DAILY DIRT: ‘Ball Four,’ ‘The Boys of Summer’ and ‘The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract’ — simply the best

baseball

Daily Dirt for Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022

To this day, I can’t even say the words “Ball Four by Jim Bouton” without chuckling … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 422 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Before the days of the internet, social media, ESPN and the MLB Network, one of the very few ways to reach out and touch your baseball heroes was through the books written about them.

Growing up, I devoured every baseball book I could get my hands on, although I didn’t much care for fantasy or fiction. I wanted to know as much about the “real” players as I could. I first started reading books about baseball in grade school, so we’re talking the early 1960s. And I’ve never really quit. That said, here are my three favorites from across all of those years:

Gold medal: “Ball Four,” by Jim Bouton (1970). Former MLB pitcher Jim Bouton introduced us to parts of the game we never knew existed, at least a 16-year-old boy, which is how old I was when I read this tell-all account of life in the big leagues. Let’s just say I never looked at Mickey Mantle quite the same after reading this (at the time) highly controversial account of our national pastime.

Silver medal: “The Boys of Summer,” by Roger Kahn (1972): There were initially a handful of critics who panned this magnificent effort for “excessive sentimentality.” Yeah, and Babe Ruth was just another hitter. Reading Kahn’s book took me back to a time years before I was even born, but his writing made me care about baseball in New York City, especially the Dodgers. It was 50 years ago that I first read “The Boys of Summer,” and ever since, I have to admit, I have had a soft spot in my baseball heart for the boys in blue.

Bronze medal: “The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” (1985). Arguably, this was the most meaningful baseball book I have ever read. It changed my outlook and approach to the game like none other, and set up a love affair with future works of James. Today’s baseball analytics can be traced to the research of James. And most importantly, James’ studies helped me dominate my fantasy baseball leagues for more than a decade. Thanks, Bill.

2. One of the most popular rock groups in the 1980s was Survivor, which provided us with a number of pulsating hits.

Its lead singer, Jimi Jamison, died in 2014 at age 63, the result of meth intoxication.

Jamison and Survivor will always be remembered, however, thanks to SiruisXM’s 80s channel and similar outlets. Here’s my five favorite Survivor songs:

  • 1. “I Can’t Hold Back” (1984): This was part of the “Risky Business” movie soundtrack.
  • 2. “High On You” (1984): “Such complete intoxication, I’m high on you!” My favorite line from any Survivor song.
  • 3. “Is This Love” (1986): This was the first song released from band’s sixth album, and was out about the same time as Whitesnake’s single of the same title.
  • 4. “Eye Of The Tiger” (1982): I think every high school in the country whose athletic teams are nicknamed “Tigers” has played this song on a regular basis for the last 40 years.
  • 5. “The Search Is Over” (1984): Peaked at No. 4 on Billboard Hot 100.

3. Happy birthday this week to the following five:

  • Paul Simon, the acclaimed singer, composer and half of the famed Simon and Garfunkel tandem, is 81 today. The years are just slip-sliding away. 
  • Actress Suzanne Sommers of “Three’s Company” fame will be 75 pn Sunday.
  • Actor George Wendt, who played “Norm” on “Cheers,” will be 74 on Monday.
  • Sammy Hagar, the famed Red Rocker, turns 73 today.
  • Former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield reaches 60 on Wednesday.

Steve Thought O’ The Day — Raise your hand if birthday boy George Wendt’s “Norm” was your favorite “Cheers” character.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. He likes it when we yell “Steve!” as he enters the room.

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