Book Review: The Baseball Book of Why

by Fred Hofstetter on July 25, 2021

The meandering baseball trivia you'll pick up from this volume will make you crack a smile. Plop this on the tank of your toilet for bathroom break reading.

The Baseball Book of Why Book Review

A fun, random, rapidfire attack of baseball trivia.

The Baseball Book of Why: The Answers to Questions You've Always Wondered About from America's National Pastime

by John McCollister

The Baseball Book of Why: The Answers to Questions You've Always Wondered About from America's National Pastime

A perfect gift idea for your baseball fan friends and family.

Buy on Amazon

A book full of nuggets, facts and curiosities - of which make the game of baseball so endearing.

Recall watching baseball with someone who knows next to nothing about baseball. Sometimes it’s a Herculean effort to stifle laughter in response to the inquiries blurted from their faces. You stifle, because you prefer the person who’s quicker to ask the stupid question than be satisfied in their ignorance. And every once in a while they’ll throw one at you that you can’t even explain, because you’ve probably never really tried to explain baseball before.

John McCollister’s The Baseball Book of Why is a Q&A format book featuring a mix of those kinds of questions and others even long-time baseball fans may have never thought about before. It’s a rapidfire approach, with each question generally met with a 1-2 page answer.  

I’m not sure if this is the best book for really hardcore baseball fans (especially the avid readers and historian types), but it’s a great little volume for casual fans, or even the non-fan innocent-question-askers who probably have all sorts of questions about the game they’ve never even thought to consciously ask. 

I’m a notch beyond casual fan, and I still learned a lot of little things I’d never known from this book. Baseball sprawls too far for any individual to see all of it, and McCollister’s book is a delightful little reference for your baseball library.

"This book provides detailed answers to nearly 100 questions concerning the traditions, rules, and history of the national pastime. It addresses questions about hitting, pitching, fielding, base running, managing, scouting, and ownership that vex even the most ardent fans of the game."

How readable?

This is a very easy read, and even a great book for young kids (there’s no swearing or really heavy themes you need to worry about here). The writing is really simple and straightforward, and you can read this in a single sitting if you really want to. Although I wouldn’t recommend that. I think this is meant to be read a few minutes at a time when you’ve got 5-10 minutes to kill and want to enjoy yourself.

It’s not insult to exclude this from the category of baseball literature a la something like The Boys of Summer. McCollister’s compilation is light, approachable and great for all reading levels. If you’re looking to get sucked into a deep narrative for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, this isn’t what you’re looking for. This book is a break from that kind of thing.

My favorite part.

The huh, I didn’t know that reaction I had every 5 pages or so.

I will say McCollister takes some liberties with the format. He promises answers to questions you’ve always wondered about, which very often is true – but there are many instances where he reverse engineers a question based on a really specific fact no one has ever really asked about in question form. A few examples:

  • Why is it difficult for even the most loyal fan to distinguish exactly which players are on the field on April 15?
  • Why did the 1895 Pittsburgh Pirates employ an unorthodox version of the hidden ball trick?
  • Why was a nineteenth-century umpire discharged from Major League Baseball?
  • Why did Don Larsen come close to not pitching the greatest game in the history of the world series?

I think he does it on purpose in a tongue-and-cheek way to force the issue so he can tell you about something cool. I was grimacing a little at first as this can make you stumble a bit, but eventually embraced it as a stylistic approach that gives this book a dash of charm.


This is a delightful read full of fast baseball facts and curiosities. The comfortable near-Googling-style format makes for a fast, clear read where you learn a lot in a little bit of time. This is full of hey, did you know… future conversation starters where you can impress your baseball fan friends with your deep knowledge of baseball lore. Without having to work too hard :). I really enjoyed it, and I bet you will too.

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