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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Department of Book Reports 11th Inning

Ah, spring is here! The flowers are blooming, the birds are a-nestin’, and Baseball season has started! Throughout our fine land, games are being played, except for those arenas where it is snowing. And with the new season, also comes a plethora of titles concerning our National Pastime.
Easily the best, and the funniest baseball book I’ve encountered so far is Derek Zumsteg’s The Cheaters Guide to Baseball (Houghton Mifflin $13.95). It is exactly what is says it is, an examination of the art of deception in playing the game. Zumsteg covers corked bats, spitballs, sign stealing, umpire baiting, Billy Martin, and even how groundskeeping can influence the outcome of a game.
He includes a concise history of the 1919 BlackSox scandal that features a small piece of funny dramatization around the gamblers who financed and cheated the players. There is also a piece on steroids in the game where he gives the most even-handed account of the phenomenon that I have seen.
Jim Bouton gave the book a snarky review in last week’s New York Times Book Review. All I can say is that Bouton must have gotten up on the wrong side of bed or has lost his sense of humor in his dotage. (I loved his Ball Four, used to read it yearly). Cheaters is both funny and clever by turns. It is also very informative. Zumsteg has a good grasp of the game’s history and its characters. The anecdotes are charming. Even the non-fan would enjoy the book.
Derek has co-authored five previous editions of Baseball Prospectus, is one of the regular commenters at the wildly famous baseball blog USS Mariner and, according to his author bio in the back of the book “…was named the 101st most beautiful person three consecutive by People magazine, and climbed Mount Everest twice in one year to show Jon Krakauer what’s up”. Derek will be signing copies of his book at Jackson Street Books on Saturday April 21st at two p.m. We'd be happy to ship you a personalized copy! It is also available at other fine independent bookstores.

We wanted to note the passing of Seattle resident and author Michael Dibdin, the author of the Aurelio Zen mystery series and other works. I only met him once but SeattleTammy would see him from time to time at Seattle Mystery Bookshop signings. We both had the opportunity to close down the hotel bar with him and his wife Katherine (K.K.) Beck. He was a large presence that night, extremely gracious, and very funny. It was at the start of the Iraq war and I asked him his opinion of Tony Blair. He stuck his finger in his mouth and made a gagging noise while uttering Blair’s name. I am sorry I won’t have the chance again. Read his books. They are good and his best legacy.

democommie™™™™®© couldn’t participate in this particular book report, but we are scheduled to play catch sometime soon. Play Ball!


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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.