A sports fan’s delight: historical highlights (and lowlights), tributes to great players and lots of “Top Ten” lists ripe for vigorous second guessing.
ESPN columnist and NPR sports correspondent Bryant leads off with Babe Ruth and seals the win with the dramatic 2011 Cardinals/Rangers World Series. Using a seasonal organization, he lines up first a select set of players (“Spring”), then teams (“Summer”) and finally memorable World Series (“Fall”). In between the essays (a half-dozen per season) he offers lists of statistical leaders or of personal choices for most dominant players in an era, best nicknames and other hot-stove topics. He often angles his spotlight away from the usual feats and milestones to focus, for instance, not on Jackie Robinson’s entry into the major league in 1947, but on his career year of 1949 or on teams that won hearts and minds if not always games. An account of the sensational but steroid-spoiled home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is at once exhilarating and thought-provoking. A woefully stingy set of photos highlighting a few players and triumphs is the only whiff here.
A terrific gathering of heroic hacks and legendary near misses, ideal as a companion for systematic histories such as Lawrence Ritter’s ripe-for-updating Story of Baseball (3rd edition, 1999). (timeline, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)