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.
*Baseball-Reference.com 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.