Spring training for readers: It’s time to report!

While major league teams are breaking out the bats and balls in Arizona and Florida, it’s time for fans to break out the baseball books.

About 20 years ago, I started a personal tradition as spring approaches of finding a new book about baseball to read in anticipation of Opening Day. I have my 2011 edition selected: “Fifty-nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball & The Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had.”

Since grade school, I’ve been a voracious reader. Baseball books have always been in the rotation amid the novels and poetry and biographies and histories I read. As a schoolboy, I devoured all the John R. Tunis books I could find at the neighborhood library. At the age of 9, I thought “Buddy and the Old Pro” was the best thing I’d ever read.

I got the Spring Training tradition going when I was living in Seattle in the late 80s and early 90s. I did a fair amount of business travel back then. I picked up a copy of the “Cult Baseball Players” anthology  at a shop at Sea-Tac Airport, almost certainly because there was a chapter on my childhood hero, Rocky Colavito. I imagine I read that chapter before takeoff.

Somewhere over the Cascades, I reached the chapter on Tug McGraw, and I got a delightful surprise. It was written by Marty Sutphin, an Associated Press colleague who worked as an editor in New York. I sent Marty the book and he autographed it for me, and – years after his too-early death – it has a special spot on my bookshelf.

Over the years I’ve read one and sometimes two or even three “Spring Training” books, most of them non-fiction with a smattering of novels for good measure. I reckon that’s how I came to read the “Mickey Rawlings” series of baseball murder mysteries set in the World War I era by Troy Soos.

I’ll be going back in time even farther this year with the Old Hoss book. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

4 thoughts on “Spring training for readers: It’s time to report!

  1. This is definitely one of the books on my list of “To Read” books, which I always struggle to find time to get to. You may already know this, but the author is on Facebook, if you want to look him up and make contact. Cheers, Bill

  2. As a reader of all things baseball and history in general I’m definitely going to look into some of these books. Thanks for the suggestions. Great tradition as well.

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