- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harper (March 24, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061561053
- ISBN-13: 978-0061561054
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 37 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unwritten Rules of Baseball: The Etiquette, Conventional Wisdom, and Axiomatic Codes of Our National Pastime Hardcover – March 24, 2009
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About the Author
Paul Dickson has written eight bat and ball books (one on softball, seven on baseball) and is working on the third edition of his Dickson Baseball Dictionary, as well as a new work, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball. He also writes narrative 20th century American history and compiles word books. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland, with his wife, Nancy.
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It is the minute details, the small intricacies, the strange oddities, the weird obscurities, and so on that make baseball a beautiful game. There are countless documentaries, books, and memoirs about baseball because they are countless aspects to the game.
I did not expect a lot from this book. I knew it was going to be a lot of overused and tired anecdotes I have already heard. I was hoping for some newer insights from modern broadcasters, writers, and players. Unfortunately, the book is exactly what I feared. I feel like ninety percent of this book was written by Joe Garagiola, since the majority of this book quotes or references Garagiola's Baseball is a Funny Game.
The biggest takeaway from this book: find Joe Garagiola's book.
Then it occurred to me: As much as I love hockey, I don't know that any sport could have as much unwritten etiquette as baseball simply because of its pace and longevity as a mostly unchanged game over the past hundred years.
I really wasn't sure how I could convey that to my Canucks, but this book is probably a good start. Though it won't lead anyone by the hand through the sport (I'll still have to explain some of the nuances and plays referred to), I feel like I could give it to any of them to read and understand how much more there is going on than simply what they're seeing on the field. Now, I'm not one to keep score at games, but I do try to keep a close eye on the little things not reported on the Jumbotron. I'm hoping that even reading some of this collected wisdom will help my wife and her friends draw more from the game than drunken idiots slapping beach balls or instigating 'the wave' could ever see.
(BTW - Dodgers games are probably the most unpleasant ballpark experience in one of the best ballpark settings: horribly rude, often violent fans who show up in the fourth and leave after the stretch, which, I might add, has to have its lyrics on the Jumbotron and repeats the verse twice. Abomination! The ghost of Harry Caray should torment these impostors for the remainder of their days.)
I actually ordered this book shortly after Dallas Braden's perfect game since much of the etiquette came up while the wife and I were watching the highlights of it (last year, I tried without success to convey the rarity of the perfect game and the genius of DeWayne Wise's catch in Buerhle's gem). When I winced at Longoria's bunt attempt, but then hedged on whether it was technically 'wrong,' I knew I'd confused her. Referencing the bunt that killed Schilling's perfect game a few years back certainly didn't help. Personally, I think the bunt has very limited application and breaking up a perfect game ain't it (though we did go to the Japan-Korea final of the 2009 WBC and I thought Ichiro's late bunt was one of the most brilliant pieces of hitting I've ever seen). Then again, if you're giving up on the score halfway through the game, you should probably find another profession.
When I got the book, I opened it to rule 1.17.2. Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-hitter or Perfect Game. Sure enough, the Schilling game was referenced as a very gray area in the rule. While I don't know that this cleared anything up for my wife, I was actually happy to see the nuanced examples and contrary wisdom ("I'm getting paid to hit and he's getting paid to pitch. He never gave me any breaks at the plate. Why should I give him any?") that exemplify why all these rules are unwritten: to fix them in recorded form would take away from the excitement of knowing whether they'll be observed.
(Oddly enough, Braden is quoted in rule 1.19.0. Rookies Are the Lowest Rung on the Ladder, though his name is misspelled 'Breden.' I'm sure it will be corrected in future editions now that he made history.)
Wow, I've really digressed. What I meant to say is that I think the book is a very complete list of the unwritten rules we baseball fans think we know along with a few that I probably would have never known (the section on how far you can take your jawing with the umpire seems like something tough to gauge from the fan's distance from the field). The little vignettes attached to most of the rules are often informative and fun, though, again, I don't know that they'll translate well beyond the already entrenched fan (of course, this book isn't really general interest, so I guess that's the point). The rules did feel a little brief, however, as the second half of the book consists of collected adages, wisdom, and cliches from the game that are alternately truisms, banalities, and contradictory. Still entertaining, but I might have better enjoyed more examples of the 'rules' in action. Overall, a fun, easy read that can be put down and picked up without loss of flow. To quote from Plimpton's Correlation ("The larger the ball, the less the writing about the sport"), there are "very good books about baseball" and this is among them. It's worth adding to your baseball shelf.
Some examples of rules from a player's perspective: "The clubhouse is a sanctuary"; "Do not criticize a teammate in print"; "It is the pitcher's job to protect his hitters and enforce many of the unwritten rules"; "Respect the other team--Do not 'show up' the opposition."
There are also rules for other key actors--managers, umpires, official scorers, fans media, and so on. There is also a segment under the rubric "Axioms, principles, adages, rules of thumb, instructions, and seemingly immutable laws that define the national pastime" (whew!).
All in all, a slight work, but quite amusing.