For true baseball-niks, the discussions of these issues won't be especially enlightening. With so many former athletes now in the broadcast booth, the unwritten rules of the game get a pretty regular airing…But the stories the authors have unearthed to illustrate ballpark justice and morality are often delicious.
The New York Times
Nearly as long as baseball has existed in its current form, so too have unofficial rules that professional players have strictly adhered to. Yet as Turnbow demonstrates in this highly entertaining read, every rule of the code has certain variations. Most casual baseball fans are keenly aware of many topics that Turnbow broaches, and some are universally agreed upon—hitters admiring home runs is severely frowned on, as is arguing with one’s manager in public view and being caught stealing signs. But other rules are less cut-and-dried. On the subject of retaliating for a teammate being hit by a pitch: some believe the pitcher should be plunked in his next at-bat, while others say it should be a player with corresponding talent to the hit batter. Turnbow has an example for nearly every conceivable situation, and with quotes from dozens of former major league players, managers, and broadcasters, the reader can better understand the actions that can set off even the most even-tempered ball player. It’s a comprehensive, sometimes hilarious guide to perhaps a misunderstood aspect of our national pastime, and will come in handy should one ever be involved in a beanball war. (Mar.)
Baseball's official rules can confuse. What about the unwritten codes of play? They're a harsher set of principles, lacking the charm or eccentric appeal of the official ones. We know some of these, e.g., never rub the spot where you've been hit by a pitch. Turbow and Duca explain the evolution of these codes, with violations often unforgotten and unforgiven by the opposing team. Remember when Rickey Henderson stole second late in a game when his team was ahead 12-5, and he wasn't being held to the bag? A cheap steal for his stats. Code violation. While there are traces of folklore and fair play here, much of this code culture simply comes across as disheartening aggression. But if you like to study these realities of the game, this will appeal.
"Delicious . . . Entertaining . . . The Baseball Codes reads like a lab report by a psychologist who has been observing hostile toddlers whack one another with plastic shovels in a sandbox."
—Bruce Weber, The New York Times Book Review
“A frankly incredible book—a history and analysis of baseball’s insular culture of unwritten rules, protocols and superstitions, assembled over the course of ten years . . . I can say without hesitation that this is one of the all-time greats—a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”
—Glenn McDonald, NPR
“If baseball players adhere to a series of informal doctrines, then consider Turbow the ultimate code breaker . . . Turbow pulls back the curtain and breaks through the game’s shroud of secrecy to deliver a grand slam of a book.”
—Mike Householder, Associated Press
“A remarkably well researched book, filled with intricate details of plays from the past 100 years.”
—Larry Getlen, New York Post
“Turbow and Duca have filled a void with this entertaining, revealing survey of the varied, sometimes inscrutable unwritten rules that govern the way baseball is played by the pros.”
“A highly entertaining read . . . A comprehensive, sometimes hilarious guide to perhaps a misunderstood aspect of our national pastime.”