One of my favorite jokes from a David Letterman monologue is: "Yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball which can only mean one thing: The Cleveland Indians are mathematically eliminated." Any long-suffering sports fan can relate to the pathos and humor in Letterman’s comment. I am a fan of the New York Mets and grew up watching them through the seventies and eighties when they did not enjoy much success. For example, in 1977, the Mets finished 37 games back, which brings to mind former Met manager Casey Stengel who lamented, “The Mets have shown me more ways to lose than I even knew existed.” Indeed.
All kidding aside, yesterday *was* opening day for our national pastime, and in good news, the Mets won, the Phillies lost, and the Indians didn’t play – so they’re still in the running. I thought I’d like to use the occasion of a new baseball season to recommend a few baseball-related titles, and also offer a tour through the variety of materials and formats the library has to offer.
With a tip of the cap to the aforementioned David Letterman, here are my Top 10 Baseball Titles by Format. (Note: I've also compiled this as a list called Batter Up! in Bibliocommons.)
- Print Anthology: Baseball: A Literary Anthology
With "Baseball: A Literary Anthology," The Library of America presents the story of the national adventure as revealed through the fascinating lens of the great American game. Philip Roth considers the terrible thrill of the adolescent centerfielder; Richard Ford listens to minor-league baseball on the radio while driving cross-country; Amiri Baraka remembers the joy of watching the Newark Eagles play in the era before Jackie Robinson shattered the color line. Unforgettable portraits of legendary players who have become icons-Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron-are joined by glimpses of lesser-known characters such as the erudite Moe Berg, who could speak a dozen languages "but couldn't hit in any of them."
- Ebook: The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron
In "The Last Hero," Bryant chronicles Aaron's childhood in segregated Alabama, his brief stardom in the Negro Leagues, his complicated relationship with celebrity, and his historic rivalry with Willie Mays–all culminating in the defining event of his life: his shattering of Babe Ruth's all-time home-run record. Bryant also examines Aaron's more complex second act: his quest to become an important voice beyond the ball field.
- Downloadable Audiobook: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, author Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.
- Fiction Book: Shoeless Joe
"If you build it, he will come." These mysterious words, spoken by an Iowa baseball announcer, inspire Ray Kinsella to carve a baseball diamond in his cornfield in honor of his hero, the baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson. What follows is both a rich, nostalgic look at one of our most cherished national pastimes and a remarkable story about fathers and sons, love and family, and the inimitable joy of finding your way home. (Note: this novel was the inspiration for Field of Dreams.)
- Fiction DVD: Field of Dreams
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears a voice, followed by a brief vision of a baseball field. He believes that if he builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield, Shoeless Joe Jackson from the infamous 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox will return to play baseball. By being willing to take a chance, Ray gets a second time up at bat in life.
- Documentary DVD: Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns
It is an epic overflowing with heroes and hopefuls, scoundrels and screwballs. It is a saga spanning the quest for racial justice, the clash of labor and management, the transformation of popular culture, and the unfolding of the national pastime. Here is the story of a nation at work and play. Experience it in ten thrilling "innings" from master storyteller and award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns.
- Nonfiction book: The Bad Guys Won
In "The Bad Guys Won," award-winning former Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jeff Pearlman returns to 1986, when the New York Mets — the last of baseball's live-like-rock-star teams — won the World Series and captured the hearts of fans everywhere. But their greatness on the field was nearly eclipsed by how bad they were off it. "The Bad Guys Won" immortalizes baseball's last great wild bunch and explores what could have been, what should have been, and (thanks to a tragic dismantling of the club), what never was.
- Downloadable Music: Take Me Out To the Ball Game: America's Favorite Pastime in Song
This compilation of country inflected tunes is available through Freegal, and includes some wonderful tracks including Shawn Pody's cover of John Fogerty's "Centerfield," and Layne Brooks' beautiful rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," which will make you feel like you're at the ballpark. Have a hotdog and mustard ready before downloading this collection.
- Streaming Video: The Physics in Baseball
When you use baseball to demonstrate the principles of physics, you will see science in a whole new way. This program takes a close look at the pitch (how gravity, drag, and the Magnus force are used to manipulate the path of the ball); the hit (kinetic energy, the coefficient of restitution, and Newton’s laws of motion); the flight (the effects of launch angle, drag, turbulence, temperature, air density, etc.); and running the bases (force, mass, inertia, and acceleration as the crowd goes wild!). A fascinating and informative teaching tool. A viewable/printable instructor’s guide is available online under "related resources." (Note: free account registration is required.)
- Downloadable magazine: ESPN: The Magazine
If you haven't taken advantage yet of the many free digital magazine subscriptions available through Zinio, why not start with the April 1st issue of ESPN Magazine which is their MLB 2013 preview issue? (Note: free account registration is reguired.)
As you can see there are a variety of formats and channels available for you to enjoy the wealth of content in the library's print and digital collections. Enjoy! And let us know about your favorite baseball title.