Book Review: The Hall of Nearly Great

The Hall of Nearly Great is an e-book anthology of essays by 42 writers on 42 different players who are the sort of players who probably won't make the Hall of Fame but were good players for their era and shouldn't be forgotten. The lead essay on Ray Lankford by project cofounder Marc Normandin sums up their goals well and is a good example of the sort of work you'll find within. Most of these players had their greatness curtailed by injuries or illness. Bradford Doolittle's essay on Larry Hisle, the only essay on a Brewer, is one of the many focusing on a prematurely ended career. (It's by a Royals fan about a player he first noticed on the Twins, by the way.)

This is the first 1980s nostalgia baseball book I've seen. (And 1990s, for that matter.) It's to be expected from a pool of writers from the first Internet generation; the writers are mostly bloggers, journalists working for Internet media, or traditional journalists who made their fame from their Internet following. I don't know if we'll see more of this thing or not in the upcoming years. The generation that would get nostalgic about the 1980s is comparatively smaller than the proceeding and following generations. The market is small. That may be why this was an electronic project first.

However, that's one of the major drawbacks of this otherwise excellent book. My quibbles are below the fold.

This content is essentially ephemeral. It's coming from names you know in the styles you also know; it's being written in the style most popular on the Internet, meant for immediate consumption near the time it was written. There's a vagueness of dates (Cee Angi's essay on Kenny Lofton is a good example of this) and an accompanying assumption that the readers are the readers of now, similar to their authors, and will remember these newer players' careers. That's not true--I know I missed a lot between 1994 and 2007--and there are always new baseball fans trying to catch up to what they missed.

The other problem with ebooks is that they're easily lost. I'm not one of those people who privileges dead trees; I've been reading ebooks forever in Internet terms since the days where the most common reader device was the Palm Pilot. A decade later, I've lost all my carefully purchased Palm books due to trashed backup files, dead computers, dead Palms, and the folding of several epublishers with unique proprietary DRM. My cousin is just starting to watch baseball. She's 5. I'd like to share the essay on Brad Radke with her because she's a Twins fan, but by the time she can read (or care about history) I'm not sure I'll still have my copy. I don't trust the cloud. The Radke essay also references a few things on the Internet, which are only valid as long as someone hasn't deleted them or you're sitting next to your computer or your smartphone plan has enough data left to look at it.

The review copy I used was an EPUB file read on my Sony PRS-300. It's formatted well, and all the footnotes and the table of contents work. I didn't test the Kindle-formatted copy.

The Hall of Nearly Great can only be purchased on their website for $12. We received a review copy from the publishers.

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