I’m writing this post on the Opening Day of the 2016 baseball season. I grew up in northeast Ohio and even lived in Cleveland and I’ve been a lifelong Indians fan. To be an Indians fan is to be the definition of longsuffering. I totally get Cubs fans. I keep hoping for a Cubs-Indians World Series. One of them would have to win.
Truth is, I enjoy anything from a major league game to a sandlot game with a group of kids. The rules, the strategy are the same–all that changes is the skill level. I can think of few better places to spend a summer evening than a ballgame. These days we most often make it to a Columbus Clippers game–the Indians Triple A affiliate.
One of my other summer pastimes is to read at least one baseball book. In recent years these have included bios of Mike Piazza and George Steinbrenner, both gifts from my son and David Halberstam’s account of the ’49 Yankees. So many writers who excel in other genres have written great baseball books–Doris Kearns Goodwin on the Brooklyn Dodgers and George Will (several baseball books) come to mind.
This year I return to my beloved Indians. Every Indians fan talks about “the curse of Rocky Colavito.” In 1960 Indians GM, Frank Lane, traded this home run hitter to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Colavito was the 1959 home run champ and beloved in Cleveland. And the trade, and many others in the Lane years, resulted in over 30 years of mediocre teams until 1995 and 1997 when the Indians won pennants. In 1997, fans may have concluded the curse was still alive when the Indians were within an inning of winning the Series leading 2-1 in the ninth of the seventh game only to have the Marlins tie the game in the ninth and win the series in the eleventh.
Terry Pluto, a Cleveland sportswriter, has popularized the idea of the curse. The 1994 edition of his book, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, which looks like a trip down a memory lane of unfulfilled hopes, is on my “to read” pile for this summer. Checking Amazon, it turns out there is a 2007 update. I kind of wonder if another is on the way. It’s been a long wait since the 1948 World Series Championship (before I was born).
The other baseball book on my list is a classic 1952 novel by Bernard Malamud eventually made into a movie by the same title, The Natural, in 1984, starring Robert Redford. Some consider this one of the best novels ever written about baseball. I’ll let you know.
If you are a baseball fan and a reader and haven’t started the tradition of the summer baseball book, maybe this could be the year. Chris Foran, an entertainment editor from Milwaukee has posted a great list of new baseball books. If you can’t make it to the ballpark, you can always sit on your porch or patio on a summer evening with a good book that takes you there.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…