Monday, July 09, 2007

Ask Hal

Those of you who know me well know that my favorite sportswriter is, or was, Hal Lebovitz. It all started with his "Ask Hal" columns, where the former player/coach/scorekeeper/umpire/referee would answer questions sent in by readers. That's why I was excited when I heard his best questions and answers had been compiled into a book. It's also why I was even more excited - honored - when the fine people at Gray & Co. offered me a free copy for review.

Ask Hal: Answers to Fans' Most Interesting Questions About Baseball Rules from a Hall-of-Fame Sportswriter, as its subtitle suggests, is limited to baseball questions. But it's still the perfect addition to my personal library. In this book, Mr. Lebovitz has an answer to almost any baseball situation you can think of. Also included are two "quizzes": one set of "fair vs. foul" questions, and one set of "does the run count" questions.

Example: The book came to my house while I was away on vacation. At the College World Series, Sarah and I posed these brain teasers to each other:
  • Name ten ways to reach first base.
  • If a batted ball hits a baserunner while they are still standing on the base, are they out or safe?
  • One out, runners on first and third. A fly ball is caught for the second out. The runner on third tags properly and scores. After that runner scores, the defense realizes that the runner on first did not tag, and they throw back to first base for the final out. Does the run count?
The final situation actually occurred at a CWS game. Sarah was not sure what happened, so she called me to ask if the umpires made the correct call. I guess that they did, and also guessed why they did. Do you know what they called, and why or why not it wasn't correct? And do you know the answers to the other two? If you think you do, post them on the message board. By the way, when I returned home, all three questions were answered in the first 44 pages of the book!

I've always been a Hal fan, and a baseball fan who has taken pride in knowing the rules and knowing how to keep score. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I have nothing but praise for this book. If you're any sort of a baseball fan, chances are you'll love it to!

Fun Facts
Courtesy Gray & Co.
Years "Ask Hal" ran in Cleveland newspapers:

Estimated number of questions asked during the entire run of "Ask Hal":

Most frequently asked baseball rule question:
Readers asked to have the infield fly rule explained and clarified more than any other in baseball.

Most frequently asked non-rule baseball question:
Did anyone ever hit a home run into the bleachers at Cleveland Municipal Stadium? According to Hal, this was asked about 50 times a year, "and the answer is still, 'No.'"

More Information

Book Website
Press Release
Sample Pages
About the Author
Where to Buy the Book