During this COVID-19 spring time, many of us have truly missed sports - especially the game Americans love - baseball. While Major League baseball may begin a shortened season soon, we lovers of the game can also read about the sport in print or electronic resources with an Abilene Public Library card.
While our Mockingbird and South branches have a good selection of materials, the Main Library has the largest collection of resources with extensive histories of major league baseball, baseball in Texas, specific teams, players, games and ballparks, skill development, coaching and even statistics, if that’s how you roll.
A beautifully illustrated coffee table book, Baseball’s Greatest by Sports Illustrated might be my first choice for the history of the major leagues. It attempts to answer questions like: Who are the greatest hitter and pitcher of all time? Is Wrigley or Fenway the better ballpark? Who was the greater shortstop: Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken? Along with classic stories from SI’s archives are rankings of the all-time greatest in a number of categories. An even more detailed history of the sport is Baseball: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns. In nearly 500 illustrated pages it chronicles in detail every phase of the game and all types of amateur and professional leagues.
One that I found quite interesting was Did Babe Ruth Call His Shot? And Other Unsolved Mysteries of Baseball by Paul Aron. In addition to the story of Ruth’s pointing his bat to the center field fence at Wrigley Field just before launching the ball over it are stories about how Cuba’s Fidel Castro, as an ace pitcher, was nearly signed to a major league contract and claims the first African-American player in the “major” leagues was actually “Fleet” Walker of the Toronto Blue Stockings.
You might enjoy reading some of the offbeat, quirky history of baseball. If so, pick up The Baseball Uncyclopedia as a “highly opinionated, myth-busting guide” to baseball. And then there’s Who’s on Worst? The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History with hilarious and bizarre stories about players, managers, umpires and owners best forgotten.
Baseball has an unwritten “code of conduct” which is the subject of The Code by Ross Bernstein. Many fans may be unaware of what players and coaches are acutely aware of: what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Is deliberate beaning of a batter unacceptable or simply part of the gamesmanship? The author relates a number of stories about retaliation, intimidation and sportsmanship.
Rangers fans will enjoy Texas Rangers: The Authorized History by Eric Nadel, and be sure to pick up 100 Things Rangers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Rusty Burson. Histories of the Astros, Yankees, Cardinals and Texas minor league teams from San Antonio, Fort Worth and Alpine can be found as well as books specifically on baseball in Texas such as “Baseball in the Lonestar State.”
This barely scratches the surface of our baseball resources, with many fine movies, instructional books & videos, and downloadable books. Indulge your love of the ‘Great American Pastime’ while we can’t go to the ballpark by checking out baseball at your Abilene Public Library.
Article Contributed by Janis C. Test, Information Services Manager, Main Library