'Opus' captures the rich history of baseball

'Opus' captures the rich history of baseball

It is the most beautiful baseball book ever made.

Meet the Official Major League Baseball Opus Marquee Edition. It measures 20 inches square and weighs about 75 pounds, with 790 pages. There are fewer than 1,000 copies run so far, and you can have the only one signed by all members of the 2010 All-Star Game squads.

Bidding is under way until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday for this book at the MLB.com Auction, and it was up to $5,000 as of Monday. Proceeds benefit RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and Players Trust. "Opus" is also coming soon to the MLB.com Shop for everyone.

"Baseball's long and storied history is perfectly suited to being captured on such a massive scale," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, business, Major League Baseball. "We reached deep into our archives to find both iconic and obscure photos to tell the history of our National Pastime. This is truly a special collector's item and we are proud of the result."

One of the "Opus" editions is displayed in a lobby at MLB Advanced Media, and this reader turned over the heavy-stock pages in succession, mesmerized by the comprehensive trip through baseball history and the quality of its display. There is a four-page foldout display, dozens and dozens of classic baseball cards, maybe the ones you remember owning at some point, or the ones you wish you had right now. There is a serious "wow" factor with "Opus."

Pages 46-47 are a color rendering of Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J., for a game between the Mutual and Atlantic clubs, highlighting the sport's origins.

Pages 178-179 show a breathtaking 20-by-40-inch color panorama of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, shot from the press box and looking out over the yellow Roberto Clemente bridge and skyline.

Pages 198-99 are an overhead view of Babe Ruth in his prime, in road grays with white sleeves on a crisp October afternoon, following through with a mighty home run to right for the Yankees against the Cardinals in the 1926 Fall Classic at Sportsman's Park. You will find yourself just staring at this, time drifting by as you scrutinize The Bambino's simple black spikes dug into the dark soil as he pivots in the batter's box.

Page 457 shows them planting ivy on Wrigley Field walls in the 1930s.

One can imagine "Opus" being displayed in corporate lobbies, in large living spaces, somewhere beyond the typical coffee table. Many Major League players already have lined up for copies. It is vivid color with classic black-and-white from the game's past. It features approximately 1,000 photographs, including many hidden jewels from MLB's archives, accompanied by 110,000 words -- comprising classic excerpts from the memoirs of notable players and from the most classic works of literature the sport has ever seen. "Opus" also includes specially commissioned, exclusive features by industry-leading writers such as Roger Kahn, Robert Creamer, Steve Wulf, Tim Kurkjian and Jayson Stark.

Complementing the chronological narrative of "Opus" are interludes exploring baseball themes such as Spring Training, record streaks, ballparks, the World Series, pennant races and, of course, the All-Star Game. Dynamic photo essays showcasing the work of three of the finest sports photographers of all time -- Charles Conlon, Ozzie Sweet and Walter Iooss Jr. -- add to the visual feast.

The Official Major League Baseball Opus tells the epic story of baseball's heritage on a scale unmatched in the history of illustrated publishing.

Page 396 is a 20x20 inch color photo of a gaunt Ruth, leaning on his bat, wearing pinstripes during his final appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1948. Championship banners are draped in the background. Other players are grouped on the baselines as he stands for pictures.

Page 397 is his quote: "All ballplayers should quit when it starts to feel as if all the baselines run uphill."

If you love Babe Ruth, you will want the Opus. If you love anything about baseball, you will want the Opus.

Kahn provides the book's Foreword on page 32, and he wrote: "The history of baseball is, of course, part of American history." This book itself now becomes a part of it.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.