When you read Born Into Baseball, by Jim Campanis Jr., you feel as though you’re sitting in a bar with a former ballplayer listening to him tell old baseball stories. The book is written in a conversational style that keeps the reader engaged and entertained.
Campanis’ book is unique in that he shares stories from so many different perspectives. Campanis is the grandson of longtime Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis, and son of former Dodgers, Royals and Pirates catcher Jim Campanis, Sr. The author played baseball at USC, as well as six minor league seasons in the late 80s and early 90s. This allows Campanis to tell captivating stories he heard from his grandfather and father about legends such as Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, while also telling first hand stories about Reggie Jackson, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Vin Scully, and many other well-known baseball names.
Campanis describes what it’s like growing up in a baseball family, choosing what college to attend, playing in the NCAA baseball tournament, and experiencing the MLB draft. Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the book is when Campanis describes life in the minor leagues. Many of the stories sound like they came straight out of a Bull Durham sequel. The minor league tales are hilarious, but he also shares the many hardships that come with playing minor league ball, as well as the pleasures and difficulties of playing winter ball in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Another fascinating part of the book is when Campanis shares some of the secrets of how a catcher calls a game, frames pitches (he learned from the best, Bob Boone,) and how pitchers tip pitches. These stories are not only entertaining, but also educational for the baseball fanatic.
Campanis does not shy away from the controversy that surrounded his grandfather when he left the Dodgers after the infamous Nightline interview. He discusses the effects the event had on both him and his grandfather.
I highly recommend this book for both the casual fan and the more passionate baseball fan. As someone who has read many baseball books, Born Into Baseball kept me entertained, and taught me many new things about the game and the men who play it.
Brian M. Frank
The Herd Chronicles