Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baseball Book Review - Talking Baseball Amongst Friends

It has been a while since I have finished a baseball themed book.  Most of my reading these days has been of the James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman, John Grisham, Stephen King and Harlen Coben variety.  As a matter of fact the set completionist in me can report that short of the King Dark Tower series and a few of Patterson's kid related books that I have finished the run of all 5 authors.  This past weekend I did finally finish a baseball book and thought I would share my thoughts about it.

Talking Baseball Amongst Friends by Steve Sullivan was a pleasant read.  This book is a collection of short stories and recollections of a variety of people, most connected to the game of baseball, as told to the author.  Each person was asked about a favorite baseball memory and the topics range from the first time stepping into a MLB stadium to a first game in the big leagues to heroic moments.  To me this type of book is the perfect bathroom read and that is how I finished the 2nd half of the book.  A bathroom read is not intended to be disparaging.  The stories are all pretty short most from half a page to 2 pages in length so you can enjoy a couple of stories during each session and pick up where you left off without worry of having to recall the plot or what just happened prior.

It was fun hearing what the people, most who are recognizable to baseball fans, have to say.  Several of the moments they remember, I remember as a fan as well.  What kept crossing my mind as a read this book was how fun it must have been to gather these stories and write the book.  I have never considered myself to have the writing of a book in me (that shouldn't surprise anyone who reads this blog with any regularity) but this is the kind of book that maybe I could pull off and boy it would be fun to do so.  Traveling around the country interviewing people and talking baseball with them sounds amazing.

At the end of the book Sullivan talks about a trip to The Field of Dreams in Iowa and reveals that he asked the people who he interviewed who they would want to have a catch with, living or dead, if they had the opportunity.  He collected their answers with a little bit of the why in the back of the book.  The answers ranged from deceased family members and ball players to mentors and people still around today.

In the spirit of the book I thought I would share my answers to the same question.  I say answer"s" because I have decided to share one family member and one ball players.

The family member would be my paternal grandfather, I called him Maka.  My dad's grandparents were like second parents to me growing up. We would spend holidays at their house, visit for a week or two during summer and take trips with them all over the country.  They were special people and I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today without them.  A few years back my grandmother passed away after a battle with Parkinson's disease.  That is a nasty disease and while I miss her dearly I am happy her battle ended and she is resting in peace.

One of my big worries when she passes was what would happen with Maka.  He was very sad for a while but ended up bouncing back pretty well.  I got a chance to visit with him and for the first time in his life he started opening up more and share his experiences in life, his time in Europe during WWII, going to Tigers ball games as a child, time with my dad and uncle when they were kids, etc.  Unfortunately heart disease hit him hard.  He had quadruple bypass surgery in his 50s and his heart started to give out again.  At his age there wasn't much they could do, it was just worn out.  The day I went to see him in the hospital to say goodbye for the final time is one of the hardest days of my life.

To have an opportunity to have a catch with him, hear some more of his stories and tell him once again how much I love him and appreciate him would mean the world to me.

While Maka was a pretty easy pick, trying to figure out a ballplayer proved a little more challenging.  Thoughts of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and Bill Veeck came to mind as people who transformed the game.  Giants greats like Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Chrisy Mathewson and of course Willie McCovey spoke to the Giants fan in me.  Greats of their time like Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle Joe Dimaggio and Cy Young would be great.  However I finally settled on this guy:
I can't think of any other player that would be more satisfying to have a catch with than Babe Ruth.  I think of the stories he could tell, the context he could provide about what life was like in the early part of the 20th century and an understanding of how the early days of baseball were played make him too attractive of a target to pass up.  Hopefully there would be some after catch to sit down with some hotdogs and beer to continue the conversation.

So if you could have a catch with 1 or 2 people at the Field of Dreams, who would you choose?

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to look for this book on Amazon. As for your question... I'd go with Tony Gwynn and my dad. Gwynn is my all-time favorite athlete and playing catch with him would have been a dream come true. I picked my father, because he's my idol and in my entire lifetime we've never played catch. When I was a kid, he was very busy providing for the family, so my mom was the one who practiced with me on the front lawn. Now in his 80's... my dad would much rather play a round of golf... instead of play catch in the front yard. But... it would be pretty cool to do it.