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Will we ever run out of baseball books?

May 28, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 1.07.55 PM

Bryan Curtis of Grantland has a great story today about baseball books. About how there are so damn many baseball books. And more and more are published every year. Indeed, just by going through books published in 2014, one can read subjects spanning nearly every decade of baseball history. Go back decades and you find multiple books on any topic worth writing about and just as many on topics not necessarily worth writing about.

Curtis talks to a lot of people — myself included — about why that is. I think the biggest answer is nostalgia. People want to read about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams even if they’ve already heard it all. That’s a dynamic I have tended to mock — aw, look at the Baby Boomers getting misty-eyed about their youth! — but I can’t lie: I was excited as hell to read Dan Epstein’s latest about baseball in the 70s and when we start getting carpet-bombed with books about 1980s baseball, I’ll read every one of them and shake my fist at the youngsters who just don’t understand how baseball was in its prime back then.

And then people younger than me will feel the same way about the baseball of their youth. Of the 90s and 2000s and steroid-era baseball. Curtis and I talked about it when he interviewed me:

McGwire and Sosa will be de-villainized, by their word processors or ours. “There’s going to be such a revision,” said Craig Calcaterra. In a recent talk at a bookstore, Calcaterra found that college students weaned on ’90s baseball don’t view that decade as the fall of the national pastime. It was their childhood. “They see it in very much the same terms that we saw Gaylord Perry,” he said. “‘Oh, look at that. Wasn’t it quirky that that happened?’ The sport always overtakes the tut-tutting of people in the media.”

It won’t be sepia-toned like a Mantle book may. But some guy in his 40s or 50s will pick it up, read it and shake his fist at his kids and tell them that baseball was so much better and simpler and pure back when they were that age.

  1. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 28, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    I wonder what Craig’s book will be called…..

    • buggieowens - May 28, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      “A Lifetime of Trolling Phillies Fans”

    • yahmule - May 28, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      How to Squeeze the Same Tired Agenda into a Misleading Thread Title for Beginners

    • SocraticGadfly - May 28, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      “Not Disrepecting.”

    • thetoolsofignorance - May 28, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      “Wring About Baseball For a Living Which You Would Have Done For Free But Get Paid For It For Dummies”

    • SocraticGadfly - May 28, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      “How I Learned to Stop Hating the Bat Flip and Start Loving the Carlos Gomez.” A hologram of Peter Sellers plays Craig in the movie version.

    • zzalapski - May 28, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Don’t know, but his daughter’s book will almost definitely be titled “My Name is Not Mookie!”

  2. 18thstreet - May 28, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Someone should write a book about the 1975 World Series. There’s only been 400,000 so far.

  3. yankeesfanlen - May 28, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    The authors or ghost writers of baseball books make 80% of them unreadable. There’s either an r we go the route of “a hot Tuesday double-header in Detroit, I walked in the 2nd and had a fly out in the 5th, couldn’t make it home for my son’s graduation, but he went into the service and became the #3 Oldsmobile salesman in eastern Kansas”.
    Then you happen upon a “56” which artfully combines personality, gamesmanship, identity and the social norms of the times, and have to re-evaluate why you hate so many baseball books.

  4. sdelmonte - May 28, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    That article goes on too long, and has an anti-baseball headline even though Grantland usually has some great baseball writing (almost all of it by Keri).

    I’ve read some books about other sports. Football lends itself well to behind the scenes things, like the rivalry between the two football teams in Dallas in the early 60s. Basketball has a lot of interesting quirky history prior to the Magic/Bird era. But no sport works as well as a sport in a book for me for some reason. Maybe it’s just my love of baseball, but I think there’s more to it. Football as a game is sometimes too complicated to expound on. Basketball is rather repetitive. Baseball finds a good place for a book, with variations on the theme but not too many.

    But yes, there is also the nostalgia factor. And the simple fact is, I feel no desire to revisit the football or basketball of my youth, or earlier. Those games are kind of dull. Both sports have really changed, for the better. Baseball, even with the SABR revolution, is the same even as it’s evolved. So I can easily get into a book about the ’75 Reds and not, say, the ‘&5 Cowboys.

  5. kweber2014 - May 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    The short answer is No. the first and only *baseball-only* publisher will continue delivering new and classic re-issue baseball books, so that we never run out! :)

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