There is nothing more riveting and compelling when the game is not on than a great insider’s account of what goes on in and around the events themselves. A well-written and researched sports book that gets you closer to the figures in the game and tells unique tales that are highly relevant can catapult the reader into a world they always wanted to be a bigger part of.
As our attention turns to baseball season, and you want to get into the spirit of the game and immerse yourself in its history and traditions, one book stands out above all the rest to me. Baseball is more than just a game. It is a lifestyle and an experience that envelops you. It’s about the ballpark, the players and the personalities that come together around the diamond. Once upon a time, baseball was even more about the relationship between fan and athlete, team and community.
No work captures the essence of one of the game’s most enduring figures better than Clemente by David Maraniss. Dare I say, it may be the best book I have ever read. No work has ever fascinated me so much on so many levels. Maraniss is a master storyteller and painter of vivid pictures in time. Months after reading it, I still find myself drifting off in thought about it.
They don’t make ‘em like Roberto Clemente anymore, and they sure don’t make ‘em often like Maraniss to tell the story. Most notably, he did an incredibly exhaustive amount of research, and its shows through every incredibly detailed paragraph and chapter. We get to know Clemente intimately as a family man. We feel his great pride of his heritage shine through. We are treated to the unique and almost unreal relationship between Clemente and his fans. We also see the fiery side of the man, in his adverse dealings with the media. In the end, the story of his death is told in such detail that it will stay with you forever after reading it.
Before I read Maraniss’ book, one of the better works I had read in recent years will truly strike deep chords with any NBA fan. The Punch, by John Feinstein is a startling and immersive account of the violent 1977 encounter between Kermit Washington and Rudy Tomanjovich that linked two men together forever and significantly altered the professional and personal path of Washington. Travel back into the dark ages and depths of the NBA, before it was the glamour game now, and dive into the re-telling of how one singular, miscalculated moment changed two lives forever.
For those still reveling in the glow of the Giants Super Bowl victory, Lombardi and Landry, by longtime Giants beat man Ernie Palladino, is an in-depth look into franchise history that is sure to entertain and enlighten. The two future coaching legends spent their formative years as assistants, ones who came together for great success before finding on their own elsewhere. What’s truly priceless about the accounts contained is how markedly different the men were, yet were able to mesh their ultimate talents for the good of their teams. Step back into an NFL time warp and see how greatness grew and eventually branched out.
It’s a wonderful time of year as a sports fan. Time to sit back on the berm, take in some sun and read a good book. If you’re not lucky enough to be at spring training, superb reading materials can take you anywhere you want to go, anyway.