Book Reviews

Book Review: Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul – Inspiration During the Hot-Stove Months

A love of baseball is something in the blood. If nothing else, I am living testimony to that. I was adopted when I was seven days old. My parents had no sports inclinations whatsoever. At a young age, I developed a love of the game of baseball that had me hanging around the backstops clinging to the gate while my friends played in the days before girls were allowed. I also became a die-hard New York Mets fan. It was only when I was twenty-seven and finally met my birthmother that I learned she was as big of a New York Yankee fan as I was a Mets fan (that National League inclination must have come from my birthfather) and had all of my four sisters in Little League at a young age – something I had so pined for. Yes, my obsession with baseball was something genetic.

For avid fans like me, Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul is a great way to combat two problems in baseball. One is those long winter months which can be a source of frustration over the “near misses” of the previous season as well as the favorite players we see leaving our beloved teams. The other is the fact that Major League Baseball has become – like the rest of the country – dominated by the almighty dollar.

Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul transcends the dollar factor. It’s not just stories by and about the familiar Major League superstars, it’s stories from the sandlots and Little Leagues around the country. There are stories here that show that baseball has been a catalyst in so many people’s lives for positive change.

One great story is of a woman who remembers being at the local Little League ballfield with her father when they are observed in their game of catch by a child in a wheelchair. The father brings him into the game including pushing him around the bases. It was a great day for all of them and the child’s mother thanked them. They never see him again, but many years later when she is about to move out of the neighborhood, she goes back to the field where this took place to remember her father. One of the coaches recounts a story of how he was confined to a wheelchair with polio and how the kindness of a man and his daughter meant so much to him that it helped his desire to overcome his handicap and walk again as well as giving him a devotion to coaching Little League.

This is the sort of inspirational story that’s in Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul. Sure, there are stories by the likes of Orel Hershiser, Cal Ripken Jr., Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Mickey Mantle, and Dave Dravecky. There are also stories about baseball from well-known writers such as Dave Barry and Clive Cussler. The majority of the inspirational stories come from everyday people, however. These detail how the game itself or events surrounding the game had an impact on their lives. In some cases, it’s discovering that the player you idolize – one of the stars of the game – is nicer than people give him credit for. At other times, it’s learning that the player you idolize isn’t such a nice guy and learning that heroes can be found in the smaller places in life as well.

Some of the stories are tests of character, such as a Little League coach doing what’s right for the team or for a particular player, rather than what would be done to win the game. I was surprised that I liked the ordinary folk stories as much as I did, but I think many of them will bring back memories for fans of their own past with the game, whether it’s trips to the ballpark with their family or moments playing the game they had forgotten about.

The stories are all set up as a series of vignettes, no more than about five pages each. Each starts with an inspiring quote relative to the story about to be told. This makes great reading for times when I get interrupted a lot as I don’t have to worry about picking up where I left off. The book is divided into sections but I didn’t pay any attention to them. All of the stories were good and many brought back memories of my own trips to the ballpark with my Dad, my friends, or on my own. It’s bound to awaken the spirit of baseball seasons past in any fan’s soul.

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