A Spring Training Reading List

Dear Readers,

Spring Training has arrived. Yesterday, courtesy of SiriusXM, I listed to WEEI’s coverage of the first Red Sox game I’ve gotten to hear since the final game of the World Series. I know, I know, it is Spring Training and the games don’t count. But I love listening to the games nonetheless. Plus, my little girl Anastasia Colleen is a big Sox fan too, and so we listen to the games together. Will the Red Sox repeat last year’s success? I don’t know. Maybe. Hopefully. But I’m not much on predictions as I thought there weren’t going to win the World Series last season. But I digress.

For those of you anxious for Opening Day, as am I, today’s post will give you a little bit to hold you over until then. As part of my series on my favorite books, here are my favorite baseball books. Most of it is non-fiction, a bit of it fiction, and I admit a certain bias when it comes to Red Sox books because, well, they are my team after all.


This one is a must read for any Red Sox fan. Steven King and Stewart O’Nan chronicled the 2004 season as it happened. The book consists of their musing about games that they watched, along with email exchanges between the two. You get the highs. The lows. And the magic of the comeback against the Yankees. You can almost hear Tessie blaring from the book as you read, and it might leave with the sudden urge to belt out Sweet Caroline. Though normally known as a horror guy, King is actually pretty damn funny, a fact this book attests to. (Added bonus: the Audiobook version is great.) The Curse of the Bambino was broken. And maybe Bucky Dent can finally drop his acquired middle name of Bucky “Fucking” Dent. Well, on second thought, let’s not get too carried away……


Baseball is made for summer, especially summers on Cape Cod. This book details a single season of the Cape Cod League, following a specific team, the Chatham As. It was kind of a rough season for them, but you get to meet players who are among the best college baseball has to offer, along with coaches and host families who all strive to make the league the best damn summer league in the country. The nice things about books that follow specific teams is that you really get to know the players and come to care about what happens to them.


As I’ve said many a time, I love baseball on the radio and old time radio programs, so imagine my sheer joy when I discovered this gem on the shelf at a used bookstore. A ranking of the 101 best announcers in baseball history! Oh the joy! I won’t spoil it for you by saying who ranked first on the list, but if you are a longtime baseball fan, I’m sure you can guess. But all of the big names are in here, from Red Barber to Vin Scully to Harry Caray. If you are a baseball fan and you’ve never listened to a game on the radio, this season do yourself a favor and try it.


I absolutely love this book! It’s a collection of the best baseball pieces from Sports Illustrated from the late 50s through the early 2000s. Some of the stories are from big name writers, but others are by writers that you might not have heard of before. The articles are varied, from great pieces on the old Negro Leagues, to baseball in Japan, to fishing with Ted Williams, to why baseball is best on the radio, this book has it all. It is one that you can read at your own leisure, a piece at a time. Any baseball fan, particularly a fan of the history of the game, needs a copy of this.


I picked up this book almost as an afterthought one afternoon. It is set at a small college and is about the baseball team, but also the college itself. It’s about friendship, love, self doubt, anxiety, and second chances. In other words, things we’ve all seen in our own lifetimes. I think this book might appeal to those who either are fans of baseball, or work at small colleges as it does a good job detailing what that is like too. There are some great books on baseball fiction out there, and this is one of them.


I’m not a huge fan of the time travel (or time slip) novel. In fact, I’ve only read two. One is the excellent firefighting novel Chicago 1871 by James Merl. The second one is If I Never Get Back. In this tale, a sportswriter finds himself covering a team during baseball’s early era. The problem? Well, he’s from a considerably later time period. What’s great about this book is that it does a good job describing what early games were like, how the teams traveled and lived, and how the game evolved. It’s got its funny bits as well, and so it is well worth the time to read it.


This book is for the serious Red Sox fan only. It consists of stories from the team’s past, from the earliest days to the near present. Mostly the stories are interviews with people and it can be difficult to digest at times, but every Sox fan must have this book on their shelf. It is available on Audiobook too, but honestly, it isn’t a very good listen. You are better off buying a copy and reading it the old fashioned way.


Feinstein is the godfather of American sports writing, so when he turned his pen to life in the Minor Leagues, he produced an instant classic. From players chasing their dreams of big league glory, to general managers with shoestring budgets, this book paints a picture of the underbelly of professional baseball. It isn’t all nationally televised games and mega million dollar contracts. No, for most, they toil in relative obscurity with the odds of making it to The Show stacked against them. If anything, this book gives you a greater appreciation for what the players go through to make it to the big stage.

So there you have it, Dear Readers. A baseball reading list to tide you over until Opening Day. There are many notable books that did not make the list, mainly because my lists consist of my favorites, something which is dictated by personal taste and not my non-existent talent as a literary critic. Here’s hoping that your team wins most of their games this season.


Anastasia Colleen says “Go Red Sox mens!”






Opening Day Revisited


Dear Readers,

On Opening Day of the 2018 season, I wrote about my experience following multiple games here. As we are now in the month of October with playoff baseball in progress, I thought I’d revisit my experience.

After watching the Red Sox blow a 4-0 lead to the Marlins to lose 6-4 on the first day of the season, I have to say that their completion of a 100+ win season came as something of a surprise. However, in their first game of the ALDS against the Yankees, they went up 5-0 only to give up four runs and make it a much closer game than it should have been. I listened to said game on the radio, as I always do. You could feel the energy of the Fenway crowd coming through the speaker on my phone. (I use the SiriusXM app and follow the Red Sox home feed.)

In May right after I finished teaching for the semester, I had surgery and spent another 8 days in the hospital. (That’s for a total of 6 weeks since late November if you are keeping track). Luckily, the hospital has excellent Wi-Fi coverage and so I was able to have one game going on the TV, one on my computer via my MLB subscription, all while listening to a game on my phone. Though much of the time I was in a morphine induced fog, it did provide an avenue of entertainment if not excitement.

During the long hot days of summer, I was more focused on recovering from my surgery than on anything else, especially during the month of June. Still, I managed to catch a few games a week. I taught a couple of classes the second half of the summer and would listen to afternoon games on the car radio during my “relaxing” hour drive home. August was an exciting month for the Red Sox, but they seemed to go flat in September which doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.

As much as it pains me to say, I think the Astros are still the team to beat in the American League, though the Yankees are hot too and might very well take the series from the Red Sox despite losing the first game. If this happens, it will be due to the combination of the Yankees hitters verses the Red Sox putrid bullpen. I’m still not sure why they didn’t address this known deficiency either during the last off season or before the trade deadline. But I digress.

So here’s to hoping for an exciting last month or so of the season. May we see great games, regardless of who comes out on top.


Opening Day, 2018

Boston Baseball CO

Dear Readers,

I had a bit of an usual experience this Opening Day as I was off. The college is closed Thursday and Friday for the Easter Holiday, so I set out to follow a few games in addition to the Red Sox game to have a full first day of the season experience.

The Cubs and Marlins started off the season. Armed with my trusty SiriusXM app on my phone, I tuned in to listen to the Cubs radio feed. I don’t much care for all of the pre-game radio talk, so when I tuned in, the Marlins had just taken the field along with the umpires. A few minutes later, on the very first pitch of the entire MLB season, Ian Happ knocked it over the right field fence. More chaos followed in the top of the first. Two players walked. Two more hit by pitches. The Cubs were up 3-0. In the bottom of the first, Anderson singled to right and scored a run for the Marlins. In the top of the second, Rizzo hit a dinger of his own and just like that, the Cubbies were up 4-1 and cruising. Or so I thought. The Marlins tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the third and that is when I had to quit watching to run an errand.

On the way to Wal Marts, I tuned in to listen to the Cardinals play the Mets. As I was focused a bit more on driving than listening, I don’t recall much of what I heard other than the fact that the Mets weren’t having much trouble with the Red Birds. When I reached the store, I noticed a large number of people wearing Astros gear which made me chuckle. I was in my lucky Red Sox shirt and hat and I remember just a few years ago when the Astros were losing 100 games a season and you saw nary a shirt or hat in H-Town. Hell, they gave away tickets and couldn’t get people to go the games. But I digress.

When I got home, I laid down to rest for a while given the myriad of health issues I’m currently battling. At 3pm, I made a cup of coffee and went to sit on the front porch to listen to the game I had been waiting for, the Red Sox and the Rays. Betts hit a hard fly ball to deep center field on the first pitch. Would he match what Happ did for the Cubs? No. The center fielder made a great catch. Benitendi grounded out and Ramirez struck out. Three up. Three down. Still, it’s a long game and a longer season, so I saw no need to get nervous. Sale had the kind of game you’ve come to expect from him. By the end of the 2nd, the Red Sox were up 3-0 after Martinez scored on a Devers ground out and Nunez and Bogaerts scored after Nunez hit an unlikely inside the park home run. When Sale left after 6, with only one hit and nine strikeouts, I thought we were home free.

I’m not quite sure why I thought that, given the Red Sox bullpen’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Alas, this is what happened in the bottom of the 8th. Four batters walked. A few hits. And the next thing you know, the Rays, who typically have a somewhat anemic offense, were up 6-4. Oh well, we still had the top of the 9th, right? Nunez managed a double to left field, but Bradley, Jr. grounded out to end the game. I admit to being in a certain state of shock. A four run lead gone in a matter of minutes. Thankfully it is a long season, though I fear if the bullpen can’t get it together, it’s going to seem like a positively eternal season.

After the debacle in Florida, I tuned in to watch the Dodgers play the Giants. The typically outstanding Kershaw pitched relatively well, other than the solo home run he gave up which gave the Giants a 1-0 victory. When he left after six, he’d managed to toss 7 Ks, though he gave up 8 hits. Still, he only let one run score, though that proved to be the difference in the game. Interestingly, Kershaw also went 2-2 at the plate, which the Dodgers were not able to capitalize on.

By this point, I was tired, my back hurt, and my intestines hurt (which I’ll need surgery on before too long). I fell asleep listening to the Indians play the Mariners in Seattle. I traveled to the land of nod shortly after Cruz hit a two run homer in the bottom of the first, which, I noticed after I got up this morning, were the only two runs the Mariners scored. It was enough, as they topped the Indians 2-1.

So what’s on tap for today? I won’t be watching/listening to as many games today, though I’ll be tuning in to the Red Sox game this evening and hoping they can manage a win. With Price on the mound, it’s possible, but they are going to have to have a 10 run lead before I feel comfortable with the bullpen’s ability to get a save.


I Saw It On The Radio


Dear Readers,

I am decidedly old school in my habits. From my decidedly vintage style of dress to the 1940s to the 1940s music I listen to and movies I watch, my life seemingly revolves around things that went out of fashion a long time ago. Hell, I even listen to Old Time Radio programs from the 40s and 50s (Dragnet and Tales of the Texas Rangers are my favorites). When it comes to sports, well, I listen to them on the radio rather than watch them on TV, though I will watch the highlights after the games are over. There is something special about picturing what is going on in your mind as it is described by a voice coming through the airwaves rather than looking at a picture coming from a box.

I was born in 1978 and thus my early years were spent in the pre-cable era. We did not have cable at my house until 1990 or 1991. Even then, it was nowhere near the 250 channels I get via Dish Network today. As a kid, I listened to as many major sporting events on the radio as I watched. I remember listening to baseball games on the radio with my grandfather and of smuggling a small battery operated radio to bed with me so I could catch the end of the New York Football Giants victory in the Super Bowl in 1986 and again in 1990. Today, when you can order packages that allow you to see any NFL game or any MLB game, I still prefer to listen on the radio which, courtesy of Sirius XM radio, is an easy thing. I can get the home feeds for any team either on the radio I have set up in the bedroom or, even better, via the app on my phone.


I live in the Houston media market but I am not a fan of any of the Houston teams. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, and perhaps most simply, I am not from Houston. I grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border though I’ve lived in and around Houston since 1990. (Presently I reside in La Porte, a great town that reminds me of my native Port Arthur.) Second, in my opinion, Houston has the worst sports fans of any city. They only like their teams if they are winning. For example, when the Astros went to the World Series in 04 or 05, everywhere you went people wore Astros gear and talked about the team as if they were suddenly baseball experts. People I’d known for years who never expressed any interest in baseball were suddenly rabid fans and baseball experts. A few years later, after a few 100 loss seasons, all the fans disappeared. They have not been heard from again, though if the Astros go to the World Series this year, rest assured they will come out of the woodwork. For the final reason, I’ll have to explain why I intensely dislike the Astros and the Texans (the Rockets don’t rate on my radar as I am not an NBA fan). As a kid we lived just on the edge of the Houston market and so we got the Astros games on TV. I did not like the Astros, I liked the Braves for some reason I cannot recall. Anyway, my mother would send me to my room when the games came on because I refused to cheer for the Astros. Thus I hate them with a passion. And as for the Texans, it isn’t the team I hate so much as it is their fans who show a shocking ignorance of football. At the beginning of every season they go on and on about how they are going to win the Super Bowl that year with the latest washed up quarterback they sign. When the Oilers were in town, I followed them and even liked a few of their players. But boy do I hate the Texans. (I’m a Saints fan and have been since Bum Phillips, who grew up in the same area as I did, coached them.)

Forgive the long digression. The Saints rarely play on television in the Houston area, maybe a couple of games a year. So I listen to all their games on WWL Radio. Before I got my satellite radio, I listened via the computer, but now I usually listen via my XM app. The roar of the Super Dome crowd comes through loud and clear and it is as if you were there. I sincerely wish they’d do boxing matches on the radio too. Sirius inked a deal to broadcast some Premiere Boxing Championship bouts and since 2015 have carried exactly one. So much for that deal. I even get my news courtesy of the BBC World Service. They do a much better job with international news than our American equivalents. Just saying.


During baseball season, I follow the Red Sox and listen to as many of their games as I can. There is something decidedly historical about baseball on the radio. Officially the first MLB game broadcast on the radio was a contest between the Pirates and the Phillies carried by KDKA Pittsburgh in August of 1921. A slight dispute exists, however, as WWJ Detroit claims to have broadcast the 1920 World Series. What would baseball be without a little controversy! The merger of the newfangled radio machines with the sport created a true match made in heaven. Whereas football with its pace of action is more suited to television, baseball is made for the radio. When you hear the crack of the bat, you can almost see the ball leaving the park. All the clubs have their regular radio guys and quite a few have become legends, such as the Dodger’s Vin Scully. Even Harry Caray started out as a radio guy with the Cardinals. Though for reasons stated above, I dislike the Astros, their long term radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton was excellent. Since his retirement (and death), the replacement team just isn’t as good. His catchphrase, and all radio guys have them, was “Holy Toledo! What a play!” Joe Castiglione of the Red Sox uses “Can you believe it?” which he used during the final out of the 2004 World Series.

To get a feel for baseball’s history with the radio, check out this YouTube page which has tons of vintage radio broadcasts of games from the 30s through the 70s. The Golden Age of Radio coincided with the Golden Age of Baseball, and on this page you can listen to the legends of the diamond play games called by the legends of the broadcast booth.

If you are a baseball fan, I would urge you to pick one game this season played by your local team and rather than watch it on television, listen to it on the radio. In so doing, you’ll have a connection with the history of the game which television lacks. I even know people who go to games with small radios and listen while they watch! That’s dedication to the radio that even I lack. Also try picking out a vintage game on that YouTube page and give it a listen. You won’t be sorry.

“Swing and a ground ball stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship! Can you believe it!”

Joe Castiglione on WEEI Boston, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004