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.
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.
Most things in life are at the perspective of the person doing it. Baseball offers many things that could be relative to the person witnessing the action, and you could have 100 people and get 100 different perspectives. Today’s books offer essentially the same type of biography but the readers give two totally different outcomes from their authors.
Richard Elliott offers his biography of Clem Labine from a personal perspective. Theirs was essentially a life long friendship that grew from hero worship as a child when Clem was still an active player, to a relationship as a trusted colleague when Clem was an instrumental member of the author’s family business. It is an interesting transition between player and fan and adds a unique twist to the story. It is not often you come across a story like this where the former player becomes almost a member of the family.
This book is very sentimental and has every right to be. It is stories about the many interactions between player and young fan and how they formed an unlikely friendship. The book also allows the reader to see the fondness Elliott has for Labine still to this day, and the emotion of the author comes through strongly. If you are looking for an in-depth bio on Labine’s career, then this one comes in a little light, but in all truth it is an enjoyable story on a personal level that really carries its own weight and worth the read.
The next book also attempts to do the same. Tom Molito was a die hard Mickey Mantle fan growing up and as he aged his business dealings allowed him to get close to Mantle on a personal level. This one has the same hero adulation that the Clem Labine book does, but it also is from the perspective of a businessman. It shows the struggle between childhood memories and hero worship, and the dark realities of an alcoholic and former hero you are trying to work with.
It gives a very interesting look into the life of Mickey Mantle during his final years and the daily struggles Mickey had with his own demons and those that his handlers had in up keeping his public persona. The author has done a great job of being honest with the struggles he had dealing with the childhood memories and the stark truth that stared him in the face. Fortunately for the author, there was some good memories that came from his dealings with The Mick, so all was not lost.
Both of these books offer good things for the reader. Labine’s book I believe was intended to be just what it was, a tribute to a dear friend and since Labine’s death it may have been a way to write the final chapter on their friendship. The Mickey Mantle book on the other hand offers a direct look at the bleak reality of what Mickey Mantle really was near the end of his life. I don’t think it was in any way intended to be a smear book and the authors tone throughout the book solidifies my opinion on that. It is just one book had an easier subject to work with than the other.
Check out both books, because they are both short easy reads and give unique perspectives on both subjects. Labine is a hard subject to find books on and this is one of the few I have found available. Also, when was the last time you read a new and different story about Mickey Mantle, for most of us I bet it has been awhile.
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.
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
Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
No matter who you are, baseball starts with some sort of dream. It could be a dream to see a baseball game in person, meet your favorite player or be one of the chosen few who gets to play the game professionally. What if you are one of the chosen few who belong to a family where baseball would be considered the family business, quite honestly…..how cool would that be for any of us? Today’s book takes a look at one of the lucky ones that gets to call baseball their family business and the amazing experiences that it has afforded him and his family throughout their careers.
For my money, to be considered baseball royalty you do not have to be a Hall of Fame caliber player. I just think you have to have a genuine love for the game and put all your efforts into it. For those not familiar with the Campanis family, they have dedicated their lives to the game across three generations, making contributions both on and off the field.
Starting with Grandpa Al who dedicated his life to the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and New York, he contributed to building National League powerhouses that for decades were tough to beat. Second generation Jim Sr., had a respectable career on both the major league and minor league levels. With stops in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Pittsburgh during his playing days, he was able to witness many things that none of us will ever get to experience around baseball. Finally it brings us to Jim Jr. A hot prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, that quite possibly through no fault of his own, never got the real shot he deserved to make it to the Major Leagues.
Born Into Baseball takes a look at the journey of Jim Jr. From his upbringing experiencing the Major Leagues through his Father Jim and Grandfather Al’s careers, which ultimately led to him deciding this is what I want to do with my life. Jim takes us through his college experiences and how he learned to appreciate and play the game on a different level. Next he leads you through his time in the Minors. Sharing with the reader all of the friendships he made along the way as well as sharing the lighter side of being a Minor Leaguer. He also shows the reader what a player goes through when he realizes, by his own choice or someone else’s, that it is time to lay the dream to rest. It is a very interesting look at what goes through the mind of an aspiring player.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the Campanis history lesson. You learn about his grandfather Al who spent a lifetime with the Dodgers, representing them as they both deserved and expected. Only in the end, to watch his entire career collapse around him due to a few unfortunate comments on national television. It is a sad legacy to leave behind and hopefully as time goes by people will forgive the poor judgement of the comments and give Al the respect he earned throughout his lifetime. Jim also looks at his Dad, Jim Sr’s baseball career. It shows a level of dedication to the game and a desire to compete and reach a dream at almost any cost.
I always find it interesting the the players who never quite reach stardom always have the best insight to the game. Perhaps it is because they spent so much time honing their craft trying to improve. Or maybe it is because they were always behind someone a little better on the depth charts. Whatever the reason may be, Jim Campanis has a great outlook on how the game should be played and showed himself as a willing student throughout his entire career. What is contained in these pages proves you don’t need to be a Hall of Fame player to be a Hall of Fame person.
If you have an interest in getting a feel for what it is like to be on the other side of the baseball curtain, check this book out. It gives a real good look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues and how much you really have to sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.