Baseball lifers are a tough breed. When you find one in this day and age, look at what they have witnessed. They have seen the game go from small wages and managements sole control to a strong players union and skyrocketing salaries. They have seen stadiums come and go, the passing of legends and friends as well as their game becoming a big business. On the flip side of all this, baseball lifers have the opportunity to share some great stories. Today’s book is no exception to the fact that there are lots of stories just waiting to be told.
This book is a re-issue of the book that first came out from another publisher in 2011. Eddie Robinson walks you through his baseball career, first as a player and then as a general manager in the major leagues. He has been witness to some great moments in baseball history from both sides of the fence. He also states that he has never worked a day in his life, because he has been lucky enough to be involved in the game he dearly loves.
Robinson takes you through his playing career, overcoming challenges to make his dreams come true and become a big league player. He was blessed enough played in an era with some of the games all-time greats and was able to have his career coincide with great moments in history. He had a respectable career that would make any mother proud, it was by far not Hall of Fame worthy, but he still achieved his dreams.
After his playing career ended, Robinson entered the business side of baseball. Most notably becoming general Manager for both the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves. He tells some great stories of happenings at each stop and again he got to witness some great things such as Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run. If you could have a charmed life as a General Manager, this may just be it.
One thing I could not shake with this book the entire time I was reading it was Robinson’s attitude. While telling stories about his playing career, I almost got the feeling that Eddie thought he was much better than the world ever gave him credit for. Essentially he felt that he was slighted because of the era he played in because it contained so many great players. This vibe carried over into his General Managers days and for me it just put a negative feel to some parts of the book. By far this is not a bad book, I just felt uncomfortable as the stories progressed, mainly because Robinson always seemed to feel slighted in some way.
Fans regardless of the team allegiance will enjoy this book. It is a lot of stories from baseball’s golden age as well as stories from the years baseball underwent great changes. There are no earth shattering stories, just a basic autobiography from someone who has really enjoyed his multi-faceted life within the game of baseball.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
In each generation there is at least one player that transcends team allegiances. No matter where you are from or who you root for, there is a guy who everyone takes an interest in their career. Roberto Clemente, Bob Feller and several others come to mind, but the one that really stands out to me is Stan Musial. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who had a bad word to say about Stan the Man. He was a great ambassador to both the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. His legacy and outgoing personality carried him through life for the six decades after he retired. That is why going into todays book I had such high hopes for it.
High hopes sometimes in the baseball literature world can sometimes lead to disappointment. In no way was it disappointment in the subject matter, but more the writing style. I enjoy baseball biographies more than any other genre of baseball books. With that in mind I have obviously read hundreds of baseball bio’s, sometimes three, four or even seven on the same person, so I usually know what to expect in these types of books.
Stan Musial is an incredible subject for a biography. He had a great personality and always had a smile face. His career and retirement were not once touched by scandal, so Stan by that measure, is an author’s dream as far as research and a fan’s dream to read about. Wayne Stewart has made a valiant attempt to chronicle the life and career of Stan the Man. He did a very complete and accurate job on the research details on the story itself, but I think he crossed a line that is hard to walk in baseball biographies. The final story came off as more of a fan worship to his favorite player as opposed to a baseball biography.
The book for my money beleaguered many points and makes drawn out attempts in explaining the details of the story. Sometimes in a biography less can be more. Obviously when it is not a first hand story you need a ton of detail to paint a complete picture for the reader. This book unfortunately does to much of that to make sure it doesn’t miss any part of the story. When the author does that, it slows down the flow of the story and the reader feels that they are stuck in that part of the story much longer than they actually are.
Wayne Stewart on the plus side, did nice research on Stan and conducted some informative interviews, but the presentation of the story was lacking for my taste. There are a few other Stan Musial biographies out there that I feel flow better than this one. If you are a big Stan Musial fan, you more than likely will be able to overlook the slow pace of this book. I think the fan that has admired Stan the Man from afar is going to have more trouble embracing this book, like I did.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books at the link below
365 days is a long time to do anything in this world full of attention deficit disorder. There are so many things to occupy our time electronically and otherwise, that it is hard to dedicate large amounts of time to any one thing. When I started my blog I wasn’t sure how long it would last. I didn’t know if I would get any positive responses, or any responses at all for that matter. So I really wasn’t sure how long I would stick with it before someone told me my blog sucked. Well I am proud to say that today marks one year of Gregg’s Baseball Bookcase. I still am not really sure what I am doing, so it is safe to say I am flying by the seat of my pants here. Through the kindness of publishers, authors, other bloggers, some baseball fans and some editing help from my cat Phillie, I have been able to pull it off.
Over the past year 8,500 people have stopped by to check out my writing and for that I say a heartfelt thank you, to each and every one of you. I figured the first year if 500 people stopped by and checked it out I would be lucky, so for me I consider this a windfall. Many publishers, who are too numerous to mention, have been extremely kind in sending out some review copies for me to check out. I got a much larger response from them than I ever expected, so if I still owe you a book review, please be patient it is on my list to do. Authors also have been more than kind, by supplying books and information to help me get their reviews finished as well. I hope I did their books justice and was fair with their reviews. Other folks in the blogging universe have been helpful with information and sharing their experiences with me. We baseball book bloggers are to some degree family and it is an honor to be part of that family.
Finally to my wife Brina, I have annoyed you immensely with the insane amounts of reading I do, packages of books always showing up and then blogging about those same books, if you feel ignored my apologies. At least the mail has slowed down some, and you know where I am at every night, right on the couch next to you buried in a book. There are worse things I could be spending our money on honey :).
I never really figured out the true purpose of my blog. When I started it, I figured it was so when I read I may retain more of what I was reading about, and be able to put it into print. One year later, I am still reading the same way, so I am still not exactly sure. One thing I hope happens is that it makes someone want to open a book and start reading. Preferably baseball books, but if not any book will be fine. Reading books is a dying art with all the e-books and the other ways to read, so hopefully someone decides they need a real book because of something they may have read on here. If not so be it, but I hope people find something on here they like in my work. It has been a labor of love through this first year, and some days are harder than others to read, but in the end it has been worth it.
Here is to another year, hopefully some regulars will keep coming back and some new ones will stop by and visit. Again, I thank each and every one of you who have stopped by and participated in one way or another, the amount of visitors has surprised me more than you realize. I promise to do my best when writing these blogs, even though the end result may not always reflect it. Remember I am just one fans opinion about these books. In the end, my opinion does not matter any more than any other persons. I wish you all Happy Reading for this year, and wish my bookcase a Happy Birthday……..here’s to many more.
Baseball is a game full of wild and outrageous stories. Players, coaches and even fans get in the mix. Regardless of where these stories originate from, on or off of the field, most of the time they are entertaining. But what about all those people behind the scenes that make the process function. Little people who work in the world of baseball, you may casually notice but never really give a second thought to. What are their stories? What are their dreams? Today’s book takes a look at one of those people who lived his life chasing his dreams of being one of those petty functionaries who make the game happen.
Before we jump into this book please keep in mind it is not 100% baseball, but contains enough about our sport that it warrants a place in my bookcase. A trip to the stadium requires the efforts of hundreds of people behind the scenes. Some people who you never knew existed. Some you see right out in the open, such as vendors and ushers, but most folks don’t really think twice about them either. Jon Hart was never a super athlete but he has fulfilled his mission to become one of those people who are part of the experience and still not a part of the actual game. It almost feels like a personal bucket list, by taking on the jobs in sports that most of us would not relish.
The author takes on jobs at various venues and relates his experiences. What one of us has not wished we were a vendor at Shea Stadium on a 100 degree day, or a ball boy at Wimbledon. How about life in a mascot suit, or stair climbing competitions. These are all things none of us go, wow that is my lifelong dream to work, but Jon Hart has made them his own.
He has taken on each of his professional challenges on the very edges of the sports world and strives to be the best he can be at it. He has shown the struggles that are inherent with each career path as well as whatever highs can be mustered from each position. It’s a funny book that takes the reader to a spot where they rarely will be able to go, and gives us the insight as to what really happens behind the scenes. It shows that with a little work and some creative interpretation of what being a professional athlete really is, it is not that difficult to be a part of that world.
As I said above it contains other sports besides baseball, so all sports fans will find something in here that will interest them. It is a fun look at one man’s personal journey through the world of sports, and will probably make you laugh out loud more than once. It truly shows that with a little ingenuity, the world of sports is open to everyone who wants to participate.
You can check out the Author’s website at the address below.
Different point of views are very important in baseball. If you have one hundred people see the same thing, you will get one hundred different takes on what just happened. This is one of the things that makes the game so great. Everyone gets to enjoy it on a personal level and make their own connection with the events as they unfold. Certain writers help the fans understand what they see out on the field, and help them digest the events so that they get full comprehension of what just happened on the field. Jayson Stark’s new book is one of those that helps fans understand what has just happened.
Being from Philadelphia I am very familiar with Jayson Stark’s work. From his days as a Phillies beat reporter to his current ESPN gig, I have enjoyed his work. He always seems to have a good grasp on what the average fan is seeing and has a way to confirm to that person that they are right. He talks to fans in his writings on a level they understand and never tries to prove how smart he is about baseball. It almost feels that you are just sitting around talking to a friend when you read one of his columns.
Wild Pitches is no different in that talking to a friend feel. It seems to be mostly a compilation of some of his previous articles of baseball events after the year 2000. It covers all the big events in the league and some of the not so big ones, but does present a nice mix of teams to the reader. Stark’s writings give you background on the events and then his take on the events and why he feels they are important. They are always well thought out and presented to the reader in a way that is easy to understand and enjoy. The only down side to this book was that the stories were not in chronological order. The end result was the book jumped around a little bit, but most readers will get over that fact.
To me, and I say this without any bias, I always enjoy Stark’s writing. I don’t have to stop and look up words after the fact, when I read his books. Honestly I don’t like it when any writer prints something and gets cute with his word choice, because in the end the reader (me) feels like an idiot. Sometimes in baseball a little bit of being down-to-earth goes a long way. Baseball fans will really enjoy this book, because it covers all the teams not just the Phillies. But on a side note, his Phillies piece in this book is exceptional, especially the chapter about Harry Kalas. You can take the boy out of Philadelphia, but I don’t think they will ever be able to take the Philadelphia out of the boy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books.
Fans of the game are always in a perpetual state of learning. Whether you have been a fan for seven days or seven decades, you can always learn something new. In that learning process, sometimes things fall through the cracks, other times no matter how many times you hear something you just don’t get it. Finally there is a book to help with the basics.
By:Phillip Mahony – 2014 McFarland Publishing
Many times when fans miss a piece of the who, what, when, where and why of baseball we are either to embarrassed to ask for help, or don’t know where to find the information. Phillip Mahony has undertaken the task of writing Baseball Explained. It breaks down all the nuts and bolts of the game and explains it in a format that is easy to understand for even the casual fan.
The Preliminary section of this book addresses the basics of the game. The playing field, the fielders, the line-ups and the basic format of the game itself. It presents the basics in a way that even people who have never experienced the game before can get the general idea of why things are what they are on the field. The next section covers objectives of the game and why things are done at certain times. It gives a basic strategy for the field and what needs to be done when and where. This gives some new insight to the basic principles of the game to the reader. We are accustomed to todays strategies which don’t always coincide with the games basic principles. In that respect it almost becomes a refresher course on the basic in-game strategies.
The third section of the book covers statistics, and this to me is very important section. It teaches why stats are so important in the game and the place they have in its make-up. Both sides of the ball are covered in the book as well as teaching how to read a box score. The part in this section that I found most important was how to fill out a score card correctly. That is something that was lacking in my fan arsenal and now I am better off for reading this book.
Finally the author takes a look at today’s game of baseball, at both the major and minor league levels. It ties in everything the reader has learned up to this point and you see some real-world applications to your readings.
This book belongs in every baseball fans library. No matter what level you think you are at as a fan, you will find something that gets clarified or explained in a way that gives the game a new meaning for you. I learned how to do a score card correctly, and finally someone explained to me the damn infield-fly rule in a way I understand. It only took 35 years for someone to explain it so I could understand it! So to Phillip Mahony, I say thank you for that one.
No single fan knows everything, and this book proves it. Everyone should check this book out.
You can check the authors web site for more information about the book
Or you can order direct from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing
Umpires are a vital part of the game. They lay down the law and instill order on the field. They keep the peace and pull the bodies out of the pile when mayhem ensues. Without them, chaos would overtake the game. Umpires could almost be considered the third team on the field, and if watched closely have their own game going on as well. The men in black are an underappreciated bunch at best and are the only ones that have to be perfect when they start their careers and improve from there. Today’s book looks at a Hall of Fame Umpiring career.
They Called Me God – The Best Umpire Who Ever Lived
By:Doug Harvey & Peter Golenbock-2014 Simon & Schuster
Doug Harvey’s career spanned four decades in the major leagues. He got to witness some spectacular careers during their prime and saw first hand some players who were considered part of baseballs golden age. On the field Harvey’s work speaks for itself. He earned his Hall of Fame induction through tireless dedication to the game and making his time on the field the best it could be. He always tried to remain true to the spirit of the game in the quality of his umpiring and was rewarded with his induction to Cooperstown.
Now all that being said we know what a great umpire Doug Harvey really was. Fans may not always want to admit it, but we know a good umpire when we see one. For those fans that are not sure what a good umpire looks like, just read this book and Doug Harvey will be glad to explain why he is the best umpire ever. He does not shy away in this book about explaining how hard he worked, and how he perfected his craft to a level above the others in the field. Doug has no hesitation of explaining how difficult his life was before he entered baseball and the rigorous standards he has adhered to his entire life and those ideals he never wavered from.
Now please don’t think I am ripping this book. They Called Me God is a very well written book and an enjoyable read. It keeps the reader very interested in the story and moves along nicely. Just have yourself prepared for a few hours of Doug Harvey telling you why he was so great. They didn’t call him God for no reason I guess! He reminds me of the same mold that Bob Feller was cast from. Their generation and life was the greatest, and no one has any chance of topping it. Call it pride, call it egotism, call it whatever you want, I just got a Bob Feller vibe from it.
Fans that enjoy the Umpires will really enjoy the book. I don’t think the get the respect they deserve most of the time, but this book goes a long way in helping you understand one of the greats of the game.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Simon & Schuster
Sometimes the best things happen in life due to plain old luck. Timing is everything I always say. It could be meeting your spouse, or could come in to play with your job. It’s hard to deny luck because it has worked to everyone’s advantage in life probably more than once. Todays book shows how dedication, pride and a little luck can help you attain anything.
Designated Hebrew-The Ron Blomberg Story
By:Ron Blomberg/Dan Schlossberg – 2006 Sports Publishing
Ron Blomberg never made it to the hall of fame in the plaque room…….but he did make it. It was all through dumb luck that Blomberg became the first Designated Hitter in the American League in 1973 when the rule was adopted. It very well could have been anyone else, but lady luck made it him. That little bit of trivia has entered him into the same building with baseball immortals for all time. Through the course of events, hard work and luck Blomberg has had an enjoyable career and life.
Born in Georgia, Blomberg takes us for the ride through his life journey. You get to hear about the stories of growing up near Atlanta, and being the only Jewish kid in the area. From there you move through the high school years and coming of age. The next portion is the most important and detailed in the book…..The New York Yankees.
Blomberg takes us through his signing with the Yankees, working through the minor leagues and finally becoming the first Jewish New York Yankee. From Blomberg’s accounts being a Jewish New York Yankee in the early 70’s, made the world his oyster. It made a situation he thought would be troublesome, more enjoyable than his wildest dreams. From fan support to his on the field accomplishments he was living the great life. Injuries shortened his playing time, but from all accounts it still seemed like a great experience in New York.
Blomberg is very proud of his faith and goes in to great detail as how it was a strength and a benefit to him on and off the field. After injuries hindered him for several years Blomberg showed how through his faith he remained strong and trusted his chosen path. Finally you see life after the Yankees and a shorter stay with the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the story book ending for Blomberg’s career that he had hoped for, but still nothing to be ashamed of.
In the end you get a complete picture of a player while not Hall of Fame worthy by the playing numbers, still made it. That small piece of immortality will live on forever and something he can always be proud of. If you like Ron Blomberg or the New York Yankees this would be a good one to pick up and check out. It is a very quick read at only 171 pages but moves quickly and holds your attention from beginning to end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
There was a point in time in the United States, that you could throw a stone and hit some sort of baseball team. Prior to the late 1950’s Major League Baseball was fairly regional, with no team calling anywhere west of St. Louis home. That led to the opportunity for small towns and larger forgotten towns to have their own brand of baseball outside of the Big Leagues. Unfortunately relocation of existing teams westward generated by the Dodgers move to Los Angeles, and the ensuing expansion in both leagues killed some of the small time baseball in those towns. Lucky for all of us, at least one of those towns history before big time baseball arrived has been preserved in print.
Houston Baseball-The Early Years 1861-1961
By:Mike Vance/SABR-2014 Bright Sky Press
Prior to 1962 Houston never had a Major League team. The Colt 45’s were the first time Houston got invited to dance with the big boys. For the century prior to 1962, Houston was not forgotten by the baseball gods. They had the opportunity to see their fair share of talent pass through town and entertain the locals. From amateur ball, to the negro leagues and even minor league baseball, Houston was a big time player in the history of the game.
Editor Mike Vance and the Larry Dierker chapter of SABR have created a very informative and entertaining book. It takes an in-depth look at what transpired in Houston during the 100 years prior to the arrival of the Houston Colt 45’s. It covers everything from the very early years of organized baseball in the city to the transition to major league baseball.
The contributors to the book have made sure that every facet of Houston baseball gets covered. Ballparks through the years are covered in the book. Seeing drawings of the makeshift fields to formal stadiums you see how the game grew and progressed in the city. They also show some of the Major Leaguers that made stops in the early careers in Houston on their way to stardom. Each of the various minor league teams that called Houston home are also remembered in this book. Owners, semi pro leagues as well as the Negro Leagues in the Houston area are not forgotten either.
The research in this book has been painstakingly done and it shows. They went above and beyond in creating a really comprehensive book that showcases Houston’s history within the game. Students of the history of the game really should take a look at this book, because almost everyone is guaranteed to learn something from it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press
In life sometimes you find people, that no matter the circumstances, just don’t click. It could be differences in personality, belief differences, values or a host of other reasons. Todays book takes an in-depth look at Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and the relationship they had during the integration of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie & Campy
By: William C. Kashatus – 2014 University of Nebraska Press
Jackie Robinson was obviously the player chosen by Branch Rickey to integrate the Dodgers. We are all familiar with Robinson so really no need to go through the history of integration here. Roy Campanella was also chosen by Branch Rickey to further integrate the Dodgers after the success of Robinson. The fascinating part about this story is that these two men were chosen to do the same job, and had such extremely different personalities.
Jackie Robinson was deeply planted in his beliefs and was very prideful.. He understood what his place in history was going to be and realized that it would lead to the opportunity to further the cause in society. Roy Campanella was a former Negro League player and understood what the cause was trying to promote. The difference was that Roy wanted to just play baseball and not be a crusader for the cause. He was never one looking to rock the boat or make a point. Both men were aware of their place in history, they just went about securing that place in different ways.
Kahatus does a very nice job in this book. He takes the approach that the reader is not very familiar with the entire process that ensued with Branch Rickey’s great experiment. He details each players background on and off the field, and the steps that Rickey walked them through prior to reaching Brooklyn. If you are very familiar or well read on baseball integration, this part may be a little tedious for you. Next the author moves to the on field activities between the Dodgers and the other teams. It shows the bigotry and events that transpired during this ground breaking time. Again it may be a little tedious for the reader if they are well versed in these events.
The most interesting part of this book I found was the dynamic between Robinson and Campanella. You see how their difference of opinion as to what their role in integration was, created friction between the two teammates and eventually led to animosity in the clubhouse. It’s an interesting look at the way two people fighting for equality and acceptance were not able to extend that courtesy to each other. It is the first time I came across this story and found it quite interesting. The chapters leading up to this section may be repetitive and found in other books, but the last section made the book worthwhile. These two men made a lasting impression and changed the game for the better and proved they were human as well. If you are not well read in the history of baseball integration this book does a great job of giving you a comprehensive picture. If you are well versed on it, all is not lost. You do get some new information that makes it worth the time to read.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Nebraska Press