I was perhaps the worst elementary aged baseball player ever. No kidding. I think my batting average my first year was .039, .059, or .089. Whatever it was, if it starts with a zero, you're pretty rotten. I remember hitting the ball pretty hard to right field near the end of the season at the baseball field in Black Diamond - I think I closed my eyes on that one. It went for a triple. It probably would have been a homer, but it took me a minute to gather myself from the shock.
So why am I reading a baseball book? I really enjoy baseball, despite my nightmarish skills - or lack thereof. I thought it was the dullest game imaginable until my freshman year of college. My roomate was a good baseball player and was watching the postseason when we started at Central Washington University. I got sucked in to the great NLCS between the Pirates and the Braves, and then the Braves/Twins World Series. I'm a sucker for the underdog so the "worst to first" World Series was compelling.
But the stars really aligned in 1995 - when the rest of the world was bitter at baseball for cancelling the World Series. I was away from home going to school in the San Diego area and the box scores were always a nice, daily reminder of home. The Mariners were also decent that year, which, for Seattle fans, means .500-ish. And then the run came. They came back 13 or so games on the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels to win the AL West in a one game playoff - Randy Johnson beat Mark Langston, the man the Mariners traded a few years earlier to get Johnson. The Mariners won their first pennant in thrilling fashion, beat the hated Yankees in a five game playoff, after losing the first two in NY, and then, ultimately, fell to the Indians in six games in the ALCS. It hooked me. Now I try to read a baseball book every year (I got two in last year, though!).
I occasionally get lost in a site, www.ussmariner.com, where they get deep into baseball from non-traditional perspectives. They have a book list that I'm working through slowly. I just started Weaver on Strategy and it is incredibly commonsensical, but kind of boring. Not just because it is a little older and I don't know many of the players he talks about, but because he seems to be a pretty "hands-off" manager so far. He gets his players ready to play and lets them hit the ball. He doesn't dink around by giving outs away for bunts and what not, or stealing unnecessarily. He gets guys on and wants his big sticks swinging the bat. I look forward to reading more, but right now he sounds like the manager Billy Beane would be happy with based on Moneyball - my favorite baseball book (of the four I've read).
Any great suggestions on books I just gotta read about baseball?