10 March 2003

Growing Up Baseball
An Oral History
by Harvey Frommer & Frederick J. Frommer

Harvey Frommer and his son Frederick must have had a fantastic time writing Growing Up Baseball (Taylor Trade Publishing, Hardcover $23.95). Together this tandem collected dozens of stories of major leaguers for this unique piece of literature. From A to Zeile, from Hall-of-Famers like Jim Palmer and Ralph Kiner to relative nobodies like Ed Yarnall and Lazaro Ramon Gonzalo "Cholly" Naranjo, there is something for everybody here.

There are interesting little tidbits of information here, like that Dale Berra's dad never really played catch with him, "That's what you've got brothers for." Even more surprising is that this reality did not turn young Dale off to baseball. Dom DiMaggio used to hide his coke-bottle glasses whenever scouts would come around, so as not to bias their opinions of him. Think how good he could have been if he could see!

What This Book Is: A collection of charming little vignettes about growing up as a baseball fan and/or a baseball player. Some of your favorite baseball personalities relating how they managed to grasp a small slice of the American Dream. Easily read and comprehended pieces of times gone by, and some fairly recent memories, related so comfortably that you can almost see the succession of men in your own living room, taking their turns in your easy chair and telling their own stories.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of this book is that it really isn't written by Harvey and Frederick Frommer as much as it was dictated to them by the individuals featured in the book. Each little (Fred Lynn's is not so little) story is told in the first person as they dictated it to the authors, so you can almost hear Nolan Ryan's Texas drawl or Manny Mota's Dominican accent as you read, and you can tell from his speech that Bobby Brown is quite an educated man, even before he tells you that he was a cardiologist and spent a great deal of time as President of the American League.

What This Book Is Not: Well, it's not really a book that lends itself to being read straight through. There are almost seventy mini-chapters here, and many of them relate similar details: Several of these men were accomplished athletes during their youths, often in sports other than baseball as well. Many of them had to work hard at another occupation, or grew up in relatively meager circumstances before striking it rich in the majors. Almost all of them feel compelled to tell you that whatever they signed for was "a lot of money in those days." And I'm sure it was. But you don't want to have to read that sixteen times.

You're better off taking this slowly, reading a story or two at a time, in your leisure. Savor these stories. Enjoy them, instead of trying to wolf them all down in order to get a timely review written, like I did.

You'll thank me later. When you grow up.

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