Discovering the Thrill of the Grass

The crack of the bat, the smell of hotdogs, the shout of a vendor, the thrill of the grass…

With the Major League Baseball season underway once again, there’s no better time to get reacquainted with some of the Library’s best baseball-related material.

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Ken Burns is one of the most prominent documentary film-makers in America. He once said that America will be remembered for three things: the Civil War, jazz, and baseball. He has done extensive miniseries on each of these topics, but I believe his baseball miniseries is by far the best of the lot. He cleverly breaks the film into nine episodes, and calls them innings. Each episode covers approximately a ten-year span. The documentary covers the origins of baseball in the 1840s right up to the mid-1990s. While the main focus is on the history of baseball, the real story is how the United States changed and grew from the perspective of its national pastime. After a brief prologue, each episode begins with the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” just as you would hear at the beginning of a ball game in America. The episode covering the 1960s uses Jimi Hendrix’s version. Highly recommended, even for those who are not huge baseball fans.

In the fall of 2010, Ken Burns made an update to the series called  “The Tenth Inning.”

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

The book begins with this beautiful quotation from Robert Kennedy: “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” This sets the tone for the rest of this wonderful fantasy novel about a farmer from Iowa who hears a voice while he is out in his corn field. “If you build it, he will come.” He blindly follows the voice and mows down his corn field, replacing it with a baseball diamond. This act releases the spirits of long dead baseball players, primarily those who were banned from baseball forever after being indicted in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. While the diamond gives these haunted spirits a place to play the game again, the voice soon has the farmer off on another quest to make contact with the reclusive author J.D. Salinger. The Philadelphia Enquirer said it is “not so much about baseball as it’s about dreams, magic, life, and what is quintessentially American” — which is a little ironic, since W.P. Kinsella is a Canadian author. This book was made into the film “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner in 1989.

Jackrabbits in the Outfield by John Hindle

Baseball season in Winnipeg won’t get under way until May 12. In the meantime, local fans may want to take a look at this book by the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ former general manager. John Hindle worked with the Goldeyes from the very beginning in 1994 until the 2001 season. His honest account of the early days of the Northern League is a must read for any local baseball fan. Hindle discusses many “behind the scenes” aspects of running a ball team, from dealing with diva players to promotions that didn’t go according to plan.

Winnipeg Public Library has enjoyed a fun relationship with the Winnipeg Goldeyes over the years. We’ve participated in “Library Night” at the ballpark and Goldeyes players have come out to library branches to read and sign autographs. I hope that we can continue to introduce young readers to the “thrill of the grass.”

– Trevor

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