Category: Cubs

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

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

Burleigh Grimes-Baseball’s Last Legal Spitballer


I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best.  It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed.  When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era.  In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible  and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans.  But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964?  I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.

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By:Joe Niese-2013

For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide.  I was familiar with his writing from  his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good.  He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.

Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes.  From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers.  It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II.  It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era.  Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.

Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days.  His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees.  On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about.  Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person.  Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life.  To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.

For my money,  Joe Niese did a great job with this book.  He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with.  He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by.  Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.

I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this.  It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality.  Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time.  This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters.  Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese

Burleigh Grimes

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

Swish Nicholson-Wartime Baseball’s Leading Slugger


With this week’s Hall of Fame vote finally announced, you get to see how many truly amazing players that played the game.  Every year we fight about the superstars and who deserves to be enshrined this year.  Beyond these greats are the people who are the backbone of the game.  The good and borderline great players who are not Hall worthy but still had really good careers.  There are also the people who had solid days on the field but were honestly nothing memorable otherwise.  For every Hall of Fame caliber player there are hundreds of other players that fell below them in the grand scheme of the game.  It is important that history does not forget these types of players.  Through their hard work and dedication they have helped forge the story of baseball.  Today’s book takes a look at one of those players that had a good career, that while not Hall worthy, still was good enough to be respected and admired by various generations.

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By:Robert A. Greenberg-2008

I went into this book only familiar with Swish Nicholson’s time with the Philadelphia Phillies.  A member of the beloved Whiz Kids, he was a name that Phillies fans were accustomed to hearing as one of the Philly greats.  It turns out before Bill ever stopped in my hometown, he had a really incredible career in the Windy City with the Cubs, but was hindered by the fact that his prime was during the height of World War II.  Being a wartime slugger discounted his achievements on the field because the rest of the world felt all the best players were off serving in the military.  This fact created the perception of Swish Nicholson’s career as not being as good as his numbers portrayed, because the competition was not up to its normal MLB standard.

This book makes a very solid attempt at showing Nicholson’s career in the correct light it deserves.  It gives a lot of background on his personal life and growing up in the early 20th century.  The book gives the reader a real feel of what Bill Nicholson was like off the field, as well as what kind of exceptional player he was on it.  This book also shows life after baseball and with older players, I find it interesting to see their transition back into regular life.  It is so different than what modern players have to go through.  It has to be very hard to go from being a star on the field to a regular guy working 9 to 5 and punching a clock.

Book like this are important in that they keep the memories of players whom may not have been Hall of Fame worthy alive in the minds of baseball fans.  Books like this bring the past back to life and show readers various eras of the game they have only heard of through stories of older generations.  Fans should check out Swish Nicholson, it is one of those books that is both entertaining and educational for everyone.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

“Swish” Nicholson

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

The Tall Mexican – The Life of Hank Aguirre


Sometimes even the best of us get fooled.  While we try our hardest to know what we are getting ourselves into, sometimes the old bait and switch applies.  I try to have a general idea as to what I am going to read before I start a new book, but it once in a great while will be the exact opposite.  You can usually tell from the cover notes what a book is about, but then other times you are really not sure.  Today’s book is one that I feel was not quite what it was supposed to be.

By: Robert Coplay -1998

By: Robert Coplay -2000

This book was about the life of the Major League Pitcher Hank Aguirre.  A durable pitcher for his time, he put up some respectable numbers but nothing Hall of Fame worthy.  He also spent a great portion of his life after baseball dedicated to making the community around him a better place.  These are all very nice sentiments for a local hero but unfortunately for someone looking for a baseball book this one would be considered a swing and a miss.

The book does briefly touch on Hank’s baseball career in the majors as well as his upbringing in the Hispanic community.  It focuses largely on Hank’s post baseball career as a businessman and humanitarian.  It shows how he was instrumental in bringing decent jobs to the Hispanic community in Detroit during a period of economic death.  The details are great from a business standpoint and show the human side of this former baseball player.  You get a sense of great compassion for his employees and great civic pride Hank was known for.

If you’re looking for a good Baseball book this may not be the one for you.  It is light on the details of Hank’s career and very heavy on his involvement in the business and Hispanic community.  Over all it is a good book, it just misses the mark on being an actual baseball book.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press

https://artepublicopress.com/product/the-tall-mexican-the-life-of-hank-aguirre-all-star-pitcher-businessman-humanitarian/

Happy Reading

Gregg

Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime With the Cubs


There are certain players that have incredible careers, but somehow fall into the background.  Perhaps they are overshadowed by a more popular teammate, or their personalities are the type that naturally keep them out of the limelight.  When you think of the Chicago Cubs, most people automatically think of Ernie Banks.  Mr.Cub as he was affectionately known, basically owned Chicago.  He could do no wrong as far as Cubs fans are concerned and every teammate of that era was subject to living in Ernie’s shadow.  The subject of todays book is one of those teammates that had a Hall of Fame career that was just as good as Mr. Cubs, but is not always at the forefront of the conversation when you talk about the stars of Wrigley.

By: Billy Williams-2008

By: Billy Williams-2008

From his roots in the Negro Leagues to his final destination in Cooperstown, Billy Williams had a very nice career.  He crossed paths with some of the games immortals as well as etching his own name among them.  If Williams had played for almost any other team in baseball during his era except maybe the Yankees, he would have been the toast of that town.  He played almost his entire career behind Ernie Banks who had Chicago wrapped around his finger, so Billy sometimes becomes an afterthought.  That fact alone is hard to comprehend because he put up career numbers that easily gained him acceptance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Billy Williams book is a nice light reader that walks you through his career.  From his early start in the Negro Leagues as well as the Minor Leagues you see the personal and professional obstacles he had to overcome to reach his goal.  Many of the struggles were socially accepted at the time but were still a lot for any individual to handle.  He also shows the reader the steps needed to make it and stay in the majors for any young player at that time wanting to be a Cub.

A majority of the book is obviously spent covering his time as a Chicago Cub.  While the team had trouble finding any sort of success on the field, it still comes across as a great time to be a Cub player or fan during a great era of baseball.  The book also covers his brief stay with the Oakland A’s and the bizarre dealings with Charlie Finley.  Finally it finishes up with his induction to Cooperstown and his life with his family after baseball.

If you are looking for sordid behind the scenes details of the life of a baseball player, this is not the book for you.  If you are looking for nice, light and easy reading about a sometimes forgotten but nonetheless loved superstar of the Chicago Cubs, then you should take a look at this one.  I learned a few things about Billy Williams on both the personal and professional level in this one and in the end think better of him as both a player and a man.  All baseball fans will enjoy this book, even those outside of the Windy City.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books

http://www.triumphbooks.com/billy-williams-products-9781600780509.php

Happy Reading

Gregg