One of the neatest gifts I've received recently was an autographed copy of Leo Durocher's book Nice Guys Finish Last. It was given to me by Ken Perry. Durocher's book, coupled with a planned trip to New York this summer to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and a game during the final season of venerable Yankee Stadium, motivated me to spend my winter down-time -- that lull between the Super Bowl and Opening Day -- honing my knowledge of baseball history.
And what better way to do that than with Ken Burns's famous documentary that originally aired on PBS in 1994?
The series is captivating, if not heavily centered upon New York and Boston to the neglect of baseball shrines like St. Louis. The documentary also weaves in a significant storyline dealing with race relations and the struggles of baseball to integrate.
Watching the series, I couldn't help but wonder what it must've been like to have been a baseball fanatic in New York during the 50's. The Yankees winning in the Bronx. The Giants winning in Manhattan. The Dodgers winning in Brooklyn. All at the height of their success. All battling annually for baseball (and city) supremacy.
I know it's out-of-style in the fast pace of our contemporary culture, but I love the pastoral pace of baseball. Does the game have its issues? Sure. I mean, who's juiced (pun intended) about continually seeing Roger Clemens walking Washington's corridors under a cloud of steroid allegations? But the game -- the game without a clock, played at a leisurely pace with freedom to think, to anticipate, to calculate -- is pure, even if some of its heroes carried sullied reputations.
The records may be tainted, but the game isn't.
So for you baseball cronies like myself, if you had one historical book to recommend on baseball, what would it be? From now until June 29 when I board the big bird for New York, I want to immerse my down-time reading in baseball history.
Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your recommendations...thanks!