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April 26, 2011

Book Review: Baseball Miscellany by Matthew Silverman

A few weeks ago, I got an email from someone with Skyhorse Publishing asking if I was interested in doing a book review.  At first, I thought it was, naturally, I responded saying I'd need two copies. 

One for me and one for you...but more on that later.

Now, I'm not much of a reader (feel free to insert your hackneyed "some would suggest I'm not much of a writer" jokes here)...but, thankfully, Hall of Very Good contributor E is. 

Here is his take on Baseball Miscellany:  Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Baseball by Matthew Silverman:

Years and years ago, some long-defunct magazine like Sport or Inside Sports used to put out a year-end almanac magazine. 

The main purpose of this magazine was to publish the results and box scores of all the year's sporting event, like who won the World Series or that year's America's Cup (spoiler alert: it was America).

The bulk of the magazine, however, was devoted to facts, figures, and trivia, like Otis Nixon stealing six bases in one game or Wade Boggs throwing out his back putting on his cowboy boots.

I loved this magazine. 

I used to buy it every year because I wanted to know all the wild and wacky things that had happened in sports that year. Nonsensical trivia is one of the few reasons to follow sports. And it’s one of the reasons I read Baseball Miscellany by Matthew Silverman, because, with a name like Baseball Miscellany, it was bound to be full of the completely useless information I love.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Baseball Miscellany does, as the name might infer, have some degree of baseball miscellany, like the fact that Pete Rose went 1,000 at bats without a home run twice in his career, or that, at one time, there were two players in baseball with the nickname “Dummy” (and they were both deaf, which makes it even funnier).

There are even definitions of olde timey terms like “pepper” and “can of corn” that are only used by the oldest of old school broadcasters and are lost on the modern fan.

But, instead of just being full of useless trivia, Baseball Miscellany is mainly devoted to explaining and giving historical background information on why things are the way they are in baseball. The chapter titles ask questions about some aspect of baseball that is then answered in the chapter.

Some of the chapters are devoted to information that not even the most hardcore of fans would care about, like “What is a sandlot,” “Why do pitchers throw overhand in baseball and underhand in softball,” or “Why do some stadiums have the same names as old ones.”

But most of the chapters are devoted to interesting subjects that most fans have pondered about, like “Why is Fenway’s Green Monster so tall,” “Why is the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY,” and “Why is the spitball illegal” (which contains the nice bit of trivia that baseball once had 17 legal designated spitballers, three of whom made the Hall of Fame…not including Gaylord Perry, who spitballed on the downlow).

There’s even a chapter devoted to the worst stadium promotions of all time, which includes local favorite Disco Demolition Night, cooked up by shock jock Steve Dahl and executed by baseball agent provocateur Bill Veeck.

Baseball Miscellany is a thoroughly-researched and interesting read. Its strong point is that it deals with baseball minutiae that hasn’t already been covered to death and tends to be more interesting than just telling me how many players have hit for the cycle twice (the answer is three; how boring is that).

And for those of you that don’t feel like taking on a major reading project, no worries: I read this in a couple of hours. It may not be as in-depth as Men at Work or Moneyball, but it’s an entertaining read, nonetheless.

Check it out. now to the "win this book" portion of this book review.

I mentioned up top that I asked Skyhorse for two copies...and they delivered.  And since Baseball Miscellany is chock full of interesting tidbits ("miscellany" if you will), I want to know...what is your favorite barstool fact to drop on your friends?

Meaning...what is one piece of baseball trivia that you like to unleash on whoever (whomever?) will listen?

Leave it in the comments below, drop me an email or post it over at the Facebook page and if I dig're getting a book.

Oh...and the Tony Bernazard picture above?  You'll have to wait to see what that is all about when Matthew Silverman answers the "Friday 5".

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