I appreciate history more now than I did when I was younger.
Still, had the book “One Patch of Grass” by Andrew Linker (Amazon.com; $14.95) been released twenty years earlier, I still would have enjoyed it.
Linker, a former local newspaper reporter and contributor to Baseball America, is unmatched when it comes to the history of baseball in Harrisburg. (Full disclosure: Mr. Linker profiled me in the December 2010 issue of 717/Harrisburg Magazine.)
History books can be boring.
This one is not.
"One Patch of Grass" traces baseball on Harrisburg’s City Island back to the beginning.
But where Linker really strikes gold is the stories about the team that’s currently there -- the Harrisburg Senators, which joined the Eastern League in 1987 as the Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is now a farm team of the Washington Nationals.
And it’s not the star prospects, like Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd and Ryan Zimmerman, who shine the most within the 300-page book. It’s the personal stories from players like Scott Hodges and Chad Bentz, who have been mostly forgotten – until now.
"It's an interesting area; it's like the Bermuda Triangle," said former Expos farm director Donnie Reynolds of City Island. "Weird stiff happens there."
And all that weird stuff is included.
What I like about this book is that Andrew doesn’t just write a few stories; he paints a picture in each chapter. You feel as though you're in the clubhouse or the dugout; eavesdropping on these great stories being told.
The book is easy to read; formatted into ‘innings’ (chapters) that aren’t too long or too short. Linker even compiles special listings, like an “All-Knucklehead” team; led by left-handed pitcher B.J. Wallace, who was charged last September with cooking methamphetamine inside a home they shared with their three children -- a home which was located near an elementary school.
(Wallace is still in jail, by the way. I just checked the Baldwin County (AL) Corrections website. Wallace is being held without bond.)
Obviously, City Island’s had its share of characters when it comes to baseball.
Linker has done more than just put them all in one book – they’re all on "One Patch of Grass."