20 February 2008

Cover to Cover:::::Haunted Baseball

Just less than a month ago, a Pipeline reader and Red Sox fan named Dan Gordon dropped me an e-mail telling me about a new book he wrote with co-author and Yankee fan Mickey Bradley (I joked to Dan that a Red Sox and Yankee fan banding together for anything was a scary thought) and asked if I'd be interested in a review copy. I said sure, gave him my address and, about a week later, an envelope came in the mail that held "Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends, and Eerie Events."

I'm an avid reader, and I'll read pretty much anything about baseball. I also don't mind a ghost story every now and then, so after I finished my last book (Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, as a matter of fact -- great book), I figured I'd do my part for a reader and dug into Haunted Baseball, which was printed by The Lyons Press out of Connecticut and features the cool blue cover of a Wrigley Field scene shown above and to the right. Some of the subject matter I'd heard of before (Cubs' curse of the Billy Goat, Red Sox's BS Curse of the Bambino, etc.) but some of the stories were new to me. The book includes 29 chapters on different supernatural happenings in connection with baseball diamonds across the U.S. The first 19 chapters are on "Ghosts, Spirits and Unexplained Events" while the last 10 are about various "Curses" that harangue MLB teams. There were several chapters I found more interesting than others -- Jim Thome's connection with a frequent ballpark visitor; stories of hauntings of the visiting team's hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., for Tampa Bay games; the story of the New York teams' experiences after the Sept. 11 attacks; a doctor's crusade to clear the name of one of the banned Black Sox; stories of Roberto Clemente's and Lou Gehrig's premonitions of their own fates; former Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee's connection with what he feels is the spirit of one-time Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey; and, my personal favorite, the lesser known "Curse of Eddie Grant" that revolves around the San Francisco Giants.

The stories hit a little of everything. The Cubs, Yankees, White Sox and Red Sox get heavy time but so do the Devil Rays and Dodgers. Even if your team isn't featured prominently in its own chapter, players from many teams were interviewed by the duo for the book. A couple stories also have to do with spring training venues and the minor leagues, so it's not all just the big names. The book was a fairly quick read, but I read kinda fast. The subject matter is fairly clean -- any curse words dropped by the players and people interviewed (few and far between in the first place) are censored by the authors, so it's probably fine for maybe even a middle schooler to read. There were some spooky stories but nothing I found would be disturbing to almost anyone. As a Royals fan, there was no direct Royals content included but there were some Royals and former Royals quoted. Kevin Appier got a few mentions, as did Johnny Damon. One Royal I'd like to forget, Jose Lima, even has his own chapter about the time he felt somebody from his native Dominican Republic put a curse on him to ruin his 1999 season (we've yet to find an excuse for what he did to the Royals in 2005).

Really I have nothing negative to say about the book. The only thing I felt could have been done differently would have been to switch around the final chapter, which references the Angels' history of odd injuries, with the chapter about the Curse of Eddie Grant in San Francisco. I felt the Angels' chapter was an odd one to end the book with and the Eddie Grant story would have been a more interesting finish. The Grant story revolves around an ex-Giant from the New York days who was killed in action in World War I. A monument honoring him was placed in deep center at the Polo Grounds and stayed until the team moved west in the late '50s. Somehow during the move the monument disappeared and was never found and the Giants' regular season and postseason miseries since are detailed. The story starts the curses section of the book but would have made a great ending to the book, in my opinion. That's a small gripe, tho.

The book touches on more than just ghosts and the supernatural. It goes into the deep connections players and fans have with baseball and the heart and emotion put into it by many. It also goes into how much the history of the game echoes through today. I got an inkling from Gordon in our communications that a sequel might be released someday, and it would be a welcome one. The title of the book in the first paragraph links to the Amazon page for the book, and you can see the price is right at only $10. Anyone looking for a book to read while waiting out spring training or wanting to have a book to read this fall when the cold winds are blowing away another season of baseball and Halloween is nearing should grab a copy.

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