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 will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books. The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late. One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.
Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others. Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it. One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom. Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus. Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.
Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game. Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether. Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on. Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.
Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life. For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others. His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about. I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace. His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.
Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game. If you are a fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well. In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities. This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
With this week’s Hall of Fame vote finally announced, you get to see how many truly amazing players that played the game. Every year we fight about the superstars and who deserves to be enshrined this year. Beyond these greats are the people who are the backbone of the game. The good and borderline great players who are not Hall worthy but still had really good careers. There are also the people who had solid days on the field but were honestly nothing memorable otherwise. For every Hall of Fame caliber player there are hundreds of other players that fell below them in the grand scheme of the game. It is important that history does not forget these types of players. Through their hard work and dedication they have helped forge the story of baseball. Today’s book takes a look at one of those players that had a good career, that while not Hall worthy, still was good enough to be respected and admired by various generations.
I went into this book only familiar with Swish Nicholson’s time with the Philadelphia Phillies. A member of the beloved Whiz Kids, he was a name that Phillies fans were accustomed to hearing as one of the Philly greats. It turns out before Bill ever stopped in my hometown, he had a really incredible career in the Windy City with the Cubs, but was hindered by the fact that his prime was during the height of World War II. Being a wartime slugger discounted his achievements on the field because the rest of the world felt all the best players were off serving in the military. This fact created the perception of Swish Nicholson’s career as not being as good as his numbers portrayed, because the competition was not up to its normal MLB standard.
This book makes a very solid attempt at showing Nicholson’s career in the correct light it deserves. It gives a lot of background on his personal life and growing up in the early 20th century. The book gives the reader a real feel of what Bill Nicholson was like off the field, as well as what kind of exceptional player he was on it. This book also shows life after baseball and with older players, I find it interesting to see their transition back into regular life. It is so different than what modern players have to go through. It has to be very hard to go from being a star on the field to a regular guy working 9 to 5 and punching a clock.
Book like this are important in that they keep the memories of players whom may not have been Hall of Fame worthy alive in the minds of baseball fans. Books like this bring the past back to life and show readers various eras of the game they have only heard of through stories of older generations. Fans should check out Swish Nicholson, it is one of those books that is both entertaining and educational for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
There are certain players that have incredible careers, but somehow fall into the background. Perhaps they are overshadowed by a more popular teammate, or their personalities are the type that naturally keep them out of the limelight. When you think of the Chicago Cubs, most people automatically think of Ernie Banks. Mr.Cub as he was affectionately known, basically owned Chicago. He could do no wrong as far as Cubs fans are concerned and every teammate of that era was subject to living in Ernie’s shadow. The subject of todays book is one of those teammates that had a Hall of Fame career that was just as good as Mr. Cubs, but is not always at the forefront of the conversation when you talk about the stars of Wrigley.
From his roots in the Negro Leagues to his final destination in Cooperstown, Billy Williams had a very nice career. He crossed paths with some of the games immortals as well as etching his own name among them. If Williams had played for almost any other team in baseball during his era except maybe the Yankees, he would have been the toast of that town. He played almost his entire career behind Ernie Banks who had Chicago wrapped around his finger, so Billy sometimes becomes an afterthought. That fact alone is hard to comprehend because he put up career numbers that easily gained him acceptance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Billy Williams book is a nice light reader that walks you through his career. From his early start in the Negro Leagues as well as the Minor Leagues you see the personal and professional obstacles he had to overcome to reach his goal. Many of the struggles were socially accepted at the time but were still a lot for any individual to handle. He also shows the reader the steps needed to make it and stay in the majors for any young player at that time wanting to be a Cub.
A majority of the book is obviously spent covering his time as a Chicago Cub. While the team had trouble finding any sort of success on the field, it still comes across as a great time to be a Cub player or fan during a great era of baseball. The book also covers his brief stay with the Oakland A’s and the bizarre dealings with Charlie Finley. Finally it finishes up with his induction to Cooperstown and his life with his family after baseball.
If you are looking for sordid behind the scenes details of the life of a baseball player, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for nice, light and easy reading about a sometimes forgotten but nonetheless loved superstar of the Chicago Cubs, then you should take a look at this one. I learned a few things about Billy Williams on both the personal and professional level in this one and in the end think better of him as both a player and a man. All baseball fans will enjoy this book, even those outside of the Windy City.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
It is hard to deny that the Athletics baseball team have a pretty incredible history. Having called three separate cities home over the course of their existence, they have reached the pinnacle of the game several times over, along with finding the depths of despair. Some people think of the A’s as three separate teams at each of their locations, but now you can get a book that covers them as one entity.
David M. Jordan has taken on the task of covering the entire history of the Athletics franchise. Each location the A’s have called home are covered in this book. It is easier to find a book that covers one location, but it is I think, harder to find one book to cover their full history. Jordan covers the history in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland with great detail. He shows the mainstay personalities that helped create their storied history in each city. He also covers the championships that have come their way throughout the years.
Books like this are usually for the hard-core fans of that team and this one is no exception. It gives a lot of detail of certain memorable seasons and glances over the not so memorable ones. They have a long history that is very hard to cover in a single book, especially when you are trying to cover the time from Connie Mack to Charlie Finley and then on to Billy Ball. Nonetheless, David M. Jordan does a thorough job and gives the reader a real feel for this teams history. If you are not very familiar with the A’s complete history, this gives you a good taste of what you have been missing.
If you are a hard-core fan, this is a good book for you. The reader gets some obscure facts that those type of fans will appreciate. I think if you are a casual fan and looking for a light easy read, this may not be for you. This book gives a detailed history lesson of the A’s that is hard to beat. No matter what city that you were a fan of the A’s in, it is worth checking out.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing
Baseball has been full of colorful characters during its existence. Players, managers, coaches owners and many other bigger than life personalities have fallen into this category. For some its an act that becomes pretty transparent, but for others it is a genuine trait. People have called these people flakes, or feeble or just plain crazy, but in the end they are probably some of the smartest people involved in the game. Using the above adjectives brings to mind Casey Stengel. The Old Professor could dazzle listeners, fans and writers alike with tall tales mixed in with his own brand of Stengelese, that in the end would make their heads spin and make them forget what the question was. Todays book is a collection of some of those masterful thoughts that help create his legacy on and off the field.
Casey Stengel was nobody’s fool in any sense of the word. He was in fact quite the genius both on and off the field. There is no reason to re-hash his baseball record because it speaks for itself, but most people dismissed him at time because of his double talking ways. This is not a new book, but has been released by Summer Game Books in 2015. What is important about this book is if you read between the lines, in Casey’s quotes you will find life lessons that almost anyone could live by. Now some of Casey’s quotes were obviously tongue in cheek comments but he had a lot of wisdom gained on the baseball trail that he shared with anyone who would listen.
This re-issue is important because these quotes still apply in today’s game. The way he treated his players and handled his team is something that carries from generation to generation and has proved effective more than once. The book also contains some interviews with some of his former players, and it shows he really cared about them becoming successful. That success was more of a personal thing, not monetary driven and he is portrayed as a caring manager and friend of the players.
Casey Stengel is a piece of American history beyond the New York Yankees and baseball itself. He has been gone for 35 years now but this book gives us the opportunity to relive his humor and showcase his personality to future generations. He should be remembered for what he accomplished on the field, his contributions to the game as well as the larger than life personality he was off the field.
Baseball fans will enjoy this. There are some funny quotes and interviews that will give the reader a chuckle. It also transports you back to a simpler time in the American Pastime.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
In Baseball you always have to stay one step ahead of the competition. Both on the field and behind the scenes that same principle applies. You need to find the edge to beat your competitors because even if you keep the status quo, in reality you are falling behind. Sabermetrics and the Moneyball theory have turned baseball on its head and changed the way teams address their needs. So who really started that revolution and is it really a good thing after all?
Sandy Alderson is the current General Manager of the New York Mets and the man in charge of reviving that struggling franchise. While all has not been golden in the Mets re-birth, he has done a commendable job in restoring some dignity to the franchise. But is Sandy Alderson really the baseball genius everyone says he is, or is it just sometimes thinking outside the box that gets him some acclaim. That is what Baseball Maverick tries to figure out for the reader.
The book starts with Alderson’s upbringing and distinguished military career. It paints a nice picture of a man with courage and dedication. Two traits that come in very handy in the baseball world. You follow his professional career starting with the Oakland Athletics where he mentored current GM Billy Beane. It shows how Alderson got his reputation for thinking outside the box in regards to evaluating his team. Many of these ideas were born of necessity due to ownership and money constraints. It is during this stop in his career that Billy Beane gained most of the knowledge that he uses running the Oakland A’s.
The next stop for Alderson was San Diego where he again got the team back to respectability, but was unable to pull of a World Series triumph. After the Padres he put down roots with the New York Mets. Hi current home of Citi Field shows the reader in-depth how he has attempted to turn that franchise back into a winner. Attempting to overcome the Madoff scandal that has handcuffed the team financially has been an obstacle he has had to figure out how to overcome along with some bad player deals of the past. The 2015 season has brought them hopefully the start of lasting success, along with players they have developed finally reaching their expected potential.
After all this is Sandy Alderson the Baseball Maverick the book suggests he is? My thought is no. While he is a very talented General Manager, he is not the reason that Oakland has been able to compete on a shoe string budget. Billy Beane has been able to work with some of Alderson’s fundamental ideas and make them his own. That is what has made Oakland a success. Alderson may have planted the seed, but Beane made it grow. San Diego has been up and down so many times since the start of Alderson’s tenure there, that they should be a roller coaster not a baseball team. Finally the Mets were a train wreck when Alderson signed on, and it has to his own admission taken much longer for that team to make a substantial turn around than even he anticipated.
The book tries to make it seem that Alderson is responsible for the birth of Moneyball theories and I just don’t see that connection to just him. I see pieces of it in the way he has operated at certain stops, but it is a far cry from him being the one that designed it for the world to use. That being said, this is a very well written and entertaining book. It keeps the reader’s interest but it is very Mets heavy in subject matter.
Sandy Alderson is almost a mystery man in the baseball world. He has always worked behind the scenes and low-key, so this book gives you some insight on his personality. Again, I don’t agree with the Maverick term in the title, but he has made some substantial contributions to his teams and the game as a whole. Mets fans will love this book, and general baseball fans will like it. It gives us a glimpse of the man behind the curtain once and for all.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Atlantic Monthly Press