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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
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These baseball titles feature readers whose performances enhance fans’ enjoyment. Whether recounting humorous anecdotes, on-the-field antics, or baseball history, the narrators are soundtracks to the game, both pastoral and fierce, bringing forth the emotions and motivations of the players and others through an array of vocal styles.
The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing and Bench-Clearing Brawls; The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime. By Jason Turbow and Michael Duca. Read by Michael Kramer. 2010. 9hr. Blackstone, CD, $90 (9781441763006).
Kramer is a narrator who obviously understands, enjoys, and respects America’s pastime, and his voice recalls that of broadcaster Mel Allen while recounting the ongoing foibles of ballplayers, coaches, and umpires who attempt to uphold the unwritten rules of deportment that govern baseball.
The Boys of Summer. By Roger Kahn. Read by Phil Gigante. 2009. 15hr. Brilliance, CD, $99.97 (9781423377696).
Kahn’s classic receives a robust reading from Gigante, whose expressive voice and nice sense of tempo bring the mix of remembrances and biographical sketches to the forefront. The Dodgers’ roster was a hodgepodge of ethnicities, accents, and strong personalities, and Gigante effectively reflects the diversity, amplifying Kahn’s occasionally bittersweet reminiscences of life in Brooklyn.
Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember. By John Feinstein. Read by Mel Foster. 2008. 18.5hr. Tantor, CD, $69.99 (9781400137497).
Foster goes for a steady, methodical delivery of Feinstein’s chronicle of the 2007 baseball season as experienced by aging pitchers Mike Mussina (New York Yankees) and Tom Glavine (New York Mets). Foster’s occasionally wistful tones capture the doubts of aging hurlers fighting to stay in the game.
Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. By Larry Tye. Read by Dominic Hoffman. 2009. 13.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $100 (9781415964682).
Hoffman’s languid narration fits Paige’s persona nicely, and his occasional use of a slight southern accent differentiates personalities, lending an authentic-sounding backdrop to this chronicle of a star athlete denied his place in the big leagues until very late (1948) in his career.
Sixty Feet, Six Inches: A Hall of Fame Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter Talk about How the Game Is Played. By Bob Gibson. Read by Mirron Willis and Dominic Hoffman. 2009. 9.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $80 (9781415965597).
Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson’s extended conversation about the eternal battle between hitters and pitchers is read with clarity by Willis and Hoffman. The contrast in voices helps listeners visualize the conversations with both readers, capturing the rhythm of a good hot-stove-league dialogue.
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. By Kadir Nelson. Read by Dion Graham. 2009. 2hr. Brilliance, CD, $42.97 (9781423375371).
In this 2010 Odyssey Award Honor title, Graham impressively introduces the history of the Negro Leagues and the great players, including Josh Gibson, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, James “Cool Papa” Bell, and others. His distinct and powerful delivery is tempered by irony and pain as he describes the sublime pleasures of baseball and myriad slights experienced by black athletes away from the ballpark. Although aimed at a youth audience, this sterling production transcends age groups by honoring the game and the spirit of the players.
Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee. By Allen Barra. Read by Norman Dietz. 2009. 20hr. Tantor, CD, $79.99 (9781400141784).
If The Boys of Summer is an account of a star-crossed team that regularly broke fans’ hearts, this biography of New York Yankees catcher Berra tells a parallel story of the ultra-successful franchise that helped drive the Dodgers to California. His vocal characterization of Yankee manager Casey Stengel is perfect, and he shines in imparting the everyman appeal of Berra’s malaprop-centered speech.
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