“In Texas, a lot of the first baseball games were played in pastures where sheep or cattle kept the grass at a playable level.” What a sound and evocative starting point in author Clay Coppedge’s swift account of America’s Pastime in the People’s Republic.
Texas Baseball: A Lone Star Diamond History From Town Teams to the Big Leagues (The History Press) imparts a highly enlightening history that should be essential reading for nativist Texan seam-heads and their baseball-loving brood. Despite its mild prose and feel of a hurried treatment, Coppedge’s chronicle is most engrossing when illuminating the ancient and esoteric: like Jackie Robinson’s Austin ties, the rise and fall of the semi-pros, and the genesis of the Texas League, for instance. The novel’s worth and appeal derives from its recall of the dusty, gray past; not its overextended recapitulation of 90s yesteryear (e.g. Houston’s “Killer B’s”) and yesterday (Texas’ 2010 and 2011 World Series teams).
Coppedge is a 30-year veteran Texas journalist and sportswriter, and it’s evident that Texas Baseball was a labor of love – serious historical baseball projects are fundamentally romantic in nature for the writer and his audience. So it upsets me to stain the book that stains itself by erroneously stating that Yankee Roger Maris hit 60 home runs in 1961 — in sacred fact, he famously broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record by hitting 61 that year; Maris’ record stood for nearly 40 years as the second-most-hallowed record in baseball. Additionally, two bemusing proofreading oversights in Texas Baseball botch the spelling of ex-Astro pitcher Darryl Kile’s name — in two different ways, and within neighboring sentences, no less.
The publishers at the History Press in Charleston, S.C., ought to be mortified. Misquoting Roger Maris’ home run record? That’s unforgiveable: like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds shattering that same record (allegedly) on the juice.
True baseball fans, from no matter where, will regard Texas Baseball as a sweetheart of a book for its service and contribution to the game’s history. Coppedge’s writing isn’t praiseworthy, only functional. But that’s okay: The beauty is in the information. Unfortunately, those aforementioned factual and proofreading screw-ups debase the experience of reading his book.
Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.