Even though baseball players are constantly in the public eye, it does not mean you always get one hundred percent of the details. Almost every players image until recently was a product of their teams media relations department. They would work tirelessly to keep certain issues and events out of the public eye. In the advent of our instant media society some of the demons escape long before anyone on the team knows anything about them. Such is the tale of todays book. Oil Can Boyd was a rising star but you never knew about all of the demons lurking inside his soul.
Dennis Boyd was a superstar not long into his career. With a nickname like Oil Can, he was bound to be a fan favorite in Boston. Underneath the smiling surface were demons that were gnawing away at the star pitcher and made his life difficult at the very least. Being under the sports microscope that Boston is probably didn’t help Boyd’s problems and the end results were more than likely etched in stone long before anyone realized.
A product of the deep south, Dennis Boyd was a youngster when racism was rampant. Events that occurred during his upbringing did a lot of damage in shaping the man he became. You can see that many of these events effected the way he approached his own life and how he dealt with people, thus the outcomes that occurred during his career. These same feelings towards the world around him also show how it led him into a life of drugs that damaged his career and relationships with those close to him.
By far Dennis Boyd does not come out of this book looking like a villan or a victim. He comes across as an honest caring man who just wants to be accepted for who he is. Unfortunately, it is one of those circumstances in life that his surroundings have effected him so deeply that he used the only outlets he felt were available. The book is his honest account of what he feels life has dealt him, and it seems he is not holding anything back. After reading this book I think I have a better understanding of what makes Oil Can tick, and it seems he is a half decent guy that just had some bad breaks. My personal view of him has improved through reading this book and I don’t think he is really the head case that the media had made him out to be.
Red Sox and Expos fans will love this book, just because of the team connection. I think fans in general may like it as well because the book is very honest. It does not pull any punches and Dennis Boyd becomes a better stronger man as the book progresses. Even if you hated Oil Can it might be worth checking out because you perception of him may change by the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
I think there are many great injustices within the game of baseball. From plays on the field that get called incorrectly to the many talented people who fall into the cracks of history. There are too many baseball professionals that give their entire lives and every fiber of their beings to the game and in return do not receive the accolades they truly deserve. Managers sometimes are a bunch that gets forgotten if they do not reach the pinnacle of the game. Regardless of how they perform over their entire career, if they don’t win a World Series, they usually get forgotten when speaking of the greats. Todays book takes a look at one of those people who truly was a great manager and gets forgotten when the conversation turns to Baseballs Greatest Managers.
I must admit I was very excited about this book. Gene Mauch has for a long time topped my list of one of the best managers the game has had to offer during its history. Always one to be saddled with the task of building a winner from the ground up, he never shied from a task like that and rose to the challenge of laying the groundwork for winning teams.
Mel Procter has taken a look at Gene Mauch’s entire career in this book. From border line Major League player and star in the minors. You get to see the passion and fire that was a Gene Mauch trademark on the field. The reader sees what made Mauch tick and the drive that helped propel his small stature and guts into a hard-nosed player who earned the respect of teammates and fans alike. Being a fan of Mauch this is something that I was not very familiar with. There is plenty of documentation about his short stays in the Majors, but the Minor League stories were new ones to me, which helped paint a broader picture of his skills and his career.
Seizing the opportunity with the Phillies, the reader then journeys through his managerial career. It shows the methodical nature that Mauch tried to build winners and the inherent struggles associated with trying to build from within during that era. Gene’s next stops were Montreal, Minnesota and California, all of which saw varying degrees of improvement under Gene. You see how his personality of hard-nosed play and determination is transmitted to his players, so maybe winning is contagious after all. The only down side to the manager portion of the story is that I would have liked to see some more stories about the Twins and Angels. Those sections weren’t as long as the ones about Philly and Montreal, but when you have a career that spans this many decades you probably have to make some cuts somewhere.
Mel Proctor should be very proud of this book. He has given complete and honest coverage to a baseball personality that I think gets shafted sometimes. Just because he came within one pitch of actually making the World Series and was also the captain of the Titanic in Philadelphia in 1964 does not make him a bad manager. To the contrary I think Mauch was one of the more dedicated and smarter managers in the game during his era and was unfortunately the victim of some bad baseball timing. There are other managers in the Hall of Fame with multiple World Series trophies that are there partly due to the pinstripes they wore. I think man for man, Gene Mauch could outshine many of them.
Check out this book for yourself and give Gene Mauch the respect he deserves. After a life long dedication to the game, he deserves at least that much and honestly baseball fans will enjoy this one. This may be one of the few chances we as fans get to learn about the real Gene Mauch
You can get this book from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing
The Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions are complete. The old members have all stopped by Cooperstown and waved to the fans, welcoming this years class of immortals. The old stories have been swapped, photos have been taken and another year has come and gone of happy times in Cooperstown, Now we look forward to the debates and arguments that will ensue regarding the next class to be enshrined. One of the more interesting personalities that was part of this years class, is Pedro Martinez. Pedro came out with a new autobiography this year and it has brought varying degrees of response from the masses, so I figured I should check it out for my blog.
My first reaction when I heard the release date of this book was, how ironic it was coming out in his Hall of Fame year. I guess good marketing strategies never sleep. Pedro had always been a source of controversy to some degree during his career. Early in his career he picked up the label of head hunter, mainly due to his pitching inside and making sure the batter knew who owned the plate. For the record I have no problem with that, it is a part of the game that has disappeared through the last few decades and probably something that should find a way to return. Pedro also had a well-remembered battle with Don Zimmer one time that might have made some highlight films on a few stations. But on the field it was hard to deny Pedro was an incredible competitor, No matter where he played you could always see his skill and desire, but now this book gives you the personal side of Pedro.
If you listen to interviews with Pedro, he his a big fan of himself and in this book, he has no reservations in telling you why. From his on field play, to those people around him Pedro is a guy that demands respect from people and it seems he is not one to shy away from the limelight. The book starts from his growing up in the Dominican Republic and how he had struggled as a child to be taken seriously as a baseball player. His brother Ramon, signed by the Dodgers, was Pedro’s ticket to getting a serious look from a big league team. Pedro walks you through his progression from dim prospect, to major leaguer, to superstar and introduces you to all the people he met in between. He has a very long memory of those who did him wrong and makes sure you know who they are in this book.
I had read some reviews of this book before I read it, just to see what I was getting myself into. Many other folks said that Pedro liked to remind the reader how great he really was. I am not disagreeing that point in any way with this book, but I don’t think it is Pedro being a conceited jerk. I think it more his immense pride coming through. He has very strong family roots and pride in his accomplishments. Also, the points he makes in the book about respect and his troubles along the way with getting any respect, it to me came off as a man with a strong pride. Now I say all this never being a huge Pedro fan when he was playing. The only regular first hand account of his playing days I had, where when he played half a season in 2009 for my Phillies. Even at the end of his career you could see his determination, pride out on the field and his ability to lead by example. So maybe Pedro isn’t as big of a jerk as some of the other book reviews have made him out to be.
Baseball fans should check this out for themselves. Maybe I am right or maybe everyone else is, but it’s you job as the reader to make that determination, I am just one guy’s opinion, who found after reading this, a new-found respect for Pedro Martinez. No for his on the field playing, but for the person he is.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Canada has always in my opinion, been an overlooked area when we read about baseball. I realize it really only came into play in the last 45 years or so, but I never thought it got the attention it deserved. In reality over the last 50 years it has created two strong teams, introduced Canadian fans to the game and to some degree cut into the Hockey monopoly in Canada. With talk of the Rays possibly packing up and moving to Montreal, I thought now would be a good time to see what books are available for the teams north of the border.
The Expos in Their Prime 1977-84
By Alain Usereau – McFarland & Co. 2013
To me it feels like the Expos didn’t exist. Maybe its a matter of nobody remembers that they were even there or that nobody wants to remember. But whatever the case may be they did exist at one point. During that existence they had a span of years where they were always at the top of the standings fighting for the division crown. The years from 1977-84 were really the defining years of the franchise. They had a steady parade of Hall of Famers on the roster but could never quite get over the hump to glory. When you have names like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and countless other stars like Rusty Staub, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, you would think they would be able to pull it off a few times during those years.
Obviously they did not, but Alain Usereau has taken a deep, hard look at the Expos during their glory years. You get some behind the scenes look at the way the team operated on and off the field, both as a group and individually. You see the mind-set of the front office and why they made some of the moves they did during those years. The reader also gets a look at what the team meant to the fans of Montreal. This book proved to me that Montreal is still today, a viable option for a MLB team as the fans would support it there. Perhaps it was the poor product on the field in the final years of the Expos that contributed to poor fan support. It seems that in Montreal if you build it, they will come……if it’s a decent product.
This book gives a lot of insight to an often forgotten team with limited success. It’s overall a good book, that most baseball fans should enjoy. I only mention this next thing because it is a pet-peeve of mine. It would have benefitted from a little better copy editing because their were to many grammatical errors for my liking in a finished book. But as I said its a good book that most fans will enjoy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland & Co Publishing, http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com
Lets look at the other side of the coin in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. Since their inception they have had good fan support and produced some serious thrills for their fans. A few division titles, and oh yeah, two World Series Championships, which make for a happy fan base. While the Blue Jays had their growing pains in the beginning, they seemed to stumble upon a better plan for on-field success that the Expos could never quite attain. But what happens in Toronto when the team and the fans have huge expectations and it blows up in their faces?
Great Expectations, The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season
By Shi Davidi and John Lott – 2013 ECW Press
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was supposed to be the Toronto Blue Jays year. Much like the Chicago Cubs have done this off-season, the Blue Jays blew up the roster and started over. The looked at weaknesses at every position and went out and brought in some of the best names in the game to fix their problems. On paper the Blue Jays looked like the team to beat and at the start of the 2013 season other teams noticed. But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the 2013 was a flat-out train wreck. Injuries, career declines and pretty much the fact that anything that could go wrong……did go wrong, the Blue Jays had a dismal year.
Davidi and Lott take the reader on a journey through the 2013 season. They look at the blockbuster trades that were made in the off-season, free agent signings, spring training and of course the season. They give a nice look at the operations side of the Toronto front office and how the fans had embraced the new hope in Toronto. It also shows the mindset of the GM and what management felt they were accomplishing by assembling this team on the field. The book gives a detailed look at how the season in Toronto, and in the end the fans turned on the team and the front office. It is a great look at how the Blue Jays and its fan base operate and feed off of each other.
The 2014 season was a little better than 2013, and probably the residue of this 2013 team will achieve the initial success they expected eventually. But I think much like the Expos, the Blue Jays are often an afterthought to fans outside of Toronto. But it is nice to see that books are coming forth that show the Canadian pride in their teams and most of the time they are just as good if not better than the other teams out there. Just because most of the country is hockey crazy does not mean that they have forgotten how to love baseball.
Before I read this book I had what I thought was a pretty accurate opinion of Al Oliver. As a player, I felt he was often overlooked in terms of the quality of his play and his final career numbers. As a person I felt he came off as a grumpy guy. The personality take was based on the very limited media exposure I saw of him when he played for the Phillies briefly near the end of his career in 1984. He just came off as a guy who wasn’t very friendly when interviewed. After reading todays book it looks like I was wrong about Ol’ Scoop.
This book pleasantly surprised me. Al Oliver really delivered with a pleasant account of his life, career and faith. He goes into great detail giving you the inside “scoop” on his childhood, friends and family life. You get an honest glimpse of the man himself outside of baseball. He is like any other human being on this earth with family issues. He does not hide from any of the issues (good or bad) and shows how his faith has made him a better person and guided him through these issues. As far as the man himself goes, this book has improved my personal perception of Al Oliver. He really wasn’t the grump that came across on the TV screen. He was just very intense and a somewhat private person.
On the career side of things I always knew Al Oliver was a good player. I just never realized how good. The book has several detailed pages of his hitting and fielding stats. Which leads me to my next question, why has he been overlooked so long for the Hall of Fame? With the types of numbers Oliver put up during his career, which are better than some of the others that have already made the Hall during his era, it makes me wonder why. Al Oliver also I think has the same questions in the book, but it is not a bitter former player asking why. He has said several times in the book if it is God’s will then it will be. Which is a great attitude and belief to have if you are in his position. It again shows his strength in his own faith.
Getting back to the question of why hasn’t Al Oliver made the Hall of Fame. I have no idea personally as to why. The man’s numbers speak for themself. With career numbers like this, he belongs in the Hall. Which now leads to another sticky topic of the Hall of Fame being a popularity contest with the writers. Perhaps several of the writers that would have voted for Al, got the same impression of him that I had previously. Perhaps some of those writers should read this book and get perspective on who the man actually is. Perhaps it would put some long-held grudges to rest.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a very quick read that I finished in an afternoon. The book is very heavy on pictures but gives you a comprehensive look in to his personal and professional life. Baseball fans that were around when Al played should really enjoy it. The book is being release on 9/30/14 and is available from two sources that I know of:
From the publisher at http://www.vippublishing,com
or direct from Al oliver at http://www.al-oliver.com where I think you can get a signed copy.