The passage of time is a fact of life. No matter what happens in the world around us, time always marches on. In baseball we measure time by seasons, innings and even outs. As time passes, nostalgia tends to creep in and distort memories of the past. So how does one keep those memories straight and know exactly what was going through their mind at a given point in time almost 50 years ago? You ask Bob Gibson how to do it of course!
I don’t know about any of you, but I can’t keep straight what I did last week, let alone decades ago. So you can understand my apprehension with this book when you realize Gibson is trying to remember his thought process from one single game in 1968. Granted that game was game from the 1968 World Series, but I still started reading this book with some skepticism.
After reading this one, I am very glad to report that Gibson and Wheeler have produced a very enjoyable book that is fun to read. Bob Gibson walks us through the entire game of the 1968 that he started. Inning by inning he gives the reader the inside angle on pitch selection, how he approached certain batters and his overall attitude. All these things put together give you a view of the game that fans can rarely see.
Another nice aspect of this book is that it is not strictly game details. He weaves in stories and anecdotes that give the reader some things in which to connect with Gibson. A fierce competitor who some would consider downright scary at times and a person never known to hold back his opinions, this book puts a face to that side of his personality that you rarely see from Bob Gibson.
I imagine it is very hard for anyone to remember all the details from that long ago and I am sure some video watching was involved in prepping for this book, but Bob Gibson does a really great job of getting the entire story across to the reader. This game was a few years before my time, but I found within these pages what was needed to make me feel like I was really there.
Baseball fans across the board should enjoy this book. It is a rare glimpse into the mind of a great competitor doing what he does best. At almost 80 years old the recall of the game is an amazing feat in and of itself, but the book makes you feel like you are on the field with him. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books
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
Do you ever wonder what happened to all the old players you rooted for? As a fan, one day they are a vital part of your daily routine and then the next day they are gone. You invest time in players six months out of the year, so much so that they seem to become part of your life. As time erodes skills, these players just often vanish into thin air once your favorite team is done with them. Now you can take a walk down memory lane and catch up with those players of yesteryear.
I will admit, I am a sucker for books like these. It gives me the chance to take a trip back in time and re-live a few memories with some of the players I followed during their careers. It also gives me a chance to catch up with these same players and see where their lives went after baseball. Since fans dedicate so much emotion to the game during the season, you form a personal connection with certain players each season. That is why these books to me almost feel like catching up with some old friends.
Sports Publishing publishes these books for various teams throughout the league using authors that are well-educated and connected with their respective teams. Using these type of authors allows the reader to see some famous and not so famous players that they can relate to. Fran Zimniuch who is the author of the Phillies book brings us the stars like Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and Robin Roberts which appeal to multiple generations. But he also catches up with Bill Laxton, Costen Shockley and Doug Clemens, which honestly only hard-core Phillies fans would even know they were part of the organization.
Rob Raines takes the same approach to his Cardinals version of the book, but honestly due to the pedigree of the St. Louis Cardinals he has a better pool of players of which to choose from. The end result is he has a few more well-known names compared to the Phillies book. Both books offer the fans of those teams a fun and interesting read that fly’s by.
I think fans of each respective team should take a look at these, because you get a little history lesson and might find some players that you never realized were part of the team at one point in time. It also is a fun trip down memory lane and you may find yourself going hey I remember when that happened. Sports Publishing has a pretty big team list of these types of books so there is something for everybody.
You can get these books and several other teams from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
I have reviewed several books from Clerisy Press here on the Bookcase in the past. Every book we looked at was tied to the Cincinnati Reds, and there long and glorious history. They have done a great job with the Reds series and always allow fans to get detailed and complete stories. Now I have some other offerings from the same publisher that helps fans make sure they can enjoy the baseball season every single day of the year.
John Snyder and Clerisy Press have created this oddball series of books that are a lot of fun for fans of each individual baseball team. Birthdays, stadium milestones, historical team events, team personnel as well as any other thing to mark a historical occasion or event in your teams history are captured here.
Each book has been broken down to into date format so you can see what happened on any particular date. So readers can read it in various ways. You can sit down and read the book at one shot or you can read a page a day and spread the fun out through the entire year. Readers can even pick certain days they want to check out, like your birthday, wife’s birthday, anniversary, dog’s birthday, tax day, the possibilities are endless to make the book fun for the readers. It allows the fan to make sure every day even during the off-season, has a little baseball in it.
I also think books like this are a great learning tools for new fans. They allow you to get team history in a fun and interesting way. They are a basic history lesson of the team in small bites, so you are actually learning something without realizing it. When did the Cardinals set a major league record for using the most pitchers in a shutout? How are the Dodgers involved in the only foul ball fatality? How many managers did the Red Sox have in 1907? When was the longest game at Wrigley Field…..and no it was not 1979? These are the fun things you will get in each of these books, and John Snyder has hit a home run with research and attention to detail which allows him to bring forth to the fans informative, enjoyable and fun books.
You can get all of these books from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
I was well aware of George Altman’s Major League Baseball career before I read this book. I have seen the stats from when he played in Chicago, St Louis and New York. To say they were average at best is fair. He never played for a pennant winner and was hard pressed to even play for a team that was in the first division. Again, he was a serviceable player whom had an average career. All of that being said this book opened my eyes to what a remarkable career he really did have after all.
George Altman-My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors and Beyond
By:George Altman and Lew Freedman- 2013 McFarland Publishing
I was genuinely surprised by the journey George had throughout his career. This book starts like an other baseball autobiography we come across. You get the family background and the stories from childhood. After a few stories about college George moves on to the Negro Leagues under the tutelage of Buck O’Neil. After one season with the Monarchs which it seems he really enjoyed, you move along with George to the MLB and his stops in the minors. The book gives great insight of what it was like to be a player in minor league baseball during the era. It shows you the steps that needed to be taken in that era to make it to the big time. It also shows the bigotry that still existed during that era in our society which found George as well.
Finally George makes it to the majors and you see how his journey evolves. The reader learns how he adapted to the big time and how he worked on his game and battled through injury to become a better player. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t, yet you get the complete picture of the whole process that George went through in his own words. Eventually, you see the decline and eventual end of George’s American baseball career and the closing of one door and the opening of another……on another continent.
This is the point of the book that I found most interesting. Most of the time when a player leaves the American baseball scene for the Japanese league you know about it. I may be the only one that didn’t know about George’s incredible career in Japan but I was amazed at his career over there. He worked very hard to adapt to the culture and be an accepted guest in the country while honing his craft. He truly had a remarkable career over in Japan and it seems that this may be some of the most enjoyable time George spent playing baseball.
After some injuries and health problems, you see how George prepared for, and adapted to life after baseball. He had a remarkable journey through three leagues and seems very thankful for his experiences and the people he has met along the way. From what I have seen it takes a special person to play and adapt to the two premiere baseball leagues in the world. Actually George played in three leagues of that caliber, if you include the Negro League, and looks to have enjoyed every minute through his incredible journey.
I think all fans that know of George and his career will enjoy this book. It gives an honest glimpse in to the man himself as well as the career he had. It is well written and is a quick read, I just wish it had a few more pictures.
You can get this book from the nice folks at
McFarland Publishing 800-253-2187
I have grown up and spent my entire life as a born and bred Phillies fan. I think my Father tried lots of times to make my first words Richie Ashburn needs to be in the Hall of Fame. But that is my team good or bad, rich or poor, pretty or ugly……That’s the girl I went to the prom with and that’s who I’m leaving with………even though they are really really really bad this year……but thats another topic.
I thought it would be a good idea since you know just a little background on me as a fan to start with a team that is close to my heart and I chose this one because the subject has always been a lightning rod to comments and controversy no matter what town he played in……. so without further ado……today’s book is……..
CRASH: The Life and Times of Dick Allen
By Dick Allen and Tim Whitaker (1989)
If I hadn’t mentioned before I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and being a Phillies fan you always heard the Dick-Don’t call me Richie-Allen stories. Now his first tour of duty with the Phils was a little before my time but I do remember the second tour in 75 & 76. As with most things in life as time goes by the stories grow grander and the acts more outlandish. But the overall impression I got with this book is Dick Allen just wanted to be left alone to play Baseball.
The story seems to be told to Tim Whitaker in sort of a third person format with visits with Dick and family members and friends. As the book progresses you feel the stories from Dick coming forth a little easier and him being more open about what he wanted when he played from management and the owners to the people around him in his everyday life. This format seems to work good for this book because its flows better than I think Dick trying to explain this in a first person account.
The book is only 189 pages and moves very quickly from chapter to chapter in nice tidy little nuggets. It starts with The Frank Thomas Incident (fight) with the Phillies, to his time in the minors dealing with racial issues, back to the Phillies and dealing with the press and the team, to being traded several times to back to the Phillies for Round 2 to his life after Baseball. Like I said it moves very quickly and has very tidy chapters leaving no loose ends.
As far as a biography goes its a very easy read I did it in two nights on the couch. The end result of this book for me was that I came away feeling that Dick Allen is not the A$$-h*le that the media had portrayed him as while I was growing up. He came across as thoughtful and insightful and just an everyday person who was thrust in to the spotlight that really didn’t want to be. By the end of the book you see Dick as a guy who is just living an average everyday life working on his horse farm and enjoying what he is doing. He seems to have no career regrets except maybe he just wishes he was left alone to play the game he loved.
In the end this book changed my perception of Dick Allen for the positive. He wasn’t out to change the world or fight the system or raise awareness to his cause…..He just wanted to be left alone to play. So if you have any interest in Dick Allen this may be a worthwhile read for you. I have met many former Phillies players through the years but have not met him but even though its contradictory to the whole premise of the book and his aversion to stardom I would now like to meet him and shake his hand,
And just a little note if you are as big Phillies fans as me and my wife are……….of course we have a cat name Phillie !!!!
Hopefully these posts will be a little better as I go along but hopefully its not to bad for the first review and it makes some sense