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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reviewing The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown

Let’s face it; for many of us baseball fans the game is not always about who won or lost. It’s about the story and the journey of our favorite teams and players, which are comprised of plays; the unusual, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Perhaps more than any other sport baseball has a tradition of the bizarre that both captivates and delights its fans. You will find no better compilation of these moments than in The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown, the recent work of Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo through Lyons Press.

Between 1985 and 1992 Nash and Zullo published regular installments of Baseball Hall of Shame, digging up a compendium of wacky and unusual plays from baseball past. The Best of Blooperstown takes the best of their past work and combines it with some choice stories that have occurred within the past 20 years and other gems they have since uncovered. It is a terrific blend of outrageous moments in baseball, from the origins of the pro game until the present. Their stories ranging from the incredible to the hilarious include:

·     -  Dizzy Dean, who got so upset when the New York Giants scored seven runs off him in one inning that he came back and hit seven batters in a row during the next frame. Such competitiveness was even stranger because it happened during an exhibition game.

·     -  The wacky Jackie Price, who was known in the minors for taking batting practice while dangling upside down and suspended from a support by his ankles. His brief time in the majors came to an end in 1947 while with the Cleveland Indians after causing an uproar by letting a number of his pet snakes loose aboard a train during a road trip.

·     -  Legendary Brooklyn Dodger manager Wilbert Robinson tried to make headlines during spring training in 1915 by boasting he could catch a baseball dropped from an airplane. Pranksters on his team substituted a grapefruit for the ball and when it exploded into his glove, the pulpy aftermath momentarily terrified Robinson, who believed he had suffered a terrible injury.

Reading The Best of Blooperstown was particularly nostalgic for me. Not only was I a regular reader of the original series, but it is reminiscent of Mel Allen’s This Week in Baseball, a television show that captured the best and the worst in baseball every week. Nash and Zullo allow what people love about baseball to shine through, letting the reader temporarily escape the endless stories of high dollar contracts, performance enhancers, and controversy that pervade the headlines on a daily basis. That is not to say that this is a book meant for children, because it’s not. While the writing style can certainly be handled by the younger set, it also holds plenty of appeal for the grown-ups too. The only requirement to read this book is being a fan of baseball. As long as you meet that standard the entire time you spend reading The Best of Blooperstown you will likely have a smile on your face and remember why you fell in love with the game in the first place.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the book being reviewed by the publisher, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.


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