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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Grantland: Right Down the Middle

If you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense overview of the state of baseball book publishing in 2014, check this out.

When ideas fail, baseball books drift back to the same place where they’ve been anchored for two decades: the 1950s. Baseball books are instant replay for baby boomers. “There has to be a book every year about Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, or some combination thereof,” said Robert Weintraub, author of The Victory Season, which was published last year. “I’m guilty of that myself.”

The ’50s is farmland already tilled by literary HOFers like David Halberstam and Roger Kahn, by Jane Leavy and Richard Ben Cramer. Each go-round leaves fewer available plots. Leavy did Mantle in 2010. James S. Hirsch did Mays the same year. So it was inevitable that in 2013, Allen Barra would do them both, in the dual biography Mickey and Willie. If an author finds his mandate getting too small, he compensates by going big. Last year, Ben Bradlee Jr.’s biography of Ted Williams came in at a whopping 784 pages.

There’s a funny thing about the boomers trudging to the shelves. The overfamiliarity of the old ballplayers isn’t a turnoff; it’s the sell. “What you want if you’re a reader is to pull back a curtain on a time you remember well,” explained literary agent David Black.

AndrewJ Posted: May 29, 2014 at 09:52 PM | 56 comment(s)
  Beats: authors, baseball books, books, nostalgia

 

 

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