“When I Grow Up”: Things I Never Planned To Become

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We spent Labor Day weekend in New York City, which meant I had to reacquaint myself with the sights and textures of Manhattan’s gritty streets in the sweltering heat of late summer.

Our activities revolved mostly around watching the US Open and Yankees baseball. As someone who had zero interest in spectator sports for most of her life, I’m a bit surprised by having acquired a sudden, rabid interest in baseball. Because my newfound enthusiasm for baseball far outstrips my knowledge of the game, I have a newbie’s tendency to vocalize (loudly) ill informed skepticism about Aaron Boone management decisions. This obnoxious trait leads to the occasional humiliation when his decisions turn out to be correct, leading to a Yankees win.

We spent the entire day on Saturday enjoying a close-up tour of Yankees Stadium. They let us wander around the dugout and take a quick peek at the bullpen. Later that day during the game we listened as the famed Bleacher Creatures bellowed outfielder Andrew McCutchen’s name as he made his debut in pinstripes. Per my usual, I questioned Boone’s decision to use him as the leadoff hitter in his very first game (I mean, Cutch had just traveled 3,000 miles on short notice—ever hear of jet lag, Aaron?) 

Checking out the Yankees dugout

But to his credit, Boone thrilled many hearts in Yankees fan world (a notoriously fickle lot) by getting thrown out of a game recently. Boone, who has been criticized in social media for being a bit too mellow, too nice, got suspended after storming the field to conduct a brim-to-brim confrontation with an umpire. The manager’s ejection seemed to galvanize his players, who rallied quickly to take the win.

So now I’m in the mood to read some great books about sports. The subject doesn’t have to be baseball; I’m looking for anything that captures the drama, personalities, or history of a sport. Any suggestions?

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14 thoughts on ““When I Grow Up”: Things I Never Planned To Become

  1. Alas I have no references. I’ve never been able to get into sports, team or otherwise for any length of time. I’ve always been more interested in specific people behind the sports, not the sport itself, so I am inevitably disappointed because time marches on.

    I grew up watching the Orioles as a kid. But eventually there was no Eddie Murray at 1st base, no Earl Weaver to manage, etc till that franchise was just a group of strangers.

    I watched men’s tennis during the Stefan Edberg & Andre Agassi years, but after they retired, I completely lost interest.

    In fact, Agassi’s book “Open” is the the only sports related book I can remember ever reading. That was a very interesting read. He was one of those personalities people either loved or hated, & he had a tumultuous career (and a father I could’ve slapped sometimes). Personally, I owe him a debt of gratitude because he was the spokesman for Canon’s EOS Rebel 35mm cameras, which 25 years later, I still have, love & use to this day. One of my best investments. 😎

  2. My single most favorite-ist book on baseball is the obscure title CHANCE by Steve Shilstone. Damn, how I love that book, evidenced by my Amazon review that’s still up there, one of the only two Amazon reviews it attracted. The voice is outstanding, the characters wonderful. Still inspires me. https://www.amazon.com/Chance-Steve-Shilstone-2000-04-01/dp/B01K3KK3B2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1536062378&sr=8-1&keywords=chance+steve+shilstone

  3. I’m a diehard Cheesehead. A great book about the sport is “When Pride Still Mattered – the story of Vince Lombardi.” It’s set in 1950s Green Bay, Wisconsin. The NFL as we know it today was a different beast then and he is considered one of the most inspirational leaders in Pro sports. The Green Bay Packers are the only franchise in the NBA, MLB, and NFL that is owned by the community and not a millionaire. And yes, I own one share of stock in the Green Bay Packers so I’m an NFL team owner.

  4. This is easy! “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach. It’s about a shortstop playing for a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin who starts getting major league looks. But it’s also a great look at insular academia and ultimately, the power of love and friendship. Was on many best-of-year lists (2011) and was nominated for Guardian First Book Award.

    Loved this book.

  5. This is really late in the day, but … at sea in 1976 I came across a book in my ship’s library filled with baseball stories from the beginning of professional baseball up to somewhere in the 50’s, maybe, compiled by a writer from newspaper/magazine articles and interview. I have no memory of the book title or author’s name.

    I have two favorite stories. Casey Stengle was in left for the Yankees during his playing career. One season on opening day at Yankee Stadium, before the first pitch, the Yankees took their positions in the field. As customary at that time the players names were announced, beginning with the infielders and finishing with the left fielder, over the ballpark loudspeaker system.

    When Stengle’s name sounded out, and everyone’s attention was focused on his position, people noticed left field was vacant. A sewer line ran under left at that time and there was a manhole located in the field of play. Seconds after his name was announced the manhole cover, balanced on Casey’s head, rose from the ground as Stengle, crouched under it on a ladder, stood up and released a pair of doves into the New York sky.

    Hack Wilson was a future Hall of Famer playing right field for the Detroit Tigers, and notorious for his nightly hard partying (drinking) ways. One hot afternoon the Tiger manager went to the mound to replace a struggling Detroit starting pitcher who did not want to come out of the game. Wilson, who had been chasing drives out to his position for several innings, saw the manager leave the dugout to begin his traipse to the mound and leaned over, hands on his knees, to rest.

    The Detroit manager reached the pitcher’s mound and reached for the ball. Instead of handing it over, as customary, the frustrated Tiger pitcher whirled and flung the baseball high and hard out to right, where it struck the wall behind Hack Wilson on the fly. Hearing the unmistakable sound of a fly ball off the wall, Wilson — thinking he had missed the reliever’s warmup pitches and the game had restarted — raced out to the base of the wall, picked up the slow rolling baseball the pitcher had thrown, whirled, and threw a perfect one-hopper to second. Where no one was covering, and to the delighted roar of the home Tiger crowd.

  6. Many of the Dick Francis books combine insider information about horse racing with wonderful murder mysteries. I don’t recall the title, but one of them also involved an Olympic marksman, so more than horse racing got covered, as well as non-sport topics like flying, painting, movie-making, and the insurance game.

  7. I so seldom get to these early in my day, so Kathryn, I hope you get this. As a dyed in the wool Yankees fan (stuck in St Louis Cardinal territory) I would gladly point you to one book that I feel is the ultimate Billy Martin era book. See if you can locate The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle. For a look back at their golden years, pick up The Iron Horse by Ray Robinson—a biography of the (my opinion here) ultimate Yankee, Lou Gehrig.

    GO YANKEES!!!!!
    (and never be embarrassed about questioning Aaron Boone—he ain’t Joe Girardi. Maybe he will be, but he ain’t yet)

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