Final Review a Fitting Cap to 2010

Just when I thought the time for book reviews had long since passed, a number of year-end, best-of, favorite-book lists came out. The best of them, as far as The Baseball Codes is concerned, was from’s Linda Holmes, who didn’t just select TBC as her favorite sports book of the year—she picked it as her favorite book for 2010, bar none.

“It is,” she wrote, “a wildly entertaining book about baseball, threading the needle perfectly in that it talks about the game with love without collapsing into the purple ‘on a dusty diamond doth man find his true heart’ kind of stuff you find far too often in baseball writing.”

She also writes that “there are a staggering number of people quoted in this book — good guys, bad guys, coaches, players, umpires — and they all have wonderful stories. It’s not about glorifying hitting guys with fastballs for staring admiringly at their own home runs, for instance, but it is about explaining that this is a fundamental part of how professional baseball works, and if you don’t get it, you’re going to get hit a lot.”

Thanks, Linda, for providing a lovely end to a lovely year.

– Jason


Love From Boston

And here I was, thinking that the review season for baseball books was over.

Then comes the Boston Herald, calling The Baseball Codes “the most amusing sports book you’ll read this year.”

(They also use the space to get in a dig at A-Rod. Coincidence?)

– Jason


FanHouse Weighs in on the Codes

Our old pal Jeff Fletcher of FanHouse offers the latest review of The Baseball Codes, offering this analysis: “The Baseball Codes provides just what you’d expect . . . In entertaining detail, hundreds of examples to show you how those who play the game believe it should be played.”

It’d be easy for a skeptic to dismiss the positivity as homer-ism between friends, but Fletcher provides a built-in caveat: “I wouldn’t be recommending a book I didn’t like, even if I knew the guys who wrote it. I’m not that nice of a person.”

He takes the time to break down the book far more than most reviews, offering detailed analysis on much of its contents. For those wondering what might be found within its pages, this review offers a great many answers.

– Jason


Is Wall Street Primed for the Codes?

Bloomberg chose to lead off its recent compendium of new sports books with The Baseball Codes, offering up this gem: “The Baseball Codes rectifies a great omission in the literature of the summer game.”

Providing rectification on any level is usually  nice.

It’s a good review, but the fact that it came from an organization known primarily for financial reporting makes it even better. Perhaps there’s a project to pitch about the unwritten rules of derivatives markets.

(Plus, we’re all about mansions and Benzes here at Baseball Codes World Headquarters, and appreciate anyone who shares our taste for the scrilla.)

Update: It should also be mentioned that Bloomberg has paired with to comprehensive analytical stats with an eye toward fantasy leagues, and seems to have a thing for baseball. Really, who can blame ’em?

– Jason


Austin American Statesman: The Baseball Codes ‘Massively Enjoyable’

On one hand, it seems to be getting redundant to post news of every good review that comes down the pike. On the other hand, they’re all genuinely flattering on a personal level, and I’m pretty sure the joy that comes with each new one won’t diminish over time.

At least it didn’t for the recent review by the Austin Amerian-Statesman’s Joe Gross, who put together a compendium of new baseball books, published today.

The two paragraphs Gross devotes to the Codes is, like many reviews, filled primarily with explanations and anecdotes. But let it serve as a lesson to others: two words (in this case, “massively enjoyable”) is all it takes to make it onto the next iteration of this Web site’s banner.

– Jason


It Must be Baseball Season: George Will Dissects the Code

When George Will called last month to tell me that The Baseball Codes is the “greatest book in the history of books,” and that he would be writing about it to coincide with opening day, he officially kicked off a period of terrific anticipation for everybody involved with the project.

I’m not yet aware of the full reach of Mr. Will’s syndicated column, but the first outlet to publish his promised essay is the Taunton Daily Gazette, of Taunton, MA. As promised, he delivers a faithful look at the unwritten rules, as seen through the eyes of the book.

It’s not, however, a review. In fact, save for the considerable subtext, there’s not an opinion to be found about The Baseball Codes. The column is a compendium of brief looks at stories from the book, interspersed with Will’s own interpretation of the Code (which, gratefully, is entirely consistent with our own).

(My favorite line: “In a society increasingly tolerant of exhibitionism, it is splendid when a hitter is knocked down because in his last at-bat he lingered at the plate to admire his home run.”)

I get no small amount of grief from my wife for perpetually spouting sports analogies in reference to non-sports situations, but in this regard, Will backs me up. “In baseball, as in life,” he writes, “the most important rules are unwritten.”

Update: The Washington Post, for which the original column was written , has now posted it, as well.

– Jason


ProJo Shows that Even Non-Fans Like the Codes

The Providence Journal issued a review of The Baseball Codes today, noteworthy less for its praise of the book (of which there was plenty) than the fact that it was written by somebody who is clearly not a baseball fan.

She liked it anyway, writing that “this is a lively, fascinating book for anyone who loves baseball or would like to.” Which, for folks like us, who would be thrilled to sell our baseball book to an otherwise uninterested segment of the population, is remarkable.

It was written by Anne Grant, a woman whose brief brush with baseball consisted of watching her son play in youth games while she wondered what all the hubbub was about.

“Now, decades later,” she writes, “I discover there was more going on than I could see. Hidden dramas unfold from dugout to diamond.”

While our target demographic won’t be as surprised by many of our revelations as was Ms. Grant, even baseball lifers have given the book high praise. Reaching both ends of the spectrum wasn’t a stated goal at the outset of this project, but it’s certainly a nice result to have achieved.

(It must also be noted that while Ms. Grant referred to me as a “journalist,” her title for Michael was “ballpark rat”—a description derived by reading all of four words into his Amazon bio. Without first checking with Michael, I’m guessing this pleases us both.)

– Jason


Author Allen Barra: ‘Perhaps the Most Fun New Book of the Baseball Season’

That Newsday called The Baseball Codes “perhaps the most fun new book of the baseball season” is nice. That the reviewer in question is Allen Barra makes it all the more flattering.

Barra, author of several baseball books—including his recent biography of Yogi Berra—as well as various tomes about football, and biographies of Bear Bryant and Wyatt Earp, brings credibility with his opinion.

He writes, “After reading The Baseball Codes, you’ll feel you’re watching baseball with 3-D glasses—that is, you’ll see all kinds of patterns and hidden meanings you never thought to look for before.”

Another good review, gratefully received. Thank you, Mr. Barra.

– Jason


New York Times Sunday Book Review: The Baseball Codes ‘Delicious’

On Sunday, the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review will weigh in on The Baseball Codes, but those who can’t wait to read it can already find it online.

The piece’s overall tone is positive, including this: “The stories the authors have unearthed to illustrate ballpark justice and morality are often delicious.”

Still, the author, Bruce Weber, while clearly knowledgeable about the game, does not appear to be a proponent of the unwritten rules as a whole. (Sample sentiment: “How players follow this principle takes some interesting forms, and in many places ‘The Baseball Codes’ reads like a lab report by a psychologist who has been observing hostile toddlers whack one another with plastic shovels in a sandbox.”)

This bias clearly does not work in our favor.

Still, the book is referred to as casual sociology, which was intended, and Weber takes the time to recount four stories from within its pages (not bad for a review of fewer than 900 words).

Also, he manages to call us “obvious baseball obsessives,” which is nice.

– Jason


BookPage: ‘A Delightfully Profane Work that is Awfully Fun to Read’

The Baseball Codes was included in the recent baseball book roundup done by BookPage, and they seem to have jumped on the bandwagon.

The codes are “depicted with verve,” and, as the headline to this post proclaims, the book is “a delightfully profane work that is awfully fun to read.”

Read a formatted version of the review here.

In the course of his critique, John C. Williams asks the question: “Is there any difference between a chickenshit play, a horseshit play and a bullshit play?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding Yes. Despite the citations of all three terms within the pages of the book, should a substandard act occur on a baseball diamond, it’s horseshit. Always horseshit.

It’s one of the quaint reminders of baseball’s unique place in American culture: While nearly never used away from a ballpark, the word “horseshit” is almost exclusively the go-to term any ballplayer or ex-ballplayer will use to describe dissatisfaction.

It’s not actually an unwritten rule, but maybe it should be.

– Jason