Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring is in the Air

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column each week in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Spring is in the air.

At our house we can tell because the snow has melted from even the snowiest, shadiest spots in the yard. We’ve dusted off our bikes and pumped the tires waiting for an early morning above 50 degrees. The snow shovels are stored optimistically high but pessimistically at an easy reach.

Spring is in the air. In our house we can tell because The Masters was on TV.

If you had told me years ago that I would spend a late spring afternoon keeping watch on a small white ball as it soars through the air and lands on the televised grass I would have told you that you were crazy. That was, of course, before I married a golfer.

And The Golf did not disappoint this latest spring weekend. The Masters, played in beautiful Augusta, Georgia with its zillions of amazing azaleas, was incredibly exciting. Within an hour of the end of the match, as shadows grew long and some golfers grew tired, the outcome was far from certain. It was a spectacular ride watching little-known South African Charl Schwartzel come from behind and win the tournament. It was sports at its unpredictable best.

Yes spring is in the air. And new sports books are flying into the library.

“True Boo: Gator Catchin', Orangutan Boxin', and My Wild Ride to the PGA Tour” by Boo Weekley is one book that arrived and quickly left the shelf. Weekley became obsessed with winning a PGA tournament and did so in 2007. He's earned his living on golf for a number of years and shares his crazy and honest tales in the book.

“Four Days in July: Tom Watson, the 2009 Open Championship and a Tournament for the Ages” by Jim Huber will be published this May. Watson was yet another golfer who mesmerized the sports world for a weekend two years ago. In professional golf, the Open is the oldest of the four major championships and it is played in Scotland or England. Tom Watson surprised the crowd as he very nearly won the match at the age of ‘very close to sixty’. It was a match that he had won five times before (the last twenty-six years before as a much-younger man.)

It isn’t just golf that is being written about.

ESPN, or the Entertainment Sports Programming Network, wasn’t always a household word. Back in 1979 some people thought the founders were crazy to launch a 24-hour television network devoted to sports and nothing but sports. Now ESPN dominates sports news along with all of its personalities. James Andrew Miller is the author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN”, a book that will also be on the library shelf in May.

And spring wouldn’t be spring without baseball. (Thankfully, Red Sox fans have had some good news this past week.) There is a plethora of new baseball books just out or close to hitting the shelves.

“Baseball in the Garden of Eden: Secret History of the Early Game” by John Thorn reveals that while the beginnings of American baseball can be found in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as far back as 1791, baseball’s real history dates to ancient Egypt.

Zach Hample has written “The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches”. Answers to many questions about the ball and the sport can be found here. Hample himself has an incredible collection of baseballs all snagged at various major league games, 4,700 of them since 1990. (He now catches them for charity and offers advice on how to snag your own in the book and on his blog.)

In “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game”, New York Times columnist Dan Barry shares the story of a minor league baseball game played between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. The game, which began mid-evening on a Saturday evening in Pawtucket did not end until just before dawn on the next morning, Easter. Among the players were Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken. (Bill Littlefield of NPR’s Only a Game has a wonderful podcast about the book which aired just this past month.) Rules for a curfew had been mysteriously omitted from the rule book that year and the game lasted eight long and grueling hours.

“The House that Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship and the Redemption of 1923” is written by Slate sports columnist Robert Weintraub. Weintraub’s story describes Ruth’s “bashing” style and “scientific baseball” favored by others and highlights the construction of the Yankee stadium and the 1923 World Series.

In “Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch”, Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield describes the ball that “floats in slow motion” mystifying batters and spectators.

Other newly-published (or soon to be) baseball books to check out this spring and summer are “The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH” by Major League All-Star Shawn Green, “Uppity: My Untold Story about the Games People Play” by Bill White, “Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History” by Armando Galarrag, “the Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warran Spahn, and the Pitching Duel of the Century” by Jim Kaplin, “Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campenalla: by Neil Lanctot, “1961: The Inside Story of the Maris-Mantle Home Run Chase” by Phil Pepe and “Stan Musial and American Life” by George Vecsey.

And as life would have it, spring will give way to summer and summer to fall. “Play Like You Mean it: Passion, Laughs and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game” by Rex Ryan will get you ready for another season … and yet another ball, the football.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for all library materials please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,