The Baseball Thesaurus by Jesse Goldberg-Strassler: a short review

For a book that’s basically a long list, this one is surprisingly readable. Goldberg-Strassler, who’s the radio voice of the Lansing Lugnuts, tells us he began compiling this book when he noticed he kept repeating the same phrases to describe the action on the field. That he’s shared the list with us is a delight.

Each entry begins with a simple list of alternatives, usually ending with one or more Spanish equivalents. If there are obvious sub-categories–Pitch, for instance, gets diced in several dimensions–the list offers equivalents for each type. Similarly, words like Win get split to reflect that different substitutions are appropriate in different contexts. And many entries include lists, labeled SPECIFIC, which show variants which reflect diverse roles or situations.

This isn’t simply a list of words and their alternatives. The author doesn’t limit himself to providing alternatives. There are explanations of some of the more obscure word substitutes, illustrative examples of some of the more colorful phrases, and the occasional (sometimes vaguely related) yarn. Jesse tells stories for a living; he’s not going to refrain from the habit. Like all good sports announcers, the author collects anecdotes and uses them well.

There are certainly things to quibble about. I was hoping for an entry discussing Coach; there is none. I’d have included kick under * complain about an umpire’s call. Some of the alternatives are likely too obscure to be useful (LOOGY–lefty one-out guy, which I think is a John Sickles coinage–comes to mind).

An excellent book, in all; informative and entertaining, and certainly worth a few hours of your time. And it’s a good basis for a hot stove discussion.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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