Rainout Book Review – New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History

Matthew Silverman’s New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History is a hefty work. I mean that in an entirely literal fashion – the thing is freaking huge. You’re sure as hell not bringing it on the subway with you. Amazon claims the shipping weight is about 3 pounds, but I suspect that figure was recorded on the Moon. The weight, however, is necessary: there are over 300 pictures packed inside, and the cover features a tab that, when pulled, changes the pictures visible in four windows the front cover. As the subtitle may imply, it is a sensory experience; it’s also a coffee table book.

That is not a disparaging comment. I know “coffee table book” can be used pejoratively, but there’s a real history of the Mets in this thing. (Also, I say this because it’s only going to fit on your coffee table.) All five decades of the team’s existence are covered, plus a ten page prologue about their prehistory, with far more than a cursory look taken at everything. As a younger Mets fan, there was a decent amount of information about the ’60s and ’70s teams that I found helpful. For example: Every spring training picture from the 1960s appears to be staged — I did not know that until picking up this book. One such image shows Tom Seaver, frozen mid-windup somewhere near second base, as his pitching coach and manager look on from about two feet away.

Serious question: Did they even play spring training games back then, or did the players just pose for a few awkward photos and then play golf for six weeks? Is this one of those moon landing things? The Cold War has been over for a while now, guys. You can tell me.

Though I learned new — well, old, but new to me — things about the Mets, The Complete Illustrated History isn’t exactly Herodotus or Halberstam. My favorite books, baseball or otherwise, aren’t the ones that recount what happened, but rather those that dig deeper into what it all means. That is not what this book does, but it’s also not what is intended. To put it in terms of the subtitle, it’s more history than illustrated, but not significantly more. Much of the appeal comes from the nostalgia — I loved the section on the late-90s Mets — and not necessarily the content in and of itself.

But again, it’s a coffee table book; it succeeds admirably in that aspect. The New York Mets: A Complete Illustrated History brings to life the goofy fun of fifty years of Mets baseball. It’s not going to change your life, but it is baseball for baseball’s sake, which is more than enough. If you feel overly pretentious putting art books on your coffee table, or if you’re looking for a gift for Mom or Dad, you might want to check this one out.


Filed under Mets, Words

4 responses to “Rainout Book Review – New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History

  1. Good use of the word pejoratively.


  3. Herodotus I know, but Halberstam?

    Anyway, my favorite Mets’ picture book is “Baseball’s Great Dynasties: The Mets” (yes, it’s part of a series) by Bill Gutman, published by Gallery Books/W.H.Smith Publishers Inc. It covers the team fairly completely from inception through the 1990 season and has a couple of pages of achievements in the back. Believe me, this one won’t give you a hernia, but it is fairly informative, and most of the photos I’ve never seen anywhere else.

    My favorite non-picture book is Leonard Koppett’s “The New York Mets: The Whole Story” from Macmillan/Information Concepts., which in fact does have 64 pages of small black-and-white photos. It also has ‘150 pages of records: the team, every player, each season’, from the Dodgers and Giants decamping through the 1969 World Series. There’s a revised edition that carries the team through 1973, and if you find it, please buy an extra copy for me.

    • Patrick Flood

      David Halberstam! “Summer of ’49” is his big baseball one, but also wrote “Breaks of the Game.” Probably more famous for his non-sports journalism, of course.

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