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


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