When I was a kid, I loved to read sports books, mostly about baseball. There were three basic models. One was a biography directed towards a young audience (“And the lesson Mickey learned from his father when he was six helped make him the man he would become”). A second was more interested in general history, with lots of anecdotes … Joe Garagiola’s Baseball Is a Funny Game was like that. Finally, there were books that came out in the spring of each season, telling the story of the champions of the previous year.
The only real break from these traditions, prior to Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, came from Jim Brosnan, who wrote two books about life in the big leagues, The Long Season and Pennant Race, while working as a pitcher in the National League.
I don’t read many of those books these days. There is so much to read during a season, thanks to the great volume of material available online. And Bill James started a revolution not only in baseball analysis but in baseball writing when he started publishing his annual Abstracts. I even did a little writing myself, working a few years for fantasy guru John Benson and a few more with the Baseball Prospectus folks.
It makes sense, though, that I would return to the old-school books in this spring of 2011, because it’s the first time I had a Giants’ championship to relive. And so I just finished Andrew Baggarly’s A Band of Misfits. Baggarly is a Giants beat writer for the Mercury-News, so he knew the story of the 2010 Giants very well. He’s also a stylish writer, and he does a fine job of bringing together the various elements that led to the World Series. He blends stories about the individuals (the “band of misfits” … Baggarly is quite convincing in demonstrating the aptness of that cliché) with the narrative of the 2010 season, finding just the right moment to offer character studies while keeping the story moving. The result is the kind of book where you keep telling yourself “just one more chapter,” only to find that you’ve finished the book in record time.
And … I really can’t believe this is true, and at least I’ve gotten to the point where I control myself for the most part when I’m around others … but the one reason I couldn’t just blast through the book was because I kept having to stop and compose myself as the tears flowed once again. It’s been six months, and I still get choked up, still can’t believe it’s real. I opened up for a bit the other night and told my wife how confusing this all was, and she replied matter-of-factly that when you wait 52 years for something, it’s going to have a lasting impact.
So, I guess I’ll thank Baggarly for writing an enjoyable recap of that great season. But I’m going to have to do something about these darned allergies … my eyes water up every time I open his book.