Tag Archives: baseball books

A baseball-flavored visual design meander

Why shouldn't a catcher's mask look like a futuristic soldier helmet?

Why shouldn't a catcher's mask look like a futuristic soldier helmet?

The Behance Network is an online bazaar trafficking in visual imagery, product design, graphic design, and all manner of effluvia. It’s a good way to survey the design scene (I’m an amateur audience, to be sure). I punched “baseball” into the search cell. Here are a few baseball-related design highlights:

– Designer Francesco Schiraldi takes a new design look at a catcher’s helmet. The flip-up visor is intriguing. Also check out his pitching machine, a War of the Worlds interpretation of that terrifying device.

– Some old-school mascot posters from Bruno Allard.

The SI cover featuring Zack Greinke offers a unique visual perspective. Add to that the World Series cover from last year, the recent Hamels and Pujols covers, and the Lincecum cover from July of 2008, and you’ve got some compelling portraiture from the old standby. Great photography seems to be the key here, with simple design. In the Hamels, Pujols and Lincecum covers, the design highlights the particular style and physical presence of the subject. It’s a keen way to capitalize on that style factor that makes baseball go.

Eschewing blatant cover cliche

Eschewing blatant cover cliche

On the topic of covers, baseball book cover designs most often include a) a player portrait or b) a large, artistic-seeming picture of a baseball. It makes sense, on one hand, and is pretty bland on the other. Now I Can Die in Peace by Bill Simmons is a notable exception (I haven’t read the book). Additional compelling cover designs of recent baseball books:

Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy. This cover takes the action to a place just off camera, in a madcap scramble for some ball, presumably.

The Integration of Major League Baseball features a cover in the style of an old baseball card. Reminds me of the custom baseball cards mentioned in a previous post.

Lefty, Double-X, and the Kid mixes new fontiness with old portraits, to a vintage-modern effect.

On Etsy, handmade products from the masses:

A pretty sweet baseball pillow.
A decorative baseball silhouette.

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Reading into the micro-narrative: The hot stove league then and trade rumors now

ru-mor

-noun
1. a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts.
2. gossip; hearsay.
3. Archaic. a continuous, confused noise; clamor; din.
-verb
4. to circulate, report, or assert by a rumor.

Lee Allen, HOF historian

Lee Allen, HOF historian

According to baseball historian Lee Allen in The Hot Stove League, “No one knows when baseball followers first began to gather in winter around the hot stove of a barber shop or country store.” Also, “the phrase, ‘hot stove league,’ is of uncertain origin.” The 1955 doesn’t linger long on the etymological details. Instead he revels in the odd stories of baseball, and wacky player names of which my favorite is Wedo Southern Martini. Allen, however, does spend a few sentences to describe the nature of the hot stove leagues around mid-century: “If winter, for the baseball fan, is a time to look ahead and visualize successes for his favorite team, it is also a time to look back at the bittersweet patch, to review the triumphs and the heartbreak of the past,” what he calls “a lull in the action that permits the fan to take pause and consider what he has seen and read about.” The writer sounds like a peaceful guy who likes a nice quiet time pondering people like Wedo Martini, and as a historian for the Hall of Fame he found the right occupation.

Vinegar Bend Mizell

Vinegar Bend Mizell

In reading one account of the hot stove league from another era, I think it bears considering what today’s winter reverie is like. Allen’s view of what is currently this time of year is a pensive one, full of not just future-hopin’, but past ponderin’ too. It is a literary time when fans would not only argue vigorously over the politico-strategic details of next year’s team, but also share the calm moments talking about old times, conjure their best yarn. The hot stove as the gathering place could not be a more bucolic, romantic symbol. It is warming, soothing. Outside it’s cold as nuts, but around the piping stove it’s possible to imagine that summer ever existed and will exist again. Shivering at a train stop, for example, doesn’t spur the desire to ramble on about HOF second basemen William Jennings Bryan Herman or Vinegar Bend Mizell.

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Knowledge-able in an infinite world: the navigation of the decentralization of baseball stats

//tinyurl.com/7ngt7u

The Baseball Encyclopedia, 1969. fr http://tinyurl.com/7ngt7u

The Baseball Encyclopedia, published first in 1969, blew peoples’ minds. The baseball public had never before seen every baseball stat gathered in one place with such authority and finality. Players from the old days that had been entirely forgotten were suddenly right there, on paper, in this impressive fat book that staked an unprecedented claim to truth and accuracy. Statistical books around for a while by that point, but they were limited to recent seasons and oriented around trivia and barroom argument-settling. Scraping up the name, age and number of every Johnny to put on a uniform seemed as reasonable as counting blades of grass on the lawn.

Fortunately a group of lunatics with a publisher ventured to solve this information problem. Instead of using the highly limited old books of statistics, a guy named David Neft hired a team of college interns to scour old box scores and newspaper accounts across the country and record their findings. Using computers for the first significant time to gather data in a baseball manner, Neft and his crew–the team of college kids always makes me think about it of the hapless interns from the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou–reenacted the whole history of major league baseball. At bat to at bat, they tabulated and cross-referenced each tiny step towards the complete numerical narrative of the game. They depended on the original unsung heroes of baseball statistical analysis who had kept box scores and newspaper clippings and hand-assembled statistics long before anyone cared to see them (baseball’s early stat history consists entirely of these uheralded, isolated mavericks and mad men, as chronicled in the fantastic book The Numbers Game by Alan Schwartz). Continue reading

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A Record Should be Simple: context and narrative in baseball media, and silly stats, too

Frank DeFord, who I actually find delightful

Eminent sports opinionist and general Andy Rooney-school curmudgeon Frank DeFord recently posted a column about annoying statistical observations, “The Stupidest Statistics In The Modern Era”, like for example his example: “He’s the first teenager in the last 33 years with three triples and two intentional walks in one season.” Now in fairness he goes on to discuss the concept of “records,” but he starts the column with the tired claim that “we are inundated with sports statistics. Baseball is the worst, of course — but it’s getting harder for the statistics freaks in all sports to dream up anything original.”

DeFord’s opening statement is silly. Nobody is “inundated” with statistics who does not seek them out. We are far more inundated with SPAM email than with VORP email. But to the second point, the esoteric comparisons that finagle with the “sort” function of unimaginable databases somewhere to create the algebraic combinations of circumstance: DeFord is right. Those observations, in a certain abundance, can seem obnoxious, overbearing, needy. Continue reading

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