THE BASEBALL BUFF’S BATHROOM BOOK: VOLUME ONE

By Carl H. Johnson

Create Space Independent Publishing, 2016

222 pages, $14.95

Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t one of those cheesy bathroom humor books. No, this is serious business — this is baseball.

Author Carl Johnson is a sports columnist who covers baseball for the Journal Tribune newspaper in Biddeford. “The Baseball Buff’s Bathroom Book” is a smart collection of 50 baseball stories, old and new, some familiar, most obscure, all entertaining.

These short baseball vignettes are about players, managers, games, records, and, of course, statistics. And as one might expect, he includes numerous stories about the Boston Red Sox, especially famous players such as Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams.

In “The Gas House Gang and the 1934 World Series,” he tells of the ball-playing brothers with the best names: Dizzy and Daffy Dean. In another bit of baseball nostalgia, “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” he describes the Chicago Cubs’ remarkable double-play threat in 1902-1910.

Other stories tell of players like Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio, Cardinal batting champ Rogers Hornsby, Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax and Cleveland pitcher Bob Gibson, “the most intimidating pitcher in baseball history.”

Johnson also describes the longest games, iconic ballparks and record-breaking player performances.

Best are the more obscure stories, like the one about Yankee pitcher Jim Abbott who pitched a no-hitter in 1993 — he had no right hand. Satchel Paige (1906-1982), an African-American, was the oldest rookie (42) in 1948 with the Cleveland Indians.

Johnson explains why so many catchers become managers, why Don Zimmer getting beaned in 1953 changed baseball, and how two current managers never played in the major leagues (both were minor league catchers). He also reveals the little-known fact that Boston has had five major league teams, including the Boston Beaneaters.

Hopefully, a sequel will include stories about Bob Uecker and umpires.

THE SUGAR MOUNTAIN SNOW BALL

By Elizabeth Atkinson

Islandport Press, 2015

213 pages, $16.95

ISBN 978-1-939017-71-0

Writing entertaining and useful fiction for sixth-grade boys and girls can’t be easy, but Elizabeth Atkinson makes it seem so.

Atkinson is an award-winning author of fiction for middle-grade readers. She enjoys writing for this age group because “the middle years were challenging years filled with angst and fragility.”

She is right, of course, and is very effective with this genre.

“The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball” is a present-day wintertime story about two bright sixth-grade girls in the little town of Paris, New Hampshire. Ruby is an energetic, imaginative local girl, and Eleanor is a pretty “brainiac” whose strict family is from Sri Lanka. Vastly different cultures can’t prevent them from being best friends in this heartwarming, inspirational tale.

Ruby and Eleanor are dreamers who one day visit fortune teller Madame Magnifique for a free session. They are enchanted by the swami’s hocus-pocus, and both come away filled with excitement over Madame’s future visions.

Ruby dreams of being accepted by the Outers — the cool, rich kids— and of going to the ritzy Snow Ball.

Eleanor dreams of being a fashion designer. Together, they devise a secret business plan to earn money for their dreams, and they become wildly successful. As winter days pass, Eleanor teaches Ruby to clean house and change her soda and snack food diet, and Ruby teaches Eleanor to open up to new experiences. Worries about parental approval and complications with boys add suspense and fun as the date of the Snow Ball draws near.

Both girls also learn that to make a friend you must be a friend, as well as the hard lesson that people are not always as bad or as good as they first appear, and that kindness will always be returned.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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