Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Refreshing! A Girly Book That Isn't Girly: It Takes More Than Balls

It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls' Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball by Deidre Silva and Jackie Koney

Before he asked me if I wanted to do "dueling reviews" of It Takes More Than Balls, I'd always thought that Bob (he who mans The Griddle at Baseball Toaster) had a possibly unhealthy obsession with tracking instances of catcher's interference.

But thanks to Silva and Koney's book, I now know what it is, and more importantly, why it is interesting.* So, Bob, I'm sorry I doubted you.

It Takes More Than Balls is a concise, entertaining, and snarkily written overview of the sport and how it's played. Silva and Koney do a nice job of illustrating different aspects of the game, as well as the characteristics that separate the good from the great players, with examples plucked from all eras of baseball history.

There's the heartwarming story of Connie Mack agreeing to start aging pitcher Howard "Bob" Ehmke in the first game of the 1929 World Series after Ehmke said, "Mr. Mack, there is one great game left in this old arm." And sure enough, there was. And I couldn't help but feel a little twinge of respect for scrappy Pete Rose, who I learned routinely sprinted to first base when he got a walk, just like the coaches made us do in Little League.

But it's not all heartstrings and the soundtrack from The Natural. Silva and Koney also get in some nice digs at Manny, A-Rod, and the home run derby steroid sluggers, and have a good time (if a kinder one) rolling out stories of notorious errors, regrettable trades, and player foibles.

I do have one small beef with the book, which is that I'm not sure which part of it is for "savvy girls." This really has more to do with the book's packaging, as I really appreciated the absence of overtly girly content in Silva and Koney's approach. No "Omigod, my boyfriend is so into baseball, and I so totally do not know what is going on!" moments -- they respect their readers' intelligence and interest in the sport. However, aside from the memories and testimonials shared by female fans at the end of each chapter (most of which are horribly bland), this is really a book for any casual, yet enthusiastic baseball fan.

I enjoyed it, learned a few new things, lapped up some interesting baseball stats and stories, and was able to add a new piece of ammo to my unwavering, semi-irrational argument that the National League is superior to the American League.**

However, most "savvy guys" won't, because they will not buy a book with a pink cover and a title like It Takes More Than Balls.

I don't blame Silva and Koney for this -- I blame their publisher. And society.
* describes catcher's interference as "a situation where the catcher hinders a batter's ability to hit a pitched ball by touching his bat. The call is automatic as long as the batter was standing inside the batter's box, as it is considered the catcher's responsibility to place himself so as to allow sufficient space for the batter to swing the bat unimpeded."

That is well and good, but I prefer the way the ladies describe it: "The batter is given first base, while the catcher is left writhing on the ground wondering why he didn't become a dentist, like his mother wanted."

**I will fight with total strangers about this. This, and my equally unwavering, semi-irrational argument in favor of "Sweet Child O' Mine" over "Welcome to the Jungle" as the superior GNR song.


Linkmeister said...

I'll grant you that the NL was, for a long long time, superior to the AL. I subscribe to Roger Angell's theory that it was partly due to the more rapid pace of integration in the senior circuit.

But. The NL hasn't won an All-Star Game (yes, I recognize that's a fairly arbitrary measurement) in donkey's years, and worse, the AL has been winning the interleague games at a 2-1 pace for the past several years. So I think the argument can be made that the AL is currently the superior league. I don't like it (I'm a Dodgers fan and have been since 1959), but I don't get to choose my own facts. ;)

Oh, and I'm glad Bob pointed me over her; any blog with "book" in the title is all to the good.

Linkmeister said...

Ack. "Here," not "her."

mary_m said...

Yes, that is the biggest flaw in my pro-NL argument. It is very difficult to get around that whole "not winning" thing.

However, the NL clearly has the upper hand on some kind of spiritual/moral level, right?

Linkmeister said...

Grins. Oh, well, if you're going to argue on that plane...

The NL has age going for it too, of course; it was established in 1876 while the AL didn't start up till 1900 or '01. As I myself get older I find age to be a good thing.

Related to a previous post, I'm picking up Perlstein's Nixonland at the library today. Having lived it, I want to see how his views (he's twenty years younger than I) compare to my memories.

Comrade Dave said...

Hey, you're an NL girl. You grew up in PA, went to school in Memphis (Cards farm), and live in Dodger Land (Angels don't count). I can't begrudge you your preference.

I grew up in an AL town and I'm AL all the way; but I have to say that if you take away the Yankees and their clear deal with Satan (won't root for them, or the ChiSox, under any circumstances, the World Series numbers tip heavily for the NL.

mary_m said...

And the Brewers, too! Geography has definitely helped to shape my bias.

Comrade Dave said...

It's easy for me to forget about the Brewers; since when I was growing up they were in the AL!

Between that and seeing the Cubs on WGN all my life, it's been tough for me to get behind the Brew Crew.

Brady said...

Two words, Dave: Hammerin' Hank.

Of course, I'm biased since he's from my hometown and all, but still - any team playing in a stadium with a statue of Hank Aaron outside gets my good will.

Comrade Dave said...

Too true. But Hank made his impact with the Milwaukee BRAVES, not the Brewers.

And the brats are incredible.

Anonymous said...

I misunderstood your meaning by saying the NL is better than the AL, thinking you meant it was better baseball, not ability. Mostly because the NL refuses the DH and thus makes for more interesting, real baseball. The result is much more emphasis on strategy in the NL and pitching. While higher run-scoring in the AL is exciting, the focus on the pitching and the chess game going on between managers in the NL make for more compelling games.

Brady said...


Comrade Dave said...

I'd say that I've never paid good money to watch what a manager does, but I know better than to do that here :)

I do appreciate the art of manufacturing runs, though. The homer is overrated.