Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Devil's Snake Curve (2014)

By Josh Ostergaard

The best way to review "The Devil's Snake Curve," a unique baseball entry of the literary season, is to describe it. And that takes some doing.

At its most basic level, the book is a collection of anecdotes about the game. They range from a paragraph or two to about five pages, although for the most part they are on the short side.

The stories are mostly about professional baseball - the majors in particular - but not completely. There are some personal tales thrown in along the way. And they are in chronological order - but not completely. The personal stories are added in no particular interval, as author Josh Ostergaard doesn't follow the chronology rigidly.

There are a few themes in here. There are plenty of entries on facial hair and baseball through the decades. The New York Yankees - sometimes as a symbol of hatred, sometimes as a symbol of American power - pop up quite a bit. Some left-wing politics also turn up here and there.

It's easy to give credit to Ostergaard for research. There are all sorts of stories about major league baseball in the 227 pages of text, and I'd have to say that I haven't heard of many of them. A few might be familiar to baseball fans who study the obscure, but even then Ostergaard has a way of putting a different spin on a particular situation.

Your first reaction might be a bit similar to mine - it's impressive that such a non-mainstream book even was published. It's put out by Coffee House Press, a nonprofit imprint that receives grants to public interesting writing. Ostergaard's approach certainly qualifies. He mixes facts and opinions in unique ways.

You also should know that the manuscript was finished in the spring of 2013, so don't look for timely stories about the last couple of years. This is all told in bite-sized amounts, so those who don't like a particular story can just move on and perhaps find something of interest a moment later.

So, dear reader, will you like this? That's a decided "maybe." Certainly conservatives and Yankee fans won't love it. But "The Devil's Snake Curve" certainly has some merit, as it's frequently entertaining. Fans who like obscure history mixed with their baseball certainly should take a look at this if they come across it at a bookstore. They might find after a few bite-sized morsels that they want to make a full meal out of it.

Three stars

Read more about this book.

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