Category: American League

Lyman Bostock-The Inspiring Life and Tragic Death of a Ballplayer


Life can be cruel and that’s a fact.   It can offer us so much opportunity and promise and in one blink of an eye it can all be gone.  We see it time and time again in baseball, but a lot of the time it is due to injury.  When it is due to the loss of life, baseball as a game becomes unimportant and we learn how much we actually care about the people who play the game on a whole different level.  Lyman Bostock is one case where we were left to ask what if.  A career cut short due to his untimely murder, which was full of promise and unlimited potential.  For me, Bostock’s story was always one that left me wondering about the details surrounding his untimely demise, but now we have a book to help us all fill in the blanks.

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By:K. Adam Powell-2017

When you stop and take a look at Lyman Bostock’s career numbers, one has to admit this guy was the real deal.  He was always in contention for batting titles, was always improving his game and based on the small career sampling size, if he had kept up that pace would easily have been a Hall of Famer.  But we all know how his career was cut short and left us with that void in Lyman’s story.  Today’s book looks at his life and career and shows the reader the story of the man and promise wasted.

Powell’s book takes a look at Bostock’s meager upbringing in California and how he worked his way up through the ranks of High School and College baseball, through the minor leagues and eventually to the Major Leagues.  It shows a story of perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles.  It also shares the story of how Lyman Bostock’s father who in his own right was a Negro League star, was not much of an influence in his childhood or his rise to stardom.

The book looks at his first stop in the majors with Minnesota with the Twins and the bond he created with teammates and the lessons he learned from teammate Rod Carew on how to become a better hitter.  It also shows the negative side of the relationship with Twins management that came to head with Lyman leaving town.  It is a period of great growth for Bostock as a player and it showed how he was always looking for a way to improve his game by listening to teammates and heading their advice.  You learn about Bostocks love of his family during this period and how whenever he had the chance he would seize the opportunity to spend time with them.  It was this love of family that played into his untimely demise.

After signing with the Angels and not living up to the expectations, you learn what kind of fabric Lyman was really made of.  After essentially flopping his first month with the team he gave his salary to charity.  It was acts like this and his anonymous other charitable gestures that show what a cool guy he really was.

A very important aspect of this book, shows the reader all of the details leading up to Lymans final moments.  The readers get all the details of the who, what, when, why and where of that fateful night.  It filled in a lot of the blanks in the story for me and put to rest any doubts of what a stand up guy Lyman Bostock really was from beginning until the end.

Powell did a great job of sharingBostock’s story which I feel has been a very overlooked or forgotten subject.  His time in both life and baseball were very short, but his impact was much greater beyond his years.  Check this book out, I don’t think anyone who puts the effort into reading this will regret it.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield

Lyman Bostock

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Baseball’s Fallen Angel


I easily admit that my favorite genre of baseball books are the biographies.  They help show the real person behind the player’s public image and sometimes allows fans to get an inside scoop on some events.  On the other hand some of the biographies are ghost-written, self-serving and are just a ploy to both increase popularity and pocket a few extra bucks.  Thankfully for readers, those books are usually evident before you ever make the mistake of buying them.  Readers should also be grateful to find books like today’s autobiography, because it shows the human side of a player, flaws and all, and does not sugar coat anything.

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By:Eli Grba & Doug Williams-2016

Now we all know Eli Grba did not have a Hall of Fame baseball career by any measure but he this book shows that he is a Hall of Fame caliber person.  He had a well known problem with alcohol during his playing days and subsequent years and that honestly is just the tip of the iceberg in this compelling life story.

Eli Grba walks the readers through his entire life story in this book.  From his upbringing and his time labeled as a troubled youth and the multiple problems associated with that tag to the his showing promise as a stud pitcher.  You see the highs and lows of his life through all of its stages and it shows his true human side.  It also shows the love he had for his family, especially his mother, and how he has realized later in life the trouble and pain he has caused for those who loved him.

Grba also walks the readers through his rise through the baseball ranks and his eventual arrival to the majors.  He shows us the troubles he had along the way and how alcohol was the usually the underlying theme to these issues. He also shows us how in the end, alcohol derailed his promising career and how except for a few highlights it was talent wasted.

This book is a great look at a player who has come to terms with his demons and admirably overcome them and made his life better for both himself and those around him.  He talks extensively about his mother and the closeness they had and now realizes the pain he caused her over the years.  Throughout the book Eli is very honest with the readers and pulls no punches about his faults and failures along the way.  It is refreshing in this day and age to say anyone take responsibility for their actions, but it is even more eye opening to see a former professional athlete do it .

This is a great book for baseball fans to read.  It sheds a bright light on both Eli Grba’s life and career and shows how he was able to beat those demons.  Both Eli and co-author Doug Williams have made this a great story to read and a book that many people will not be able to put down.  It is one of those books that people dealing with the same types of problems will be able to relate to and in the end be able to take something from it that will help them with their own struggles.

Take a look around on social media sites because you can get autographed copies direct from Eli Grba as well as getting it from the standard on-line retailers.

Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed, because the first angel has written a first rate book.

Happy Reading

Gregg

McFarland-Never Ones to Shy Away from Obscurity


In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche.  Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game.  McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game.  The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would.  It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there.  They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.

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By: William A. Cook-2016

Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days.  Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career.  Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball.  He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB.  The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league.  He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.

Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed.  Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days.  The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making.  Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.

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I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book.  George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years.  He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team.  There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering.  This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.

It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze.  This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era.  This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.

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By:Jorge Iber-2016

Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish?  Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it.  Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young.  All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.

This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step.  Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career.  Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject.  Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books.  If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out.  70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.

Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Wonder Boy – The Story of Carl Scheib


In my opinion, the arena of Baseball books is in no way an exact science.  There is no rhyme or reason as to what person an author chooses to write about, or which players decide I want to write my own book.  It leaves readers with endless choices and multiple avenues to pursue their favorite subjects.  With all of these choices,  readers may get led down a road that they will regret in the end.  As I have always said, nobody wants to waste time on a bad book.  I wonder which side of the fence today’s book falls into?

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By:Lawrence Knorr-2016

Carl Scheib is not a household name like Pete Rose or Babe Ruth, but he did have a professional career playing for both the Philadelphia Athletics and St Louis Cardinals.  Not being Cy Young reincarnated on the mound led me to believe that this book was going to focus more on his personality and less on his lack of pitching prowess. Well……. I was wrong.

Wonder Boy is very heavy in game by game details of Carl Scheib’s professional career.  When I say heavy I mean HEAVY!  After the first few chapters that give you the standard background on the player, family friends, schooling home life etc., it jumps right into his career.  Each chapter tends to cover a full season showing the highlights and lowlights of that year for Scheib.  It also tries to mix in a bit of personal information about Carl in each year but seemed forced and unnatural.

Books about a player from Connie Mack’s A’s, let alone near the end of his regime do not seem like popular subjects.  Probably because the team at that point was operated on such a shoe string budget that the quality of players was not that good.  Which then led to no one really taking an interest in most of the players on a personal level.  It is a double edged sword for the Athletics players in Philadelphia during this era.

If you really, really want to find out information on Carl Scheib this is your only resource right now.  It does offer some personal insight into the man and the player and gives the reader some stories about a man who will eventually be forgotten to time because he played for one of those horrible Connie Mack teams.  Unfortunately for my taste, this book relies to much on game day play by play to fill its pages.

As always, I leave it to you the reader to check it out and see if you agree with me or not, you can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press

Wonder Boy

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

The 1986 World Series-There Was More Than Game Six


I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball.  Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes.  This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series.  It seems to  be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused.  Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record.  With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.

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By: SABR-2016

If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing.  They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible.  They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both.  New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.

Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes.  The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season.  Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players.  They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers.  So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.

Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit.  Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series.  Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.

Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them.  It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects.  Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.

Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.

You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.

1986 Mets/Red Sox

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

In Ty Cobb’s Shadow


I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars.  We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve.  Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group.  Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought.  Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight.  Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.

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By Greg Rubano-2016

In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him.  I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market.  So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player.  I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.

This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed.  It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period.  Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect.  How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball.  The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting.  It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.

The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography.  It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career.  My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing.  Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.

So in the end something is better than nothing at all.  It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications

In Ty Cobb’s Shadow

Happy Reading

Gregg

Becoming Big League-Seattle, the Pilots and Stadium Politics


If there is one thing I have learned in the new stadium craze over the last 25 years, it is that baseball and politics do not always mix.  The involved parties are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as to what is warranted and who should pay for what.  The same problems arise, weather it is replacing an existing stadium or creating an expansion franchise.  It all comes down to how the details are handled as to what success comes from all the hard work.  Today’s book takes a look at all the struggles one city went through to get a team but still wound up on the losing end of the deal.

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By Bill Mullins-2013

Becoming Big League takes a look at the city of Seattle and their efforts to land a Major League franchise in the 1960’s.  It shows how some infighting and disagreements over the future of the city led to delays and confusion.  It also shows how the local ownership group of the Seattle Pilots were flying by the seat of their pants in all aspects of the business.

From the feel the book gives you their was a group of people, along with the powers at Major League Baseball who really wanted to see the Pilots come to Seattle and succeed. They felt it was a great location that would help baseball thrive in the northwest area of the country and be a nice accent to the teams already placed in California. In theory the Pilots were a great idea, they just met too many off the field problems to thrive.

Local government infighting along with stadium construction issues and owners who financially flew by the seat of their pants while conducting business all doomed the Pilots in Seattle.  Even almost a decade after the Pilots were gone and the Mariners arrived for round two of baseball in Seattle, many of the same problems still existed.  The only plus side at that point was that Seattle had at least learned the minimum required of them to keep their baseball franchise.  More recently Seattle has had the same problems luring the NBA to Seattle almost 50 years later.

Bill Mullins has created a great two part book.  One is the baseball study that chronicles baseball coming to the Northwest.  From the inception of the Pilots and agreements with Major League Baseball, to the moving of the franchise to Milwaukee and the birth of the Brewers.  Secondly this book is a great urban study of local politics.  Seattle wanted to keep its small time charm and quaintness, but still attract big money players.  It shows how Seattle citizenship was split down the middle as to which path they wanted their city to follow.

If you have an interest in the Seattle Pilots their is lots of great information in here about the team and their short operations.  There are some things i here that you don’t always easily come across when researching the Pilots.  If you have an interest in local politics and how Seattle of the past functioned, you should give this book a look as well.  It shows how some cities have trouble growing when they need to.

You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Washington Press

Becoming Big League

Happy Reading

Gregg