Shelf Obsession: Kees Wijdekop

wijdekop2.jpgYou’ve been invited round to dinner at someone’s home. Your host is busy in the kitchen and you wait in the living room. What do you do to pass the time? Admit it: you snoop around their bookshelves don’t you? We know you love shelf snooping just as much as we do, and now you can check out all sorts of bookshelves via the ABC blog.

If you’d like to show off your shelves, e-mail If we use your bookcase, we’ll give you a ten euro American Book Center gift voucher

ABC snoops around Kees Wijdekop’s bookshelves

Kees Wijdekop is a sports fan. And he loves baseball. But he’s not just a regular baseball fan: in 1973 he was a pitcher for the Dutch baseball team in the World Cup in Cuba!

I started to play baseball when I was twelve, now 49 years ago. It was the right game for me because I could better throw a baseball than kick a football!

Back then, in the Netherlands, baseball,  for some reason was a game of defence. Seventy percent of the time we practised throwing, catching and fielding the ball: it was important to keep the other team from scoring runs. I was a pitcher, maybe because the ultimate wish of a white man is pitching the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series and striking out the side, while the ultimate wish of a black man is hitting a game winning-home-run in the ninth inning of that game. How do I know this? Well, after my playing days were over, I started reading about baseball and I read these facts in one of the over 90 baseball books I possess.

Thousands of books have been written on baseball, most of them only interesting for the hardcore fans. But there are very fine and accessible ones, too.

I’ve displayed five interesting titles on my bookcase:


On the left is Spalding’s World Tour by Mark Lamster. In 1888 twenty of the game’s greatest players made a trip around the globe. Their mission: to bring baseball, and with it the American way, to the four corners of the world. How about that!

Next to this book is the most well-written biography ever of a baseball player: Cobb. The life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball by Al Stump . Cobb was so hated that “….the funeral of the most shrewd, inventive, lurid, detested, mysterious, and superb of all baseball players went unattended by any official representative of the game at which he excelled”.

Then The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball by Roberto González Echevarría. The Americans perhaps invented the game, but they are not dominant any more! In all Latin America baseball is played on a very high level and each Major League team has some Latin players on the roster.

Baseball used to be just a game, but nowadays it is a business too. Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball, a revolutionary look at the way the game has changed. And at the far left you can see Juiced by José Canseco, a book about baseball stars taking steroids and cheating the fans.

I am a fan too, and of course I am disappointed about all this cheating as well. But I must be honest: I do long for the new season to start. Nowadays you can even watch the spring training games from the Netherlands if you’ve got NASN on your cable. Every baseball fan likes that atmosphere: a new spring that brings new hopes and makes everything seem possible – not only on the playing field, but also in your own life!


5 Responses to “Shelf Obsession: Kees Wijdekop”

  1. Teun Sceltema says:

    Hoi Kees,

    Als het goed is heb jij op de De Bazelschool gezeten. Een zekere Ineke wil bij de reunie op 22 mei 2010 alle klasgenoten bij een zoeken. Er zijn vele gevonden, maar jij nog niet. Zou je mij of Ineke een e-mail willen sturen zodat we contact kunnen maken?
    Mijn e-mail adres is

    Ik hoop dat het allemaal lukt.

    Groet van Teun Scheltema

  2. fjbnheipsssf says:


    Anyway, you should do your best ;)

  3. Kees Wijdekop says:

    Hi Sophie,

    My copy of “The glory of their times” has a prominent place on the topshelf. In this book you can read about the cultural and social developments during the early 1900s in the USA. It is next to a recent book I read: “1941, the greatest year in sports”by Mike Vaccaro
    (Doubleday 2007), a book I would like to recommend too. Good sports books are not just about sports. In 1941 baseball legends , boxing champs and a race horse made history in the shadow of war. Athletes like Joe Dimaggio, Ted Williams and Joe Louis were almost every day on the front pages of the papers. People loved to read about them because:
    “You read the sports section a lot because you were afraid of what you’d see in other parts of the paper”(Phil Rizzuto).
    In this book I learned a lot about the peacetime military conscription. It was a lottery! On October 29 1941 secretary of war Stimson plucked blindfolded the first capsule from a fishbowl and 16 million young men around the country waited to see when their serial number would emerge, and where they would stand on the list of imminent inductees. A star like Hank Greenberg soon had to trade his $50,000 annual salary for the $21 monthly stipend provided a buck private. Interesting!


  4. Sophie says:

    But where is your copy of The Glory of Their Times! I thought it would have pride of place since you reviewed it. :-)
    Are all the books on the top shelf on baseball too?

  5. Femke says:

    Hi Kees,

    Thank you for letting us snoop around your baseball bookshelves and for sharing your “insiders tips” with us!