Home Book Reviews Baseball Field Guide by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger

Baseball Field Guide by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger

by Matt Smith

“Baseball Field Guide: An in-depth illustrated guide to the complete rules of baseball” by Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger, (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006), 240 pages.

Baseball is a sport governed by a myriad of rules. Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger’s attempt to to provide a user-friendly guide to them for players and spectators alike is therefore much welcomed.

“Baseball Field Guide” takes its influence from the official rules by dividing things up into categories involving the main actions on a field (pitching, batting, running, fielding, umpiring, managing/coaching), surrounded by chapters on topics such as “equipment” and the role of the Official Scorer.

The quality of this type of book can generally be determined by two factors: is it comprehensive and is it easy to use? While it is doubtful that any book could cover every single permutation that could take place in and around a baseball game, this one comes about as close as possible to achieving it. Having spent a couple of months referring to the book, no obvious omissions have become apparent and the many subjects covered are done so intelligently. The two pages on the balk rule, infamously misunderstood by even some lifelong baseball fans and some players, are a great case in point. An overview of the rule is given alongside a brief explanation of each of the eleven ways a balk can be committed, followed by a more detailed explanation of each.

As for ease of use, this is where the authors’ expertise comes to the fore. Both Formosa and Hamburger’s background is in design and it really shows. Each chapter begins with a quick summary of every topic covered to aid searching. While every page contains a lot of information, the clean layout means that they never look cluttered or confusing. Flicking through the book, it feels as if the authors have concentrated on making sure the amount of detail is well-balanced. If a simple explanation is sufficient, that’s what they provide. If an in-game example would be useful to explain a point, a well-chosen example is on hand. The illustrations are perfect both in terms of their design and their use as well. The many excellent diagrams, accompanied by the occasional photo, genuinely help you to understand the written text where some extra help may be needed. If the words alone do the job, that’s all you get.

A printed guide to the rules is always at risk of becoming out-of-date should the rules undergo any changes. These are rare in MLB, but unfortunately for Formosa and Hamburger the first rule changes in eleven years took place prior to the 2007 season. Thankfully, they were fairly minor and the only noticeable “error” that now exists is on page 191 where the book states that if a MLB “regulation game” is suspended with the score tied after the fifth inning, the game is called a tie (under the new rules, the game will be picked up from where it ended on another day unless the two teams are not scheduled to meet again that season).

For complete baseball beginners, a more deliberate “how to” style book might be a better first port-of-call to learn the basics of the game. In every other case, this is an excellent reference book which you will be reaching for from the shelf on a regular basis. Even many established fans will be surprised at how often a rule they thought they completely understood is actually slightly more complex than they realised. Regardless of your baseball experience, this book will improve your knowledge of the rules and regulations and is therefore highly recommended.

Have you read “Baseball Field Guide”? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Can you recommend any other similar books? If so, let us know.

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1 comment

Chetan Uppal October 27, 2011 - 12:40 pm

I’ve read first 100 pages and found it very useful. It is the best book to start for anyone who absolutely don’t have any knowledge or understanding of baseball. The rules and concepts are elaborated in detail and supported by pictures to make comprehension easy.

I discovered this book as I struggled to understand the baseball aspect of “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis. This book not only is helping me in understanding the basics of Baseball, it also helped in appreciating “Moneyball:…” in totality.


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