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.