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4.8 out of 5 stars
Smithsonian Baseball: Inside the World's Finest Private Collections
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This beautiful book belongs in every baseball enthusiast's library, but it would be a mistake to keep it on the shelves. Author Stephen Wong has partnered with the Smithsonian to publish the most stunning book on baseball on the market. It deserves to be on your coffee table not only because of its wonderful photographs but also due to the wonderfully rich way he presents the history of the game. Wong gained remarkable access to the sport's foremost collectors, combing through hundreds of images and memorabilia items. The payoff is tremendous for anyone with an interest in baseball or, for that matter, in American history and culture. Readers will learn the essential facts about the game, and the fascinating tidbits, such as the origins of the curve ball. They then get to see remarkable shots, some most unusual - from folk art statues to Don Larsen's enshrined shoes from his perfect game to the bricks of former stadiums. In fact, this book should be placed in the Hall of Fame!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful baseball book. It captures the entire sweep of our national pastime's history through the description and display of the best (and undoubtedly the most valuable!) private collections of baseball memorabilia. The collectors themselves are a varied lot, from a Wall Street exec to a famous Hollywood celebrity, and each has built up a remarkable collection of some of the rarest, most historically significant baseball memorabilia in existence. This book is a lot more than baseball cards and home run balls, although there is plenty of that. The various collections include amazing original photographs, and the bats, gloves, and uniforms of all the baseball greats, plus lots of unexpected gems like board games, old posters and advertisements, and even folk art fashioned from baseball odds and ends. The photos are accompanied by excellent captions that are very informative, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking, like the game itself. In this book, done to the Smithsonian's usual high standards, the baseball greats of yesteryear seem to come alive and stride the basepaths once again. It almost seems like you can reach out and touch Ty Cobb's bat, or feel the texture of Ted Williams' uniform, or hear the roar of the crowds at The Polo Grounds. Anyone with an interest in baseball will thoroughly enjoy this book, and I heartily recommend it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book with only a passing interest in baseball memorabilia born of my childhood baseball card collection that my mother eventually disposed of, much to my dismay, when I moved out. As a result of reading this book, I now have a greater appreciation for the art of baseball memorabilia. I would recommend this book to those who recall their childhood card collections with fondness as well as to fans of the game of baseball itself.

The author has combined an insider's knowledge of baseball memorabilia with a reverence for the history of the game and an understanding of the game's place within American culture. It is clear from the book's essays that he knows how intertwined baseball and America really are. The book's pictures make these one-of-a-kind private collections appear like the works of art that many of them truly are.

In addition to well-known baseball memorabilia (the Honus Wagner baseball card, Babe Ruth's bats), the author has an eye for unusual private collections. One of my favorites in the book was the person who focused his collection on Moe Berg, an Ivy League grad and backup catcher in the majors during the 1930s who spoke six languages and served in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA, during World War II. I also had no idea that Penny Marshall (director of "A League of Their Own"), who is featured in the book, is such an avid baseball memorabilia collector.

A great gift for baseball fans of all ages.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Smithsonian Baseball is simply the very best baseball book ever produced! It captures like no other the soul of our national pastime, as passionately expressed in the introduction by it's author, Mr. Stephen Wong. It should be treasured as a museum piece itself with the same reverence as the collections it so perfectly captures.

Baseball has been the cornerstone of my life literally each and everyday I could remember, truly a best friend. Like baseball, the book's spirit is a personification of my being.

Tremendous thought and care went into every word and illustration of the book. The quality is unparalleled; the cover, the paper, the photography, the essays, the captions, the organization, all representing the love of the game.

What Michelangelo is to the Sistine Chapel, Stephen Wong's one-of-a-kind masterpiece is to baseball!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have had the great privilege of being a baseball fan for over 50 years and my humble library includes over 1,000 books on our National Pastime. I do not claim to be an authority or a worhty critic of baseball literature. I am simply a lifelong devoted fan who, like many, have reveled in (time and time again) the rich prose from the game's most legendary scribes - Angell, Honig, Ritter, Kinsella, Kahn, Stanton, Thorn, Halberstam, et al. What has impressed me most about this book is that it exudes so much passion about baseball's history and its underlying emotions. I have never come across a baseball book that has captivated my attention on such a high level. Wong's text is extraordinarily rich with layers upon layers of historical context and plenty of time honored baseball anecdotes. The photographs are breathtaking. I can not imagine how much time Wong and his photographer must have spent on producing many of those unforgettable montage shots - positioning of the pieces, lighting, shadowing effect, etc. The artifacts simply jump off the pages. This is not one of those typical "formula-driven" baseball books that slaps together old photos with dry text in time for opening day sales. This is truly a work of art . . . so much time and effort went into the layout of every page. The positioning of the artifacts with the text in each chapter flow like a Mozart symphony. It really all comes together very well. I can only tip my hat to Mr. Wong. No corners were cut in this magnum opus. This is baseball history at its finest. Well done.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Wong's Simthsonian Baseball: Inside the World's Finest Private Collections is that rare baseball book that, similar to titles like The Summer of 1949, Collision At Home Plate and The Boys of Summer, that reminds fans of the game why they became fans in the first place and has the ability to inspire a new generation of baseball devotees.

The baseball fan will not be able to put this book down. The artifacts in the featured collections are immediately recognizable and the collections taken as a whole, are superior to what can be found in Cooperstown. The stunning photography and the collection-specific essays literally bring the pieces to life.

The casual fan, and even the non-fan who opens this book will know the significance of names like, Ruth, Robinson and Aaron. The collections and their stories will do the rest.

The collections are thematic -- celluloid buttons, advertizing, homerun balls, photos, teammates, etc -- which allows this book to be as much a story about the history and culture of America as about the game of baseball. Stephen Wong's narrative has the quality and tone of a conversation with an old friend about great games, great moments and great players: shared experiences that connect our lives.

To be fair, most readers of this book will not have the resources to collect baseball memorabelia of this quality. Yes, these collections are private rather then on public display. Hopefully the Smithsonian can work with these and other collectors to arrange a more public presentation. The bottom line though, is that these collectors have chosen to accumulate artifacts of the game they love, becoming stewards of history in the process, rather than cars, boats, or whatever else people with similar means might choose to spend their money on.

Buy this book. First, give it to anyone you know who really loves baseball. Then, sit down and flip through the pages with your kids. You'll end up talking as much about yourself, your childhood memories and heroes, and maybe a similar conversation you had with your grandfather, as you will about baseball. That's the magic of the game of baseball: the ability to connect generations through a child's eyes. And that's the magic of this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Wong has created a drop-dead gorgeous look at some of the game's great artifacts, and many will be surprised to learn that they are not at the Baseball Hall of Fame nor even at the Smithsonian (despite the book's title). The game's artifacts extend way beyond the cards and gimcrack collectibles sold at the ballpark, and Wong has deftly toggled his focus from collectible to collector and back again, providing a memorable prose portrait of the lively game played off the field. I cannot recommend this brilliantly conceived book highly enough.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Wong's one-of-a-kind, amazing book provides detailed and spectacular photos, descriptions and essays which outline the top collections in the baseball memorabilia hobby and the history of the game itself.

It's amazing that first time author Wong took almost three years of his life and dedicated it to traveling the world seeking out these incredible treasures. Then, he didn't simply take pictures of the treasures, but wrote extensively about what these rarely seen artifacts mean in context to the era and just how important these rare items really are. Not important just to the featured collectors themselves, but to the game of baseball.

This is a book that will be loved by those who enjoy collecting, like baseball or just love history. For Smithsonian Baseball takes us back to baseball's origins in the mid-1800's and gives us a history lesson complete with mind blowing color photography that is not to be missed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I just got this today and spent several hours perusing this magnificent book. I have an extensive baseball library (in addition to being a serious memorabilia collector) and this book ranks right at the top of my favorites. This book is truly one to treasure through the ages. Even if you're not a collector, any baseball fan will enjoy the essays as well as the lavish pictorials. A MUST HAVE!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book incorporates some of the most beautiful photography of baseball memorabilia and impeccably-detailed writing about baseball collecting in the world. As baseball is deeply imbued in American culture, the Smithsonian should be commended for reaching out and underwriting this worthy subject matter. A rare book indeed for this subject, professionally written and impressive in scope for people interested in starting a collection or any diehard fan of baseball.

Enjoyable as a cover-to-cover read or by random chapter selection, each of the 21 collectors is presented in a unique and enthusiatic manner. The reader never feels that chapters follow an overly structured framework nor is it a biography of collectors; rather, it focuses on every unique collection and the journey through the history of each.

I learned how every collector has a particular theme. Unique and in some cases esoteric, these themes reflect the individual collector's personal connection to the Game. For instance, a "Do Not Disturb" hotel door hangtag signed by Ty Cobb humorously symbolized Cobb's infamous grumpy attitude. An emotional state of inflection that drew collector Penny Marshall to purchase it.

As the author presents these themes, the reader promptly appreciates the diversity and breadth of collecting which go far beyond simple baseball card items and a potential return on investment; because, we realize from this book our individuality (and our interests and dreams) transends the constraints of what is popular-culture, is the latest fad, and might be for financial gain. And in doing so, we are allowed to reflect upon not what might appeal to others, but what is of importance to us and what makes us who we are.

For any reader seeking a personal journey into these reflections, this book will remain a timeless piece for your reference, inspiration for collecting, and aspiration for years to come.
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