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Coming to You From PNC Park

Zack Hample Book Review

I was pleased to receive a galley for Zack Hample's third book, The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches. For future references I will call the book "The Baseball" to try and shorten things up.

All in all, this was a very interesting book. The book itself is divided into three parts "Baseballs in the News", "Historical and Factual Stuff" and "How to Snag Major League Baseballs" (not to be confused with the title of his first book).

After a brief intro, the book gets started with part one. Part one is five chapters and 77 pages and covers a lot of topics.

Hample talks about early on in baseball history when teams only carried a few baseballs and that fans were not allowed to keep them as they would be used game after game until they became almost impossible to track. Hample further discusses owner Charles Weeghman who let fans keep baseballs hit to them. Weeghman saw that letting fans keep a baseball would bring more fans to the ballpark, and would earn a profit, as despite having to constantly pay for new baseballs, he was getting more money in return for eager fans who wanted to take home a part of the game.

Hample also briefly discusses what happened to baseballs in specific games. The most notable examples were of fans Steve Bartman and Jeffrey Maier. You all know that Bartman was the Chicago Cubs fan that interfered with a foul ball that then Cubs outfielder Moises Alou could have caught. Many blame him for the Marlins advancing past the Cubs and winning that year's World Series. Jeffrey Maier was the fan who interfered in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and caught a Derek Jeter home run. The New York Yankees were playing at home against the Baltimore Orioles and Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco had a chance at the ball. Eventually the umpires ruled the call a home run and New York treated him as a hero. Maier moved on to play college baseball.

Hample also discussed the evolution of the foul ball. Baseball used to have hitters that would hit all kinds of foul balls just to tire out a pitchers arms. In today's game you see nine pitch battles but back in the early stages of the game, it was not uncommon to see hitters foul back 20 pitches. Hitters also hit the ball in specific places sometimes as well.

Hample also talks about death in baseball. I found that interesting, because many fans view baseball as just a game but sometimes baseball can be a life or death situation. He also discusses former player Juan Encarnacion who had a foul ball strike him in the eye while he was in the on-deck circle and he never played the game professionally again. A highlight of the book was the "Baseball in Pop Culture" chapter. In this chapter, Hample breaks down instances in various television shows and movies such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and describes where baseball came into play and how legitimate the scene was to real life. Very recently, an article was written about the actual game that Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris Bueller in the movie, attended to make that movie possible. It was an interesting read. Unfortunately that article came out, so Hample could not put it in the book, but if you read this part of the book then you should read the article.

Another cool part of the book was the celebrity ballhawk part. This showed celebrities catching baseballs. While a negative of the chapter was the part about Justin Bieber and the picture that followed it, the chapter as a whole was extensive and showed things that the reader did not know as Hample had a chance to be a critic.

The second part of the book came after this chapter. As a warning, it is recommended that you the reader do not read this whole part in one sitting. It is very detailed an extensive and is highlighted by how the baseball has evolved each year. The history lesson starts in 1847 and concludes in this year, 2011 with the current price of a baseball.

The huge history lesson on the baseball takes up more than 59 pages of the book and Hample said that it was the hardest part of the book to write and understandably took the longest time to complete.

After that is a part on what is inside the baseball itself and Hample's visit to the Rawlings Factory in Costa Rica. There also are a ton of pictures here (always a plus) of many different kinds of commemorative baseballs.

After another chapter is part three, which Hample is a professional at: ballhawking.

I was pleased to see that Hample took the time to make a completely new section in ballhawking instead of just copying and pasting the entire contents of his first book. Hample told me that his outlook on ballhawking is different and he is embarrassed by that first book now as he feels that he came off as greedy and selfish. This is the ultimate guide on how to take home a baseball (or two, or three, or you get the idea) from any game that you go to. Hample guarantees that if you follow his advice, that there should be no reason why you do not go home with at least a baseball at every game that you attend. Hample teaches the reader what to do when it rains at a game, what the glove trick is, how to dress and much much more.

Hample also talks to the ten most successful ballhawks and finds out about their life both in and out of the ballhawking world. It is interesting to hear some of the stories behind some of the people who have ballhawked for quite a while now.

Hample also has some memorable moments in ballhawking and the best stadiums for ballhawking.

For those who don't understand it or even those who need a refresher, some ballhawking terms are used in a glossary.

Hample hopes that with this part of the book, those who have not approved of ballhawking in the past will not consider it bad or evil any more and perhaps will gain an understanding of it.

I understand that many people who will pick this book up will bypass the ballhawking aspect of the book as it may not be for them, but even without the ballhawking section, there still is a ton of information here.

As mentioned earlier in this review, Hample visited the Rawlings Factory in Costa Rica, but also went to Coors Field home of the Colorado Rockies to check out the humidor where they store baseballs, found out how to rub baseballs at Citizens Bank Park home of the Philadelphia Phillies and visited many other ballparks he either had not attended or had not visited in years. He did all kinds of other research for this book and you can tell by reading this book. Hample told me in an interview that he bet that fans will learn a whole lot by reading this book and may not even know 10% of the material in this book.

Despite the obvious fact that this book can be intense at times, Hample said that the reading age for this book should be ages 10 and up. I personally do not think a 10-year-old could not handle the second part of this book, but I have been proven wrong before. For everyone else, whether you are just a baseball fan or want to read a good book, this is the book for you. It also helps that the book is affordable considering today's economy and the money situation.

Basic Information:

Price: $14.95 US Price; $16.95 Canada Price
Pages: 368
Title: The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches
Publisher: Vintage Original (division of Random House Inc.)
Date of Release: March 8, 2011
Other books written by Hample: How to Snag Major League Baseballs, Watching Baseball Smarter

Zac Weiss is a contributing columnist to and also maintains a Blog.

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