Review: Picturing America's Pastime

Review: Picturing America's Pastime

Recently I was contacted by Geena El-Haj, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing Picturing America's Pastime, the first publication of a new partnership between the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Mango publishing. And I'm so glad I was.

The book has over 300 pages of rarely seen historical photos, which I genuinely enjoyed. I'm in my 30's, and fans of my generation obviously never got to see guys like Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and so many others play. As an admitted baseball freak it was fun to get lost in the photos and imagine what was happening in the game when they were taken. 

My favorite part, however, was undoubtedly the countless quotes that accompany most of the pictures, and I'll share a few that stood out to me. 

"The longer I live, the longer I realize that batting is more a mental matter than it is physical. The ability to grasp the bat, swing at the proper time, take a proper stance, all these things are elemental. Batting rather is a study in psychology."-Ty Cobb, 1950

Cobb won twelve batting titles during his career and retired with a lifetime average of .366. Listening to him talk about hitting is a real treat.

"The year has only two seasons--winter and baseball." -Arthur "Bugs" Baer in the Washington (D.C.) Times, 4/3/1916

Though my wife may complain on rare occasions, that's a quote that pretty adequately describes my outlook.

"You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end, it turns out it was the other way around all the time."--Jim Bouton, 1970

This is such a short and succinct quote but it says so much. It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day of a baseball season, but there is a reason so many guys have such a hard time letting go of the game when their playing days are over.

And here's my personal favorite, 

"You can keep score in sports such as basketball, bowling, or golf, but it amounts to little more than marking down numbers...Scorekeeping in baseball, however, is an art form, an individual expression that makes you feel you are part of the game. It personally and precisely records every moment of the game, allowing you to replay and relive it forever." -Jim Caple, ESPN website, 8/29/2013.

I learned to keep score when I was about six years old and have been doing it religiously since I was slightly older than that. As a diehard New York Mets fan, I've scored 150+ games/year since I was in elementary school and still have all the books today. A copy of my scorecard from Johan Santana's no-hitter in 2012 is currently framed on the wall in my basement. My son, who has enjoyed paging through this book almost as much as I have, will be six in August and is already learning to score himself. It's a tradition I very much look forward to passing down.

Thanks again to everyone involved with this project both at Mango Publishing and at the Hall of Fame. I can't wait to see more of what this exciting partnership comes up with moving forward. This book is an easy 5/5 stars, it's a perfect coffee table book for your guests to flip through, and I'd highly recommend it to any lifelong baseball fan.

Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears

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