Diamond Dreams: Thirty Years of Baseball Through the Lens of Walter Iooss

Baseball lends itself to nostalgic contemplation probably better than any other major league sport. Its players seem in retrospect like cult musicians from the golden age of jazz, complete with funky nicknames like "Pops," "Yaz," and "Eck." Maybe these aren't as elegant as "Bird" or "Trane," but to a true fan they carry the same choice familiarity. Diamond Dreams celebrates the legend of baseball with this kind of reverence and appreciation.

Walter Iooss, a Sports Illustrated photographer for over 30 years, captures what he calls in his introduction "a thread that has connected the various stages of my life, as well as my photographic career... baseball." As Iooss also says, "every shot has a story," and these photos of the absolute greats in the history of the game such as Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey, Jr. and many others provide glimpses of heroes in action as well as often intimate portraits of self-appointed gods and humble team players. Washington Post-based syndicated columnist Tom Boswell's accompanying prose adds an extra dimension every bit as revealing and poignant as the Iooss pictures. He bares tales from his own experience and observations over many years of following the game firsthand in the dugout trenches. In one passage he describes a scene he witnessed where then 45-year-old Sandy Koufax, working as a Dodger pitching coach, pitched "off the rubber" in a batting practice 45 minutes before a World Series game and threw so perfectly he almost destroyed "the confidence of the heart of the Dodger batting order" before another Dodger coach ran up and whispered something in his ear to end the session. Moments like this captured in both the photographs and the text, make Diamond Dreams a truly worthwhile book for anyone who might be what Boswell refers to as a "good baseball fan." --Walt Opie