My Ten Favorite Baseball Books of All Time

I made this list about a year and a half ago, and I’ve read a couple of new baseball books since, so this list may need a revision soon.  But here’s what it looked like then.  In no order (for a change):

  • THE BRONX ZOO by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock (1979)

    Golenbock worked on the autobiographies of four members of the 1978-1979 Yankees. They are all excellent, but this is the best of the lot.
  • BALLS by Graig Nettles and Peter Golenbock (1984)

    Sparky Lyle’s account of the craziness on those Yankees teams is full of angst and drama, but Graig Nettles tells a calmer story, with less drama and more baseball.
  • THE UMPIRE STRIKES BACK by Ron Luciano and David Fisher (1982)

    This should be required reading for any fan of the game. Understanding the challenges of umpiring opens up new dimensions of appreciation for the sport, and Ron Luciano’s outrageous stories give one a little bit of sympathy for the men in blue. Followed by three sequels, one of which is pretty good.
  • TEMPORARY INSANITY: THE UNCENSORED ADVENTURES OF BASEBALL’S CRAZIEST PLAYER by Jay Johnstone (1985)

    Jay Johnstone isn’t in anyone’s hall of fame, but his stories of the clubhouse and dugout are fun and humanizing, especially if you remember the Dodgers of the early 80s with any fondness. Hilarious accounts of dugout pranks make this supremely re-readable. Followed by a few sequels of declining entertainment value.
  • GOOD ENOUGH TO DREAM by Roger Kahn (1985)

    Roger Kahn’s story of how he, a lifelong baseball writer, purchased a double-A minor league team. The baseball parts are great; the rest is even better. This is perhaps the sweetest baseball book I’ve read.
  • MONEYBALL: THE ART OF WINNING AN UNFAIR GAME by Michael Lewis (2003)

    Michael Lewis’s explanations of the economics of baseball, as told through the team who found a way to compete against the high-rollers. A great book made into a pretty good movie, and Lewis can explain anything to anyone better than most teachers I know.
  • NINE INNINGS: THE ANATOMY OF BASEBALL AS SEEN THROUGH THE PLAYING OF A SINGLE GAME by Daniel Okrent (1985)

    An amazing, wonderfully geeky breakdown of a baseball game, pitch-by-pitch, with narrative backstory and forestory by one of fantasy baseball’s Founding Fathers. A book only for the hardest core.
  • BALL FOUR: MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES THROWING THE KNUCKLEBALL IN THE BIG LEAGUES by Jim Bouton (1970)

    The baseball book that ushered in a new era in sports writing, BALL FOUR broke the sanctity of the clubhouse and served as confessional for an aging knuckleballer clinging to a fading career.
  • CATCHER IN THE WRY: OUTRAGEOUS BUT TRUE BASEBALL STORIES by Bob Uecker (1982)

    Catchers tell the best baseball stories, and Bob Uecker tells them better than anyone (see also: books by Joe Garagiola and Tim McCarver). And yes, there’s a chapter on the Lite Beer commercials. This book belongs in the FRONT ROOOOOOW of your library.
  • THE EXTRA 2%: HOW WALL STREET STRATEGIES TOOK A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM FROM WORST TO FIRST by Jonah Keri (2011)

    It’s like MONEYBALL plus. Jonah Keri isn’t nearly the writer Michael Lewis is, but with less story and more nuts-and-bolts, his version of the new baseball gives a better picture of what teams today are doing with the math.

The Spirit is Willing

I saw Mistress America Wednesday afternoon and stayed awake the whole time despite choosing not to munch on anything. I’ve gotten plenty of sleep lately and didn’t think I’d have trouble with falling asleep. That turned out not to be the case: there were a few moments during the trailers where I felt myself drifting off, but once the film got rolling, it was pretty smooth sailing. Small victories. And a review of the film later.

Still working my way through my digital music collection, re-adding the songs that have been lost from my index but remain in my music folder. There used to be a keyboard shortcut in iTunes for importing the contents of a whole folder (or multiple selected folders), but in one of the updates a few years ago, they got rid of that shortcut. You can still do it, but you have to go to the file menu. It’s annoying. Also annoying is the horrifying lack of ID4 data in far, far too many of these files. I’m still kind of enjoying the task, however slow-going it is (I’m only on the Bs). I just wish there were better standards with music you purchase digitally.

Latest musical joy: the new Impellitteri album, Venom, is pretty dang good. Not very challenging, but pleasant to listen to with some of Chris Impellitteri’s mind-blowing speed on guitar. I’m turning into a fan. Also revisiting some of 2014’s discoveries, including Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails (bliss!), The Contortionist’s Language (ecstacy!), Animals as Leaders’s The Joy of Motion (brain candy!), and of course Mastodon’s Once More ‘Round the Sun (perfection!). I also picked up the new Iron Maiden double album, The Book of Souls (their best since the Eighties!). I’ve also been listening to a Spotify playlist I made of Testament’s most-played songs on their current tour, since they’ll be here in October and I will be in the audience.

The NFL season starts Thursday with the Patriots playing the Steelers. I’m about as close to giddy about the upcoming season as I’ve been in quite a while. I’m looking for mass quantities of free mass media for my entertainment in the next few months, and football is one of the best. I’ll post my predictions for the season sometime before kickoff.

It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I expect to be pretty tired Thursday. I’m getting up early to put the last edits on my article for the day (on companies with “no firing” and “no layoffs” policies), then running a couple of errands in time to be back for the game. I may fall asleep during the game, but I’ve already set the TiVo in case that happens.

Midway

2012 is half over. Here are some midpoint checkups.

  1. The best movie of the year so far is Moonrise Kingdom, much as I had to admit it. I have issues with Wes Anderson and it appears they may finally be over. Second best is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
  2. The best album of the year so far is Rush’s Clockwork Angels. The Cranberries’ Roses is second, and Dr. Dog’s Be the Void is third. But that Dr. Dog album is really growing on me, so it’s coming on in the backstretch.
  3. My favorite moment on TV so far is Craig Ferguson’s week in Scotland, particularly his conversation with the Scottish minister (I can’t remember his exact title) about Scottish independence. David Letterman’s interview of Conan O’Brien might be second.
  4. The best sports moment so far is LeBron James beating up first on the Celtics and then the Thunder as he won his first NBA title. I’m not really a basketball fan, but I have been rooting for the Heat ever since LeBron made The Decision.

Nobody Messes with the Macho King

I’ve been planning for years to chronicle my long love/hate affair with professional wrestling, something I’ve considered more seriously in these days since my friend Ryan’s death (he was also a fan). I’m still working on that idea, but one of my favorites died today when he suffered a heart attack while driving.

Randy “Macho Man” Savage got me back into pro wrestling when I thought I’d been done with it for several years. Part of this is my friend Gregg’s fault, too, since he was a fan, but I really can’t blame G. Right around my senior year of high school, the year of the first WrestleMania, I somehow found myself re-engaged, and it was the Macho Man who really did it for me.

He had (almost) everything I like in a wrestler: a unique interviewing style that generally stuck to eloquence and not histrionics (this was really the thing I liked best about him), excellent storylines and rivalries, and a look. I usually dislike all the in-between stuff during a wrestling broadcast, wishing the programming would focus more on the matches than on the interviews, but I looked forward to interviews with the Macho Man and I still find his presence magnetic and impossible to ignore. I might have the TV on in one room while I’m washing dishes in the other, and when I hear one of Savage’s Slim Jim commercials, I’d poke my head in just to see him.

I don’t have a lot more to say about him except to repeat that he was one of my favorites. In his honor, I’ve composed a list of my ten favorite pro wrestlers ever.

  1. Mr. Wrestling II. A favorite of President Carter’s mother and President Carter himself, a longtime resident of Hawaii, and just a master technician in the ring. I used to love it when some punk rookie wrestler would go for the mask because you knew it was over at that moment. Nobody unmaked II, ever.
  2. Wildfire Tommy Rich. For a brief moment, he was the coolest thing in wrestling. He seemed to flame out early, or perhaps he moved on or perhaps I lost interest, but in the very middle of my longest period of fandom, he was the most charismatic, exciting wrestler I could name.
  3. The Freebirds. I didn’t like heels very much, but there was something about this three-man tag-team that intrigued me even while I hated it. So exciting to watch.
  4. Randy “Macho Man” Savage. My favorite wrestler in my late-high-school period.
  5. Mil Mascaras. I’d probably find Mascaras silly if I were to see him for the first time today, yet when I first became a fan via the old USA network and wrestling at Madison Square Garden, he was the coolest thing.
  6. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Not a big fan of the Hart Foundation. Big fan of The Anvil, especially for his interview style. I told you that was a big deal for me.
  7. Mr. Wrestling I. He was really cool; I just almost never got to see him wrestle because he and II seemed to have an agreement to stay in their own parts of the country. I was bigger and cooler, but just not the tactician II was.
  8. The Rock. The last period of fandom in my life was early in my teaching career; it’s either the fault of my students or Gregg again, since he was my roomie for about a year. So charismatic, and such a great interview when he managed to say something more than a string of catchphrases. Maybe the only late-nineties wrestler I really liked.
  9. Rowdy Roddy Piper. Mostly for his ringside commentary, though I did like him in the ring, too.
  10. Otis Sistrunk. Yes, the former Oakland Raiders defensive end had a short stint in the NWA in Atlanta, when the Freebirds broke up and Sistrunk became Michael Hayes’s tag-team partner. How great was it to root for a Raider while I was watching wrestling? THIS GREAT!

Goodbye, Randy Savage. Thanks for years of mindless guilty entertainment!

I Know Just What I Heard

Had a quiet Saturday, launched by almost ten hours of sleep last night. Got a little bit of work done, then watched The Social Network for the first time (review later). Now I’m editing some moguls video from the 2002 Olympics and putting it on YouTube. Not sure if anyone cares to see that stuff, but who knows, right? It would be a shame if someone out there wanted to see the footage and it just wasn’t there even though there are people (me) who have it on VHS.

I was kind of obsessed with that Olympics. I watched it pretty much every waking moment I could, then taped hours of it while I was out, sometimes leaving the VCR recording while I went to work and sometimes while I slept, not even sure what events I was capturing but determined for some reason to capture it anyway, even though a piece of me know I’d never get around to watching it. Something told me back then that it might be nice to have it archived. Unlike some figure-skating video I uploaded some time ago, it doesn’t look like this stuff is already on YouTube.

Mochi Girl is getting married. That seems to dictate some kind of response, ‘though I don’t especially feel the need to express that response. Unlike other things I put in this space, this is not an issue I need to work through. I’m happy for her. I like the guy she’s engaged to, and while I admit certain concerns related to being evenly yoked, one of the things I’ve always liked about Mochi Girl is that she’s pretty smart, previous bad decisions aside, and nothing I might bring up in the way of concern would be anything she hasn’t already thought and prayed about. It has become quite clear that she and I would never really have worked, most of the incompatibility issues being my fault because I’m so old and set on stupid things, not to mention the enormous baggage I’m still packing. I am pleased that while she and I were still hanging out, I was pretty much on very good behavior. I can shake her fiance’s hand and look him in the eye.

[wpaudio url=”http://chalkdust.mitchellkdwyer.net/stuff/hadadream.mp3″ text=”Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy)” dl=”0″]

I don’t know what had me thinking about Roger Hodgson last night, but I remembered how much I liked “Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” when local rock station 98 Rock was playing it and I decided I had to have it. It’s a lot better than I remember it. Geez, what a great song.

[wpaudio url=”http://chalkdust.mitchellkdwyer.net/stuff/cannonball.mp3″ text=”Cannonball” dl=”0″]

That, of course, had me thinking about Supertramp’s “Cannonball,” from the wonderfully titled Brother Where You Bound album. That album even without Hodgson went platinum, you know. There’s no reason this song should have faded into oblivion the way it seemed to. I have to say that although I liked the Hodgson song better back in the 80s, “Cannonball” is clearly the better song. It’s tough to listen to one without immediately wanting to listen to the other, something I find interesting. Am I the only one?

It reminds me of a review I read in Pulse a loooong time ago for a Peter Wolf album. The reviewer wrote something like, “It’s a good effort, but one can’t help thinking it would sound so much better with J. Geils Band behind him. Which is ironic, because one can’t help thinking that the recent J. Geils Band album would have sounded so much better with Peter Wolf singing the lead vocals.”

It reminds me also of something else I think I’ve quoted in this space a few times, something in Farewell to Manzanar. The transcript of an interrogation shows that Jeanne Wakatsuki’s father was asked which side he wanted to win the war. “When your parents are fighting,” he responded, “do you want one of them to win? Or do you just want them to stop?”

Anyway, I ask you: based on these two songs, which album would you be more inspired to purchase? I’m thinking the Supertramp album without Hodgson, even though I’ll probably get both. That horn break at the 4:34 mark is too juicy not to want more of.

Many (many!) of the critics picked The Social Network as the best film of 2010, but I just saw it and it doesn’t have Best Picture Oscar written all over it. I will be most surprised if the Academy votes that way.

Quickly

It’s super late and I’m super tired, so despite having a LOT to write about, I have to make this just a fast check-in. Today was the first day of the NFL draft, and I took a moment to compile this. Of thirty-two first-round draftees this year, eight were from the Big 12, seven from the SEC, four from the ACC, three from the WAC, three from the Big East, three from the Big 10, two from the Pac 10, one from the Big 12, and one from the Mountain West.

Take that Pac 10 and Mountain West.

Especially you, Mountain West.

More later.

Late Monday Night

They were talking about the Outdoor Classic (or whatever it’s called) on the Tony Kornheiser Show Monday morning. The Penguins will play the Capitals on Heinz Field. Non-sports fans might not know that one game a year in the National Hockey League (on New Year’s Day, I think) is played outdoors, the way most hockey players grow up playing hockey, as if on a frozen pond in the neighborhood. It has so far been wildly successful, and you can see why. The games have been great and the fans have loved it and everyone—I mean everyone—thinks it’s one of the smartest things the NHL has ever done.

Kornheiser said that he’d like to see the game played on the reflecting pool in D.C. You know the one: it’s where Forrest Gump dove in and swam toward Jenny. The discussion itself was pretty dang hilarious, but Kornheiser’s co-hosts (one of whom is David Aldridge) all think it’s a bad idea. I don’t get it! Bad idea? It’s a brilliant idea! Someone needs to listen to Tony and figure out a way to do it. Seriously.

Mochi Girl has been splitting her CSA box with me and this past week I just wasn’t on the ball. Sunday night I still had way too may veggies, all still good but showing signs of giving up hope, and the new box comes on Mondays. So I cut everything up—two kinds of kale, swiss chard, radishes, turnips, green onions, radish greens, turnip greens, and a few other green things I don’t know the names of—threw them in a pot with a half pound of pork and made a huge soup. Oh, I grated the turnips and also threw in a few grape tomatoes I had.

It was the grossest, most unappetizing soup I’ve ever seen. It didn’t taste bad, but it looked awful! So I removed the pork, added a little bit of salt and half a can of tomato paste, and took a hand-blender to the whole thing. It still looks pretty gross, kind of like a greenish-brown pea soup, but at least it looks like food now, and it tastes pretty good. I shredded up the pork and added it back, then had a bowl with some rice. The rice REALLY did the trick; I’m not sure why. Tomato paste is sort of the magic soup ingredient; I have often had totally insipid soups just spring to life with the introduction of a little bit of tomato paste. The tomato paste adds body and depth and a kind of integrity to the whole thing.

I love that stuff. I’ve mentioned in this space that I like to eat it right from the can. Yum. In fact, the reason I only added half a can to the soup (it could probably have taken a whole can) is that I’d already eaten half. Couldn’t resist.

Jennifer posted her top ten movie scores yesterday. That is a list I have to make.

I was pleased to see The Mission on her list at number three. I won’t spoil the suspense for my list before I unveil it, but I’ll say that that one’s higher up on my list than on hers.

Hawaii Pacific Vs. Pacific at Hans L’Orange Field

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I was planning to check out the UH-Manoa season opener at Rainbow Stadium against Oregon State last night, but I was listening to the Sea Warrior Report on ESPN 1420 and it occurred to me that the HPU game would be free, so I opted for Hans L’Orange Field. It was close for two thirds of the game, but the Sea Warriors broke it wide open with a six-run sixth and cruised to a 16-5 victory over Pacific.

With football season over, I’m jonesing for baseball. Note to self: bring a jacket next time. It was freezing last night in Waipahu!

Mag-Neato

Well I guess I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Super Bowl. I’m disappointed, but at least it was a good game. Props to the Saints who played well, and props also to Peyton Manning who was total class in defeat. Yeah, you know that’s Archie’s boy.

I made myself finish the other book I was in the middle of before getting into When You Reach Me, Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose. Excellent bio, I have to say. It is a really good telling of his story, mostly staying away from details about The Drew Carey Show and The Late Late Show because I get the feeling he’s saving that for another book, but he hits enough of it all to really make you see what you already know if you watch his show regularly: this guy loves America. I was moved to tears more than once.

I’m midway through When You Reach Me and it’s everything it promised, so far. Can’t wait to get some time to get into it again.

Something you might not have heard of if you haven’t been in a high-school English class for more than a decade is a word wall. Lots of language teachers create them, and they get created lots of different ways. I haven’t done word walls for a few reasons, but the main one is that I suck at teaching vocab. The vocab workshop I attended at the beginning of last summer gave me tons of good ideas, though, and it had me thinking of ways to approach a word wall in my English class. One other obstacle was that my walls are covered with posters and signs and cool stuff like that, so a word wall is tough to find space for.

Then one day some of my silly juniors were goofing off with the round magnets I keep on my whiteboard. My room’s ceiling is acoustic tile, that dry, crumbly stuff that comes in panels of about two feet by three feet and rests upon thin metal brackets, and above which all the wiring and fire-alarm stuff is strung. The silly juniors took the magnets from my whiteboard and stuck them on the metal braces. They thought I was going to be mad or at least miffed, but I looked up there and saw a hundred cool, fun ideas, including a possible place to put my word wall.

The configuration of my teaching space has left one whiteboard pretty much useless except for doodling space for my students (I love to let them play around with the whiteboard) and my weekly to-do list. I’m thinking of printing the vocab words on cardstock, then cutting each word out and sticking adhesive magnet strips on the back of each. Then the whiteboard becomes my word wall, and if I decide I can find a way for them to do it safely, I’ll have the kiddies use the ceiling space for some of our vocab activities.

Yeah, baby. That could be so neato. I went to Walmart this evening to buy the adhesive magnet tape. Something that specific can be tough to locate in a place like that, and it was, but I had a really good feeling it would be there, and it was. I’m kind of amped about that.

McD’s has a new dipping sauce for the McNuggets. Sweet chili sauce. It’s pretty good. Why doesn’t McD’s do that more often? You’d think it’d be easy to introduce, say, a new sauce each month, and rotate them in and out periodically. What about a hoisin sauce, or a Chinese plum sauce? Or a katsu sauce?