Forgotten Pasts and Baseball Lore
Favorite summer pastimes—exploring the Bay Area outdoors or experiencing ecstasy and exasperation at Oakland A’s baseball games—are enriched by two new books from local authors.
Marin County-based Sylvia Lindsteadt’s Lost Worlds of the San Francisco Bay Area (Heyday, 224 pp., $30) is a treasure-trove offering of 18 lyrical essays that bring to life the often-overlooked history of the area: Alameda’s Neptune Beach, Arequipa pottery, paddlewheel boats, Mount Diablo coal mines, the Emporium Department Store, and more. Cracking open the chrysalis of Farallon lighthouse laborers or learning of logging’s impact on Oakland’s old-growth redwoods, Linsteadt pays tribute to the land while illustrating human being’s varied impact on the earth and its natural resources.
The volume includes a foreword by intrepid Bay Area traveler and writer Gary Kamiya, who credits Linsteadt for “making the past breathe” and for dusting off “inconceivable treasures.” Images pulled from libraries, museums, contributors’ attic trunks and historical society collections add liveliness and personality to every chapter. Far more than a coffee table book, Lost Worlds is a collector’s item.
There are only a handful of photos in Jason Turbow’s Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 432 pp., $26). But never mind that, because colorful stories abound in the edition that focuses on the team’s flamboyant, rebellious, high-flying, deep-crashing years during the 1970s. A decade of steep ascension and even steeper declines under the narcissistic rule of owner Charlie Finley, a titan in the insurance industry who, as often as not, shocked the world of baseball, provides perfect drama for Turbow’s tales.
The historical accounts are drawn mostly from verifiable, factual resources: primarily newspaper and magazine articles, television broadcasts and an impressive number of in-person interviews with former players, reporters, and baseball historians. First-person accounts from Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, and Rollie Fingers lend immediacy to the narrative. Readers might be aware of—and read defensively—the Oakland-based writer’s tendency to enhance, add melodrama, or layer personal interpretation onto facts. Pretentiously referring to Finley as “the Owner” when delving into the owner’s tightwad contract negotiations with players, writing that Finley “stopped giving a shit” about fan experience and other examples of overstatement are less admirable parts of what is otherwise a fine investigation of baseball, its quixotic traditions, and a decade of great talent for the Oakland A’s.
This report appears in the May edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on May 15, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.