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.
No matter the subject of a baseball biography, there is some sort of story to be told. Some of these stories are better than others and coincide with the skill level of that particular player. Then there are stories like today’s book that come from an average player that did not put up Hall of Fame numbers, but has a Hall of Fame caliber story to tell baseball fans. A journey that took him all over North America John D’Acquisto’s new book takes a hard and honest look at his life and career and the paths it has led him down. This honest look at his own life opens up a whole new side of John that fans can appreciate.
Fastball John starts the readers on the journey of his life and shows his family roots in San Diego and his journey to become a big league pitcher. Next you learn first hand what it is like to be a first round draft pick with high expectations in a major league setting. Stops with major league teams and a few more stints in the minors are covered as well.
John D’Acquisto shows the readers the ins and outs of what being a baseball player is really like. You see the friendships, the expectations of management, contract disputes and health scares that make up a players life. What I found really interesting is how personal relationships are intertwined within this story. It gives a very intimate touch to a career that is usually unable to sustain those types of relationships. One other factor the the authors were able to incorporate into the story was how the music of the time was able to become part of the moment and permanently ingrained in the memories.
For my money the most interesting part of this story is also one of the saddest. John D’Acquisto’s life after baseball was one of accusations, falsehoods and betrayal that in the end led to some serious jail time. John eloquently tells his side of the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and his time behind bars. The sequence of events that led up to this are almost unbelievable and in the end, when you hear all the details wonder how someone could survive something of this magnitude. For what it’s worth, I believe D’Acquisto’s side of the story, it unfortunately seems to be him trusting the wrong people at the time and the justice system wanting to make an example of someone with a famous name.
Honestly, we have all read the books written by the Superstars and sometimes pass on the stories of a lower tier player. This is one of those times you need to make the effort to read the story of that player. It is a gripping story that shows the genuine side of a Major League Baseball player. He has had good times and some really bad times, but in the end Johnny D. comes across as a pretty cool guy. Loved by the fans of the San Francisco and San Diego, he has paid his dues on both sides of the fence and moved on to well earned greener pastures in his life. Take the time to read this book and you will be able to see their is still some good left in people and read a very enjoyable baseball book at the same time.
I will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books. The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late. One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.
Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others. Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it. One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom. Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus. Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.
Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game. Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether. Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on. Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.
Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life. For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others. His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about. I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace. His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.
Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game. If you are a fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well. In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities. This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Lets face it, in its glorious past Major League Baseball has never been on the cutting edge. For certain things they may have been ahead of the curve but for most things, not so much. On this very day in 2015, we as fans all know about the Japanese league of baseball, as many of our players leave here to play over seas. Also many of their stars have done the same and crossed the ocean to pursue a career in the states. Today’s book takes a look at the very first player who was chosen to bridge the gap between the two countries and leagues and the results that followed.
Robert Fitts has undertaken a great task with this book. Not only do you have to make sure your details are accurate and spot on but he also has the cultural gap to overcome. Masahiro Murakami was the first Japanese player hand-picked to be sent to the United States to the San Francisco Giants. He originally came as a group of three players but was the only one of the three to have any sort of success on the bigger stage.
Fitts takes you through the upbringing of Murakami and the strict cultural rules he was raised by. You also get a glimpse of the way that Japanese leagues operate and personal standards that the players must maintain. The differences are staggering in both training and requirements to be on a professional team in that country. It shows what a large cultural difference that exist in both leagues and society’s.
You see Mashi’s rise through spring training camps and the minor leagues to reach the big stage in San Francisco. Success on the field was not enough to overcome Mashi’s sense of duty to his family and dedication to his league and country, which eventually were his reason’s for going back and playing in Japan. One of the most interesting things I found in this book was the business dealings and player contracts that effected Mashi’s career. I think personally in the end nobody was sure who truly owned his contract. Which again points out more of the differences between the two baseball operations.
This book also shows the reader the broader picture of how it was helping to mend relations of two bitter enemies in World War II. It showed how baseball can play a positive role in society’s problems. This event was monumental in bringing the two nations back to the table with each other and allowing a better relationship to move forward. It is a fine example of international diplomacy fostered by a kids game.
This may be a little late but the author Rob Fitts and Mashi are currently on a book signing tour in the United States, so you may want to check his website to see if they are near you. Meeting Masahiro Murakami is more than likely a once in a lifetime event for most fans. http://www.robfitts.com
You can also get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
Coffee table books have always been a tough market. What is out there is usually just a regurgitated version of a prior edition of the same thing. In all seriousness how many versions of the history of the National League are really out there? Or how about the history of the Hall of Fame? Perhaps the 100 all-time greatest pitchers is more your speed. If you look closely most of these books are re-releases of old books in a shiny new dust jacket. It makes the coffee table book segment of the book market not I one I found very appealing. Happily for myself, I have come across a new series of books that I think falls into the coffee table book segment and offers a new and interesting product.
Insight Editions, has published this line of team histories. In one sentence these written histories are incredible! The photos contained in each of these books is of great quality that give you a good feel of exciting team events, as well as some not so often seen moments in team history. Broken down in to specific decades each books gives you a nice recap of that era and reminds the fans of what went on. Team triumphs and individual accomplishments are celebrated within the pages of these books.
Now the part that makes these books really special and is the favorite parts of the book for me is, they are like pop-up books for adults. Yes, I realize that deserves an explanation. Throughout the book there are team photos that are pop-up style booklets that let you view various unique team photos. Between that feature, and the high quality pictures found on the fold out pages in various sections of the book, it becomes a unique experience for the reader. Plus it just makes it plain old fun for adults too. Insight Editions has raised the bar and really moved the coffee table sector book into an entirely new arena.
Once readers take a look at these books, they will be hooked. The quality is incredible and really will have fans picking it up time and time again to relive the memories contained within. Insight Editions will publish an Orioles edition in the very near future and hopefully have more volumes of these team histories, because fans of every team deserve a book this good about their hometown favorites. Everyone should take a look at these, because even if your team isn’t represented here, they are an enjoyable read and you will probably learn something new as well. The world has changed in coffee table books, and Insight Editions is leading the way!
You can get these books from the nice folks at Insight Editions
In the age of seven-figure salaries and endorsement deals, it becomes harder to find respect for the game itself on the field. Players do not care about the history of the game or the sacrifices other generations have made to allow the current group of players to reach for the stars. Todays book reveals the thoughts of a player you could consider to be a throwback to an age of respect for the game.
Just My Game
By:Jason Grilli – 2014 Mascot Books
Jason Grilli may never be a first ballot Hall of Famer. That is in no way a slight towards Jason, just very few players are. He has had many stops along the way during his career. Some have worked out better than others. Unfortunately injuries have reared their heads more than once and seemed to slow his career dominance. With all that has happened, Grilli has kept his head held high and persevered to try and achieve his career goals. It is that perseverance and his respect of the game that has made him a unique player in today’s game.
Grilli is a second generation baseball player, and it is that fact that seems to make him have a better appreciation for the game. He and his extended family understand the sacrifices that need to be made in order to become a major league player. It has been his aspiration from a young age to be that, and he has never wavered from that goal. His respect for the game makes me want to term him a throwback because it shows his appreciation for what he has attained. That respect for the game has also been behind his drive to recover from numerous injuries and become a better, stronger player and person.
Grilli does a nice job in this book reflecting on his journey to the majors. He is very honest with both his accomplishments and disappointments. He does not shy away from anything negative and you see how each experience has made him a better person. Grilli truly comes across as thankful for the opportunities he has been given, both in and out of baseball. He shows his appreciation for the history of the game and how he is part of something greater than just the individual player. He also talks about lessons he has learned from his rehabilitation experiences. He speaks about the ways they have made him more appreciative for what he has and what he has been able to accomplish.
This is to an extent an inspirational book in the fact that it shows anyone can overcome almost any obstacle in life. It is nice to see this kind of book from a player of the current generation. Most of the times current players come across as me, me ,me, but this is different. You now see there are still good guys out there on the field, living their dreams and realizing how lucky they really are to be there.
Baseball fans that want an honest, feel-good story will enjoy this book. He may not be a Hall of Fame player but he comes across as a Hall of Fame person.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Mascot Books
They have been called everything from the Loveable Losers to the Amazing Mets. During their franchise history they have seen the highest of highs, the lowest depths of despair and just about everything in between. Love them or hate them the New York Mets have made the last 50 years pretty interesting. Today’s book takes a look at the first year of those Loveable Losers……
Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?
By: Jimmy Breslin 1963-Ivan R. Dee Publishing
Everyone who is any kind of baseball fan knows the saga of the New York Mets. An expansion team that started play in 1962 as part of the National League expansion. The entered the league the same year as Houston’s Colt 45’s, but garnered a much more dedicated fan base than their Houston counterparts. More than likely the Mets were so popular despite their horrible record, because fans were happy to have a National League presence in the city of New York again. Five years after the exodus of the Giants and Dodgers to greener pastures in California, New Yorker’s finally had a hometown team to root for besides the Yankees.
First published in 1963, I was not sure what exactly I would find with this book. I was assuming it would be about the growing pains and woes of a first year expansion team as part of the biggest media circus in the world. The reality of this book was that you saw those pains, but you also learned about what the Mets now meant to New York.
Fans of the both the Giants and Dodgers seemed to have an inferiority complex when it came to the Yankee fans. After the two teams left New York, these fans were at a loss as to their allegiance. What the Mets brought back to New York fans who pulled for the Dodgers and Giants, was something to root for.
Regardless of their record the author has shown how the Mets were a boost to the morale of the New York fans. How they were embraced both as a team, players individually and how there was now hope in the city, outside of the Bronx. Essentially the book shows how the Mets filled a void for the fans and no matter how good or bad they played, the fans loved them back.
Due to its age, some of the book is very dated. I also got the feeling while reading this book that the original intention may have been to promote the Mets. There was minimal description of the actual play of the Mets and more explanation of why the Mets were good for New York. There also was an overall sentiment throughout the book, that even though the Mets stink, we have hope for success in the future. That essentially is what made me think a promotional piece for the marketing department.
When all is said and done over 50 years later it is a fairly enjoyable book. It gives you a glimpse of the mindset of New York in the early 60’s, as well as their hopes looking towards the future of their new toy, The Mets. Mets fans will enjoy this book, as will general history buffs. I am not sure how much mass appeal this will have to fans outside of the east coast though, because old New York baseball is more than a lifetime ago for them.
You can get this book from Ivan R. Dee Publishing