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From The New York Times baseball columnist, an enchanting, enthralling history of the national pastime as told through the craft of pitching, based on years of archival research and interviews with more than three hundred people from Hall of Famers to the stars of today The baseball is an amazing plaything. We can grip it and hold it so many different ways From The New York Times baseball columnist, an enchanting, enthralling history of the national pastime as told through the craft of pitching, based on years of archival research and interviews with more than three hundred people from Hall of Famers to the stars of today The baseball is an amazing plaything. We can grip it and hold it so many different ways, and even the slightest calibration can turn an ordinary pitch into a weapon to thwart the greatest hitters in the world. Each pitch has its own history, evolving through the decades as the masters pass it down to the next generation. From the earliest days of the game, when Candy Cummings dreamed up the curveball while flinging clamshells on a Brooklyn beach, pitchers have never stopped innovating. In K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner traces the colorful stories and fascinating folklore behind the ten major pitches. Each chapter highlights a different pitch, from the blazing fastball to the fluttering knuckleball to the slippery spitball. Infusing every page with infectious passion for the game, Kepner brings readers inside the minds of combatants sixty feet, six inches apart. Filled with priceless insights from many of the best pitchers in baseball history--from Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, and Nolan Ryan to Greg Maddux, Mariano Rivera, and Clayton Kershaw--K will be the definitive book on pitching and join such works as The Glory of Their Times and Moneyball as a classic of the genre.


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From The New York Times baseball columnist, an enchanting, enthralling history of the national pastime as told through the craft of pitching, based on years of archival research and interviews with more than three hundred people from Hall of Famers to the stars of today The baseball is an amazing plaything. We can grip it and hold it so many different ways From The New York Times baseball columnist, an enchanting, enthralling history of the national pastime as told through the craft of pitching, based on years of archival research and interviews with more than three hundred people from Hall of Famers to the stars of today The baseball is an amazing plaything. We can grip it and hold it so many different ways, and even the slightest calibration can turn an ordinary pitch into a weapon to thwart the greatest hitters in the world. Each pitch has its own history, evolving through the decades as the masters pass it down to the next generation. From the earliest days of the game, when Candy Cummings dreamed up the curveball while flinging clamshells on a Brooklyn beach, pitchers have never stopped innovating. In K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner traces the colorful stories and fascinating folklore behind the ten major pitches. Each chapter highlights a different pitch, from the blazing fastball to the fluttering knuckleball to the slippery spitball. Infusing every page with infectious passion for the game, Kepner brings readers inside the minds of combatants sixty feet, six inches apart. Filled with priceless insights from many of the best pitchers in baseball history--from Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, and Nolan Ryan to Greg Maddux, Mariano Rivera, and Clayton Kershaw--K will be the definitive book on pitching and join such works as The Glory of Their Times and Moneyball as a classic of the genre.

30 review for K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Wow, what a fun book! It brought me back to the days when I ate, drank and slept baseball, during the 1970s and 1980s. I played (and invented my own) tabletop baseball games, religiously watched the All-Star game, scored games on paper and strained to listen to faraway games on the radio. Lots of my heroes were mentioned in this book, from Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton, to Pedro Martinez. The conceit for this "history of baseball" is examining 10 pitches and their history: slider, fast Wow, what a fun book! It brought me back to the days when I ate, drank and slept baseball, during the 1970s and 1980s. I played (and invented my own) tabletop baseball games, religiously watched the All-Star game, scored games on paper and strained to listen to faraway games on the radio. Lots of my heroes were mentioned in this book, from Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton, to Pedro Martinez. The conceit for this "history of baseball" is examining 10 pitches and their history: slider, fastball, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, screwball, sinker, changeup, spitball and cutter. Each chapter talks about the development of the pitch, who threw it first and how it impacts today's game. The author, the baseball writer for the New York Times, interviews dozens of pitchers, coaches and managers and goes into great depth for some of them. It's an interesting way to look at things, and is consistently surprising. Each pitch has its proponents and detractors, and he looks at all sides. Hitters are consulted and the greatest throwing each pitch is described. I especially liked the descriptions of how the mechanics of each pitch is passed around and down through the generations. I think my favorite chapter is probably the one on the knuckleball. It starts with an incredibly moving story about meeting with Jim Bouton, author of the famed Ball Four book about a season with the expansion Seattle Pilots, in western Massachusetts. He was suffering with dementia and his wife said that it was good for Jim to have company. It's exactly the kind of description that makes baseball so great. And he talks to the fraternity of knuckleballers, from Hall of Famers like Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm, to my favorite knuckler, Tim Wakefield. But each chapter has incredible nuggets of gold. Like the one on the screwball, which immediately brought back golden memories of "Fernando-mania", when Fernando Valenzuela burst on the scene. It's a crazy pitch to try and throw and almost no one does it any more. You twist your arm backwards. The one time I tried it (I'm no athlete, nevermind a pitcher), my elbow was killing me for a week. The first real practitioner, Carl Hubbell, spent the rest of his life with his left hand facing out from his body. There was a great story about a screwballer who in 1980 almost won the Cy Young. Mike Norris, as a kid, would pick things up backwards. When he would reach for something, say a milk bottle, he would pick it up with his hand facing outwards instead of inwards, scaring his mom who was sure he would spill it! Sounds like a natural screwballer. And it was also filled with great quotes. There was the one in the Curveball chapter, where a young Mike Piazza asked the Bill Madlock how to hit the curveball and was answered with "Don't miss the fastball!". Or the one where the pitcher explained how he learned to throw a pitch "It was like monkey see, monkey do. And I found the right monkey to follow." I had only 2 small complaints, that might make it a 4.5 star book. One is that there are a lot of names. I mean A LOT. Each chapter, while having one or two real stars, talks about many pitchers, coaches, managers and batters. It can get a little overwhelming. And the other was that there were a number of the usual curmudgeons, complaining about how the game is played "today", whether today meant the 20s, 30s or all the way up to right now. But it was a glorious ride back into baseball. Highly recommended if you like baseball!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    In order to be a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball, it is highly recommended that a pitcher has more than one type of pitch he uses to consistently get batters out. Through the history of the game, ten pitches have been used most frequently and a discussion on each one of them is the basis of this excellent book by Tyler Kepner. Pitches that are popular in today’s game, such as the fastball, cutter and slider, as well as pitches that are now phased out or given a new name, such as a sc In order to be a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball, it is highly recommended that a pitcher has more than one type of pitch he uses to consistently get batters out. Through the history of the game, ten pitches have been used most frequently and a discussion on each one of them is the basis of this excellent book by Tyler Kepner. Pitches that are popular in today’s game, such as the fastball, cutter and slider, as well as pitches that are now phased out or given a new name, such as a screwball or splitter, are all discussed. Everything about a particular pitch is discussed. Kepner’s thorough research is on display each time he writes about pitchers in the early history of the game who threw the pitch being discussed without it being called the current name. Interviews with pitchers who threw the pitch with much success, such as Sandy Koufax and Bert Blyleven on the curveball chapter, add valuable insight into the specific pitch as well. However, what really made this book a joy to read was the smooth and easy flow this book takes. The writing is outstanding in that it keeps that balance that a non-fan who wants to learn about pitching can do so without feeling overwhelmed, yet it is technical enough so that hard-core fans are not bored or disappointed because it is too simple for their tastes. Humor is spread throughout the book, both from pitchers being interviewed and the author himself. The information is also thorough since pitches that are no longer used or legal (such as the spitball), there isn’t an era, pitch or pitcher that isn’t covered. No matter what level of fan a reader is or what is his or her favorite era of the game, this book is one that should be added to the collection of baseball books. If pitching is supposedly 90% of the game, then every baseball fan needs to read this to be informed of that 90%. I wish to thank Doubleday Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. https://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/20...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    I kept having one thought while reading this book: baseball is history. Not in the hand-wringing, why-aren’t-millennials-watching, existential sense, but in the way that what we see every summer is a response to what happened in summers past, and the way innovation and adaptation thread their way through (and over, and away from) every stitch on the ball. I think I liked the concept here more than the execution - Kepner seemingly interviewed every pitcher alive for this book, and at times the bo I kept having one thought while reading this book: baseball is history. Not in the hand-wringing, why-aren’t-millennials-watching, existential sense, but in the way that what we see every summer is a response to what happened in summers past, and the way innovation and adaptation thread their way through (and over, and away from) every stitch on the ball. I think I liked the concept here more than the execution - Kepner seemingly interviewed every pitcher alive for this book, and at times the book feels like a jumble of anecdotes as opposed to a clean, linear approach - but it’s a really strong concept. If you love baseball, you’ll like this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Baseball is a simple game; a pitcher throws a ball towards a batter who swings either missing or hitting the ball to put it into play. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner explores the how the importance of the pitcher and the tools he uses has grown over 150 years of the sport as strategy has evolved along with and against it. As the title of the book says, Kepner divides the book into ten chapters focusing on the different types of pitches that have endured throughout basebal Baseball is a simple game; a pitcher throws a ball towards a batter who swings either missing or hitting the ball to put it into play. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner explores the how the importance of the pitcher and the tools he uses has grown over 150 years of the sport as strategy has evolved along with and against it. As the title of the book says, Kepner divides the book into ten chapters focusing on the different types of pitches that have endured throughout baseball history and some that have risen in prominence but have nearly faded away by the time of publication of the book. Through interviews and anecdotes from current and past players—both pitchers and hitters—that Kepner conducted himself or researched from past articles written as far back as the first decade of the 20th Century, the story of each pitch’s evolution and the prominent players that used them is discussed through particular careers and game situations that defined baseball history. Kepner is extensive in his research in showing the history and the importance to the game that each pitch, through the careers of Hall of Famers or players that had spectacular runs for year but not an entire career. Yet Kepner had an issue with distinguish pitches that are very close to one another in one way or another though he tried his best, it wasn’t that I was looking for a tutorial on how to pitch but definitive elements about why pitches that appear similar to the casual fan are completely different and to me he didn’t quiet accomplish that. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is a very good look at one of the most important positions in American sports over the course of 150 years and how the players who played the position were able to gain an advantage over their competitors.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fred Forbes

    I hate to be the ratings pooper here, especially since the reason for the lower rating probably rests on my expectations rather than any author created flaws. I was looking for a linear, explanatory excursion through the ten pitches. For example, here is the grip used to throw a slider, curve, fastball, knuckler, here is how it performs - trajectory, speed, rotation, spin direction, etc. Here is how it looks to the batter, here are stats related to how often it is thrown, what the batting result I hate to be the ratings pooper here, especially since the reason for the lower rating probably rests on my expectations rather than any author created flaws. I was looking for a linear, explanatory excursion through the ten pitches. For example, here is the grip used to throw a slider, curve, fastball, knuckler, here is how it performs - trajectory, speed, rotation, spin direction, etc. Here is how it looks to the batter, here are stats related to how often it is thrown, what the batting results are, a bit of history, etc. What I got was a series of rambling anecdotes from just about every pitcher who ever threw a game of note and I just got bogged down. Much of the information I was looking for is there, just buried in the exposition. In the kindle version, the only illustrations are located at the end as opposed to the section where that particular pitcher is being discussed and I only discovered this after I finished and was thinking how much the book would be improved by illustrations. At any rate, probably a good book for the true baseball "nut". While I enjoy the game, that is not me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob Neyer

    Two-word review: Instant classic. More words review: Kepner spoke to hundreds of pitchers, ex-pitchers, hitters, and coaches for this book, and somehow he deftly weaves all these voices into a seamless narrative. Or, rather, ten seamless narratives, one for each of the ten pitches he's chosen to write about.* I've been eager to read Tyler's book since he first told me about it, two or three years ago. You always worry about being disappointed in the actual event, but K is even better than I'd hop Two-word review: Instant classic. More words review: Kepner spoke to hundreds of pitchers, ex-pitchers, hitters, and coaches for this book, and somehow he deftly weaves all these voices into a seamless narrative. Or, rather, ten seamless narratives, one for each of the ten pitches he's chosen to write about.* I've been eager to read Tyler's book since he first told me about it, two or three years ago. You always worry about being disappointed in the actual event, but K is even better than I'd hoped, and I suspect it will now take its place on all the lists of essential baseball books. * with apologies to the Eephus and Folly Floater and LaLob; am hoping they'll make the paperback.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Yes, there a little of this ‘new baseball’ in the book: Exit velo. Spin rate. Launch angle. But most importantly, there are the stories. We all know that the game is changing… that the power game has changed the movement game… and thus the complete game. Yet, it is stories, the anecdotes, and the yarns… like the ones in K that keep us coming back. I’m not going to remember the spin rate of the curveball that struck out the last hitter to win the world series, but I will remember the story of how Yes, there a little of this ‘new baseball’ in the book: Exit velo. Spin rate. Launch angle. But most importantly, there are the stories. We all know that the game is changing… that the power game has changed the movement game… and thus the complete game. Yet, it is stories, the anecdotes, and the yarns… like the ones in K that keep us coming back. I’m not going to remember the spin rate of the curveball that struck out the last hitter to win the world series, but I will remember the story of how he learned to throw that pitch. For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2019/03/21/k-... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  8. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This is as close to a flawless baseball book as it gets. At once loads of fun and supremely informative, K marries the science of pitching with lore of the game in mesmerizing fashion. I loved the unique structure of the book. And oh...the chapter on the spitter is mind-blowingly excellent.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    My only regret is not having a baseball to hold while reading in order to try out some of the grips. A fascinating read, and one of the best baseball books I've ever read. My only regret is not having a baseball to hold while reading in order to try out some of the grips. A fascinating read, and one of the best baseball books I've ever read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    A great overview of ten of the most common and iconic baseball pitches. Like most baseball books, it's heavy on the lore and history, but it doesn't get too oppressive (but if you haven't been a baseball fan, I bet the parade of names and history gets old fast). I've a baseball fan my whole life and played through high school but I never grasped two things this book explains really well. First, how pitchers develop their repertoire and learn the strategy of setting up hitters, which is hard to s A great overview of ten of the most common and iconic baseball pitches. Like most baseball books, it's heavy on the lore and history, but it doesn't get too oppressive (but if you haven't been a baseball fan, I bet the parade of names and history gets old fast). I've a baseball fan my whole life and played through high school but I never grasped two things this book explains really well. First, how pitchers develop their repertoire and learn the strategy of setting up hitters, which is hard to see when you're watching a game. Second, and more universally important, it consistently highlights how much variety there is in each pitch from pitcher to pitcher. Even the straightforward fastball behaves differently depending on anatomy, picthing motion, age, and altitude. Like most human traits and behaviors it's easy to lose sight of how much variety is obscured by central tendencies and labels. Down with the tyranny of the mean, median, and mode!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Harold Kasselman

    I thoroughly enjoyed this trip through the history of the game as depicted by the ten primary pitches: each is given its own chapter. Kepner was a beat writer for NY teams but he also has a fondness for my team the Phillies. There are a lot of original quotes, stories, and explanations first hand as well as hearsay stories. I especially enjoyed the chapter about the outlawed pitches; namely the spitter, shine ball, and scuffed balls. Preacher Roe was a great pitcher who almost made it to the Hal I thoroughly enjoyed this trip through the history of the game as depicted by the ten primary pitches: each is given its own chapter. Kepner was a beat writer for NY teams but he also has a fondness for my team the Phillies. There are a lot of original quotes, stories, and explanations first hand as well as hearsay stories. I especially enjoyed the chapter about the outlawed pitches; namely the spitter, shine ball, and scuffed balls. Preacher Roe was a great pitcher who almost made it to the Hall of Fame but his fate was cemented when he took a $2,000 advance from Sports Illustrated in 1955 to discuss how and whether and why he threw the spitter. Against Carl Erskine's advice, he confessed and it may have cost him immortality. There are so many tid bits and gems in this book that you will appreciate. I was amazed at how often opposing pitchers would share important information about how to grip a certain pitch. For instance Kent Tekulve of the Pirates taught Dan Quisenberry the sinker. Mariano Rivera taught Roy Halladay how to throw the cutter and it rekindled an already great career for the Doc. There is everything from who threw the fastest ball(Bob Feller, no shy introvert about his own worth, says Walter Johnson was faster than he) to a discussion of whether throwing the curve and splitter cause early injuries. I also enjoyed the knuckle ball fraternity and the case of one catcher who quit because of it. The last chapter brings us to the mystery cutter that made Mariano Rivera the greatest relief pitcher of all time. This is a great read. My only criticism is that I would have loved diagrams or pictures of the grips for each pitch and how they are thrown rather than a description. Otherwise, an exceptional book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    A fantastic book -- what an incredible way to approach the history of baseball. Tyler Kepner combines great writing with amazing interviews from the pitchers, catchers, hitters, coaches and managers who describe in intimate detail how specific pitches are thrown (and missed). This book is a treasure, and belongs on the shelf of any serious baseball fan.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Allen Adams

    https://www.themaineedge.com/sports/p... Baseball is a team game made up of individual battles, a series of one-on-one confrontations where one man throws a ball and the other attempts to hit it. Yes, the action evolves after that, but at its heart, baseball is about pitcher versus hitter. The man at the plate has a weapon – his bat – and protection in the form of gloves, a helmet, perhaps some armor in the form of an arm guard or shin guard. The man on the mound has none of that. But he is not un https://www.themaineedge.com/sports/p... Baseball is a team game made up of individual battles, a series of one-on-one confrontations where one man throws a ball and the other attempts to hit it. Yes, the action evolves after that, but at its heart, baseball is about pitcher versus hitter. The man at the plate has a weapon – his bat – and protection in the form of gloves, a helmet, perhaps some armor in the form of an arm guard or shin guard. The man on the mound has none of that. But he is not unarmed – he has the ball. And the ball can be a formidable weapon indeed. That weapon is the focus of Tyler Kepner’s new book “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches.” In it, the New York Times baseball writer digs deep into the myriad ways that players have tried to put the ball over the plate over the course of the game’s long history. It’s an exploration of one-half of that ever-present central conceit of hurler against striker. Each of the 10 pitches – slider, fastball, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, screwball, sinker, changeup, spitball and cutter – is examined at length, with Kepler speaking to a number of pitchers and coaches (including close to two dozen Hall of Famers) while also drawing from the game’s considerable and thorough lore. He contextualizes each offering, sharing not just a pitch’s origins, but its evolution. It’s curious that Kepner started with the slider; one would think that the fastball would come first. Even the catcher’s sign for it is one finger. But Kepner’s case is a simple and perfectly valid one – the slider was the best pitch of his childhood hero, Steve Carlton. And Carlton’s has a very good case to be the best ever. That personal connection makes for a wonderful introduction. Next up – the fastball. The heater. The cheese. The pitch that most impresses in terms of raw, unflinching power. It’s a discussion of how the fastball is a distillation of the one-on-one nature of the pitcher’s journey. Guys like Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller, Walter Johnson – each was THE legendary arm of his generation. All blessed with the ability to rear back and let fly faster than anyone. There’s no weapon more effective than a well-placed fastball. The curveball follows, looping its way into the narrative. This is another chapter where Kepner delights in the technical, talking with an assortment of folks about what it means to throw a good curveball. Whether it’s a slow 12-6 breaker or something a little tighter, there are few pitches more delightful to watch than a well-snapped curve – a karate chop with a ball, as the chapter’s subtitle states. What follows is one of those few “more delightful than a curveball” pitches – the knuckleball. The knuckler was, is and always shall be the black sheep of the pitching world. More art than science, it’s a pitch that precious few have mastered. Its practitioners, a motley collection of shaggy-dog baseball weirdoes who have chosen to hitch their wagons to a spinless, stuttering star. This one is fun. And so it goes throughout the book. Roger Craig and Bruce Sutter, the Johnny Appleseeds of the split-fingered fastball. The lost art of the screwball. Mariano Rivera’s omnipresent and devastating cutter. The messy mayhem that comes with spitballs and other ball-doctoring. The once-mighty sinker’s slow fade in the age of swing angle elevation. The gentle majesty and subtle trickery of the changeup. It’s all here. “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” delivers exactly what its title promises. It is a fascinating deconstruction of the nature of pitching by those men who did it best. It is a cross-section of the game’s history, showing us the ebb and flow of the craft and how pitches have come into and fallen out of favor over the years. Kepner’s passion for the game permeates the narrative he has constructed. The book offers intricate detail mixed with stories of the game – he blends the tangible notions of grips and spin rates and throwing motions with the ethereal myths of baseball’s bygone legends. It’s a combination that serves to elevate each element, a rich and engaging reading experience for any true fan. An immaculate inning is when a pitcher strikes out the side on nine pitches. Kepner gives us 10 – perhaps a curveball bounced or a cutter at the hands was fouled off or a knuckler wandered away – but what we get is certainly immaculate. One swing and a miss is merely a strike, but 10 swings and misses equal one fascinating “K.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    New York Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner delivers a treat for the start of baseball season with his new book, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches. Kepner's book is a tale of baseball history from the pitcher's mound, using an assortment of the pitcher's familiar weapons as his themes for each chapter. As the subtitle implies, there are ten pitches examined- slider, fastball, curveball, change up, sinker, screwball, split-fingered fastball, cutter, knuckleball, and even the spitbal New York Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner delivers a treat for the start of baseball season with his new book, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches. Kepner's book is a tale of baseball history from the pitcher's mound, using an assortment of the pitcher's familiar weapons as his themes for each chapter. As the subtitle implies, there are ten pitches examined- slider, fastball, curveball, change up, sinker, screwball, split-fingered fastball, cutter, knuckleball, and even the spitball. Each chapter provides the history of the pitch, its development, and how it has wandered in and out of vogue over the course of the game's history. He provides basic instructions on how to successfully throw each pitch, outlines why the pitches are effective or can become troublesome, and spends time outlining some of the most prominent and effective practitioners of each pitch. Kepner has a deep and wide list of contacts in the game, and he exploits this asset to great effect in the book. Barely a page goes by that the narrative isn't enhanced by direct quotes from names throughout the last fifty years of baseball history. Kepner even manages to get the ultra-media shy Steve Carlton to open up on the record about his famous slider. The chapter- a- pitch structure keeps things organized and moving, and Kepner's prose and storytelling are top notch. Overall, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches will be a welcome addition to the library of any baseball fan. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Richard Levine

    Great book for the devoted baseball fan, especially one who like me finds pitching to be the most fascinating part of the game. My only quibble is the book's (sub)title: in no way is this book a "history of baseball," nor does it attempt to be one. But I don't blame Tyler Kepner for the title; I assume it was the idea of some editorial genius enthralled by the annoying and ever-growing publishing trend of hyping oddball works of non-fiction with grandiose titles like "A History of the World in 1 Great book for the devoted baseball fan, especially one who like me finds pitching to be the most fascinating part of the game. My only quibble is the book's (sub)title: in no way is this book a "history of baseball," nor does it attempt to be one. But I don't blame Tyler Kepner for the title; I assume it was the idea of some editorial genius enthralled by the annoying and ever-growing publishing trend of hyping oddball works of non-fiction with grandiose titles like "A History of the World in 149 Objects" (or "11 Maps," or "24 Pictures"), or "923 A.D.: The Year That Changed Everything," or "Mackerel: The Fish That Saved Civilization," or "Ovaltine: The Beverage That Conquered the Great Depression" . . . WHAT IS WRONG WITH THOSE PUBLISHING MORONS ANYWAY???!!! Sorry. Got a little carried away there. Anyway, Tyler Kepner has written an excellent account not of the history of baseball, but of ten different pitches thrown by hurlers throughout the baseball ages -- fastball, curve, slider, knuckleball, change up, screwball, etc. Each pitch is the subject of its own chapter -- although sometimes Kepner throws in bonus discussion of a different but related pitch (for example, the chapter on Spitters covers both the spitball and the scuffball, with good reason). And each chapter contains information about the history of that particular pitch, as well as entertaining anecdotes and fascinating how-to explanations from pitchers ranging from Hall of Famers to obscurities. I learned a fair amount from Kepner's book, but also found the book enjoyable even when he was writing about things I already knew. One piece of advice (which I didn't follow myself, but should have): have a baseball at hand while reading, so you can try for yourself the different grips and throwing motions that are discussed on almost every page of the book. An excellent book for serious baseball fans. But NOT a history of baseball!

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Hallstrom

    One of the things that makes baseball great is that no matter how many games you see, you will always, every game, see something you have never seen before. The same holds true for baseball books. There are great books on teams (The Boys of Summer); great books on international baseball (You Gotta Have Wa); great biographies (Alexander’s: Ruth); great autobiographies (Cobb: My Life in Baseball); and great books on excellence (Men at Work). And now there is a great book on pitching. K: A History One of the things that makes baseball great is that no matter how many games you see, you will always, every game, see something you have never seen before. The same holds true for baseball books. There are great books on teams (The Boys of Summer); great books on international baseball (You Gotta Have Wa); great biographies (Alexander’s: Ruth); great autobiographies (Cobb: My Life in Baseball); and great books on excellence (Men at Work). And now there is a great book on pitching. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is a unique look at the game. Tyler Kepner gives detailed insight into the effectiveness of: The Slider; The Fastball; The Curveball; The Knuckleball; The Splitter; The Screwball; The Sinker; The Changeup; The Spitball; and, The Cutter. Kepner interviews some of the great and not-so great pitchers associated with each of the ten pitches. And where interviews are not possible, Kepner quotes from autobiographies or news archives. Kepner documents how pitches come in and out of fashion: the Screwball and the Splitter fell out of fashion due to perceptions they led to serious injuries – although as is noted in the book, the pitches are out of favor and the pitchers keep getting injured. Kepner has written a very insightful book. By narrowing his focus on one pitch at a time, Kepner has broadened the view of what it take for a pitcher to succeed in the only game that begins with the defense holding the ball.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Shoup

    This book is kind of poorly named. It's not a history of baseball in ten pitches. It's really just a history OF those ten pitches. There's no attempt to broaden the scope of the history to a larger history of baseball through the lens of 10 specific pitches, which is definitely possible. It's just that each chapter is a collection of stories about pitch types. IF you know, going into it, that that's what it is, this is a decent book. I did not. My other major problem is that this book is very poo This book is kind of poorly named. It's not a history of baseball in ten pitches. It's really just a history OF those ten pitches. There's no attempt to broaden the scope of the history to a larger history of baseball through the lens of 10 specific pitches, which is definitely possible. It's just that each chapter is a collection of stories about pitch types. IF you know, going into it, that that's what it is, this is a decent book. I did not. My other major problem is that this book is very poorly organized. IF you're going to discuss ten pitches, you start with the fastball, then variations like the change up or the sinker, then you talk about the curveball as an introduction to breaking balls. Don't start with the slider. It's not the best book but it's a decent collection of stories about baseball. I didn't hate it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Excellent history of baseball. The idea is fresh and not overdone, the history of how pitches developed over the seasons. The writing is readable and it moves along. The editing seems to have been well done. The content is excellent, all the major or historically important pitch types are included. Just an overall good book which actually exceeded my expectations. It’s ironic though as I finished this book the day before MLB Opening Day, which, of course, has been postponed due to the Coronaviru Excellent history of baseball. The idea is fresh and not overdone, the history of how pitches developed over the seasons. The writing is readable and it moves along. The editing seems to have been well done. The content is excellent, all the major or historically important pitch types are included. Just an overall good book which actually exceeded my expectations. It’s ironic though as I finished this book the day before MLB Opening Day, which, of course, has been postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic…what strange times we live in right now… So, upon reread I still think this book deserves a 5. It’s fresh, readable fast and has really good content. Well worth your time if you like baseball history…Just wish they would be yelling “Play Ball” tomorrow as well. O

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mark Stevens

    There are 1.5 billion reasons why baseball is a fascinating sport and one of those reasons is that it’s a defensive player who puts the game in motion. The game starts with a pitch. The game starts with defense. Another one of the fascination points is the ability of a pitcher to throw a baseball at either top speed or top level of deception in and around a strike zone sixty feet and six inches from the mound. There is a generally accepted speed, or range of speeds, at which that baseball needs to There are 1.5 billion reasons why baseball is a fascinating sport and one of those reasons is that it’s a defensive player who puts the game in motion. The game starts with a pitch. The game starts with defense. Another one of the fascination points is the ability of a pitcher to throw a baseball at either top speed or top level of deception in and around a strike zone sixty feet and six inches from the mound. There is a generally accepted speed, or range of speeds, at which that baseball needs to be thrown to be successful at the major league level. There is also a generally accepted fact that a pitcher needs at least two pitches, preferably three or four, and five would be fantastic. If you can mix your speeds and execute control with all them for a decade or fifteen years – and take the mound every fifth day from April through September or even October – well, welcome to the Hall of Fame. What appears to be an arduous but perhaps vanilla task to a casual observer — throwing the ball—actually involves remarkable variety. And if you doubt that, read K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches. “There is, indeed, no limit to the kinds of options available to a pitcher, or how he can use them,” writes Kepner in the introduction. Lance McCullers Jr., who called (Mike) Mussina one of his favorite pitchers to watch, threw 24 curveballs in a row to close out the American League Championship Series for Houston in 2017 … There was no rule against, only convention.” Based on hundreds of interviews with pitchers, hitters and coaches, and written with a fine flair, K is a fun and fascinating read. ('K' is a baseball scorer's notation for a strikeout.) The Slider. The Fastball. The Curveball. The Knuckleball. The Splitter. The Screwball. The Sinker. The Changeup. The Spitball. The Cutter. Tyler Kepner dives into the history and science of all ten, illustrating each pitch through its chief aficionados and in riveting or colorful moments from key games. Tidbits abound. The Slider: “In 1971, J.R. Richard tied a record for strikeouts in a major league debut, with 15 in a complete game victory in San Francisco. Willie Mays struck out three times.” Richard could hold eight baseballs in one hand. Richard threw his slider at 98 miles per hour, often with better control than his fastball. The Curveball: It’s not as dangerous to a pitcher’s arm health as the slider. However: “There are far more young pitchers than there are coaches qualified to teach a safe curveball.” Nolan Ryan agrees with this. It’s all about your hand position on the ball and a consistent arm slot. The Knuckleball: Jim Bouton, who wrote Ball Four and who won two World Series games for the New York Yankees in 1964, was still throwing knuckleballs at age 78 (Kepner visited him in Massachusetts). Bouton, who died last week, built a cinder-block backstop and still hit the strike zone “most of the time.” So Jim Bouton. The Changeup: Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg used to sit in the left field seats as a teenager at Petco Park in San Diego to watch Trevor Hoffman warm up. Strasburg admired Hoffman’s changeup. Hoffman also inspired Cole Hamels to learn the changeup, which is one of the most difficult pitches to learn to throw. Who knew? Two final thoughts. First, K is clearly the product of a smart enthusiast with a gift for telling stories. It’s no wonder Tyler Kepner is the national baseball writer for The New York Times. (I want his job.) Second, it’s not just the 10 pitches. It’s the variety of characters and attitudes on the mound. Ten pitches, sure, but hundreds and hundreds of colorful characters throughout baseball history who brought emotion and competitiveness (or anger, humor, craftiness, etc.) to the art and science of throwing a baseball. Ten pitches, sure, but the guys on the mound? Humanity is endless. Kepner captures the personalities of the sport as well as he writes about the pitches themselves.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    Baseball is such an infinitely pleasing game. This lifelong fan loves spending a summer evening in at the ballpark, catching up with a friend, watching action that is both of-the-moment and timeless. The simple fact is that men have been throwing and batting balls using the same rules over the same distances at American parks for almost 150 years. Everything old is new again. Kepner uses the evolution of pitches as a lens through which to celebrate baseball's history. Each chapter focuses on a dif Baseball is such an infinitely pleasing game. This lifelong fan loves spending a summer evening in at the ballpark, catching up with a friend, watching action that is both of-the-moment and timeless. The simple fact is that men have been throwing and batting balls using the same rules over the same distances at American parks for almost 150 years. Everything old is new again. Kepner uses the evolution of pitches as a lens through which to celebrate baseball's history. Each chapter focuses on a different pitch--knuckleball, curveball, fastball, etc--and spreads across baseball history, from current players to the inventor of the slider in the 1920s--or was it the Teens, or even the 19-aughts? My favorite chapter was on the splitter, a pitch that came into dominance at the time my fascination with baseball reached its peak in the early 1980s. It's no longer THE pitch--the chapter on the cutter, traces this new evolution--but it captures a key moment in baseball's evolution, and some great pitchers of the day. Those with a casul interest in baseball--or those fascinated by its history--will find something to enjoy in Kepner's book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tad

    I can't believe I read a book about baseball and actually liked it. Just goes to show what a strange and transformative year 2019 has proven to be in my life. Using ten different baseball pitches as his starting point, Tyler Kepner gives us a thorough and utterly engrossing look at the history of baseball through the stories of these pitches and the pitchers who threw them. It is obvious that Kepner did his research and I was appreciative of that. I'm not a baseball person, by any means. If you I can't believe I read a book about baseball and actually liked it. Just goes to show what a strange and transformative year 2019 has proven to be in my life. Using ten different baseball pitches as his starting point, Tyler Kepner gives us a thorough and utterly engrossing look at the history of baseball through the stories of these pitches and the pitchers who threw them. It is obvious that Kepner did his research and I was appreciative of that. I'm not a baseball person, by any means. If you are, you will probably love this book and appreciate it way more than I did. What I will say is that this book managed to engross me as a non baseball lover. That is high praise indeed. Definitely worth a look, even if you know nothing about the game of baseball.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Mikulski

    Read this one with a baseball by your side! Kepner clearly explains how each pitch is thrown, how it breaks and how each pitch arose and the history and evolution of each pitch. I found it interesting how pitches go in and out of style. The split finger fastball, which was used extensively in the 80's has almost completely disappeared in the majors while it still flourishes in Japan. Fear that the pitch leads to arm problems haven't been medically verified, yet the fear spread and the pitch has Read this one with a baseball by your side! Kepner clearly explains how each pitch is thrown, how it breaks and how each pitch arose and the history and evolution of each pitch. I found it interesting how pitches go in and out of style. The split finger fastball, which was used extensively in the 80's has almost completely disappeared in the majors while it still flourishes in Japan. Fear that the pitch leads to arm problems haven't been medically verified, yet the fear spread and the pitch has disappeared from the current arsenal of pitches used. Today the dominant pitches are fastballs, especially thrown high n the zone as an out pitch, change ups and curves. Other pitches of the past that are no longer seen are the screwball, a favorite of Fernando Valenzuela. The knuckle ball is also an endangered pitch because it takes years to master, the modern focus on pitching velocity and a minor league/college ball system that has greatly reduced pitcher innovation. A fun and insiteful read, especially when a game is on in the background. Pick it up now, you have a month or two to finish it before the World Series ends in November.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    From the intro alone—which included among other things Williamsport, Mike Mussina, and Tug McGraw—I knew I was going to enjoy this. The rest of the book delivered. Kepner does a wonderful job not only communicating information that can be highly visual, but illustrating the sport as a whole in doing so. It was really interesting to follow the links between the various pitchers (the Mo & Halladay stuff, unsurprisingly, really got me) and games. Also, this was WILD to read post-Astros cheating sca From the intro alone—which included among other things Williamsport, Mike Mussina, and Tug McGraw—I knew I was going to enjoy this. The rest of the book delivered. Kepner does a wonderful job not only communicating information that can be highly visual, but illustrating the sport as a whole in doing so. It was really interesting to follow the links between the various pitchers (the Mo & Halladay stuff, unsurprisingly, really got me) and games. Also, this was WILD to read post-Astros cheating scandal.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tory

    Fascinating compilation of baseball anecdotes and statistics, and a great read for someone who is missing baseball this season. Though technically a 'history', the story is not linear, as the author jumps back and forth in time and writes about pitchers and their pitches as they relate to the different types of pitch. A lot of information that baseball fans would enjoy, with great explanations of the various types of pitches, which pitchers perfected them, which pitches the batters disliked, and Fascinating compilation of baseball anecdotes and statistics, and a great read for someone who is missing baseball this season. Though technically a 'history', the story is not linear, as the author jumps back and forth in time and writes about pitchers and their pitches as they relate to the different types of pitch. A lot of information that baseball fans would enjoy, with great explanations of the various types of pitches, which pitchers perfected them, which pitches the batters disliked, and which pitches fell into and out of favor.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mark Simon

    This is a book for the intense baseball fan, the history-oriented baseball fan, and the detail-oriented baseball fan. It's heavy on information, whether it be stories and anecdotes or descriptions of how to best throw the pitch that Tyler's referring to. But with that in mind, it's a comfortable read. You won't feel overwhelmed and you'll get plenty out of it. Just like Tyler's writing for the Times. This is a book for the intense baseball fan, the history-oriented baseball fan, and the detail-oriented baseball fan. It's heavy on information, whether it be stories and anecdotes or descriptions of how to best throw the pitch that Tyler's referring to. But with that in mind, it's a comfortable read. You won't feel overwhelmed and you'll get plenty out of it. Just like Tyler's writing for the Times.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    "The pitcher is the planner, the initiator of action. The hitter can only react. If the pitcher, any pitcher, finds a way to disrupt that reaction, he can win. You need a little luck and relentless curiosity." Thoroughly fascinating to a baseball fan. I wouldn't recommend it to people who only casually follow the game, but for those who relish the history and stories behind the game this is a must read. Go Cards! "The pitcher is the planner, the initiator of action. The hitter can only react. If the pitcher, any pitcher, finds a way to disrupt that reaction, he can win. You need a little luck and relentless curiosity." Thoroughly fascinating to a baseball fan. I wouldn't recommend it to people who only casually follow the game, but for those who relish the history and stories behind the game this is a must read. Go Cards!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    I think I am more of a baseball hobbyist than a super fan, but I would recommend this wonderful treatment of the pitches and the pitchers and their history to enrich your enjoyment of the game. I really enjoy a game broadcast when the commentary includes a discussion of the pitcher, the pitching, the pitches and the hitter's response to the pitching. I think my appreciation of the game has increased as I have been able to follow the pitching more confidently. I thought this book might help me re I think I am more of a baseball hobbyist than a super fan, but I would recommend this wonderful treatment of the pitches and the pitchers and their history to enrich your enjoyment of the game. I really enjoy a game broadcast when the commentary includes a discussion of the pitcher, the pitching, the pitches and the hitter's response to the pitching. I think my appreciation of the game has increased as I have been able to follow the pitching more confidently. I thought this book might help me read pitches by knowing grips and how the ball ravels. The most important lesson I learned was that it is not that simple. I have even greater reverence for the game, the pitchers and the hitters- evidence of that is that I am almost more concerned and excited to see the first inning or innings than the last innings when the win or loss is set.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danny Knobler

    A labor of love (and you’ll love it) I’ll admit up front that Tyler Kepner is a friend. I’d have read his book even if it wasn’t great. But the fact is, it is great. You can tell through every word how much he loves the subject, but he writes in a way that makes you love it, too. He got to the right people and asked them the right questions, and he got fascinating answers. And he spent time looking into the history books to find answers from those he couldn’t reach himself. Tyler is an outstandin A labor of love (and you’ll love it) I’ll admit up front that Tyler Kepner is a friend. I’d have read his book even if it wasn’t great. But the fact is, it is great. You can tell through every word how much he loves the subject, but he writes in a way that makes you love it, too. He got to the right people and asked them the right questions, and he got fascinating answers. And he spent time looking into the history books to find answers from those he couldn’t reach himself. Tyler is an outstanding writer, as anyone who reads The New York Times already knows. So my expectations were high. Even so, with this book, he exceeded them.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chickens McShitterson

    They say the most difficult thing to do in all of sports is hitting a baseball. After reading this, there is no doubt in my mind that sentiment is true. Hitters have a fraction of a second to determine the filth that a pitcher unloads on them. Here we have a study of ten different knee-buckling, physics-defying, jaw-dropping, bat-missing air whistlers.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam Reaves

    For baseball geeks only. What's the difference between a slider and a cutter? How do you throw a curveball? Where's the best place to hide the gunk you need for a spitball? If these are burning questions for you, this book is right up your alley. Tyler Kepner, who writes about baseball for the New York Times, drew on years of experience and extensive connections to produce this entertaining rundown on the various ways pitchers can make a ball spin (or not) to fool hitters. Getting people to talk For baseball geeks only. What's the difference between a slider and a cutter? How do you throw a curveball? Where's the best place to hide the gunk you need for a spitball? If these are burning questions for you, this book is right up your alley. Tyler Kepner, who writes about baseball for the New York Times, drew on years of experience and extensive connections to produce this entertaining rundown on the various ways pitchers can make a ball spin (or not) to fool hitters. Getting people to talk about their craft is always interesting, and Kepner got a lot of pitchers and a few hitters to sit down and do that. There's a certain amount of jargon, as is to be expected ("If they have a two-seamer in and then they run a cutter front-hip it's tough.") but also some practical tips ("The simplest way I was taught was the curveball is a karate chop with a ball in your hand.") What emerges is that there really isn't much that's new in baseball; all these pitches have been around forever, but the names and approaches evolve with the years. Yesterday's forkball is today's splitter, and a cutter is just a really tight slider. Fun for students of the game.

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