Like it or not, wherever your favorite team plays is an integral part of the game experience. From unique dimensions, playing surfaces and the elements, these things can all add or detract from the overall experience. With the birth of so many new venues over the last 25 years, the fan experience has been dramatically improved. For the most part the previous generation of stadiums lacked ingenuity or any sort of bling and at the bare minimum left something to be desired for the fans. The only fun part of them was the nicknames that were bestowed to several of them such as concrete doughnut and my personal favorite…..the Toilet. There was one stadium that stood out among all of these circular disappointments and stood above all the rest, The Houston Astrodome. Its amenities were well ahead of the times and served the fans of Houston well for several decades. Now there is a book that celebrates the creation of the iconic stadium and shows all the work that went into building the eighth wonder of the world.
I have always looked at the Astrodome as a baseball stadium. Never giving much thought to the other uses for this multi-purpose marvel. First, this book takes a look at the political wrangling that it took for the city of Houston to procure a Major League team as well as some of the promises it was required to make as part of that deal. It shows the tireless efforts of several key figures in Houston and the many failed previous efforts of the town. It paints a vivid picture of how much time and effort goes in to just getting a promise of a team.
The book also goes into great detail about the political obstacles the new stadium faced in Houston as well as all the engineering hurdles that had to be cleared to create something of this magnitude. It goes into great depth to explain how the stadium was physically built to withstand the elements and how it has been able to withstand the test of time. The authors also show the readers all of the unique attributes that were built into the stadium and you can see how forward thinking those involved with its construction truly were.
The book also addresses the many uses the Astrodome had. From concerts, rodeos, football and countless other uses, it really lent itself to being a jack of all trades. Like all stadiums of this era, it was a living, breathing and evolving building and changed with the needs of the times. Finally, it does take a harsh look at the aging of the dome and how it fell victim of the current times. In the end, the once grand palace of baseball became just another decrepit old stadium. A stadium that no one is sure what to do with and probably at some point, like all the one time greats, will meet its demise.
The book is very comprehensive and shows those not living in Texas what the Astrodome was truly about. It also gives a nice glimpse at Texas politics and how that works as well as the way the people of Houston have helped change their self image with the help of the dome.
While this is not a baseball only book, it still has a large chunk of Colt 45’s/Astros information. If you have interest in old stadiums this book covers it from its beginnings to its possible near end. It has lots of information readers will find informative and entertaining, If like me, you were never lucky enough to visit the Astrodome, this book will surely make you wish you had.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
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.
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
Success is fleeting. For some people it is faster than others. Some players it lasts twenty years and for others it can only be one day. No matter its length of time, it will eventually vanish, and all you are left with is memories. For John Paciorek the game of baseball allowed him one day of immortality and generated hopes of long-range success. That grand success was never to be, but now there is a book that lets readers take a glimpse of the one game wonder that finished with a perfect career.
John Paciorek was a hometown hero. Brought forth from a family of standout athletes, he showed the promise of greatness on high school teams that garnered the attention of the Houston Colt 45’s. In today’s game Paciorek would be considered a can’t miss prospect and all sorts of attention would be paid to him to make sure he had an All-Star career. Due to a series of back problems an All-Star career was not in the cards for Paciorek, but he did get to play in one single game for the Colt 45’s in 1963 and went a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate. This feat was something that had never happened before or since and left the slugger with a perfect 1.000 career batting average. It was a game that left John with the distinction of the only payer with more than one at bat in the major leagues to have a perfect career batting average. That officially makes him the answer to a trivia question.
Author Steven K.Wagner has undertaken the task of sharing John Paciorek’s career story with the whole world. He covers his humble upbringings in Michigan, through his high school years highlights. You see a complete picture of the background and values of the local star athlete. Next you see John’s progression through the minor leagues and his eventual call up to the Colt 45’s. That brief stint with the Colts leads to one game in which John takes the field. The book takes in-depth analysis of the one game John played in and shows how every single event transpired that day. It also unfortunately shows how things did not work out in John’s career after that great game. A nice portion of the book shows John’s life after baseball and what you find is a man who is at peace with the hand he was dealt in life. Paciorek does not seem bitter at all, especially as one might think he would after his brother Tom had a successful major league career for several years.
It is a good book for all readers who like to learn about obscurity in baseball. It is well written and tells the complete story of both the man and the player, and allows John to become more than just a footnote in baseball history. Books like this I feel are necessary so that we don’t lose the minor things to the passage of time in our sport. He will always be that trivia question answer, but now we are able to understand his full story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Breakaway Books
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
Baseball is full of storied careers. With the passage of time, some of the stories become bigger than life. Some of those careers get clouded by the haze of nostalgia, or the feeling of what we used to have is better than today. Todays book takes an honest look at a high-profile career and gave me a clear look at what really happened.
The Wizard of Waxahachie
By:Warren Corbett – 2009 Southern Methodist University Press
Paul Richards mark on baseball is undeniable. There are many things, by design or perhaps by accident, that have been attributed to him. Pitch counts, five man pitching rotations, tracking on-base percentages, his fingerprints are all over baseball today. What you don’t always see is the way the mind operated during his lifetime dedicated to the sport.
Warren Corbett wrote a book almost 25 years after Richards death. Relying on family memories, notes and audio recordings that the family had provided, and has given a seldom seen side of Paul Richards. He delves in to the devious side of Richards and his dealings with players and management during his illustrious career. He also creates an accurate feeling that he was a hustler to many, both on the field and the golf course.
The most interesting aspect of this book to me is the trouble Paul Richards had bridging the generation gap. When I say generation gap I am talking about the gap that was created near the end of his career in the dawn of free agency. Richards had a lot of problems accepting the birth and subsequent power of the MLB Players Union. It shows how after almost 50 years in baseball he was very set in his ways.
While after finding moderate success on and off the field in all his stops in baseball, Richards was a man of many friends and able to work the old boy network to his advantage and always find work. That may be some of the reason he was not interested in adjusting to the new era of baseball. The book is very heavy in detail about his time in Baltimore with the Orioles. It was the longest stop of his career but still dominates about half of this book. His stops in Houston, Atlanta, both stops in Chicago and finally Texas seem to be condensed versions to fit in the book. I think a little more time could have been spent in Houston alone, due to the challenges of building a new franchise.
In the end Richards does not come out of the book looking like the genius he is regarded as today. He seems almost human and to an extent skating through some of the stops in his career. The end result of the book has shown us what I feel is a very fair and accurate portrait of Paul Richards. Wayne Corbett did a great job on this biography especially since he was doing it almost 25 years after Richards death.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Southern Methodist University Press
There are several teams within Major League Baseball that just get no respect. Sometimes the reason may be their own ineptitude, financial shortcomings or even as simple as being a group of unlikable guys. Teams that come to mind are the Miami Marlins, Washington Senators, Philadelphia and K.C. Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros just to name a few out there. They all have their place in history and it is not always negative. The loyal fan bases that these teams maintain always hold out that glimmer of hope for next year and the fortunes that may come their way. Todays book takes the time to celebrate one of those team that struggles to be respected.
Houston Astros-Deep in the Heart
By:Bill Brown & Mike Acosta-Bright Sky Press 2013
The Houston Astros were born out of National League expansion in 1962. Originally named the Colt 45’s, they started play with a bunch of over the hill and wet behind the ears players. They spent more than a decade languishing near the bottom of the standings before reaping the fruits of their labor and becoming perennial contenders for the fans of Houston. Unfortunately like most things in life, baseball standings come full circle and the Astros are rebuilding for the future once again.
Bill Brown and Mike Acosta have compiled a book that shows the pride the fans of the Astros have in their beloved team. They show that you don’t always have to meet prettiest girl at the dance to find true love. Like most teams that have a loyal following, the fans of Houston are proud of their team and its heritage no matter how they finish.
This book is really great. It has 11 different chapters and breaks the 50 plus years of Houston baseball into each. You learn about the stadiums the Astros have called home. You learn about a variety of different players and off field personnel that have worn Houston’s colors proudly. Finally you see the Astros high points on the field, most recently being the 2005 World Series. One part of this book I though was interesting is that is it gives a glimpse into the future of the Astros, it shows rising stars they are hoping will propel the team to new heights. I also found that I had no idea who has actually played for the Astros during their existence. The Houston portion of some players career’s may have been short, but there were some big time names that hung their hat in Houston for a bit.
The pictures in this book are of great quality. You get a chance to see some never before seen shots that make you feel like you were there. I for some reason wish I had the chance to see a game at the Astrodome, but never did. So I always like seeing old pictures of the eighth wonder of the world, and this book does not disappoint at all!
Astros fans will love this book. Fans of team history as well. Books like this always have a place in our bookcases. They allow fans to go back and relive the memories they have and add that special nostalgic magic to it. As we all know that nostalgic magic can make things seem better and more enjoyable than they really were, but sometimes we all need that in life. Also when you order this book it arrives with a bag of baseball candy and a bag of Cracker Jack in the box. What is more enjoyable or nostalgic in baseball than Cracker Jack????
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press