Surface Appreciation is Still Appreciation

Kevin Lager just came out with the best review yet in the “I haven’t actually read the book” category. He admitted as much up front.

Still, it didn’t stop him from giving 5 out of 5 (stars? points?) to the cover; two thumbs up for the fact that it was a collaboration; an A+ for the title; a “perfect 10” for the subtitle (despite our clear bias against Canadians); and an “E for Excellent” on the back-of-book copy (“If you’re going to read the back of one book this spring, make it the back of The Baseball Codes”).

Lager’s summation: “You can tell The Baseball Codes is Pulitzer-material without even cracking the spine.”

Thanks, Kevin. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it once you actually open the thing.

– Jason


NPR: Baseball Codes ‘One of the All-Time Greats – a First-Ballot Hall of Famer’

Starting with the headline – “The Baseball Codes: Attention Baseball Fans, This Book Will Eat Your Life” – NPR’s Web site review,  which came out this morning, is, frankly, stunning.

Glenn McDonald, editor of the “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me” daily news quiz at, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer, is appreciative of our endeavors. As are we of his. Sentiments such as:

  • “A new book hitting shelves this week had sidetracked my for the last few days to that most analog of media, the printed page. The Baseball Codes, by Bay Area sportswriters Jason Turbow and Michael Duca, is a frankly incredible book — a history and analysis of baseball’s insular culture of unwritten rules, protocols and superstitions, assembled over the course of 10 years. I’ve read a lot of baseball books in my day, including everything typically included in the unofficial canon, and I can say without hesitation that this is one of the all-time greats — a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
  • “The book’s subtitle, Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime only scratches the surface. Turbow and Duca have done an incredible thing here, interviewing hundreds of baseball players, managers, coaches, trainers, owners, journalists and broadcasters to assemble a comprehensive history of baseball culture.”
  • “I can’t say enough nice things about this book, which belongs on every fan’s shelf, and I really don’t say that lightly.
  • “The 294-page book is remarkably dense, with the stories piling up, one after another, each gathered from one-on-one interviews done over the years as these two baseball writers made their way around the game. One amazing facet of the book, revealed in the acknowledgments, is that the authors used only about 25 percent of the material they collected.”
  • “The final chapters are, for baseball fans of a certain intensity, quite touching, as Turbow and Duca lament the deterioration of old-school baseball ways in the face of modernism, media and money. More and more players, as fans know, are chasing individual stats, big free-agent contracts and the SportsCenter highlight reel. But it’s like Yogi Berra said: ‘There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.’ “Thanks, Glenn. I am honestly and earnestly delighted that you liked it as much as you did.- Jason
  • Review

    The Associated Press: ‘A Grand Slam of a Book’

    The verdict is in from the Associated Press. They like it.

    Mike Householder’s assessment hit the wires this morning, and could serve as a one-review blurb factory. To wit:

  • “Turbow pulls back the curtain and breaks through the game’s shroud of secrecy to deliver a grand slam of a book.”
  • “An entertaining and informative look at the sport’s least understood traditions.”
  • “Sure, his book is a well-considered and crafted examination of the motivations behind how hitters and fielders ply their trade. At its core, though, ‘The Baseball Codes’ is a fun read because of the dozens of great stories that detail how the game really is played — tales of bench-clearing, headhunting, bat-flipping and sign-stealing. Turbow and his collaborator, Michael Duca, conducted hundreds of interviews and did exhaustive research, and it results in some shocking and hilarious anecdotes that are so outlandish you’d think they were made up.”
  • “If ballplayers adhere to a series of informal doctrines, then consider Turbow the ultimate code breaker.”
  • (The San Francisco Examiner gets extra points for its headline, “Review: Kudos to code breaker Turbow for chronicling unwritten rules of America’s pastime.”)

    It’s nice to be appreciated.

    – Jason


    A Little Love from the Merc

    A nice blurb from San Jose Mercury News Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly yesterday, in support of The Baseball Codes:

    Turbow and Duca are press box regulars at AT&T Park – Duca was the official scorer for Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter — and I’ve seen them collecting material for this book nearly every day at the ballpark for the past three years. It’s bound to be packed with a lot of great, funny anecdotes and the positive praise is already starting to filter in. I’m looking forward to buying a copy, myself.

    Nice to get some appreciation from the hometown set. Thanks, Bags.

    – Jason

    George Will, Review

    George Will: Baseball Fan, Man of Impeccable Literary Taste

    George Will just called me. He’s planning a column about the book to run in the Washington Post on or near opening day. But here’s the thing: He didn’t call to ask about the book. He didn’t want to know anything about the writing or reporting or genesis or goals that isn’t already evident within its pages.

    He just wanted to say that he liked it.

    Scratch that. He just wanted to say that he loved it. His direct quote: “This is the greatest book in the history of books.” Seriously. He said that he couldn’t stop laughing as he was reading it.

    It’s enough to tickle a first-time author pink.

    My only regret is that he wasn’t contacted to write a cover blurb. Because, you know, “Greatest book in the history of books” would look pretty good over the title.

    – Jason


    The First Big, Sunday Book Review: The New York Post Approves

    The first big one is in, and the New York Post seems to have enjoyed The Baseball Codes. That is, if recounting no fewer than 13 stories from the book indicates enjoyment.

    From reviewer Larry Getlen:

    As veteran sportswriters Turbow and Duca lay out in this remarkably well-researched book, filled with intricate details of plays from the past 100 years, the Code has affected careers, long-boiling team rivalries, World Series victories, and the game’s most hallowed feats in surprising ways.

    We’re now batting 1.000 when it comes to positive reviews (hey, what do you know, a baseball metaphor!), but this is the first one to devote more than a single paragraph to the endeavor (an indicator that we must be getting close to the release date).

    As of tomorrow, we’re nine days out. Welcome to March, everyone.

    – Jason


    The Baseball Codes: Resonating Well with the Artist/Poet/Cartoonist Demographic

    Jim Behrle is an artist in Manhattan. And a baseball fan. And a lover of quality literature. How do we know this? Because he loved this book:

    Exhaustive. This book is for the real fan who wants to know the unknowable: how players police themselves. The answer is simple: spikes-high and high and inside. The authors somehow got the chattiest of all former major leaguers to spill the beans. What transpires thereafter is a crime and punishment infringement by infringement. Players are by nature very sensitive. And there is no consensus agreement between them on when retribution is necessary or how unwritten rules should be enforced. But here’s a book that attempts to spell it out and illuminate the different philosophies behind when to retaliate. Strong Buy. A baseball dork’s delight. Nolan Ryan figures prominently. Good to pull of the shelf that summer night after your favorite player gets hit between the shoulder blades with a fastball. Very aptly shows how the game is changing—and depicts baseball as it was as an old school game of tit-for-tat. Truly enjoyable hot stove reading for this gentle correspondent. Loved the Rays-Sox scoop—great to finally get the story on all that nonsense.

    Thank you, Mr. Behrle. Come back any time.

    – Jason


    Two for Two in Reviews

    We’re still more than six weeks away from the release date, but the second review is out. Seems like people like the book.

    This one is from Booklist, the reviewing arm of the American Library Association. The review itself won’t be out until Feb. 1, but we have the advance scoop for you right here:

    Turbow and Duca have filled a void with this entertaining, revealing survey of the varied, sometimes inscrutable unwritten rules that govern the way baseball is played by the pros. The authors add a lot of flavoring here by naming names and instances, both long past and more recent. Great stuff on how and when to retaliate, how to slide, how to give way to a relief pitcher, talking (or not) during a no-hitter, whether to join an on-field brawl (no question, you join in), and the ethics of cheating (former Orioles manager Earl Weaver once told struggling pitcher Ross Grimsley during a game: “If you know how to cheat, this would be a good time to start”). The authors—both write on baseball for various publications, and Duca is an official scorekeeper for Major League Baseball—lament a certain unraveling of baseball’s codes, due to changes in the game itself, while insisting that they’re still essentially intact. For committed fans who want to dig deeper.

    — Alan Moores

    Alan Moores: clearly a man of discriminating tastes. Thanks, Booklist.

    – Jason