Category: Biography

Leo Durocher-Baseball’s Prodigal Son


I am sure no one has missed me on here, but I should probably give a brief explanation of my MIA status.  Between a new job, moving back to Philadelphia and figuring out this whole Fatherhood thing, baseball books have become the victim of circumstances.  Now that we are settled in our new place and the very large former Ron Kaplan book collection has been moved, I can hopefully focus on some more books, but if anyone has any ideas how to get an eight month old to sleep through the night, I would love to hear from you.  I figured I would start back with a book that was highly anticipated by myself and did not disappoint.

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By Paul Dickson-2017

I was familiar with Dickson’s previous work on his Bill Veeck book and really enjoyed that one, so I expected more of the same with this.  Leo Durocher was one of those figures in baseball history that was either loved or hated, somewhere in the middle was not an option.  To date, there have been a few books about Durocher, but none recently so it was a subject worth revisiting.

Paul Dickson takes a hard look at both Durocher’s playing and managing career.  Not really much of a player numbers-wise, he had the small guy attitude that was appreciated by many a manager.  This book looks at his trouble with Babe Ruth and the hard-nosed play that forged his cocky reputation.   It is very thorough look at an often overlooked part of Leo’s resume.

Durocher’s real strength was his managing obviously.  With varying degrees of success at all of his stops in the big leagues, you see how his hard-nosed playing attitude spills over into his managing.  The reader also sees how Leo becomes the victim of a changing game.  How more success early in his career does not carry over in the latter years.  The game changed along with player attitudes, but old Leo stuck to his guns.  It translated into some rough times for the long time manager, but those stops still put the finishing touches on an impressive career.

The one aspect of this book I found most interesting was the details of his private life.  From associations with known gamblers, to his friendships with the Hollywood types, it leads to a very interesting life.  Of course, the four wives add some zing to that private life also.  It is an interesting aspect of Leo that we know some details about, but this sheds a whole new light on the subject.

Overall, this book is tirelessly researched and prepared well.  It gets a little stat heavy at times, but the overall content of the book makes up for that lone aspect I did not like.  If you have any interest in Durocher, or are a fan of this era of the game, check this one out.  At 300+ pages it is a lot of reading but is for sure, time well spent.

Check it out, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

Happy Reading

Gregg

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Happy Felsch-Banished Black Sox Center Fielder


Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information.  The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike.  Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.

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By:Thomas Rathkamp-2016

Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team.  A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways,  Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game.  Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers.  Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.

Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it.  Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal.  It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.

What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved.  We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more.  For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal.  Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now,  Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.

Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal.  We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago.  We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events.  Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago.  So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended?  For that I am not so sure.  But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own.  I myself like this book on its own,  because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?

If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Happy Felsch

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Wonder Boy – The Story of Carl Scheib


In my opinion, the arena of Baseball books is in no way an exact science.  There is no rhyme or reason as to what person an author chooses to write about, or which players decide I want to write my own book.  It leaves readers with endless choices and multiple avenues to pursue their favorite subjects.  With all of these choices,  readers may get led down a road that they will regret in the end.  As I have always said, nobody wants to waste time on a bad book.  I wonder which side of the fence today’s book falls into?

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By:Lawrence Knorr-2016

Carl Scheib is not a household name like Pete Rose or Babe Ruth, but he did have a professional career playing for both the Philadelphia Athletics and St Louis Cardinals.  Not being Cy Young reincarnated on the mound led me to believe that this book was going to focus more on his personality and less on his lack of pitching prowess. Well……. I was wrong.

Wonder Boy is very heavy in game by game details of Carl Scheib’s professional career.  When I say heavy I mean HEAVY!  After the first few chapters that give you the standard background on the player, family friends, schooling home life etc., it jumps right into his career.  Each chapter tends to cover a full season showing the highlights and lowlights of that year for Scheib.  It also tries to mix in a bit of personal information about Carl in each year but seemed forced and unnatural.

Books about a player from Connie Mack’s A’s, let alone near the end of his regime do not seem like popular subjects.  Probably because the team at that point was operated on such a shoe string budget that the quality of players was not that good.  Which then led to no one really taking an interest in most of the players on a personal level.  It is a double edged sword for the Athletics players in Philadelphia during this era.

If you really, really want to find out information on Carl Scheib this is your only resource right now.  It does offer some personal insight into the man and the player and gives the reader some stories about a man who will eventually be forgotten to time because he played for one of those horrible Connie Mack teams.  Unfortunately for my taste, this book relies to much on game day play by play to fill its pages.

As always, I leave it to you the reader to check it out and see if you agree with me or not, you can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press

Wonder Boy

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Willie Stargell-A Life in Baseball


I have mentioned before how I find it odd  how certain great players get lost to the passage of time.  I don’t know if that is a product of playing for a smaller market team, playing in the shadow of a teammate or them being the type of player that does not seek the spotlight of the media.  Whatever the case may be, today’s book takes a look at one of those players that left a huge mark on the field but never seems to get the full recognition he deserves.

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By Frank Garland-2013

Over the past year I have talked on here about two or three other Willie Stargell books.  I have come to the same conclusion with each one that he was an extremely underrated player that was finally getting his deserved props even if they were coming posthumously.

Frank Garland takes an approach to Willie Stargell that is in many ways like the other books.  Looking at his upbringing in California, through his time in the segregated minor leagues to his rise to stardom as member of the Pittsburgh Pirates that culminated in immortality in Cooperstown.  Garland’s research  is very thorough and paints a very detailed and complete picture of Willie Stargell the baseball player.

What is different about this book from the others out there is Garland takes his research beyond just the field.  He gets involved in the story line of Stargell’s life after baseball. This area is one place where the other biographies fail in comparison.  This book shows Willie’s love and involvement in the classical music scene after his retirement.  It also shows his involvement as a coach with the Atlanta Braves.  Many people forget that Willie was a coach in the Braves system and his tutelage left an undeniable mark on some of their up and coming big league prospects.  These are the same prospects that when they finally came to the big leagues won 15 or so division championships.  It shows the knowledge Stargell possessed and how he was able to pass it on to a new era of superstars.

This book is another example of giving Willie Stargell his accolades while presenting some different aspects of the player and the man.  If you have read other Stargell biographies you may find some of what is talked about repetitive, but in the end it does present some new information that was not included in other books.  The book does move along at a moderate pace and allows the reader to stay engaged with the story.

I have yet to figure out why Willie Stargell is relegated to the shadows.  Is it playing in Pittsburgh his entire career, is it the quiet strength he brought to his team or is it playing in the shadow of Robert Clemente?  I am not sure if it is all or any of these but they are reasonable questions to ask.  For this fan though, it is nice to see Willie Stargell remembered for being the superstar that he was both on and off the field.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Willie Stargell- A Life in Baseball

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Odds and Ends-Spring 2016


I figured with my extended time off to recuperate I would have plenty of time to write on my blog.  Boy was  I wrong, between needing to get up and walk around every ten minutes because I am stiffening up and the fact the the medicines keep knocking me out, I am having trouble finding the time to write, let alone read.  But, what it has done is given me the chance to look at some books that I would not always feel were the correct fit for an entire single post.  The book could be too short, it could be a coffee table book or it could be a book that doesn’t really target my audience.  These are in no way bad books, because honestly if they sucked, I wouldn’t waste the time putting them on here for everyone to look at them, but there is a format issue that doesn’t work well within my bookcase. So from time to time we do one of these multi book posts to clean up one of the shelves in the bookcase……and share some of these books to the world.  So here we go…..

Baseball’s No -Hit Wonders-More than a Century of Pitching’s Greatest Feats

By Dirk Lammars-2016

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Is it me, or do no hitters seem to happen more often today then they did say thirty of forty years ago?  Has the level of play in the league diminished that much that these have become commonplace?  Lammers takes the readers through the interesting history of the no hitter and how it has played out through the history of the game. He shows the pitchers and hitters involved, no hitters that were broken up after 26 outs and all the other odd and wacky things that happened in the past to those pitchers, both lucky and good enough to even flirt with a no-no.  If your interested in the who, what, when, where and why of no-hitters you will really enjoy what this book will bring to your table.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Unbridled Books

 

The 50 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Pirates History

By David Finoli-2016

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These types of books are always fun.  For the one and only reason that no two people will ever agree 100 percent as to who belongs at what spot on the list. I really don’t know what the criteria is by the authors to make it on to these types of lists, but they never seem to disappoint the reader.  They always include the Hall of Famers, team superstars as well as the hometown heroes. You would also have to think they target their specified teams fan base so they are always eager to please the homers.  I had done this type of book by another author on the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and I went back to pull it out to compare.  What I found is that more then half of the players they can agree on being in the book,, but differ on where they rank.  So bottom line is if you read one of these books about your team and find another one, check it out because it may give you a different spin on the players that may be more in line with your personal rankings as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield

 

The BUCS!-The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates

By John McCollister-2016

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Lets stay in Pittsburgh  for a second on this book.  The BUCS! takes a very brief look at the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  From its 19th century beginnings to its current day under field manager Clint Hurdle, this book takes an abbreviated, but fast paced look at the history in Pittsburgh.  If the Pirates are not your team and never have been in the past, this book is a great way to get a good albeit brief history from Kiner and Roberto to Bonds and McCutchen.  Its only roughly 200 pages, so even if you are familiar with Bucs history it would be a quick and easy refresher course.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press.

The Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies

By Bob Gordon-2016

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What would one of these posts be without a Phillies book?  This book, first released by Bob Gordon in 2005, compiles some of the greatest names in Phillies history and gives strong bios on each of those lucky enough to be a Phillie. It gives a great look at team history from an author that has some great ties to the team itself, through several other books he has written.  So why do you need to buy the reprint of a book released ten years ago?  It has been updated for deaths of the older players and it also has added a few Phillies superstars that became prominent in the last half of the last decade when the Phillies were on top of the world.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

The Grind-Inside Baseball’s Endless Season

By Barry Svrluga-2015

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Without question, Baseball has the most grueling schedule of all the professional leagues.  Almost stretching to nine months of the year when you factor in pre and post season, it would take some sort of toll on even the strongest of personalities.  Svrluga has taken a look at this relentless schedule and the effect it has on the personal lives of those involved and how it effects almost everyone involved with a team.  It looks at varying position players , the 26th man on most rosters, travelling secretaries, spouses, kids and clubhouse attendants.  It really is an interesting look behind the scenes of the game and what those involved are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the great game of baseball. You van get this book from the nice folks at Blue Rider Press

 

Diamond Madness-Classic Episodes of Rowdyism, Racism and Violence in Major League Baseball

By William A. Cook-2013

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William Cook’s Diamond Madness gives the reader a good look at the scary side of baseball.  When you get beyond all of the normal hero worship that comes as part of the normal territory with the game and when those things get really scary.  Fan obsessions, death threats, violence, racism, shootings and robberies are all just a part of what is shown to the readers of this book.  It is amazing how even though these are normal stories in the everyday world, they are so many times magnified just by playing baseball.  It also goes to show how much work the people behind the scenes in baseball put in to making sure nothing tarnishes the wholesomeness of the American Past-time.  I think if you check this out it will show some new perspectives to the average fan of what really goes on.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press.

 

Tales From the Atlanta Braves Dugout

By Cory McCartney-2016

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I will admit it………..I love this series!   You can get whatever team you wish at this point because it seems like almost every team is available now.  You can also use it as a history lesson to brush up on all the funny stories of a team that you are not very familiar with and get a good feel for what that teams history is all about.  If you grab the book of your favorite team it is a chance to regale in all the stories you have heard time and time again and like a favorite uncle at a holiday dinner, are glad to listen to over and over.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

 

I See the Crowd Roar-The Story of William “Dummy” Hoy

By Joseph Rotheli & Agnes Gaertner-2014

This book is intended for a younger audience but it does provide a very deep lesson for all fans.  William Hoy was hearing impaired and never heard a single fan cheer for him.  The book shows how Hoy overcame his disability and made the best if it as well as keeping up a positive attitude during the course of events.  The book also shows the positive impact had on the function of the game and how things like hand signals that were originally implemented for Hoy alone, have become mainstays of the game generations later.  It truly is an inspiring story that younger fans should be made aware of so they have a complete baseball education.  There is also a movie version of the book in the pipeline as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the lil-red-foundation.

 

Black Baseball, Black Business-Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar

By Roberta Newman & Joel Nathan Rosen-2014

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In baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems.  This book takes a look at how the integration of baseball, while a great thing on the civil rights front, created waves that destroyed black economies in the larger cities that were homes to Negro League Teams.  It is a really interesting look at the economies of the integration of baseball on those parties that were not in any way involved in the decision making process or the game of baseball itself.  It also shows how the innocents involved were essentially destroyed by the baseball powers that were at the time pushing it as a cause for greater good.

Happy Reading

Gregg

A Book That Most of Us Have Been Waiting For


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

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By: Mitchell Nathanson-2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Almighty Hisself

Happy Reading

Gregg

Connie Mack-A Life Well Chronicled


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Connie Mack

Happy Reading

Gregg