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Off-day randomness: Book Review

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Baseballl: 365 Days
by Joseph Wallace
Harry N. Abrams, $29.95

I've been reading Book of Shadows recently. I'll get round to a review of that down the line, but it's an intensely-depressing experience: people who basically decide that the rules of the game [whatever that game might be - thus far, it's been more track + field than baseball] simply do not apply to them. Whenever it gets too much, and my palate needs cleansed of all the lies and deceit, I've been turning to Baseball: 365 Days, a collection of photographs taken from the archives of Major League Baseball, between about 1970 and the present day.

This is something of a sequel to Wallace's earlier book, Grand Old Game, which had the same format, but which covered an earlier period. It's a similar door-stop of a book: it could be described as a 'coffee-table book', except that since it weighs in at a hefty 4.3 pounds, you would probably need to strengthen your coffee-table in order for it to cope. 365 days = 365 photographs, each one occupying a full page of the 9.5"x6.5" book, with a paragraph on the opposite side, which talks about the player or action shown, and puts it into the correct context.

It is unashamedly upbeat about the game, which is what makes it such a good antidote to Shadows. Wallace has hardly a bad word to say about anyone; Pete Rose appears several times, but the G-word does not darken any of those pages. Even Barry Bonds escapes almost unscathed: "Given the remarkable feats (and the controversies) that have marked Bonds' career," is about as close as we get to any acknowledgment of the PED scandal that tarnished the sport as it moved into the third millennium. The book views baseball through rose-colored glasses, and depict a world where players always smile and are delighted to provide autographs for eager fans, who would never think of selling them on eBay.

For Diamondbacks devotees, the focus will be the ten pages devoted to the 2001 World Series. That includes probably my favorite picture in the book, depicting a group hug by Gonzo, Counsell, Schilling and Dellucci just after they clinched Game Seven, which captures the delirious joy of that moment magnificently. Between spring training and the Arizona Fall League, we do get our fair share of coverage. However, there is also a somewhat unfortunate picture of the Big Unit [p.187, should you be interested], where his jersey is puffed up in such as a manner as to resemble Pamela Anderson in her prime. There is also another [p.165], which appears to have been flipped - either that or Bobby Bonilla is wearing his Cardinals shirt inside-out. These are rare mis-steps though, with most of the pictures very evocative, doing a fine job of capturing the heart and soul of the game.

In these days of Extra Innings cable packages, MLB.tv and, yes, Gameday Threads, there might seem something quaintly antiquated about an actual book filled with still photographs. However,  this is the kind of publication which is probably not intended for use during the season. It's the kind you pull off the shelf on a cold, wet winter's evening, when there's nothing but football on TV [shudder!], to remind you of the joy which baseball can bring, both to those who play the game, and to those who watch it. It's like a beer, a hot dog and a double-header in printed form, and who could ask for much more than that?

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