Category: A’s

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

 

 

 

 

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Another Batch From McFarland That is Sure to Please


A few weeks ago we looked at a new batch of books recently published by McFarland.  I touched on the obscure factor that some of their books tend to embrace and how they fill a niche spot in the baseball book market.  Today we are going to look at a few more because honestly McFarland has a little something for every baseball fan.

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By:Richard Bressler-2016

McFarland is always willing to publish team history books.  Looking at both the powerhouse teams that are part of the baseball fabric as well as those that time has essentially forgotten.  The year 1910 was an interesting point for the two teams involved in this volume and shows how it laid the groundwork for a streak that lasts to this day.

The 1910 World Series brought us the end of one dynasty and the birth of another.  The Chicago Cubs, coming off several very successful years and a win in the 1908 series were nearing the end of their reign.  While Connie Mack’s Athletics were poised to start a championship run of their own.  It was a fairly anti-climatic Series, but did offer an interesting historical note.  For the first time in World Series history, game two to be precise, was the first time all nine starters recorded a hit in the same game.  Its a neat little trivia factoid you can now impress all your friends with.

This is a timely book with the Cubs poised to possibly end their World Series drought and also it allows the reader to travel back in time to see an entirely different generation of the game.  Fans of either of these teams or of this era, will not be disappointed in this one.

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By:Jeremy Lehrman-2016

This one takes a look at the history of the Most Valuable player award in Baseball.  It looks at the voting results and provides current statistical analysis to see what may have been different by todays standards.

It is an interesting view as at what may have been overlooked by voters in the past as well as what other factors may have played into the voting results.  It also shows how race may have been an underlying issue on some of the ballots.  The book is a good mix of history, commentary and statistical analysis.  For fans of these types of “what did we miss books”  this is another one you will really enjoy.

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By:Brian Martin-2016

Finally, as the title says, Pud Galvin, not only the owner of an odd name was baseball’s first 300 game winner.  Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965, 63 years after his death, his numerous records and 300+ wins still did not keep him from dying penniless.  One of the first real superstars of the game he had some amazing accomplishments on the field and helped grow the credibility of the early game.

One of the other footnotes to Galvin’s story is he may have been the first user of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Major League Baseball.  An advocate of using a monkey testosterone elixir, it seemed to enhance his on field performance.  The difference from today to over 100 years ago is that everyone was on board with the use of the concoction.  It shows a very different time in Baseball and quite honestly is a very interesting story for fans of the early eras of baseball.

You can check out these books and other great titles offered by this publisher at the following link:

McFarland

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

 

Finley Ball-How Two Outsiders Changed the Game Forever


Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark.  Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget.  These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball.  They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck.  They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator.  The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era.  A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game.  During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy.  The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about.  Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.

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By: Nancy Finley-2016

Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations.  She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years.  She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years.  She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans.  Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.

Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition.  That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty.  Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.

What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader.  She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley.  Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.

This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era.  It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before.  It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.

This book is a fun trip through the Finley era.  I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look.  It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History

Finley Ball

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

A Book That Most of Us Have Been Waiting For


There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career.  Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city.  Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential.  Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally.  There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels.  Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.

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By: Mitchell Nathanson-2016

Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen?  He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject.  The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself.  It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story.  This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.

Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors.  He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia.  The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen.   On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way.  Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery.  Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.

The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path.  While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on.  The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies.  You see the change in the city’s  mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand.  You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes.  To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions.  This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s.  The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level.  It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes.  I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.

This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career.  There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times.  All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame.   If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction.  He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game.  Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.

Baseball fans should not miss this book.  It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.

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

God Almighty Hisself

Happy Reading

Gregg

Connie Mack-A Life Well Chronicled


I have said in the past there are certain personalities that transcend the game itself. Usually they are players that fall into this category, mainly because of their own field exposure.  There are always exceptions to that rule and easily Connie Mack is one of them. The Grand Old Man of Baseball is one of the patriarchs of the game and through all time is a name that will be known to all.  A person who had an entirely different contribution to the game as Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, but still a name that is just as recognizable as many of the games greats.  Norman L. Macht has recently completed his third installment of his Connie Mack trilogy and it completes in print the life of one of baseballs true pioneers.

 

Obviously I read a lot of books, but no series of books I have ever come across has made me go WOW!, like this one has.  The first volume of this set was published in 2007 with subsequent volumes in 2012 and 2015 respectively.  All three book take a look at a specific portion of Connie Mack’s life and the events that helped shape his life and career.  These books show how he forged his personality and the steps he had taken to amass his baseball empire.  Each book also shows the baseball dealings he conducted on a daily basis, how he constructed teams and eventually dismantled teams to pay the teams bills.  Various financial struggles are addressed throughout the years, power struggles within team ownership and family infighting that eventually led to the final downfall and removal of the Athletics from Philadelphia.

Norman L. Macht has dedicated a good portion of his life to this project.  Starting in 1985 the research he did was in depth and led him essentially to every location Connie Mack ever stepped foot.  He spoke to as many people who were friends, colleagues or family of Connie Mack and got the inside scoop on what the man was really like.  The amount of time and research that was dedicated to this project is just mind blowing to me.  I can’t imagine dedicating three decades to one subject and then being able to narrow it down to only 2,000 pages of details for a publisher.  Usually, most publishers would shy away from a multi volume biography anyway.

For me growing up in Philadelphia there were always a lot of stories floating around.  From just having the local ties and being a fixture in the city itself to the part that my Grandfather put a roof on his house in the late 40’s, Connie Mack for me was always an intriguing figure.  This book dispels a lot of the myth’s that I had accepted as fact about Mack.  Through the stories you hear growing up in Philadelphia, many of them you just accept as fact and don’t dedicate the time to looking for the truth.  He truly was one of the games great owners and we will never see another one like him.  In reality how many owners have a rival team name their stadium after your team leaves town, as the Phillies did out of respect for Mack.  The respect that people had for him was astounding, so much so that as of my last conversation with Bobby Shantz about a year or so ago, he still referrs to him as Mr. Mack, over 60 years after his death.

Baseball fans should really check these books out.  They are a vast wealth of knowledge for the fans of a very popular subject of the game that has not had many books dedicated to him.  Norman L. Macht should be commended, and rightly so, on a great job writing these three  books and completing his 30 year journey to show fans the real Cornelius McGillicuddy.

You can get these books from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

Connie Mack

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Swinging ’73-Baseball’s Wildest Season


Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality.  It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades.  The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement.  Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game.  1973 was no different.  The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter.  So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not.  Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.

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By:Matthew Silverman-2013

In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it.  Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure.  From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.

The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers.  Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.

The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above.  Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point.  You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine.  Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash.  So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973.  The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.

I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season.  There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.

By far this is not a bad book.  It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well.  Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73.  He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.

Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard.  I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.

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

Swinging ’73

Happy Reading

Gregg