McFarland is a True Friend of the Baseball Reader


I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog.  That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late.  I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not.  But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at.  Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books.  While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis.  Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception.  These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.

From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered.  Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.

Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published.  How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t.  McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market.  For baseball readers this should be an item of importance.  I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.

I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care.  They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored.  Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.

You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game.  It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.

Happy Reading

Gregg

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A Little Bit of Everything


As you all know I don’t get as much time to devote to writing on here as I would like.  The responsibilities of everyday life have obviously gotten in the way and brought many thoughts of writing a post to a screeching halt.  I will say that just because the blog posts stop, it does not mean that I am not off reading somewhere in the shadows.  I get many books finished I just can never find the time to post the results on here.  Because of that, it has led me to do these things I don’t like to do, but honestly something is better than nothing.  I of course am talking about a multi book review.  I feel when I do these I don’t give each book the time it deserves, but honestly for the authors it is better than waiting two or three years for me to get it done. One thing can be said for these books though, they have been read and overall I would recommend them to the readers.  I try to keep it positive on here and if I find a book I don’t think anyone could find something positive in I steer away from it.  So every time you see one of these reviews from the beginning remember that they are all worthwhile books to check out.  So without further delay……….

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Brian Wright takes a cold hard look at the Mets through the ages with this one.  You have seen books on teams that show the highs of team history, the 50 greatest players and countless other positive bits on your favorite team.  Now while this book does those positive types of things it also takes a realistic look at team history and shows it warts and all.  Villains, losses, busts and worst trades ever are just a few of the things the author touches on.  It really gives a rounded look at the team history and gives an accurate portrayal of what the complete Mets team history really is.  Well worth checking out.

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To me before the 2016 World Series I did not think of David Ross as a household name.  Well I guess after that series, he is now.  This one was published just in time to cash in on the popularity of that series and the Cubs finally breaking through.  It’s a nice look at his life and the inside workings of a baseball life, but there is a downside.  You really have to be a hardcore David Ross fan to get your moneys worth.  It’s that way with most biographies but I think this one may need it just a little more than some of the others.

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I always enjoy new to me books about  Negro Leaguers.  There is so much history from that League that is lost to the passing of time that it is enjoyable to learn some new information.  Westcott as always, does not disappoint in this one.  I enjoy his writing style and he has done a great job of showcasing and almost forgotten piece of history that take you to so many places you never expected to go.  These stories need to be saved for generations to come.

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The late 60’s were a very pivotal time in both baseball and America.  We look back on that era with great reverence and spend a lot of time dissecting events of the day and what the outcomes were.  1967 is no stranger to being under that magnifying glass and this book is no exception.  It looks at what possibly may be the last true era of pure baseball.  Many books have been written about this year and the Red Sox and Cardinals in particular, but every one has put its own spin on the events.  If you have an interest in this period, then you should check this out because perspective is in the eye of the beholder or in this case the author.

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Not the first of its kind and I am sure not the last this one takes on the mental aspects of the game.  How a player has to prepare and how the mental aspects effect the game and its outcome.  I am not sure how many different spins we can get on these things as this is the second one I have read in as many months but they for now are still entertaining.  It may be one of those things that each era has a different approach to the game but as of yet, I haven’t got the answer to that.  It also leads me back to my previous of question of who needs a book.

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With Fathers Day right around the corner this is a timely book.  It takes a look at the relationship of a son and father and growing up around the love of your family and a mutual love of a baseball team.  It shows one of the many things that were better way back when and how this is one of the more important things that is missing n today’s world.  I could relate to this one we me and my own Dad and a love of the Phillies growing up.  worth checking out because it may bring back some great memories for the reader, like it did me.

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This is another strike while the Cubs iron is hot book.  While I am not totally sold on the Cubs becoming a Dynasty at this point, it is an interesting look at what their plan is and I assume what it still is going forward.  Other teams to some degree are following the same plan, so twenty years from now it will be interesting to see how the plans all worked out for the teams.  Love him or hate him, Theo Epstein has had a hot hand for many years, so Cubs fans will really enjoy this one.

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Hoping in the way back machine we take a look at a time in Boston where baseball was king.  To major League teams in opposing leagues fighting for the hearts of its many dedicated fans.  The fight was the same for many cities across the country for those fans.  Places like Philadelphia, St Louis and New York all had to fight and the outcome was the same as Boston, the loss of a team.  But this takes a good look at the competition was like and how hard it was to compete with a cross town rival.

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The Yankee Clipper hasn’t played a game in over 65 years and been gone from this Earth for almost 20 years, yet we still find him fascinating.  This book is another look at an outsider who to some degree broke through to the inner circle of DiMaggio’s life.  It is another look at his life and his persona from one of the few who somewhat knew him, because honestly did anyone really know him.  Take it for what its worth, as with all DiMaggio books it is hard to verify all the stories but it may be worth your time.

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Nearly half a century later and countless books about them you would think there would be no more stories to tell.  Luckily for readers there is more and this book offers just that.  Some of the stories are recycled but Jason Turbow puts his own spin on telling them, so it keeps it interesting.  They may still be relevant all these years later because we may never see another team like them.  From the roster, to the uniforms, the owner, the antics and of course the back to back to back Championships, its a feat that is near impossible to replicate in todays game.  Quite honestly in anther half century we may still be talking about them, so check this one out.

Hopefully this list jumpstarts some folks to new reading.  Its a varied list with some great new options so there should be at least something for everyone.  All these books are available on Amazon, or if you don’t like dealing with the evil empire you can get them direct from the publishers as well.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

Who Gets a Book-Part II


I asked this question on another post recently and received a litany of great answers.  I am well aware that there really is no criteria to who gets a book, but each of us has their own criteria of what really merits a book.  I for one am not here to pass along my thoughts on the subject because each of us has different views and it becomes a personal choice more than anything else.  I found two books recently that come from two ends of the spectrum on the field, but give the reader a very similar product in the end.

Ralph Mauriello and Ron Fairly have several things in common.  Most notably they are both Dodgers Alumni, and I have noticed the feeling of once a Dodger, always a Dodger.  But their careers took very different paths throughout the years.  While Mauriello had a short stint with the Major League team, he spent the majority of his playing years toiling in the minors, while Fairly put a couple of decades at the big league level with a few different stops around the league.  Now with such different playing careers and reaching different levels of success you would thing the end resulting books of their lives would be wildly different.  I am glad to say that could not be further from the truth.

Now that is not to say that both books are mirror images, but there are certain important qualities that shine through.  They both share their life and career experiences for the reader which helps give a well-rounded view of what they offered on the field.  This comes in especially helpful those readers that may not have been around during their playing days, it paints a picture in your mind of what baseball was like for each author as they made their way along their unique journey.  Both books also illustrate what great men both players were, the humility they had, both on and off the field and the honor it was for both of them to be part of the game they loved.  Family is also an important factor in both men’s lives and it is showcased very clearly in both books.  Finally, both books show what life is like after you are off the field.  While both men have taken very different paths in life you can see the underlying love of the game and the immense pride they both had to be on that field.

When I asked the who deserves a book question previously I thought I had a better handle on the answer .  Today I realize if you have a story to tell, no matter what their contribution to the game was, it’s a story worth telling.  It’s up to the readers to decide which stories that they want to read and what they find worthy of their time.  If it is a 20 year veteran or a cup of coffe player, they still have a lot to offer the readers.   For my money these both books make the cut.

If you like the Dodgers and the early years of California baseball, along with a spattering of stories about celebrities and baseball royalty then these books would be for you.  They both tell great stories throughout flow very nicely and you get two different views of the Once a Dodger Always a Dodger tag.

You can get these great books at the following links:

Ralph Mauriello

Ron Fairly

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Odds & Ends-Spring 2018 Edition


As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away.  I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out.  The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.

 

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Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books.  It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront.  I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader.  If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out.  You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

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Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said.  It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them.  Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan.  It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically.  For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out.  It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it.  You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

 

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There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past.  For my money, this one is the best of the bunch.  It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella.  It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused.  It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches.  He is telling it like he sees it at this point.  Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all.  If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet.  Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.

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If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book.  1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era.  It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained.  Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history.  For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened.  If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about.   For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.

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Where would the game be without the Sportswriters.  They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field.  Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about.  Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before.  You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.

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McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category.  Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print.  Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy.  Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.

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Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception.  Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again.  This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well.  It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times.  You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.

So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.

Happy Reading and Go Phillies!

Gregg


 

Who Deserves a Book?


It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time.  Which players really deserve a book?  What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question?  To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered.  Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell.  It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time.  With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from.  For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before.  Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.

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If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away.  That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys.  It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes.   Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed.  He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.

Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball.  You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling.  You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade.  Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher.  It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.

Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level.  Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade.  While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.

One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field.  He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment.  How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more.  Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this.  It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.

If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out.  It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to.  It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways.  So I ask again……….Who deserves a book?  Many more people than you would originally think.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing

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Happy Reading Gregg

 

There’s No Place Like Home


When a team changes cities it is a daunting process.  Ownership has to make sure it crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s to make sure everything will be to their, and more importantly their fans liking.  No where as near as common place as it once was, team transfers can be a great thing for those involved.  New stadiums, new fan base, a whole new chance to invent yourself and the financial rewards usually aren’t too bad either.  That is just what the New York giants were hoping for with their move to San Francisco.  A shiny new stadium to call home accompanied with lots of parking spaces for ownership to sell each night helped sell them on their new locale.  But sometimes all is not what you hope it will be, and todays book takes a look at the Giants move to California and good or bad, depending on where you stood, their new Home Sweet Home.

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We are all well aware of the story of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles and their conquering of the Southern California market.  Sometimes lost in that great shadow is the Giants, who abandoned the Polo Grounds and the city of New York at the exact same time to help usher in baseball across the continent.  Walter O’Malley was larger than life at times and in that shadow one can understand how Horace Stoneham may have fallen by the wayside.  So with that, it easy to forget the history of the Giants during the first years in California.  Luckily for us this book shows us what it took to get the Giants in place in San Fran and the hopes ownership had for the new frontier.

Robert Garrett does a good job of giving us the background of the team in New York and the situation it found itself in during the late 50’s.  From stadium woes to the personality of Horace Stoneham you get a pretty good feel of what it was like for the team during their waning days in New York.  He shows the courtship of the Giants by a new city and the promises bestowed by the local government, the biggest of all being a new stadium.

Stoneham had a somewhat of a hands off approach to his new stadium as the book shows and it in turn came to bite him in the butt.  Candlestick Park had its own set of issues that are well chronicled in the book which in turn snowballed, enough so that it would essentially destroy many of the dreams of what Stoneham had for this new venture.  In the end it is one of the driving factors that ends the Stoneham ownership of the team.

Next we look at the struggles to find new ownership and the quest to keep the Giants in San Francisco less than twenty years after the had arrived.  Once new ownership was found you see the same struggles of old ownership with the albatross of Candlestick still dangling around its neck.  It shows an interesting look at how baseball operated in regards to stadiums, success at the gate and play on the field.  You see how the Giants, except for a few years as a whole, struggled while they called Candlestick home.  It’s also shown how the people of San Fran really didn’t care if they ever got out of there.

Finally, you see a final change on ownership that get the Giants to a new frontier and a stadium worthwhile of Major League Baseball and the success that comes with that type of arena.   I honestly think this book is a great look at this era of Giants baseball, no matter how bad it was on the field.  It’s a portion of team history that gets overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers moving at the same time, the expansion of baseball and the evolving changes that were going on in both baseball and society.  It proves some dreams take longer than others to come to fruition.

If you have an interest in California baseball during this era this book is definitely worth checking out.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

Home Team-The Turbulent History of the S.F. Giants

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping a Lost Franchise Alive


Every once in a while in baseball we lose a team.  Good or bad, there are lots of reasons why this usually happens.  Most recently over a decade ago, the Montreal Expos disappeared from the baseball landscape and some folks are rightfully so, still up in arms about it.  The longer a team is gone, the more time marches on and the more that team inevitably slips from memory.  I have witnessed this first hand in my area with the Philadelphia Athletics Historical society.  The people who saw them play first hand aged and passed on and the memories and interest faded despite folks best efforts.

The St Louis Browns have been gone for over 60 years now and probably most of the people who had seen them first hand have passed on at this point.  So more than likely, other than the hard-core baseball fans, people don’t have as much of an interest in the team or its history.  Today I have a book that does a very nice job of introducing a new wave of fans to a team of yesteryear and hopefully help keep their legacy alive.

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The St. Louis Browns were in a tough spot.  Fighting for fans loyalty in a baseball crazy town with the Cardinals was no easy task.  In the end we all know how it worked out, the left St Louis and pitched their new tent in Baltimore with a brand new name.  They were not always the door mats of baseball as some would have you believe.  There were plenty of good times in the early years, but in the end the battle with the Cardinals for supremacy just became too much.

This book is a great look into those wonder years in St Louis.  It takes an in-depth look at the teams roots, its early success and its fights for league supremacy.  It is a great learning tool for those that are not familiar with their history or the people who wore the uniform through the years.

The Browns were more than just Bill Veeck and his ahead of the curve promotions.  More than just an aging ballpark, more than tiny batters and all those things everyone is familiar with.  For the new generation of baseball fans this is huge opportunity to learn about a team that has fallen from the landscape but never from the fabric of the game.  If we as the generations of fans, post Browns baseball do not take the time to learn about them now, then we risk losing them to the passage of time.   This has happened to other teams throughout history and I would for one be very sad to see this happen to the Browns and their storied past.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Reedy Press

Happy Reading

Gregg