Clemente a few years ago was titled "Baseball's Last Hero"? I wonder if there will be a book on Jackie Robinson called "The Last Last Last Hero of Baseball"
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 21 May 10 11:28
I don't find it odd, really, I find it revealing of our culture's apparently addictive need to mythologize athletes into heroes. Coming in 2015: "Jamie Moyer: The Last American Hero." Coming in 2020: "Ryan Howard: The Last American Hero." Coming in 2025: "Bo Obama: The Last American Hero."
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