It took me a long time to make my way through D.B. Firstman’s Hall of Name. Some of that was on me, I procured a copy just as I was in the middle of reading a mammoth critical care textbook in preparation for a soon to be COVID canceled CCEMT-P class. By the time I finished that 1,000-page monstrosity I moved back to Hall of Name but the going was slow as I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the book. Having finished it I now have a much better idea of what to make of it, though, I’m not sure I enjoyed it for the reason that the author intended.
At its core Hall of Name is a book about names. The author is a wordsmith, or I guess for lack of a better term on my part someone who is fascinated by word structure and play, especially in names. They presented Hall of Name as a book about interesting baseball names and while it is that it ended up being something much different for me. Upon returning to the book I found myself not caring much for the hook of the book. Sure, Rocky Cherry is an interesting name but the actual etymology of Rocky Cherry didn’t interest me much nor did any of the anagrams his name could provide. These aspects no doubt interested the author and they will interest plenty of readers. For me, that aspect of the book was more of a dud than anything else, but an aspect of a book failing to connect with me personally does not mean the book in question is not worthwhile.
If the main hook of the book for the author was the names, for me it ended up being the information that surrounded the players presented within. While the name definitions and anagrams failed to connect with me, the career breakdowns and ephemera did not fail. In that regard, D.B. presented a complete page-turner. As soon as I realized that the book was chock full of interesting stories and facts I found myself moving through its pages in a much more expedient fashion. Each new player represented more information to discover, another new journey to undertake in my neverending quest to know as much about baseball as I possibly can.
Hall of Name is a book that gets it right when it comes to the amount of information it provides on every player it profiles. Enough is offered so that one gets a general idea of both the player and the person. The truth is that there are simply too many baseball players who have done too many interesting things throughout the history of baseball for any of us to learn about them all. That’s where a book like Hall of Name comes in handy, it doesn’t offer the world but it does offer glimpses into players we otherwise might not have discovered. I loved every one of those glimpses and it made the name definition/anagram portions of the book more palatable.
Books are a funny thing. They aren’t always read for the right reasons or at the very least they don’t end up being enjoyed or disliked for reasons that the author intended. Reading a book is a personal matter, one that can lead to any number of changes between intention and interpretation. That’s why my ultimate recommendation is to snag a copy of Hall of Name and give the book some time in your reading plans. I may not have enjoyed Hall of Name for any of the word play that is the foundation of the book. However, I did greatly enjoy the historical abstracts and trips into the lives of these players. I have a feeling any baseball fan will enjoy that aspect of Hall of Name.
Lead image courtesy of Tim Godden – D.B. Firstman Publishing