Book Review: Once Upon A Game

Once Upon a Game
By Alan Schwarz (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95)

After explaining the history of baseball statistics in his first book, former Baseball America senior writer Alan Schwarz turns to memories in his second offering as baseball legends such as Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, and Ken Griffey Jr. unveil some of their fondest baseball memories in “Once Upon a Game.”

The book provides an opportunity for players from throughout the history of the game to paint a picture of what makes the national pastime so extraordinary. From Bob Feller’s patriotic tale of leaving baseball to serve in World War II to Terry Francona’s story about taking the final shot in a pickup basketball game rather than giving Michael Jordan the ball, Schwarz brings the stories of 35 baseball players and fans to life.

George Brett’s spin on the positive outcome of his Pine Tar Home Run is just one of the many “Once Upon a Game” highlights:

“Honestly, the whole Pine Tar mess was the best thing that ever happened to me in my career. In 1980, I had to miss a couple of innings of a World Series game because of a whopping case of hemorrhoids. For the next three years all I heard from the fans were Preparation H jokes. But after the Pine Tar Game I wasn’t the Hemorrhoid Guy anymore. I was the Pine Tar Guy. Who would you rather be known as?”

Schwarz also tells the story of Ted Williams watching a 16-year-old Mike Piazza taking batting practice and declaring that the Pennsylvania native was big league bound.

“Once Upon a Game” is a great reminder of why so many players, managers, and fans think of baseball as more than just a game. A conversation starter that, at just over 150 pages, can be enjoyed in one afternoon, Schwarz’s latest book is saturated with memories that every baseball fan will enjoy.