Monday, January 30, 2012

Baseball Book Club - Status Report

I wanted to see where everyone is on The Catcher was a Spy. Are you still reading? Finished and ready to discuss? Far enough along to feel comfortable discussing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just checking in

I'm juggling a few too many balls at the moment. Hopefully I'll get to set them down in the near future and not have them all crash on top of my head.

In the meantime, I got a new baseball card! Yes, one card. I took part in Thorzul's Trade Me Anything group activity for the third consecutive year, almost entirely to say that I took part in it for the third consecutive year (links to years 1 (I also got a Mat Latos gold rookie) and 2). I like Logan Morrison and think he's going to be a star if not more so I thought I'd trade for a nice parallel card of him. Although Thorzul initiated the whole thing in November, it took me until December to find an envelope and I try to make it a point not to go to a post office in December because it is a miserable, soul-sucking experience. I finally got the package out to him earlier this month and I got the LoMo card two days ago and opened the envelope yesterday (I can't even get my mail opened on the same day. Sheesh).

Hoping to share a fun baseball item I found in a post for tomorrow.

And I hope that everyone who is taking part in the Baseball Book Club is enjoying the book. More on that in the near future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baseball Book Club #1 - Supplementary materials

Mark passed on a podcast on Moe Berg. It can be found here or with still images below:

If you're in the Princeton area, there are some Berg collections to view. Unfortunately, the Moe Berg exhibit they had going ended in August.

Here's an interview with Nicholas Dawidoff from the Deadball Committee newsletter of SABR.

More to come later.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Taking Things Seriously by Joshua Glenn

It took me almost a week into the new year before I finally finished a book. I gave up on Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X. It was good. I just wasn't in the mood for it. Then I requested a bunch of books and so I found myself in the middle of nine different books as they gradually came in and I would begin reading the newest.

Not surprisingly, the first book I finished was a small one. Taking Things Seriously has been on my to-read list for about four years. It's not easy to find because it's a tad different. I requested it via Interlibrary Loan (thanks Lower Macungie Library!) with three other books (the library system "only" allows 25 ILL requests a year and so I thought I would get mine in before the end of the year.

Glenn's concept is intriguing. He finds that people attach significance to ordinary objects. He asks around, gets his friends to do so, and compiles 75 of these objects. Each object is pictured along with a one page essay on the importance of this item to the person. It's a strangely fascinating book. The objects range from ordinary (a seashell) to ordinary but odd (an empty Velveeta box) to unusual (a bagel made and burnt by Christopher Walken) to weird (a possibly ceramic head pockmarked with holes or someones fingernail clipping collection). But all of them mean something to the folks who own them. It's a neat project and I can see it being fun going around to your friends and family and learning the stories behind their oddball items.

At least I thought so. Then I thought about myself and what objects I own that have some significant attachment to. There's the clipboard I wrote about previously. And, well....I have to say that I don't think there's a lot of things I've been lugging around for years because they have some special meaning to me. Maybe I'm being too strict. Maybe the rock I use as a bookend for my cookbooks would qualify. There's the harness bag from Winbak Farm that is in my attic. It has a story....just not a very interesting one. Which is largely why it is in the attic. I don't really count my baseball items. My Mister Rogers postcard. That might be worthwhile. I don't know. I guess I don't attach a lot of significance to objects.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that virtually all of the people Glenn uses in the book are creative types. Running through the list of the people, I count over 60 listed as designers, artists or authors. Perhaps there is something to that. Maybe people who make a living creating objects attach themselves to objects more frequently. Maybe my lack of significant object stems from being more of an information/data/research guy. That's why I have tons of books but not much in the way of knickknacks. Just a theory.

I enjoyed the book a lot and am glad I finally got around to checking it out. It makes you think about how we make things important to us and why.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ballplayer Graves of Lancaster County #1

Earlier this year, noted baseball necrologist Fred Worth contacted some SABR members in Philadelphia asking if they would be willing to do some ground work locating graves of former ballplayers. I wrote back saying Philly was a little out of the way for me but if he thought he might swing out my direction, that I'd be happy to track down some.

Well, Fred has some personal history with Lancaster County and thought it would be nice to make a visit. One of the gravesites he wanted to visit was that of Philadelphia Athletic Leighton Gibson. Gibson was born in Lancaster in 1868 and got his start as a ballplayer as a teenager playing for the Lancaster Ironsides of the Pennsylvania State Association.

One of the curious things about Gibson is that despite his only playing one game in the major leagues, he found himself pictured on an Old Judge tobacco card as a major leaguer...a year before he played in the majors. Although he didn't appear in any games for them, Gibson was part of the Philadelphia Quakers of the National League in 1887. Gibson's connections with the Quakers helped him in Lancaster. Gibson, apparently inebriated on Christmas Eve in 1886, resisted arrest and assaulted and injured a police officer. he was found guilty but had his sentence suspended based on "the good character he had shown and of his engagement with the Philadelphia Club (Lancaster Intelligencer, March 12, 1887)". He was fined $75.

It is also curious that it wasn't until 1980 that a card of Gibson surfaced and his is probably the most valuable of any player with Lancaster County involvement. Supposedly, only two copies of the card have surfaced.

Gibson's baseball career wasn't anything spectacular. He tooled around in the minors for a few years, making his only appearance in a major league game on May 2, 1888 at age nineteen. He and 21-year old pitcher Bob Gamble were tabbed to be the battery for the Athletics against Cleveland that day. Neither were impressive as the Athletics were downed by a 10-1 score. That would be the only major league game for the duo in their careers.

Leighton played a few more years and tried to get a league organized comprised by teams in Lancaster, Berks and Lebanon counties. When that didn't take off he opened a road house in nearby Farmville, Pennsylvania. Gibson died in 1907 at the age of 39 after a lengthy illness.

It's always interesting (but not always easy) to learn more about these one game players. Unfortunately, most of the players buried in Lancaster County (with one notable exception) are guys who had fleeting major league careers. I'll be covering all of them, hopefully this year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baseball Book Club Book #1 - The Catcher Was A Spy

Based on the expressed interest, we'll make the first book we read Nicholas Dawidoff's biography on Moe Berg, The Catcher Was A Spy, our first read.

Since we came to a decision so quickly, we'll shoot for discussion of the book beginning on Sunday, January 29th. That should give everybody enough time to get and read the book.

In the meantime, I'll be putting things related to Dawidoff, Berg and the book here on the blog. Hopefully provide some supplemental material.

Questions, comments, concerns? Leave a note below.

I look forward to our reading and discussion.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Baseball Book Club First Book Selection - Last Call

You're welcome to join us in reading the book that's selected once we choose but if you want to have a voice in what's read as our first book, speak up now. We could stand to use some more input. I liked Mark's choices, too. Right now we're looking at:

The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
Satch, Dizzy, & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson
The Pitch That Killed
The Soul of Baseball
The Extra 2%

You in?