Feature

Also of interest...at the old ball game

Baseball in the Garden of Eden by John Thorn; Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin; Campy by Neil Lanctot; 56 by Kostya Kennedy

Baseball in the Garden of Eden
by John Thorn
(Simon & Schuster, $26)
Major League Baseball’s newly minted official historian has written a “crisp and entertaining” book debunking many half-truths about our national pastime, said Alex Belth in Sports Illustrated. Using original research, John Thorn definitively settles the dispute over whether Abner Doubleday created the game in Cooperstown, N.Y., (he didn’t), and shows how the sport rose to prominence “because of, not in spite of, gambling.” In Thorn’s telling, the early game’s hucksters and prevaricators prove more compelling than its honest dealers.

Branch Rickey
by Jimmy Breslin
(Viking, $20)
Branch Rickey, the man who integrated baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, “is not nearly as famous as he ought to be,” said Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune. “Irked to no end” by this fact, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jimmy Breslin seeks to set the record straight. Breslin’s “seriously entertaining book” evokes the “rough, red meat world of professional sports in the first half of the 20th century” while paying “grand tribute to the man who became baseball’s conscience.”

Campy
by Neil Lanctot
(Simon & Schuster, $28)
“As the second great black ballplayer to join Rickey’s Dodgers, Roy Campanella had it easier, and tougher,” said Chris Foran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jackie Robinson bore the brunt of white prejudices, but Campanella, who would become a Hall of Fame catcher, “did not get his share of the credit.” Neil Lanctot’s “aggressively reported” biography inspires as it charts both Campanella’s rise from the streets of Philly and also his “second life,” following a 1958 car crash, as a quadriplegic and advocate for the disabled.

56
by Kostya Kennedy
(Sports Illustrated, $27)
There have been 17,290 athletes who have played in the majors, but only one who got a hit in 56 consecutive games, said Allen Barra in Newsday. In sparkling prose, Kostya Kennedy captures the excitement of the summer of 1941, when a nation bracing for war relieved anxiety by following Joe DiMaggio’s monumental streak. “You can almost smell the marinara sauce simmering and hear the crackling of radios” as Americans tuned in daily to see whether the great DiMaggio got another hit.

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