Baseball season is just under way, and fans have home runs, star players, great games (and perhaps peanuts, Crackerjacks and suspected steroid use) on the brain. But away from the ballpark, the season also ushers in a strong roster of audiobook titles that capture America's fascination with the drama, stats and heroes of its beloved pastime.
Among this spring's new offerings is Play Ball!: A Tribute to Our National Pastime (HarperAudio), which collects excerpts of noted baseball writings, encompassing essays, stories and poems. A sampling of the selections here includes "The Pitcher and the Plutocrat" by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Simon Jones, "Season Ticket" by Robert Angell and segments of the memoir If I Had a Hammer read by its author, Hank Aaron.
In Why I Love Baseball (New Millennium, with simultaneous hardcover), talk-show host, author and baseball aficionado Larry King shares his memories of falling in love with the game as a kid, and his experiences meeting and interviewing a number of the sport's greats, including Jackie Robinson and Casey Stengel. King also shares his views on the colorful history and big business of baseball, as well as some of its scandals.
Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by author and sports journalist Leigh Montville (Random House Audio, simultaneous with Doubleday hardcover), narrated by Philip Bosco, offers a portrait of the man who was arguably baseball's best-ever slugger, and who was also a war hero and controversial, complex personality. Capitalizing on the audio industry's ability to employ recorded archival material to give audiobooks a truly unique "voice," this abridged program contains excerpts of Montville's 1998 interview with Williams, as well as a clip of the original broadcast of Williams's last time at bat for the Boston Red Sox in 1960.
Further delving into baseball's audio archives is Yogi Berra's Favorite Baseball Radio Shows (MediaBay/Radio Spirits). Berra reads an introduction for this line-up of such popular programs as "Who's on First" from The Abbott & Costello Show, "Trip to Cleveland" from The Jack Benny Program, a bit with Jackie Robinson on The Bob Hope Show and appearances by Ted Williams and Casey Stengel on The Bill Stern Sports Newsreel. For more on Berra's audio adventure, see below.