Category: A’s

Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime With the Cubs


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.

By: Billy Williams-2008

By: Billy Williams-2008

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

http://www.triumphbooks.com/billy-williams-products-9781600780509.php

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

The A’s – A Baseball History


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.

By: David M. Jordan - 2014

By: David M. Jordan – 2014

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

http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-7781-4

Happy Reading

Gregg

The Gospel According to Casey


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.

By: Ira BEerkow and Jim Kaplan-2015

By: Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan-2015

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

http://www.summergamebooks.com/gospel-according-casey-ira-berkow-jim-kaplan/

Happy Reading

Gregg

Baseball Maverick-How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball


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?

By:Steve Kettmann-2015

By:Steve Kettmann-2015

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

http://www.groveatlantic.com/?title=Baseball+Maverick

Happy Reading

Gregg

Out at Home – The Glenn Burke Story


Baseball books can provide valuable history lessons.  Even if they are of the biography genre, they can still give valuable lessons to the reader about a multitude of things.  It has always been said that baseball mimics society and in the case of todays book that may ring true.  It shows how society has changed and become more tolerant and accepting.  Baseball may be slow to change at times but in this case, they have finally caught up with society.

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Berekely Re-Issue Edition-2015

Glenn Burke was the first openly gay athlete in Major League Baseball.  While that alone is trailblazing, in the end he suffered the wrath of the game and became black-balled.  He had a very short career in the majors playing for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 70’s.  For his brief career he put up decent numbers and probably had he not been openly gay would have had a longer career.  When you are the first person who does anything different in baseball it seems that you have a much more difficult time being accepted than the next person.  Just ask Jackie Robinson, being a trend setter is hard work.

Glenn Burke suffered the wrath of the baseball hierarchy and essentially lost his career for it.  Even though some of his teammates knew about his sexual orientation and didn’t care, the baseball establishment was not embracing it.  Glenn eventually died of AIDS in 1995 and this book was his way of getting his story out before his untimely death.  It is a very good book that shows the struggles and humiliation Glenn had to endure just to be himself and play the game he loved.  It shows some of the intolerant practices that existed during his time in the jock world of Major League Baseball.

More importantly this book allows the reader to see how both the game and society has evolved in the twenty years since its initial publication.  MLB has now added the Ambassador of Inclusion position in Billy Bean so that these issues don’t happen again.  This book also shows how society’s views have evolved in regards to homosexuality and it is not as big of an issue as it once was.  It shows that everyone has a place within our society and while it may not happen as fast as some people would like it has made some progress.  One thing I found interesting between the original publication of this book and the re-issued edition is that they used the same cover photo, but the Dodgers logos had been removed his uniform.  It just struck me as odd that after all this time they would remove them.

Glenn Burke is pretty much at this point a footnote in baseball history but this book does give you a nice glimpse of both the player and the man.  Perhaps if he was somewhere else on a less profile team than the Dodgers, his career may have lasted longer but honestly who knows.  After all he went through you get no signs of bitterness from Glenn for his outcome in life.  He was proud of who he was and who he loved, and hoped in the end he would be remembered as a good person and what more can any of us ask for in life.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkeley Publishing Group

http://www.penguin.com/book/out-at-home-by-glenn-burke-erik-sherman/9780425281437

Happy Reading

Gregg

A Baseball Dynasty – Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s


There are times when successful teams become monsters.  Not necessarily just on the field.  In the annals of history the teams legacy can become grander than they ever really were, and take on an entire life of their own.  One such team that I feel has taken on a new meaning as time has marched on is Charlie Finley’s Oakland Athletics.  The team was born of a time before free agency and assembled through the farm system and trades.  The end result of that work was the formation of a powerhouse that may never be duplicated in the future.  1971-1975 was a magical time to be a Oakland A’s fan.  This book we are looking at today helps us relieve the magical era by the bay.

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By Bruce Markusen-St Johann Press 2002

What is there not to love about the 70’s????  Handlebar mustaches, bell bottoms, disco and of course the almighty Oakland A’s.  They were the hands-down the most dominating powerhouse of the American League in the first half of the decade, and produced a legacy that would be destroyed by the advent of free agency as well as the miserly ways of their owner Charlie Finley.

The A’s on the field were virtually unstoppable.  Multiple trips to the World Series in the early 70’s as well as a few rings to boot, made them the favorite to repeat each year.  With stars such as Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mudcat Grant, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando, they were almost unstoppable.  With this many elite stars assembled on one team, of course drama would not be far behind in Oakland.

Bruce Markusen has assembled a nice collection of stories on the A’s during their dynasty years.  Through exhaustive research he has created several analyses on what made the A’s such a formidable team and what led to such a prolonged success.  This newer updated version also has interviews with some of the players and behind the scenes stories that really bring the Oakland A’s to life.  Of course since it is the Charlie Finley Oakland A’s we are talking about here, you get stories and details about all the bickering and in-house disputes between teammates, managers and the front office.  It does paint a very good picture of the A’s figured out how to win on the field and become a powerhouse, in spite of their behavior off the field.  They easily rivaled, if not surpassed any Steinbrenner run team in the drama department.

The author has written a very enjoyable book if you have an interest in the A’s.  It shows an inside look at a team success that we as fans, will be hard pressed to see again in modern baseball.   One can only imagine if the A’s had an owner other than Charlie Finley, how much more success they could have attained in the latter half of the 70’s

You can get this book from the nice folks at St Johann Press

http://www.stjohannpress.com

Happy Reading

Gregg