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
And why not? God
made trees for three reasons: to give us books, to give us baseball bats and to
give us shade in which to read books about baseball.
father of three, Cicitto sees more merit in Idiot by Johnny Damon than The
Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. " Damon says he'd remove his batting helmet
while rounding third on a walk-off home run because it really hurts when
teammates pound on the top of his helmet at home plate," says Cicitto.
"I like knowing that."
scattered throughout his house in a kind of urbane sprawl. There's highbrow
(The Boys of Summer), lowbrow (Baseball's Zaniest Stars) and unibrow (Moe Berg:
Athlete, Scholar, Spy, one of several books about the catcher and OSS agent
whose single eyebrow calls to mind Bert from Sesame Street).
Moe Berg once
endorsed Lord Thomas Macaulay's sentiment that he'd rather be a poor man in a
garret filled with books than a king who didn't love reading. By this measure
of wealth Cicitto is Bill Gates. His books rise in colorful stacks, a growing
bar graph of one man's content. Cicitto can tell you that the best umpiring
memoir is Tom Gorman's Three and Two!, though the best title of an umpiring
memoir remains Durwood Merrill's You're Out and You're Ugly, Too!
There is no
central organizing principle to Cicitto's library save one: The manifold books
about his beloved Red Sox are shelved together, less a Dewey decimal system
than a Dewey Evans system.
In his basement
there must be 100 books about Babe Ruth, including The Babe and I by the second
Mrs. Babe Ruth. "She writes that the Babe wasn't just an All-Star on the
field," says Cicitto, with an if-you-catch-my-drift arch of the
He buys books at
flea markets, on vacations and at library sales, at which titles have been torn
from his hands by other collectors. For most of them the elusive Holy Grail
remains Pitching in a Pinch, a rare 1912 classic by Christy Mathewson.
On a shelf in the
den is a small replica of the Lincoln Memorial. "He's heroic, poetic,
everything good about a person," says Cicitto, pointing not at Lincoln but
to the autobiography behind him, The Way It Is by Curt Flood, who challenged
baseball's reserve clause. Indeed, the books in this house include a fair
history of the United States, a condensed Library of Congress.
Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon is a book of portraits of dentally
neglected big leaguers taken by Conlon from 1904 to '42. "Look at those
teeth," says Cicitto, transfixed by the British smile of Joe