Three late-season arrivals make the All-Star roster
The Head Game
By Roger Kahn
Harcourt, Inc. $25
The baseball fan with a sense of history and an abiding respect
for the written word will rejoice in what is fast becoming a
late-season literary bonanza. It is rare indeed when even one
good book of baseball scholarship finds its way into the
marketplace. But this is one of three.
Kahn, the immortalizer of The Boys of Summer, is almost a
patriarchal figure in the literature of the game. There have been
times, however, when his self-absorption has all but overwhelmed
his subject matter.
That, happily, is not evident in The Head Game. The title refers
to the battle of wits between pitcher and batter, which is the
essence of baseball. Kahn sides with pitching, and in a
narrative that is both analytical and anecdotal, he rewards the
reader with what amounts to a scholarly treatise on the craft.
He does so through engrossing portraits of pitching masters,
from Candy Cummings, the reputed inventor of the curveball, to
Bruce Sutter, the popularizer of the split-finger fastball. Kahn
also presents us with Christy Mathewson on the fadeaway, Warren
Spahn on the changeup and Don Drysdale on the duster.
This book is Kahn at his best, which is pretty damn good.
Going, Going, Gone...
The History, Lore and Mystique of the Home Run
Edited by Brian Silverman
Harper Collins, $40
The mighty sluggers of history are all portrayed here, alongside
accounts of memorable swats by lesser figures. Included are
essays on the dinger by writers such as Robert Creamer, David
Halberstam, Donald Honig, Leonard Koppett, Ed Linn and Ray
There's amusement, too. In the section on tape-measure shots, for
example, we have this observation by former Yankees pitching
great Lefty Gomez: "When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the
moon, he and all the space scientists were puzzled by an
unidentifiable white object. I knew immediately what it was. That
was a home run ball hit off me in 1937 by Jimmie Foxx."
Red Sox Century
One Hundred Years of Red Sox Baseball
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
Houghton Mifflin, $40
"Losing--particularly the way Boston has lost, which always seems
to be in the most excruciating fashion and always when victory
has appeared most certain--poses a moral question that challenges
a way of thinking and leads fans into self-doubt: What have I
possibly done to deserve this?"
Ah, yes, but this immense and readable history offers more than a
reiteration of fan angst. It even takes us back to a time shortly
before and during World War I when the Sox actually won the World
Series regularly, much to the delight of saloonkeeper Michael T.
('Nuf Ced) McGreevey and his Royal Rooters. Also, in a piece of
revisionist scholarship, the authors show that the demonized
owner Harry Frazee, who sold the Babe, was not the numskull that
lore has made him out to be.
From Cy Young to Pedro Martinez, this book has all that anyone
would care to know about this accursed yet lovable franchise.