I’m not sure what to make of it when folks start talking about books and describing them in terms of poundage. There was a story by Richard Sandomir in the Sunday New York Times about the release today of The Official Major League Baseball Opus, and the fact that the book weighs in at a winsome 75 pounds was heavily trumpeted.
That is like really heavy, man. Of course, it is not all poundage when it comes to trying to convey to the reader why they might want to pony up $3,000 for a book that’s going to cost more in shipping charges than what you would pay for most, uh, books.
Ironically, MLB is likely to get nearly as much publicity and buzz from what’s left out of the book than what’s included in it. Like Alex Rodriguez and the Black Sox Scandal are in, but – according to The Times, since I obviously haven’t seen the book yet – no profiles of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, or even mention of the steroid era itself. In a book that manages to employ more than 100,000 words to provide a chronological history of Major League Baseball, it takes a good deal of imagination to figure out how authors could chronicle the 20-year period of, say, 1985-2005 while obliterating or minimizing the impact of seven American League Cy Young Awards and an identical number of National League MVP Awards.
All the more confusing when you consider that the steroid taint is far from officially concluded for the two of them, while the aforementioned A-Rod has fessed up to his own use of the great boogeyman steroids.
I got a kick out of the quotes from the MLB official about the Bonds/Clemens footprint or lack of same in the book. He insisted that there was no big conversation about it, and added that their omission “might have been subliminal. Baseball is very conservative and I didn’t think I’d be missing anything if they weren’t profiled.” He added that there wasn’t a conscious decision to leave Clemens and Bonds out.
For once, I’m speechless, so I’ll merely continued with the report. It’s a 20-inch square, leather-bound behemoth that comes packaged in a silk-covered clamshell case, and it will be limited to 1,000 copies at those dimensions.
When I first heard of it, I just assumed that the top-end version would have autographs as part of the justification for such a lofty price tag – like the NFL’s even weightier tome (85 lbs.) that boasted autographs of the Super Bowl MVP’s – but the MLB version stakes its claim to fame on the glitzy packaging, the 110,000 words and the 1,000 pictures.
The word-count boast doesn’t exactly knock me out, since its hard to believe they’ve one-upped any number of great volumes of baseball history like the David Quentin Voight three-volume American Baseball, The Ultimate Baseball Book, or the three scholarly works by Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife, Dorothy Seymour Mills, or any number of other master works.
The Times story notes there are new essays by the likes of Roger Kahn, Robert Creamer and Steve Wulf, which is cool, but I suspect the greater cachet will come from the enhanced presentation of the photography of Ozzie Sweet, Walter Ioss Jr. and Charles Martin Conlon. From Sandomir’s description in the article, seeing classic images from that trio and others is reason enough to make me hope I get a chance to at least see the 75-lb. version.
It’s not that I can’t somehow come up with $3,000, but rather I haven’t got a coffee table that will handle that kind of weight. I might be tempted by the abridged 26-pounder aimed at the hoi polloi for a mere $295, but I’d sure like to see those photographs in the varsity edition. Abridging some of the 110,000 words I can probably stand, especially if they leave the new essays intact.