Latest Sports Book Reviews: From Legendary Baseball to Stream Fishing

Harvey FrommerGuest ColumnistSeptember 27, 2011

The variety and quality of books on sports keeps on coming. Some are sac flies, others are bunt singles and still others could be considered double, triples or home runs. You pay your money and make your choice as to how you might classify the following lineup of books for fall 2011.

With the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park looming in 2012, all manner of books will be on the market to commemorate the occasion. Full disclosure, mine is already out there: Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of Red Sox Nation.

Now on the shelves is Glen Stout’s Fenway 1912 (HMH, $26.00, 391 pages). Stout’s work traces as its subtitle proclaims: “the Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Year.” For Sox fans, for baseball fans and also history buffs, this terrific tome is a keeper. We are there amidst the construction, in the dugout, in the dog days of a long ago Boston summer, in the chill of autumn and the glory of brand new Fenway experiencing its first world championship.

The busy Stout also is the Series Editor of The Best American Sports Stories (HMH, $14.95, 350 pages, paper). Selected by Jane Leavy, the book features fiction and nonfiction pieces from a variety of sources. This issue includes Selena Roberts, David Dobbs, Sally Jenkins and others. 

Another work that celebrates baseball’s storied past is The Big Show by Charles M. Conlon and Constance McCabe, (Abrams, $35.00, 198 pages). The book contains the stunning photography of the famed Charles M. Conlon who was behind the camera from 1904 to 1942. Prolific, driven and a baseball aficionado, he concentrated his remarkable talents in the main creating revealing photographic portraits of figures from that time.

We are there with Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Joe DiMaggio and so many others, the famous and the not well-known. The book is graced by an eloquent and insightful foreword from the great Roger Kahn.

For those of a certain age, “the shot heard round the world” still stays. It certainly stays with Ralph Branca who, in his eighth big league season as a Dodger pitcher on October 3, 1951, served up the pitch that Bobby Thomson hammered. It resulted in doom and gloom in Brooklyn. It gave the Giants the National League pennant. For fans of the team that played at the old Polo Grounds, that was one of their most memorable baseball moments. It is an oft-told story, one with many angles. A Moment in Time by Branca with David Ritz (Scribner, $25.00, 233 pages) possesses no new baseball revelations, but it is told in a sincere manner replaying what Brooklyn Dodgers fans called: “Dat Day.”

Branca does reveal that his mother (who had 17 children) was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism. Now 85, Branca claims he only recently learned this. “She never mentioned this to us,” he writes, “but it may explain my extraordinarily deep love of Jewish people.”

The Orvis Guide to Small Stream Fishing by Tom Rosenbauer (Universe, Rizzoli, $35.00, 208 pages) is a work aimed at a large but select readership audience. Nevertheless, it also will appeal to the general public for the wealth of information imparted by the author on fly fishing in small streams. At once a guide, a beautiful picture book and a primer on the art and science of small-stream fishing, this is the kind of book to savor.

Categories like “Reading the Water,” “Care and Ethics,” “A Philosophy of Small-Stream Casting” and others are instructional as well as aesthetic.

So there you have it—five for the fall.

**A noted oral historian and sports journalist, Harvey Frommer has written many sports books, including Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox.  His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, and of course Bleacher Report among other publications.
Visit his website and purchase books here: