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home : columns : columns October 3, 2015

2/6/2013 11:10:00 AM
Winter baseball reading
Our winter escape a couple of weeks ago gave me an opportunity to dive into several books - yes, winter reading in spring training territory.
While watching baseball was never on the docket during our visit to the Sunshine State, reading about the national pastime always is.
Actually, much of the reading was done in airports, while waiting to get on the plane, and in airplanes, waiting to get on the ground. In fact, I practically finished two books going to and from Florida.
So, what were my books of choice?
Those of you who read my brief book reviews, know I thoroughly enjoy baseball biographies or autobiographies. I read a pair of first-person accounts - Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by one-time Minnesota Twin and 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, and Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson.
The third book was a novel. I'm not a fan of fiction, but I read John Grisham's football offering Bleachers, which was a quick and enjoyable read. So, I figured he certainly could do no worse with a baseball novel. Moreover, I had read good reviews of the book.
He has another winner in Calico Joe.
However, I must admit it has a rather depressing start. It weaves the fictional characters of pro baseball players Joe Castle and Warren Tracey and Tracey's son, Paul, into the 1973 real life teams of the Cubs and Mets. If you're a kid from the 1970s - like me, I was 12 years old in 1973 - Calico Joe will be a great, quick read.
But if you think this is one of those "fuzzy, warm-all-over" novels about a son, his dad and baseball, think again. It's about a boy, his dad and baseball, but there's little to feel good about concerning how the three mix.
But it has a poignant and realistic conclusion, at least as much as a fiction novel can have.
I finished the book between waiting to board the plane in Minneapolis and before touching down in Orlando. If you're a baseball fan - and even if you're not - this is a great snowy one-day weekend read (and I'm a slow reader).
The autobiographies
I picked up Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey, not only because it received good reviews, but also because it was about a one-time Twin.
However, Dickey's time in Minnesota, as well as his mention of the Twins, are brief.
This is much more about a man who dealt with much in life, including his personal life growing up, several instances of sexual abuse as a child, his failings and successes as a husband and father and, of course, baseball. But, more importantly, he shares how he came to accept Jesus as his savior and how his faith helped him deal with his trials and failures.
As much as it is a book about his faith, which I found as saddening as uplifting, what I enjoyed equally as much was his decision to become a knuckleball pitcher. He talks about how and why he made the change and how becoming a knuckleball pitcher doesn't happen overnight.
The book has caused me to pay a little closer attention to how he performs with his new team this season, the Toronto Blue Jays (despite winning this year's Cy Young Award, he was traded from the Mets to the Jays). Like Joe Niekro, Charlie Hough and, more recently, Tim Wakefield, Dickey has a chance to last a long time in the majors thanks to his work with the knuckler.
We'll see.
But don't be surprised if he also decides to end his career early to spend more time with his family.
Which brings me to the last book I read, Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field by Bobby Richardson.
As much as I despise the Yankees, there are a handful of pinstriped players I've always admired. Bobby Richardson is one of those.
In my teens, I read about Richardson, the ball player, years after his playing days had ended. But I had never read about Richardson, the person.
There is a great deal in this book about his baseball career, but, I believe, the most interesting information comes in his life after baseball. He was a Christian in baseball at a time when that was not discussed and shared the way it is today. But, surprisingly, players in the late 1950s and '60s accepted and respected him for who he was and for Whom he stood.
One of the most interesting parts of the book deals with his close ties with Mickey Mantle, not only during his career, but more importantly in Mantle's final days.
Like Calico Joe, it's a quick read, perfect for a February weekend.

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