Baseball Miscellany: A Book Review

Serious baseball fans tend to think they know the answers to the serious baseball questions that non-serious baseball fans may not even understand, let alone be able to answer. What these serious fans may not realize when they are explaining what VORP means to their seemingly impressed co-worker, is that they don’t even know the answers to some of the more simple questions about the game. Questions that only a novice would ask because a serious fan would be too ashamed to not know something seemingly so mundane such as why a shortstop is called a shortstop.

In “Baseball Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Baseball”, author Matthew Silverman attempts to answer all the questions that these serious fans are too embarrassed to ask, so they never have to. Fans, especially baseball fans, have a tendency to accept the way things are just because it is the way they have always been and trying to figure out what exactly a “sandlot” is wouldn’t seem as hip as just using it in a sentence.

Some of the questions Silverman looks to answer are not head scratchers, so don’t expect every page to help uncover a mystery about the game. For instance, almost all baseball fans know why the number 42 is retired for all teams. However, this garners a discussion of a certainly important subject, so the question does have its place.

Many of the questions Silverman asks, and then answers, are interesting and to most will be new facts such as, “Why does the visiting team always bat first?” and, “What is the most memorable promotion ever held?” These are not easy to find baseball facts that any old Joe could look up if the question popped into their head during the 3:00pm meeting and they have interesting answers, as one might think. Giving away these answers in the body of this review would not be fair to the author, but there is certainly something to be gained for reading this work.

However, there are parts of the book that seem like somewhat of a cop out. If the point of the book was to bring questions to light that would never have been asked, but needed to be answered, finding out why the spitball was illegal or how many times Ty Cobb stole home, probably doesn’t fall into that category. Basically, if the reader can easily Google the correct answer, it doesn’t have a place in a book of this caliber.

Other topics covered in the book that this reviewer found intriguing include:

“What is the loss column and why is it so important?”

“Why do some new stadiums have the same names as old ones?”

“Why was Joe DiMaggio called ‘The Yankee Clipper’?”

The book is a fast and easy read with many pictures to keep the reader’s eye and focus. In addition to answering the above questions, the author also includes other tidbits about the game in short sections included in each chapter. Two of these featured sections are Baseball Defined, which is a section focused on defining a baseball term, and Quotable, which shares a memorable quote from someone in the game.

This book would be a good coffee table addition and conversation piece during entertaining, whether the subjects are baseball fans or not. This would also be a great gift for a young baseball fan who is just starting to get immersed in the game they will eventually become obsessed with.

While readers should expect a respectable level of research within this work, they should not be prepared for a lengthy historical baseball perspective with endless facts and reasoning. The answers are simple, short and to the point, which is what makes this work effective.

Overall Rating: 3.25/5


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