Baseball. Tonight.

To tide you over until Opening Day (33 days and counting), a few books that have recently crossed my desk and are well worth paging through:

* Dan Valenti’s Under a Grapefruit Sun: Red Sox Spring Training a Quarter Century Ago, published by the good people over at Rounder Books, is a beaut: a sun-drunk photo album of afternoon idylls in Winter Haven back in the early 1980s.

Y’know, back when spring training wasn’t quite as frenzied as it is today. Those were simpler times, back when Yaz smoked and smiled, when Ted Williams gave Joe Rudi tips in the cage, when Jerry Remy wore a uniform, and when Eck’s mullet flowed long and free. Oh wait, it still sorta does that.

* Venturing a little further through the mists of time, there’s The 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox: Pandemonium on the Field, another Rounder book, edited by Bill Nowlin (who’s written more Red Sox-related books than anyone on the planet) and Dan Desrochers.

Like the shock that descended upon the Hub when it realized this 100-1 team could actually win the pennant, the book is BIG: 384 pages and at least a couple pounds, even though it’s a paperback. As is the case with all of Nowlin’s books, it’s exhaustively and exactingly researched, with lengthy essays on every pitcher, position player, coach, manager, and front office suit; stirring meditations on what that epochal season meant for Boston an beyond, and a treasure trove of unearthed photographs, the best of which are of that rapturous crowd storming the field of the lyric little bandbox, ripping down every souvenir they could grab, and raising Gentleman Jim Lonborg on their ecstatic shoulders. What a time it must have been. What say, 40 years on, we do it again?

* Finally, there’s Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits (St. Martin’s), in which Mr. David Americo Arias Ortiz — with a little help from Tony Massarotti — looks back on the triumphs and tragedies of his life so far, from the disappointments in Minnesota to his mother’s tragic death to his blinding apotheosis in Boston.

In fairness, I think it’s safe to say he got a lot of help from Massarotti: like most “as told to” books, this one reads like it was written by the newspaperman, not the athlete — even though Tony Mazz gamely interjects the occasional “dude” and “I’ll tell you what, bro” to give it more of that authentic voice. But that doesn’t make it any less of a fun read. How can you not love this man? I sure do. Sometimes maybe a little too much?

Speaking of as-told-to books, looks like Pete Golenbock, who penned that Johnny Damon bio, Idiot60 used and new available from $0.15! and has now followed his erstwhile subject to the Yankees, is gonna get that seamy Mickey Mantle book published after all.

"Mickey enters [Marilyn Monroe], going in nice and easy ..."

Ooh. I haven’t been this turned on since I looked at Coco Crisp’s PECOTA projections.

(But if you think that’s hot...*shudder*)

Moving on to more wholesome topics, here are a few more questions to occupy your time until things get rolling in KC.

Why does the Boston sports media suck so much? (Or does it?)

Will Japanese players start getting into Cooperstown?

Can Cooperstown save baseball?

Can we win the World Series again?

And oh yeah. One more thing to keep you going as February wanes and daylight savings time looms...

There’s a game tonight. Like, in barely more than an hour.

Schilling is throwing, Manny is smiling, the moon is shining, and all is right with the world.

It’s been a long, long winter.

This year, at long last, the Mayor’s Cup will be ours.

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