Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Hurrah and huzzah! Remember way back in February when I created my own “Baseball Reading Project?” Well, I finished it this afternoon. I read my five baseball books. I vowed to finish by the start of the season (April 1). And while I didn’t quite make that, I did finish my books! And for someone who is not a baseball fan, this is big. Dare I say it’s a home run? Should I get into the baseball metaphors? What the heck–I’m as corny as they come.

Here are the five books I read for my project:
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella
The Natural by Bernard Malamud*
Heat by Mike Lupica*
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord*
The Summer Game by Roger Angell

Did I enjoy all of these books? Yes. I will now attempt to rate these books, using baseball terminology. I don’t really know much baseball terminology, mind you, but I’ll give it a whirl.

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: a single.
This was a good way to start my project. Not as good as Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, but fine. As a native Nebraskan, I love the Iowa setting and the descriptions of thunderstorms. Plus, I learned some famous baseball names, like Tinker, Evers, and Chance. The premise of the story was way too far-fetched, though. And the “romance” part seemed forced–it reminded me of a Star Wars romance. What? They’re in love? What? But, still. Confederacy got the game started.

The Natural: a triple.
The writing is wonderful. I’m a fan of mid-20th century writing and The Natural fit the bill. Like many readers (probably), I’d seen the movie and was completely blown away by the differences between the book and the film. The book is MUCH darker. Just when you think things can’t get worse for Roy Hobbs, they do. I hesitated to pick this book up, but I read it pretty quickly–mostly because I love the writing.

Heat: a double.
I wanted to like this book more. It’s for kids and it was a Cybils nominee. But it didn’t really do much for me. The kids in the book are cute, but–more than my other choices–Heat was just too sporty. That’s probably a reflection of me, not the book. I like my stories character-driven and Heat is baseball-driven. However, just because I didn’t love it, doesn’t mean its target audience (middle grade kids) wouldn’t. I would definitely recommend Heat to reluctant, sport-playing readers.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson: home run!
Although I heard this book was good, I was a little leary of it–I thought it might be too dated (published, 1986). But, it’s not. It is adorably sweet and made me laugh out loud. Oh, Shirley Temple Wong, you are just precious. I think I liked this book because it’s not Heat. It’s not really about baseball at all–it’s about Shirley and her adjustments to American life. Baseball helps her adjust. Only one quibble about this book . . . there’s a scene where Shirley baby-sits her neighbor’s two-year-old triplets, and SHE GETS THEM TO BED! As a mother of (one!) young child myself, I found this a tad unbelievable. If I could find someone who could consistently get my baby to sleep each night, she’d be hired instantly.

The Summer Game: home run!
My husband, who is a huge baseball fan and the reason I started this project recommended The Summer Game. Its author, New Yorker writer Roger Angell, is called the “Poet Laureate of Baseball.” Much more than my other choices, The Summer Game got me interested in baseball. Now, unbelievable as it may be, I want to go see a ball game. The book is a collection of essays, mainly about baseball in the 1960s. I didn’t really like Angell’s play-by-play of the actual games–none of the players’ names mean anything to me. But, I loved his descriptions of the ball parks, weather, and American life. Now I want more Roger Angell. Especially this.

*available at the Yuma County Libraries

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2 Comments »

  1. Great stuff! I’m glad that you’re starting to develop more of an appreciation for baseball. It took me a while, too, but now I’m completely hooked. I’ll have to check out some of your other books – I’ve only read Heat so far. I loved Heat, but as you say, I’m already a fan of the game, and I’m sure that colors things. Thanks for sending me the head’s up!

  2. Tricia said

    I loved Heat for the very reason it wasn’t high on your list – I just loved the descriptions of the game. I also found In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson to be a sweet and wonderful book.
    Thanks for sharing your reviews!

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