by Charles J. Adams III
Charles Adams’ introduction crumbles from wistful statements and nostalgic head-nodding into a paragraph of self-congratulatory baseball puns.
In this section, he no better embodies how important the history of Reading baseball is to himself. I am sure there are plenty of people who care right along with him, or are at least interested. Or do weekly Phillies-only book reviews that nobody reads and are sick of reading various sportswriters’ accounts of them same five or six years of Phillies history.
I’m also sure that all of those people live in Central Pennsylvania.
But being unaware of certain histories is what can make them so intriguing! Who wants to read about the same old thing over and over again, and if you’re a baseball fan, why wouldn’t you be into the history of a place nicknamed “Baseballtown, USA”?
Just because Reading isn’t Philadelphia or New York or Chicago doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting sports town.
That said, to the casual fan, Adam’s enthusiasm per his subject is less infectious and more bizarrely self-important. His writing sounds as though he spent most of his adult life shocked that no one had yet penned this book, and that he finally has makes him a hero to the game. The aforementioned introduction is used mostly to expel the silo full of baseball puns Adams had been squirreling away, comparing himself to a starting pitcher whose taken the topic of baseball in Reading as far as he could, assuming other people would come in from the bullpen and carry it further as time went on.
While I’m not sure if that’s a guarantee, this book is impressive–and the decision to make it heavily photographic was the right one. Its not that Adams is a poor writer or anything–he handles the captions with perfectly adequate and informative verbiage–its just that when history can be a visual lesson rather than a gallery of thickened paragraphs, it does wonders for the reception.
With the manic transience of minor league ball teams, its actually quite impressive that the Reading Phils have been there since 1967. That there were teams… many teams… prior to that just strengthens the legacy. So maybe it is a big deal that this book came to be. Otherwise, I personally still wouldn’t know who the first player to be nicknamed after a cow was (Stanley “Betz” Klopp) or that Joe Dimaggio turned up at the opening game of the Pennsylvania Liberties, a women’s softball team, in 1976. Or that the Reading Indians had a remarkably racist logo that is still used in Cleveland to this very day (Or is it? They’ve doing that “C” thing now.)
In fact, these stories are probably more curious to you now because you’ve heard the Phillies stories so, so many times. Or maybe you don’t read one Phillies book a week. The point is, there’s a bigger chance that this expansive history of a weirdly consistent tradition will include things you’ve never heard before. Adams’ allegiance to the material can be a mite over the top, but he’s got ties to the area as a writer for the Reading Eagle, and he’s a historian–its his job to get excited about things that are long forgotten.
Its worth a leaf-through for even the remotely curious reader/baseball fan.