How Do You Spend Your Off Season?

An article by posted on February 4, 2011

The baseball season doesn’t end for me ’til after the winter meetings. Once the World Series is over, I turn my attention to the awards season and the big names on the free agent market. That all lasts about a month, and then for that first weekend in December, I’m glued to my computer and the television. After that though, I hit that stretch of road that looks exactly the same no matter how many times over the horizon I go. Sure, there’s the three or four days I get wrapped up in the Hall of Fame announcement, but that’s really it for a solid ten weeks. So what do I do?

I read. Voraciously.

I mean, I work and all. I also try to find time to sleep and eat. But a book comes everywhere with me. I take it to work and read on my breaks. I bring it to bed in case I have trouble sleeping. I take it with me when I run errands in case I stop for lunch, so I can read while I eat instead of staring absently at the tacky decor.

My favorite non-fiction is, of course, baseball books. My favorite fiction is mystery/suspense novels. I just eat them up. So now, even though you didn’t ask for it, here’s a list of some of my recommendations, in case these winter months (and future winter months) get you down.

Fiction

My favorite authors are Lawrence Sanders and Michael Connelly. Mr. Sanders, now deceased, wrote some of the most hilarious mystery stories about central character Archy McNally. Located in Palm Beach, FL., the McNally books focus on Mr. McNally’s trials and tribulations as the sole employee of the Discreet Inquiries department of his father’s law firm, McNally & Son. His role is to conduct investigations for or on his father’s socialite clients, none of whom are anything but what you’d expect wealthy residents of that exclusive community to be like. After Mr. Sanders’ death, the family chose Vincent Lardo to take over the McNally series. Lardo has now authored almost as many McNally books as Sanders himself, maintaining the high writing standards set by the series’ creator.

Mr. Connelly is the author of “The Lincoln Lawyer,” the upcoming film starring Matthew McConaughey. I loved the book, but would have preferred a more serious actor in the role. Perhaps David Wooderson will prove me wrong, but I digress. “The Lincoln Lawyer” is the first in a series of books about protagonist Mickey Haller, Jr., a defense attorney having followed in his father’s footsteps. The senior Mickey died when Junior was only five years old. Haller is the half-brother of Harry Boesch, Connelly’s primary character in fourteen other novels. Connelly also penned “Blood Work,” which was adapted for the screen and starred Clint Eastwood, who also directed.

It should come as no surprise to anyone I’m also a big nerd. In the mid-to-late 90′s, Berkley Books began publishing novels about Marvel comics characters. My personal favorites are the X-Men, though I never could get into the comics or the graphic novels. My imagination can’t wander when entire conversations are taking place panel by panel in still picture form. I prefer the novels, as the words on the page let me decide what the scene looks like. I find it much more enjoyable that way. I also enjoyed the Spiderman books. Now that we’ve been inundated with huge-budget movies about these characters, I might head into my storage facility to dig out some of the old books and see if they still hold up.

Baseball

Most recently, I read Jane Leavy’s Mickey Mantle book and found it as good as advertised. Part of the appeal to me was Mickey’s off-the-field life (of which there was PLENTY to write about), and I loved the full appendix at the end dedicated to comparing Mickey and Willie. Lot of good stuff there. “Baseball Between the Numbers” is a book I constantly return to and re-read. And every time through I pick up something new. Put together by the folks at Baseball Prospectus, it received rave reviews from the likes of Ken Rosenthal, Bob Ryan, Rob Neyer and Bill Simmons, among may other nameless book reviews from the Times, Daily News, Newsday, and even Newsweek. It’ll give you a far deeper understanding of the game and I enjoy baseball a lot more now that I’ve learned to look at it from a second point of view.

“Bats,” a book about the 1985 Mets written in tandem by Davey Johnson himself and Peter Golenbock, is a great book about the inside of the dugout and clubhouse from the guy who had to manage it all. From Publisher’s Weekly: “Johnson tells what it was like to run a team plagued by injuries, a team made up largely of young players who needed to be encouraged, a team that had almost, but not quite enough talent to be the best.” Someone get Terry Collins a copy of this book, post haste.

Some other favorites include “The Bad Guys Won,” “You Could Look it Up: The Life of Casey Stengel,” “A Well Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports,” “Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr. Story,” and “The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs.” All these books appealed to me for different reasons. Whether it is a fascinating person and/or career like Casey and Cal, a profound legacy left on the game like Curt, or a jolly rip through a “what if” like the Babe. (In the book, the author explores the difference in eras and concludes if Babe played his 1921 season under today’s circumstances, he would have hit 104 home runs. The Babe also was projected to have hit 91 in his 1927 season, 86 in 1920, hit 70 or more on six other occasions and finish with a career total of 1,158 career home runs with another 23 in World Series play. Truly fascinating.)

I also really enjoyed “The Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn and David Halberstam’s “Summer of ’49.”

On deck for me are biographies on Joe DiMaggio, Hal Chase and Lefty Grove. I’m very excited about the Lefty Grove book. I’m a sucker for early baseball. I’ve read a biography on King Kelly, a history of early baseball (mid-to-late 1800′s), and this gem: “The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball.” If you can find that book, buy it, borrow it or do whatever’s necessary to read it.

If anyone’s got any suggestions, I’m very open to them. I can’t get enough. I’ll wrap up with this nifty bit of trivia I learned while reading. Does anyone know the first baseball team to play on the Polo Grounds in 1880? If you said the New York Giants, you’d be wrong. It was actually the independent New York Metropolitans, later of the American Association!

I love reading.

About the Author ()

Born in Queens and raised in the Bronx, Xtreem grew up in a family of Mets fans with a father who worked for the New York Parks Department and had a box at Shea. Thus, it begun. With a degree in Broadcast Journalism and bylines in publications from the New Haven Register to the Key West Citizen, Xtreem has experience in a variety of formats and topics. He is thrilled to be given the chance to lend his name to MMO.

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