The pump is primed. Bat Krushing is unleashed. We are finishing week 1 of the 2017 season and still can’t get enough baseball! We are already planning next weekend’s tailgate...checking the weather channel app...Figuring out what jersey to don. But we NEED more baseball. Well, here’s your answer: READ. Yep, READ. Consider Athletics Nation’s April book-of-the-month:
The Baseball Codes—Beanballs, Sign Stealing and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime by Jason Turbow.
Chapter one begins with Rickey being Rickey and inflaming opponents when, at 42, and already the Stolen Base King of baseball, he chose to steal second off of the Brewers who had already given up the game, losing 5-12 in the 7th, and moving the infield back. Not holding Rickey on base, it must have just been too much to resist, so Rickey stole second and Davey Lopes, then manager of the Brewers, exploded. This is a fantastic first example of The Code: No one is bigger than The Code and there is no excuse to violate The Code.
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks once discussed “the ultimate violation of being a teammate” and all of it is clear in The Code. There is no excuse for not knowing The Code and the book discusses just how people learn The Code and why the system of baseball has changed and given us a generation who lack some of the knowledge of The Code. But there’s no excuse; it is made clear what happens if you knowingly violate The Code which can include getting traded or released.
One of the best parts about this book is that it has distinct chapters. You can read a chapter in between home stands or each week. Or, you can read it straight through. You have options. And if there is a gap in reading, one chapter is not uniquely tied to another, though there are threads and a momentum building that does happen if you read consistently through it.
A fan post this week tickled me as it tied to The Code. Though somewhat tongue and cheek, it still let’s us know how The Code is in all of us, especially when it comes to superstition and, in this case, our team’s loss on Tuesday night any why we might be the one fan responsible for the loss:
As for favorite chapters, I really enjoyed the ones focused on cheating. There’s “legal” and “illegal” cheating. Most sign stealing, for example, is legal. This included Bob Feller using WWII hardware to see signs from a hidden spot in the outfield. What is “illegal” are those who “sneak a peek” on the catcher. This chapter has example after example of the lengths folks went to to steal signs including burying a metal plate that would send morse code up to the shoe of the third base coach to tell him what pitch was coming for the batter. You’ll literally be laughing out loud; I laughed so hard when Billy Martin, quite the sign stealer, had his big mouth get in the way (shocker!) of utilizing a nabbed sign and calling for a suicide squeeze. The stories are rich and wonderful.
What’s also interesting when you read this book is how you realize you KNOW many of The Codes and realize that you abided by The Code growing up, and yet, you can’t quite figure out HOW you came to know it or exactly WHEN you learned it. I can remember, for example, yelling at people who entered the unmarked box in our sandlot game by walking between the pitcher and catcher. You just don’t DO that! How did I even know that at 8 years old, especially as a female who wasn’t allowed to play little league (girls weren’t allowed to back then and no softball equivalent existed at the time). I assumed I picked it up just playing with my friends in the neighborhood. Wherever it came from, I lived that part of the code. Just like I know that it’s ok to cheat if you don’t get caught—even though I would never even consider cheating at ANYTHING else. These thoughts, this introspection, is part of the joy of reading this book.
If you choose to join in reading April’s book-of-the-month, feel free to come back and share your thoughts and experiences when you read. Enjoy!
May’s book-of-the-month will be Jason Turbow’s just-released Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic. If you have time to read it before April 30th, email me your thoughts and I may include some of them in the review of that newest A’s text: email@example.com. Please put book title as the subject line and remember to sign how you want to be referenced when quoted.