Book review: A Great and Glorious Game by Bart Giamatti

A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti by A. Bartlett Giamatti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like baseball (a lot), but I don’t love baseball. (College basketball is my true obsession.) But Bart Giamatti’s essays about baseball makes me wish that I loved baseball as much as he did (if that is even possible). And his essays certainly make me appreciate baseball and its “deep, resonant pauses” more than I did before.
Even if you aren’t a fan of baseball or sports, in general, the author’s writing–deep, profound, yet accessible–makes this book worth reading. His love for baseball informs every sentence he writes, and his respect for the history and what the sport means to the fans–young and old, immigrant and 10th generation–is evident in his passion and his enthusiasm. I only wish I could write a tenth as well as he could.
From Yale professor to Yale president to National League president to baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti’s musings on baseball reflect the country as it is and the country as it would like to be. Never would I have thought that I would give 5 stars to a bunch of essays on baseball. Read this for yourself and see why it is beyond well-deserved.

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Book review: Ty Cobb by Charles Leerhsen

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ty Cobb has a horrible reputation as a racist, mean, and disreputable human being. The author’s premise in this biography is that much of the mythology surrounding Ty Cobb is erroneous, based on a biography by an author who took a dislike to Cobb and created events out of whole cloth. The result is an interesting, contrarian take on a baseball player of mythological proportions.
While the Ty Cobb in this book isn’t the Southern white racist that he is often portrayed as being, he isn’t a nice person either (or, rather, he was accommodating to those who didn’t exacerbate his insecurities but otherwise unpleasant). But he was a tremendously gifted baseball player and transformed the business of baseball as well. In fact, the book does well in describing the state of baseball in the early 20th century and, in some ways, those are the most interesting sections of the book. The author tends to be a bit defensive in tone and clearly not objective in the sections about Ty Cobb specifically.
For baseball fans, this is an interesting history of the sport. For those who are interested in just how maligned Ty Cobb was and how mythology takes over facts, the book is also worth reading. The author isn’t a particularly strong writer as writers go (but I read this book after reading Rick Atkinson’s Revolutionary War book, so perhaps that was an unfair bar to live up to), but it’s an interesting narrative and history.

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