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.
A few weeks ago we looked at a new batch of books recently published by McFarland. I touched on the obscure factor that some of their books tend to embrace and how they fill a niche spot in the baseball book market. Today we are going to look at a few more because honestly McFarland has a little something for every baseball fan.
McFarland is always willing to publish team history books. Looking at both the powerhouse teams that are part of the baseball fabric as well as those that time has essentially forgotten. The year 1910 was an interesting point for the two teams involved in this volume and shows how it laid the groundwork for a streak that lasts to this day.
The 1910 World Series brought us the end of one dynasty and the birth of another. The Chicago Cubs, coming off several very successful years and a win in the 1908 series were nearing the end of their reign. While Connie Mack’s Athletics were poised to start a championship run of their own. It was a fairly anti-climatic Series, but did offer an interesting historical note. For the first time in World Series history, game two to be precise, was the first time all nine starters recorded a hit in the same game. Its a neat little trivia factoid you can now impress all your friends with.
This is a timely book with the Cubs poised to possibly end their World Series drought and also it allows the reader to travel back in time to see an entirely different generation of the game. Fans of either of these teams or of this era, will not be disappointed in this one.
This one takes a look at the history of the Most Valuable player award in Baseball. It looks at the voting results and provides current statistical analysis to see what may have been different by todays standards.
It is an interesting view as at what may have been overlooked by voters in the past as well as what other factors may have played into the voting results. It also shows how race may have been an underlying issue on some of the ballots. The book is a good mix of history, commentary and statistical analysis. For fans of these types of “what did we miss books” this is another one you will really enjoy.
Finally, as the title says, Pud Galvin, not only the owner of an odd name was baseball’s first 300 game winner. Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965, 63 years after his death, his numerous records and 300+ wins still did not keep him from dying penniless. One of the first real superstars of the game he had some amazing accomplishments on the field and helped grow the credibility of the early game.
One of the other footnotes to Galvin’s story is he may have been the first user of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Major League Baseball. An advocate of using a monkey testosterone elixir, it seemed to enhance his on field performance. The difference from today to over 100 years ago is that everyone was on board with the use of the concoction. It shows a very different time in Baseball and quite honestly is a very interesting story for fans of the early eras of baseball.
You can check out these books and other great titles offered by this publisher at the following link:
I hate to admit it, but I always enjoy a good book about the Yankees. The Phillies fan in me has a hard time justifying spending the money on purchasing one, much less enjoying a book about the evil empire. In the past there have been many avenues taken to relay the stories about the fabled team from the Bronx, but as of late it seems we keep taking the same walk around the same block. I would like to say today’s book would take us on a different tour, but I am sad to say we have been down this road many times.
Andrew O’Toole has taken the reader on an adventure with the New York Yankees during a time of transition. A time when the one of the teams greatest stars was fading and its next one was on the rise. It shows a time when the Yankees were full of uncertainty but about to embark on a sustained period of success that may never be rivaled. Say what you will about the Yankees, they have a history that is hard to top.
The book shows what the 1951 season was like for the New York Yankees. Di Maggio’s last season in pinstripes was not one of his greatest, but he earned the respect he demanded from the masses and his teammates and finished out the season and his career like only Joe DiMaggio could. Waiting in the wings was Mickey Mantle the young mid westerner who was on his way to fame and stardom and did not even realize what was awaiting him. Its a tale of two outsiders that came to New York and took a bite out of the big apple.
The downside to New York Yankees books is the fact that no matter what the subject matter is, it gets beat to death. We have several different authors attack the very same subject and for the most part attain the same results in the end. If I stop and take a look at my personal library, there are an insane number of books about Mickey Mantle and Joe Di Maggio. It makes it hard to figure out what is the real truth on either of them.
As far as the 1951 season goes we have seen a few books from different authors. While they attempt to each provide their own spin on the events of that year, unfortunately, it is impossible to. This is in no way a reflection on this book’s author, it is just the reality that this book falls into a very crowded playing field. It reminds me of the old politician saying that we may be saying the same thing, but you haven’t heard me say it yet.
While each of these books offers essentially the same thing, each writer has a different style that may appeal to different readers. So choose wisely, or if you are familiar with that authors previous work and enjoyed it, stick with that version. I was hoping we could get to the point where some authors would find something different and give us some new revelations, but I think that ship may have finally sailed.
If this book is one that might capture your interest on the 1951 season, you can get it from the nice folks at Triumph Books.
I have mentioned before how I find it odd how certain great players get lost to the passage of time. I don’t know if that is a product of playing for a smaller market team, playing in the shadow of a teammate or them being the type of player that does not seek the spotlight of the media. Whatever the case may be, today’s book takes a look at one of those players that left a huge mark on the field but never seems to get the full recognition he deserves.
Over the past year I have talked on here about two or three other Willie Stargell books. I have come to the same conclusion with each one that he was an extremely underrated player that was finally getting his deserved props even if they were coming posthumously.
Frank Garland takes an approach to Willie Stargell that is in many ways like the other books. Looking at his upbringing in California, through his time in the segregated minor leagues to his rise to stardom as member of the Pittsburgh Pirates that culminated in immortality in Cooperstown. Garland’s research is very thorough and paints a very detailed and complete picture of Willie Stargell the baseball player.
What is different about this book from the others out there is Garland takes his research beyond just the field. He gets involved in the story line of Stargell’s life after baseball. This area is one place where the other biographies fail in comparison. This book shows Willie’s love and involvement in the classical music scene after his retirement. It also shows his involvement as a coach with the Atlanta Braves. Many people forget that Willie was a coach in the Braves system and his tutelage left an undeniable mark on some of their up and coming big league prospects. These are the same prospects that when they finally came to the big leagues won 15 or so division championships. It shows the knowledge Stargell possessed and how he was able to pass it on to a new era of superstars.
This book is another example of giving Willie Stargell his accolades while presenting some different aspects of the player and the man. If you have read other Stargell biographies you may find some of what is talked about repetitive, but in the end it does present some new information that was not included in other books. The book does move along at a moderate pace and allows the reader to stay engaged with the story.
I have yet to figure out why Willie Stargell is relegated to the shadows. Is it playing in Pittsburgh his entire career, is it the quiet strength he brought to his team or is it playing in the shadow of Robert Clemente? I am not sure if it is all or any of these but they are reasonable questions to ask. For this fan though, it is nice to see Willie Stargell remembered for being the superstar that he was both on and off the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Some teams leave an indelible mark on the history of baseball. Everyone likes remembering the greats such as the 60 Pittsburgh Pirates, 76 New York Yankees, 69 New York Mets, 68 Detroit Tigers and my personal favorite, the 80 Philadelphia Phillies, are just a few of the teams that make the grade. Even beyond these there a few teams that stand higher above all the rest as the most memorable teams. The 1986 New York Mets are in a class all by themselves. A team of rough and ragged players that worked their way into the hearts of New Yorkers, and turned the baseball establishment on its ear for one glorious season. Erik Sherman has written a new book that takes a look at some of the key players from that team and where their lives have gone both in and out of baseball.
Being that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of their championship season, and the fact that the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series last year I expected a large selection of Mets themed books this year. The ones I have found so far all have varying themes. The 1986 season as a whole is looked at by some, reliving Bill Buckner’s nightmare is approached by others, but this is the first one I have come across that looks at the individual players.
Erik Sherman dedicates a chapter to each of several key players he has interviewed from the 1986 New York Mets. They discuss their contributions to the team and the instances of how they came about becoming a member of the Mets. Sherman does in depth interviews with each of the players and you get a nice feel of what they think were the most important qualities of that team. The players all make clear that they were proud to be a part of that team and some even show some disappointment that the Mets have not reached out after their playing days and done a better job of preserving team heritage.
One of the most important things I found in these interviews was that none of the players that had issues, on or off the field during this era, shied away from their indiscretions. Everyone manned up and admitted their faults. Perhaps that is just a product of growing older, but it was still refreshing to see former professional athletes admit to their mistakes.
You may not be a Mets fan but you have to give this team their due, honestly they were an interesting team to watch. The circumstances that surrounded the team at times and the way they won the World Series are a better script then Hollywood would have been able to produce. So put your team affiliation away and check this book out. Erik Sherman does a great job with his book. He asks honest and clear questions in his interviews and doesn’t pull any punches with the guys. I have enjoyed Erik Sherman’s other work and have reviewed his books about Mookie Wilson, Steve Blass and Glenn Burke in the past with positive results from all.
Take this walk down memory lane with the New York Mets of the past. You will find it is time well spent and probably like I did, find it hard to believe this was 30 years ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkely Books
Baseball likes to portray itself as the upholder of all that is right with the game. The keeper of standards and arrow straight morals, and they want to remain steadfast in that regard through all time. The most recent example of the high moral standard within Major League Baseball has been Pete Rose. For the integrity of the game they think they should keep old Pete on the outside looking in to atone for his sins. This has not been a new approach for Major League Baseball. For about the past 100 years or so in an effort to clean up the game and install some confidence with the general public they decided to clean house. It all started with the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series, but what about all the other problem children in the game before the Black Sox? Today’s book takes a look at one of the larger than life problem athletes in the game at the time, who oh by the way was one of the best players in baseball history.
This book is a re-issue of the volume originally released in 2004. Hal Chase was one of the darlings of the diamond during his playing career. A man who was friendly with gamblers and gangsters, regularly bet on games and was not a stranger to throwing a game or two. One big thing to take note of is that Hal Chase was the scape-goat for bigger names than his who’s hands were much dirtier when the crap hit the fan. You always hear about Shoeless Joe taking the fall for gambling but not so much about Hal Chase.
This book takes a very good luck at Chase’s life and gives the reader a real good feel of what baseball was really like at that time. It shows in great detail that most if not all of the games had some shadow of not being on the level and that so many peoples hands were dirty it is not even funny.The book also does not miss the opportunity to showcase Hal Chase’s on the field skills. Easily one of the best players to swing a bat and grab a glove up to that point. Rated by Babe Ruth as one of the all-time greatest players, that is some serious praise to live up to.
This is a great book to get a real good feel of what baseball was like during this era. It leaves no stone un-turned in showing the reader what Chase was really like and gives an honest look at what Ragtime baseball was all about.
Fans of this era will love this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Ragtime era take the time to check it out because it is a great history lesson. Finally, if you want to get another view of crooked baseball, other than the Black Sox scandal, this paints a pretty good picture of what was going on at that time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield