Many, if not most, people come to baseball because they played it or they watched it with someone in their family.
Me, I came to baseball through books. It was initially a movie that caught my attention, but that only led me to the novel that was the basis for the film. As soon as I could, I laid my hands on Bang The Drum Slowly. Only to find out it was the second of (then) three novels by Henry Wiggen, with grammatically housekeeping by Mark Harris.
I marveled at his treatment of language, his use of the vernacular that made the book so realistic. I had to read The Southpaw. Still marveling at his use of the American language, I paid attention to the works of baseball, an alien world then. I remember being surprised that a pitcher would every deliberately throw a ball rather than a pitch. My experience had always been that a ball was always just a bad throw.
Ticket For a Seam Stitch naturally came next, though it was a disappointing read, lacking the vitality of the first two books. Henry "Author" Wiggen eventually came out of retirement to please his youngest daughter in It Looked Like For Ever, another book that fell short of Author's, er Harris's first two volumes.
Mark Harris, Henry Wiggen, are in large part responsible for me becoming not only a baseball fan, but a baseball writer. My initial baseball novel ideas sprang from ideas that have long ago roots in the Mammoths. I have paid homage to various baseball writers, non-fiction as well as fiction, in my work, but I owe none of them as much as I owe to Harris. He taught me the game. Everything that followed built on that foundation.
I used to imagine sending him a letter written Wiggen-style to, I don't know, ask his blessing, thank him. As a fan, I am usually struck wordless, not a good thing for a writer. Sadly, Harris died of Alzheimer's in May 2007, particularly saddening for me knowing the disease as I do; my mother died after suffering nearly a decade with the disease, her sister has it was well.
Rambling around the 'net I stumbled across a wonderful homage to Harris at baseballtoaster. Kudos to the Author.