Category: Autobiography

Who Gets a Book-Part II


I asked this question on another post recently and received a litany of great answers.  I am well aware that there really is no criteria to who gets a book, but each of us has their own criteria of what really merits a book.  I for one am not here to pass along my thoughts on the subject because each of us has different views and it becomes a personal choice more than anything else.  I found two books recently that come from two ends of the spectrum on the field, but give the reader a very similar product in the end.

Ralph Mauriello and Ron Fairly have several things in common.  Most notably they are both Dodgers Alumni, and I have noticed the feeling of once a Dodger, always a Dodger.  But their careers took very different paths throughout the years.  While Mauriello had a short stint with the Major League team, he spent the majority of his playing years toiling in the minors, while Fairly put a couple of decades at the big league level with a few different stops around the league.  Now with such different playing careers and reaching different levels of success you would thing the end resulting books of their lives would be wildly different.  I am glad to say that could not be further from the truth.

Now that is not to say that both books are mirror images, but there are certain important qualities that shine through.  They both share their life and career experiences for the reader which helps give a well-rounded view of what they offered on the field.  This comes in especially helpful those readers that may not have been around during their playing days, it paints a picture in your mind of what baseball was like for each author as they made their way along their unique journey.  Both books also illustrate what great men both players were, the humility they had, both on and off the field and the honor it was for both of them to be part of the game they loved.  Family is also an important factor in both men’s lives and it is showcased very clearly in both books.  Finally, both books show what life is like after you are off the field.  While both men have taken very different paths in life you can see the underlying love of the game and the immense pride they both had to be on that field.

When I asked the who deserves a book question previously I thought I had a better handle on the answer .  Today I realize if you have a story to tell, no matter what their contribution to the game was, it’s a story worth telling.  It’s up to the readers to decide which stories that they want to read and what they find worthy of their time.  If it is a 20 year veteran or a cup of coffe player, they still have a lot to offer the readers.   For my money these both books make the cut.

If you like the Dodgers and the early years of California baseball, along with a spattering of stories about celebrities and baseball royalty then these books would be for you.  They both tell great stories throughout flow very nicely and you get two different views of the Once a Dodger Always a Dodger tag.

You can get these great books at the following links:

Ralph Mauriello

Ron Fairly

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Who Deserves a Book?


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.

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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

Insight Pitch

Happy Reading Gregg

 

Big League Dream-The Sweet Taste of Life in the Majors


Baseball allows fans unparalleled access to our heroes.  It could be an autograph appearance at the local supermarket, a brief encounter at the ball park or some other circumstance that allows a friendship to blossom.  On that last event some of us are luckier than others in what happens, but in the end, it is all of sharing our love of the game.  Roy Berger is no stranger to the game, a life long fan that has had the great opportunity of attending multiple fantasy camps for some of his favorite teams.  I showcased Roy’s Previous book here last year that details his exploits as a fantasy camper.  The Most Wonderful Week of the Year  Now Roy is back with a new book sharing some of the friendships he has gained by being lucky enough to live the life even if it’s only one week a year.

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I will admit it, Roy is one lucky guy.  Having the means many of us don’t have, he is able to hob-nob with our heroes from various eras and make some really great memories in the process.  His just released book, Big League Dream walks us through the relationships he has created and also showcases the stories of  some great names as well.

The veteran of several fantasy camps, Berger has gotten friendly with former players such as Kent Tekulve, Mike LaVaillliare, Jim Mudcat Grant, Bucky Dent, Fritz Peterson and Steve Lyons, just to name a few.  But, the better side is he has forged relationships with these guys and gets the memories that goes along with it.

Each chapter in this book showcases the player’s life and career  and also details the authors interactions with them on a personal level.  It shows a more human side of these guys that some of us may never have access to at any time in our lives.  It is a neat look behind the curtain that portrays to the reader what it might be like if we were in his shoes. Another nice aspect of this book is Roy’s story about attending fantasy camp for the first time with his sons recently.  It adds a nice family theme to the book and shows what great relationships and memories baseball is capable of fostering.

Roy’s books are always a good read for the average baseball fan who loves the game.  It gives us an opportunity to live vicariously through Roy and see what it’s like to cross those lines even if only for one week a year.  Fans should check this one out, it’s a fun and easy read and gives a great glimpse at what life is like for those lucky enough to do something like this.

Check out Roy Berger’s website Big League Dream and check out all the various formats you can get this book in, you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Reading

Gregg

McFarland-Never Ones to Shy Away from Obscurity


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

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By: William A. Cook-2016

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

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

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

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

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By:Jorge Iber-2016

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

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

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

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Handsome Ransom Jasckson-Accidental Big Leaguer


Some baseball books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors.  These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents.  I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent.  Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up.  I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages.  Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.

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By:Ransom Jackson-2016

When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix.  The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays.  Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.

Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture.  It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century.  He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.

Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league.  Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras.  Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had.  He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years.  Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.

I always enjoy books of the lesser known players.  As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books.  I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult.  There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.

If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago.  If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.

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

Accidental Big Leaguer

Happy Reading

Gregg

Bring In the Right-Hander!


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.

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By:Jerry Reuss-2014

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

Bring In the Right-Hander!

Happy Reading

Gregg

Toy Cannon – The Autobiography of Baseball’s Jimmy Wynn


There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players.  When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind.  For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man.  What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field.  The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success.  The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths.  The journey of the  Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players.  The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league.  One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn.  Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.

 

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By: Jimmy Wynn-2010

In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud.  Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league.  Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.

This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories.  Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player.  You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn.  Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.

A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros.  He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book.  Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers.  It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.

The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years.  Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography.  It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.

The book is a great read for all baseball fans.  It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults.  It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged.  Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Toy Cannon-Jimmy Wynn

Happy Reading

Gregg

Mike Schmidt-Philadelphia’s HOF Third Baseman


Growing up in Philadelphia, my childhood coincided with the career of one Michael Jack Schimdt.  Arguably one of, if not the greatest third baseman to ever play the game of baseball.  Owner of 548 Home Runs, three MVP awards and a World Series Championship to go along with his Hall of Fame resume.  The only down side to Schmidt’s career was the love hate relationship he had with the Phillies fans.  I got to witness the sometimes borderline train wreck relationship between the 3rd baseman and the fans, and honestly it was not always pretty.  I finally found a book that shows the softer side of the burly third baseman and helps fans in Philadelphia appreciate what we really had.

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By:William Kashatus-2000

I admit this book is a little dated.  It came out five years after Schmidt was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995,  and at the time, and even today for that matter there is not a wealth of Schmidt books on the market.  He is a complex personality that was never truly appreciated by the Philadelphia fans until he was almost gone.

William Kashatus does a tremendous job of chronicling the career of Mike Schmidt.  The high school and college injuries that almost ended the career before it began.  The minor league struggles that helped shape his personality and forced him to question his abilities. The author also shows an inside look at the pressures the Phillies put single-handedly on Schmidt’s shoulders and the effects it had on his career development.

This book also shows the reader the great influence that Pete Rose was on Schmidt’s career after they picked up the free agent to get them over the playoff hump.  He was the extra mentor Schmidt needed to build some self esteem and accept and realize his true talents.  It also shows the ongoing relationship that transpired between the fans, the media and Mike Schmidt.  If you were not in Philly during his career this book gives a real good portrayal of what really went down.

There are a few books about Schmidt out there but not something that shows this much career depth about Schmidt himself.  It was a little light on personal details about Schmidt’s life and I think by design Schmidt may have agreed to be interviewed for the book  with that condition.  Even with that restriction this is still the most thorough and in depth look at the player and the man.

All baseball fans can learn something from this book.  Even Phillies fans can gain some new insight from this as well.  Its well worth the time to read it.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Mike Schmidt

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Playing With Tigers-A Minor League Chronicle of the Sixties


Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying?  A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market.  These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book.  I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.

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By: George Gmelch 2016

 

I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous.  What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader?  I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.

What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s.  It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.

In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence.  From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues.  One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball.  The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side.  One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man.  You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.

Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball.  After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next.  Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology.  You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told,  I couldn’t put it down.  It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.

You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book.  It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it.  As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.

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

Playing With Tigers

Happy Reading

Gregg

Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man


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.

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By:Jim McConnell – 2016

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

Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man

Happy Reading

Gregg