Begin MLB season with books on baseball

Mar 1, 2011 6:00 AM

A stadium full of interesting and informative books on baseball has arrived just in time for the opening of spring training. Whether you’re looking for statistics, guidance or controversy, you’ll find something to whet your appetite for the great American sport.

Baseball America 2011 Almanac, Will Lingo, editor (528 pgs, $23.95) is hot off the press with the bases loaded with enough stats to satisfy even the most avid fan. Subtitled "A Comprehensive Review of the 2010 Season," this annual pub covers the majors, minors, college and high school reviews, including the draft and 2011 prospects.

The performance of each MLB team is summarized in thumbnails that begin with Season in a Sentence, High Point and Low Point, and continue through Notable Rookies, Key Transactions, and Down on the Farm. Each team’s Players of the Year for its major and minor leagues are pictured along with their stats, followed by a highlighted Organization Leaders chart.

The Atlanta Braves one-sentence season thumbnail, for example, reads: "The Braves went on a tear going into the All-Star break, and held things together through a rash of injuries in the second half to give manager Bobby Cox one more trip to the playoffs before he retired."

How’s that for a recap!

This hefty compendium of facts and figures, now in its 29th year, even covers independent, foreign and winter leagues. "Sucha deal for the price of a coupla hot dogs and a beer!"

If it’s guidance on how to wisely watch a game and be able to intelligently discuss it with your more knowledgeable buds (the human kind, not the bottled type), Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample (254 pgs, $13.95) fits the bill. Booklist touted Hample’s ample facts and "sensahumah" as "A Baseball for Dummies-type guide that, thanks to its irreverent, tongue-in cheek style, will also appeal to fans who left the dummy stage long ago."

 For example, Hample (didya notice I’m into the rhyming game?) chose a quote from humorist Dave Barry to open his otherwise analytical chapter on the nuances of fielding: "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant without even considering if there are men on base."

He follows these lighthearted lines with heavy-duty info valuable to most of the folks named in the book’s subtitle, "A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks."

Fielding topics covered include Defensive Alignment (The Ted Williams Shift, The Wheel Play, The No-Double Defense and Shallow Outfield) and Righties and Lefties, Playing Outfield, Playing Infield, and all the positions important to fielding.

As a rookie baseball fan, I not only enjoyed reading Hample’s sample of baseball info, I got a kick out of his never-dull presentation. And hey, now I know why a lefty first baseman can throw a ball to second or third quicker than a righty.

Be sure to catch my review of MVP, Robert W. Cohen’s controversial look at some of baseball’s most honored players – coming up next week. Till then, drop by Gambler’s Book Club for every baseball publication in the stadium.

NOTE: (These books and thousands of other titles are available at Gambler’s Book Club in Las Vegas. You can order them at www.gamblersbookclub.com, where you can view the store’s complete line of books, or by phone at 1-800-522-1777 or 702-382-7555 M-F 9-7 and Sat 10-6. Opened in 1964, GBC is located at 5473 S. Eastern between Tropicana and Russell, just a short drive from the Strip or the airport).