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Baseball's Biggest Bookie
Steve Rushin
June 26, 2006
If you bring only 4,000 baseball books to the beach this summer, make one of them Veeck As in Wreck, the best baseball book ever written, if you ask Karl Cicitto, who has roughly 4,000 baseball books in his house. "I have way too many, and I have to stop buying them," says Cicitto, of West Suffield, Conn., navigating a hedge maze of books in his master bedroom, where he and his wife, Lisa, sleep with countless other covered companions, including Designated Hebrew by Ron Blomberg, Memories of a Yankee Batboy by Frank Prudenti and--winking from the nightstand--Baseball Forever by Ralph Kiner, with whom Cicitto will retire tonight.
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June 26, 2006

Baseball's Biggest Bookie

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The first book Cicitto would save in a fire is his signed early edition of Veeck As in Wreck, by the late White Sox owner Bill Veeck and Ed Linn. But what are the worst baseball books of all time--the Dreck As in Bleeck? Though it's on some people's list of best books, Joe Pepitone's off-off-off-color autobiography--Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud--is not a paperback Cicitto wants to pick up again soon, at least not without the aid of salad tongs.

His library is largely bereft of fiction, so Cicitto doesn't yet know the joy of Philip Roth's The Great American Novel or the first 100 pages of Don DeLillo's Underworld. But those oversights are more than made up for by multiple copies of Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris's The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, 144 pages of bliss published in 1973, when I turned seven. My local library had a leather chair made to look like a giant baseball mitt, and I would drop into it, like a soft fly ball, to read Five Seasons by Roger Angell.

Cicitto's basement, like most of his books, is unfinished. At his present reading rate of 25 baseball books a year, he knows he'll never finish a fraction of his own library. But he vows to beat on, borne back ceaselessly into the past. "Books are full of ideas," he says. "They're full of knowledge." Better still, an ancient Bob Gibson biography can instantly transport him to Middletown, Conn., where he is 12 years old, smelling the tar melt on Smith Street. "A book can take me back to 1968," Cicitto marvels. And his smile speaks volumes.

If you have a comment for Steve Rushin, send it to rushin@siletters.com.

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