Cape Eye On Books with Anne LeClaire: Baseball Reading

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There are quintessential sounds that sing of summer:  The buzz of an outboard motor. The clang of a lanyard slapping against a mast. Laughter weaving through the air at the beach or in the backyard. The sharp twack of a bat hitting a baseball.

I grew up loving the sound of the last.

As a child I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, primarily because my older sister was and she led the way in all things for me. We knew the players’ names – Reese and Campanella and Gil Hodges –  as well as we did those of our neighbors.  But when I was around twelve my grandfather, who lived in Boston, converted me to the Red Sox. We would sit next to each other in companionable silence and listen to the game on his radio while my grandmother occupied herself in the kitchen. He showed me the intricacies of a scorecard and instructed me in how to fill in the boxes.  He fostered in me a love of the game, an allegiance that has only grown more fierce season after season. So I am a sucker for baseball books and find sportswriters to be some of our country’s best writers. And what better time to read one or two of them then in the middle of the season. This month’s five recommended books, three non-fiction and two novels, are some of my favorites, their authors among the best of their trade. Baseball is at the center of each but the stories are equally of players and friendships, the passing of time, winning and losing – on the field and in life, and the mythic pull of the game.

THE TEAM MATES: A Portrait of a Friendship by David Halberstam.  How my grandfather would have loved this book. It is a beautifully rendered exploration of not only baseball but also the 60 year friendship of Red Sox players Dom Dimaggio, Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr.

THE BOYS OF SUMMER by Roger Kahn. Like THE TEAMMATES, this classic is really two books in one – weaving the stories of young ballplayers full of dreams and of old men remembering those days. It brings to brilliant life the heroes of my childhood, Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers of the early ’50s when they lost two World Series to the Yankees. About those players and those years Kahn wrote, “You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.” Even if you are not a fan of baseball, this book deserves to be read.

THE NATURAL by Bernard Malamud. I love Malamud’s short stories and his novel of baseball and Roy Hobbs is one I return to again and again. An American classic in which, cites the jacket flap, the author “has raised all the passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball to its ordained place in mythology.”

SHOELESS JOE by W.P. Kinsella. The basis for the movie FIELD OF DREAMS, this mythical novel distills all that is quintessentially American onto the pages and is as much about family, love, fathers and sons, and dreams, as it is about baseball.

BASEBALL BY THE BEACH: A History of America’s National Pastime on CAPE COD, by Christopher Price. Closer to home, this historical account of the Cape Cod League from its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century to present the day is “A compelling close-up view of America’s national pastime for everyone who loves the game.”

In the coming weeks we will be talking with our Featured Author, ANN HOOD about her latest book and visit our Featured Bookstore, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS in Chatham.

What are you reading this summer? Please join the conversation.

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