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Glenn Clark's First Annual Summer Reading Guide

June 17, 2019
It's that time of year. School is wrapping up, summer vacations are underway, the NHL and NBA seasons have ended, baseball isn't a particularly pleasant distraction locally and as you sit outside working on your tan, you're looking for a decent book and about 14 beers to keep you company.

The good news? There's been a plethora of Baltimore sports-related books released in recent months that might make good company while you hang out at the pool because, "Seriously, why would I walk 200 feet to the beach and get sand in every crevice when there's a perfectly good pool with a bar right here, Marie?"

I've read these books for you to help you make your choices. So I present my "First Annual Summer Reading Guide." I have no idea if it will actually be annual or not. That's probably over-commitment on my part. And I know what you're thinking. "Wow Glenn, I honestly had no idea you could even read." Hilarious. I'm more than just hot takes and (Achy) Heart Breaks

I can't be the only person who, when informed of Cowherd's latest project, thought, "Is any one baseball game, strange as it may have been, really worthy of having an entire book written about it?" Of course, I should have known better. While "When The Crowd Didn't Roar" IS based around the April 28, 2015 Orioles-White Sox game when no fans were allowed at Camden Yards, the story goes far beyond that, diving into the circumstances that led up to and the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots. 

Worth Reading Because: First of all, it's a fantastic book about one of the oddest events in Baltimore sports history. The game might seem trite in light of the real-life drama unfolding in the city, but Cowherd doesn't hide from that. It's instead a recurring theme. I was also fascinated by the lengths the team went to make sure no one was at the game, including barring team employees and even National Guardsmen who were in town and on break. Despite that, a few people still managed to get in, including a certain Hall of Famer who just happened to be riding by the stadium on his bike that morning (and shows up later on in this guide as an author) and a blogger who was not credentialed for the game but got in and asked then-manager Buck Showalter a rather important question postgame. (Hear more from Cowherd in a May 30 Glenn Clark Radio interview HERE.)

"Lessons From Lenny: The Journey Beyond A Shooting Star," by Tony Massenburg and Walt Williams (released November 30, 2018)

What sets this book apart from past content about late Maryland basketball legend Len Bias -- including multiple books and the 2009 ESPN "30 For 30" documentary "Without Bias" -- is that it isn't necessarily a retelling of Bias' tragic story. Instead, the two former Maryland players actually START the book by discussing Bias' death, focusing more on how Bias' legacy impacted their own lives, Maryland basketball and the country as a whole, intertwining their own stories and feelings throughout the course of the book. 

Worth Reading Because: We often discuss how impactful it was that Williams decided to remain at Maryland despite the fallout within the program after Bias' death. I'm not sure that we understand that Williams' decision to be so committed to the school was largely BECAUSE of Bias' death. This was a particularly powerful excerpt:

"Losing Len Bias anchors me at Maryland. He made me proud of being from Maryland and turned the Terps into my basketball team. He lifted us to the height of admiration and his heartbreaking death at his moment of triumph caused the Terrapin Nation more anguish than any outsider can imagine. I decided the only way I could help to alleviate the inner pain and the public mourning was to create a new day by recreating excellence at the University of Maryland."

(Hear more from Williams in a December 19, 2018 Glenn Clark Radio interview HERE.)

In a way, "Just Show Up" is really a collection of advice from the Hall of Famer. Ripken explained in a Glenn Clark Radio interview May 31 that "we brought up stories that make a point, but the idea was to make it simple and make key points and just share the lessons that I learned in business and on the field." While the Aberdeen High School alum references stories from his baseball career, he also makes points that reflect on his post-baseball career.

Worth Reading Because: Frankly, when Ripken speaks, we should listen. But beyond that, I was particularly compelled by the book's third chapter, "Play Fair-Win Fair." I'm not sure Ripken would have been able to play for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. In the chapter, Ripken drives in his disdain for working around the rules, suggesting that in both sport and in life, just because something is legally allowed (a la the hidden ball trick), doesn't make it "fair." It's perhaps an existential crisis for some, but it's a fascinating discussion.

Snyder, a local author who later this year has another book coming out about the brief but glorious history of the CFL's Baltimore Stallions, went into painstaking detail to recreate just how things went so south so quickly for a franchise that went from World Series champions (1983) to starting a season 0-21, the worst start in modern history (1988) in less than five years.

Worth Reading Because: There's such irony in the timing of Snyder releasing this book now. In 30 years, there will be a group of young baseball fans who won't understand how the winningest team in the American League from 2012-2016 ended up producing the worst season in franchise history in 2018. Similarly, young Orioles fans now might not be able to fully grasp how the '88 team could be so bad despite having a pair of Hall of Famers (Ripken and first baseman Eddie Murray) on the team and in the prime of their careers. (Hear more from Snyder in an April 10 Glenn Clark Radio interview.)

Spoiler alert: You're not going to like the result of the 1969 World Series. 

Worth Reading Because: If you can see past the Orioles' stunning loss to the Mets 50 years ago, the Sparrows Point High School and University of Maryland alum has a compelling story to tell not only about that "Miracle Mets" team but also about being the epitome of the "every man" athlete who was just a .242 career hitter but made the biggest catch in franchise history in Game 4 and drove in the title-winning run in Game 5. (Hear more from Swoboda in a June 12 Glenn Clark Radio interview.)

"Mind And Matter: A Life In Math And Football," by John Urschel and Louisa Thomas (released May 14)

Everyone knows about Urschel, the former Ravens offensive lineman and actual math genius. But in this book, the Penn State alum paints a clearer picture of how much he truly loved both football and math, alternating chapters about those topics. If I'm being honest, some of the math concepts are at times difficult to comprehend, but presented in a way that gives you a clearer picture of what Urschel was experiencing. 

Worth Reading Because: Once again, it's a tremendous book. Cover to cover, I think it might have been the most fascinating of the group for me to read. Urschel's story is so compelling that you've probably forgotten he was ALSO at Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal and with the Ravens when the Ray Rice video went public. Both topics make appearances in the book (the Rice saga was particularly brief) but are minimal storylines. 

Most interesting for Ravens fans will be the way it presents the ultimate decision Urschel made to permanently step away from football. While most believe Urschel specifically retired because of fears about head injuries, it might not be that simple. As he explained in a Glenn Clark Radio interview May 15, "a lot of media outlets really wanted to paint a very binary cause-and-effect picture. This is not how decisions are usually made, at least especially for me. A lot of things are involved." 

Follow Glenn on Twitter @GlennClarkRadio