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.
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
Happy Reading Gregg
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.
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
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.
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.
I am all about giving respect where respect is due. As always, anniversaries are a great way to show respect. Baseball has never been one to shy away from commemorating something either big or small, or both. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the last Mets World Series winner and the events marking that this year have been coming at fans both fast and furiously. The book arena has been no exception to these celebrations, and while we have covered several of these in previous posts, I think I have the last two out there this year that I am going to do. It is amazing how much time and money has been spent this year for this one and done World Series winner, but for me, it is time and I am ready to put this subject to bed. So without further ado, here are the final two books.
Originally released in 1995 One Pitch Away takes a unique look at all the post-season teams in 1986. You get perspectives from several key members who played for one of the four teams, which is a nice change, because most of these books about 1986 only cover the World Series teams. You get a real good feel as to what was going through the heads of those involved during this amazing post-season.
I first read this when it was released in 1995. My initial reaction then was the same as it is now. It gives great insight into the games from the players themselves and Sowell’s work comes through strong. The interviews seem well prepared for by both parties and is time well spent reading about the fab-four of the 1986 post-season.
If you are a fan of any of the teams involved check out this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books. One Pitch Away
The next book brings us to current times with the 2015 Mets. By winning the division last year the Mets re-captured the hearts of the New York faithful in the Big Apple. After a decade and a half or so of the Yankees being the toast of New York, it was nice to see the love spread around town.
Greg Prince who runs his own New York Mets blog, also has written about the Mets several times before. He has an intense love for his team and it shows in his writing. He takes a thorough look at the colorful cast of characters the Mets were able to put together for their improbable run in 2015. If you are a fan of the Mets it is a fun reflection on an improbable year. It is for sure a good read, but will probably be more enjoyable in 10 or 15 years when time has passed and the limelight has faded on this particular team. This is another book that is time well spent reading today, but as it ages will become even more valuable to certain fans. You can get this from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Baseball is a game full of firsts. First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless. But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book. For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt. For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are. Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.
There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson. This one from 1984 I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first. My first baseball book was a shear accident. My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book. From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me. Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.
I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero. He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in. He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard. So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.
Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades. But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one. For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever. It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like. This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock. To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.
I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book. For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie. Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose. For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree. It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.
So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you. Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.
I think there are many great injustices within the game of baseball. From plays on the field that get called incorrectly to the many talented people who fall into the cracks of history. There are too many baseball professionals that give their entire lives and every fiber of their beings to the game and in return do not receive the accolades they truly deserve. Managers sometimes are a bunch that gets forgotten if they do not reach the pinnacle of the game. Regardless of how they perform over their entire career, if they don’t win a World Series, they usually get forgotten when speaking of the greats. Todays book takes a look at one of those people who truly was a great manager and gets forgotten when the conversation turns to Baseballs Greatest Managers.
I must admit I was very excited about this book. Gene Mauch has for a long time topped my list of one of the best managers the game has had to offer during its history. Always one to be saddled with the task of building a winner from the ground up, he never shied from a task like that and rose to the challenge of laying the groundwork for winning teams.
Mel Procter has taken a look at Gene Mauch’s entire career in this book. From border line Major League player and star in the minors. You get to see the passion and fire that was a Gene Mauch trademark on the field. The reader sees what made Mauch tick and the drive that helped propel his small stature and guts into a hard-nosed player who earned the respect of teammates and fans alike. Being a fan of Mauch this is something that I was not very familiar with. There is plenty of documentation about his short stays in the Majors, but the Minor League stories were new ones to me, which helped paint a broader picture of his skills and his career.
Seizing the opportunity with the Phillies, the reader then journeys through his managerial career. It shows the methodical nature that Mauch tried to build winners and the inherent struggles associated with trying to build from within during that era. Gene’s next stops were Montreal, Minnesota and California, all of which saw varying degrees of improvement under Gene. You see how his personality of hard-nosed play and determination is transmitted to his players, so maybe winning is contagious after all. The only down side to the manager portion of the story is that I would have liked to see some more stories about the Twins and Angels. Those sections weren’t as long as the ones about Philly and Montreal, but when you have a career that spans this many decades you probably have to make some cuts somewhere.
Mel Proctor should be very proud of this book. He has given complete and honest coverage to a baseball personality that I think gets shafted sometimes. Just because he came within one pitch of actually making the World Series and was also the captain of the Titanic in Philadelphia in 1964 does not make him a bad manager. To the contrary I think Mauch was one of the more dedicated and smarter managers in the game during his era and was unfortunately the victim of some bad baseball timing. There are other managers in the Hall of Fame with multiple World Series trophies that are there partly due to the pinstripes they wore. I think man for man, Gene Mauch could outshine many of them.
Check out this book for yourself and give Gene Mauch the respect he deserves. After a life long dedication to the game, he deserves at least that much and honestly baseball fans will enjoy this one. This may be one of the few chances we as fans get to learn about the real Gene Mauch
You can get this book from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing
Coffee table books have always been a tough market. What is out there is usually just a regurgitated version of a prior edition of the same thing. In all seriousness how many versions of the history of the National League are really out there? Or how about the history of the Hall of Fame? Perhaps the 100 all-time greatest pitchers is more your speed. If you look closely most of these books are re-releases of old books in a shiny new dust jacket. It makes the coffee table book segment of the book market not I one I found very appealing. Happily for myself, I have come across a new series of books that I think falls into the coffee table book segment and offers a new and interesting product.
Insight Editions, has published this line of team histories. In one sentence these written histories are incredible! The photos contained in each of these books is of great quality that give you a good feel of exciting team events, as well as some not so often seen moments in team history. Broken down in to specific decades each books gives you a nice recap of that era and reminds the fans of what went on. Team triumphs and individual accomplishments are celebrated within the pages of these books.
Now the part that makes these books really special and is the favorite parts of the book for me is, they are like pop-up books for adults. Yes, I realize that deserves an explanation. Throughout the book there are team photos that are pop-up style booklets that let you view various unique team photos. Between that feature, and the high quality pictures found on the fold out pages in various sections of the book, it becomes a unique experience for the reader. Plus it just makes it plain old fun for adults too. Insight Editions has raised the bar and really moved the coffee table sector book into an entirely new arena.
Once readers take a look at these books, they will be hooked. The quality is incredible and really will have fans picking it up time and time again to relive the memories contained within. Insight Editions will publish an Orioles edition in the very near future and hopefully have more volumes of these team histories, because fans of every team deserve a book this good about their hometown favorites. Everyone should take a look at these, because even if your team isn’t represented here, they are an enjoyable read and you will probably learn something new as well. The world has changed in coffee table books, and Insight Editions is leading the way!
You can get these books from the nice folks at Insight Editions
Not every player that makes it to the big time is a Hall of Fame player on the field. In real life though, some of them are Hall of Fame caliber people. Thousands of players have graced the playing fields throughout time in Major League Baseball. Some playing careers have been better than others, while others have fallen into obscurity due to the passage of time. The common denominator with all these guys is that they realized their dreams. To whatever degree they have succeeded on the field, it is nice to read about players that have appreciated how lucky they really were. Todays book is about a player who may not have been a HOF player, but he had a HOF attitude that has carried him throughout his life.
Hank Foiles came from humble beginnings in Virginia, growing up in an era marked by the depression and World War II. Always one of positive character, Hank grew up happy and excelled at sports in his native area. Feeling that Baseball was his true calling Hank pursued that sport and made it his life’s work. First signed and called up by the New York Yankees and crossing paths with superstars like Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio, Hank always keeps his humble persona. The book follows Hank through various stops in his MLB career and you get interesting stories about teammates and friends he has made along the way at each stop.
An interesting aspect of the book is Hank talks about his personal pride in being a Mason. It is something he is very proud of and dedicated his life to giving back. It is enjoyable to see a player who does take the time to give his time and service to a community organization. It is not something you see in today’s game, unless it is pre planned publicity. Finally the book gives you a look at Hank’s life after baseball and the jobs he held.
The book is very easy read and fans should enjoy it. It is nice to see a player who had a solid, but not superstar career, appreciate what he accomplished. By todays standards Hank may have been a superstar. So many time it seems players don’t appreciate what they have and it makes me so mad. Hank comes across as a great guy that has spent his life appreciating what he has been given and trying his best to give back to those around him. In my book that makes him a Hall of Fame person. Our game needs more guys like this!
You can get signed copies of this book direct from Hank himself
With the Hall of Fame voting coming up in a few weeks, everyone is wondering who will be next. Will it be a superstar who played on the biggest of stages every night? Or will it be someone from a small stage that had an incredible career. Only time will tell, but todays book takes a look at a player that worked day in and day out to perfect his craft on a smaller stage.
By: Rod Carew & Ira Berkow – 2010 University of Minnesota Press
Rod Carew was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, no one denies that. The only problem was, I don’t think he ever got the true recognition he deserved. Mainly due to the fact that he played some of his most productive years as a member of the Minnesota Twins. He never hit for massive power, but he still put up some incredible career numbers that punched his ticket for the Hall of Fame.
This book was first published in 1979 and was an incredible story. It was re-issued in 2010 to add the years covering the end of his career, life after baseball and his HOF induction. Carew is honest and forthright in this book, discussing his upbringing in Panama, his move to the United States, his baseball career and his marriage to white Jewish woman in the U.S.. Remember, this was during the time when interracial marriages were not accepted in our society, so you see the difficulties he had to overcome in regard to that issue. You get some insight into his career and life after baseball, but nothing earth shattering.
For the heights that tell-all player biographies have reached in the last few decades, this one is very tame. You get thorough information and what seems like honesty out of Carew but really nothing that makes you go wow I can’t believe that happened. That is always the feeling I have had about Rod Carew. A great and dedicated player that went about his business and was not interested in making waves or being a showman. Perhaps part of the book comes off this way because it was first published back in 1979. In all honesty I just think it is how Carew operates and Ira Berkow portrays the man and the player accurately. I still think as far as Hall of Famers go Carew is underrated but I don’t think anything will ever change that.
If you have any interest in Rod Carew or his baseball career this will be a very good read for you. For someone who does not seem to crave the limelight of his stardom you get a good look at the true man. Minnesota Twins and California Angels fans will also really enjoy the look at their hometown hero.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Minnesota Press
Happy Reading and a safe and Merry Christmas to all my friends that hang out in the bookcase with me