Category: History

Who Gets a Book-Part II


I asked this question on another post recently and received a litany of great answers.  I am well aware that there really is no criteria to who gets a book, but each of us has their own criteria of what really merits a book.  I for one am not here to pass along my thoughts on the subject because each of us has different views and it becomes a personal choice more than anything else.  I found two books recently that come from two ends of the spectrum on the field, but give the reader a very similar product in the end.

Ralph Mauriello and Ron Fairly have several things in common.  Most notably they are both Dodgers Alumni, and I have noticed the feeling of once a Dodger, always a Dodger.  But their careers took very different paths throughout the years.  While Mauriello had a short stint with the Major League team, he spent the majority of his playing years toiling in the minors, while Fairly put a couple of decades at the big league level with a few different stops around the league.  Now with such different playing careers and reaching different levels of success you would thing the end resulting books of their lives would be wildly different.  I am glad to say that could not be further from the truth.

Now that is not to say that both books are mirror images, but there are certain important qualities that shine through.  They both share their life and career experiences for the reader which helps give a well-rounded view of what they offered on the field.  This comes in especially helpful those readers that may not have been around during their playing days, it paints a picture in your mind of what baseball was like for each author as they made their way along their unique journey.  Both books also illustrate what great men both players were, the humility they had, both on and off the field and the honor it was for both of them to be part of the game they loved.  Family is also an important factor in both men’s lives and it is showcased very clearly in both books.  Finally, both books show what life is like after you are off the field.  While both men have taken very different paths in life you can see the underlying love of the game and the immense pride they both had to be on that field.

When I asked the who deserves a book question previously I thought I had a better handle on the answer .  Today I realize if you have a story to tell, no matter what their contribution to the game was, it’s a story worth telling.  It’s up to the readers to decide which stories that they want to read and what they find worthy of their time.  If it is a 20 year veteran or a cup of coffe player, they still have a lot to offer the readers.   For my money these both books make the cut.

If you like the Dodgers and the early years of California baseball, along with a spattering of stories about celebrities and baseball royalty then these books would be for you.  They both tell great stories throughout flow very nicely and you get two different views of the Once a Dodger Always a Dodger tag.

You can get these great books at the following links:

Ralph Mauriello

Ron Fairly

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

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Odds & Ends-Spring 2018 Edition


As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away.  I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out.  The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.

 

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Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books.  It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront.  I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader.  If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out.  You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

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Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said.  It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them.  Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan.  It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically.  For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out.  It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it.  You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

 

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There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past.  For my money, this one is the best of the bunch.  It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella.  It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused.  It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches.  He is telling it like he sees it at this point.  Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all.  If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet.  Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.

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If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book.  1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era.  It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained.  Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history.  For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened.  If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about.   For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.

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Where would the game be without the Sportswriters.  They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field.  Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about.  Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before.  You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.

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McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category.  Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print.  Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy.  Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.

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Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception.  Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again.  This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well.  It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times.  You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.

So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.

Happy Reading and Go Phillies!

Gregg


 

Who Deserves a Book?


It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time.  Which players really deserve a book?  What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question?  To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered.  Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell.  It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time.  With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from.  For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before.  Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.

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If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away.  That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys.  It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes.   Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed.  He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.

Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball.  You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling.  You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade.  Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher.  It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.

Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level.  Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade.  While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.

One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field.  He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment.  How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more.  Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this.  It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.

If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out.  It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to.  It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways.  So I ask again……….Who deserves a book?  Many more people than you would originally think.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing

Insight Pitch

Happy Reading Gregg

 

There’s No Place Like Home


When a team changes cities it is a daunting process.  Ownership has to make sure it crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s to make sure everything will be to their, and more importantly their fans liking.  No where as near as common place as it once was, team transfers can be a great thing for those involved.  New stadiums, new fan base, a whole new chance to invent yourself and the financial rewards usually aren’t too bad either.  That is just what the New York giants were hoping for with their move to San Francisco.  A shiny new stadium to call home accompanied with lots of parking spaces for ownership to sell each night helped sell them on their new locale.  But sometimes all is not what you hope it will be, and todays book takes a look at the Giants move to California and good or bad, depending on where you stood, their new Home Sweet Home.

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We are all well aware of the story of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles and their conquering of the Southern California market.  Sometimes lost in that great shadow is the Giants, who abandoned the Polo Grounds and the city of New York at the exact same time to help usher in baseball across the continent.  Walter O’Malley was larger than life at times and in that shadow one can understand how Horace Stoneham may have fallen by the wayside.  So with that, it easy to forget the history of the Giants during the first years in California.  Luckily for us this book shows us what it took to get the Giants in place in San Fran and the hopes ownership had for the new frontier.

Robert Garrett does a good job of giving us the background of the team in New York and the situation it found itself in during the late 50’s.  From stadium woes to the personality of Horace Stoneham you get a pretty good feel of what it was like for the team during their waning days in New York.  He shows the courtship of the Giants by a new city and the promises bestowed by the local government, the biggest of all being a new stadium.

Stoneham had a somewhat of a hands off approach to his new stadium as the book shows and it in turn came to bite him in the butt.  Candlestick Park had its own set of issues that are well chronicled in the book which in turn snowballed, enough so that it would essentially destroy many of the dreams of what Stoneham had for this new venture.  In the end it is one of the driving factors that ends the Stoneham ownership of the team.

Next we look at the struggles to find new ownership and the quest to keep the Giants in San Francisco less than twenty years after the had arrived.  Once new ownership was found you see the same struggles of old ownership with the albatross of Candlestick still dangling around its neck.  It shows an interesting look at how baseball operated in regards to stadiums, success at the gate and play on the field.  You see how the Giants, except for a few years as a whole, struggled while they called Candlestick home.  It’s also shown how the people of San Fran really didn’t care if they ever got out of there.

Finally, you see a final change on ownership that get the Giants to a new frontier and a stadium worthwhile of Major League Baseball and the success that comes with that type of arena.   I honestly think this book is a great look at this era of Giants baseball, no matter how bad it was on the field.  It’s a portion of team history that gets overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers moving at the same time, the expansion of baseball and the evolving changes that were going on in both baseball and society.  It proves some dreams take longer than others to come to fruition.

If you have an interest in California baseball during this era this book is definitely worth checking out.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

Home Team-The Turbulent History of the S.F. Giants

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping a Lost Franchise Alive


Every once in a while in baseball we lose a team.  Good or bad, there are lots of reasons why this usually happens.  Most recently over a decade ago, the Montreal Expos disappeared from the baseball landscape and some folks are rightfully so, still up in arms about it.  The longer a team is gone, the more time marches on and the more that team inevitably slips from memory.  I have witnessed this first hand in my area with the Philadelphia Athletics Historical society.  The people who saw them play first hand aged and passed on and the memories and interest faded despite folks best efforts.

The St Louis Browns have been gone for over 60 years now and probably most of the people who had seen them first hand have passed on at this point.  So more than likely, other than the hard-core baseball fans, people don’t have as much of an interest in the team or its history.  Today I have a book that does a very nice job of introducing a new wave of fans to a team of yesteryear and hopefully help keep their legacy alive.

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The St. Louis Browns were in a tough spot.  Fighting for fans loyalty in a baseball crazy town with the Cardinals was no easy task.  In the end we all know how it worked out, the left St Louis and pitched their new tent in Baltimore with a brand new name.  They were not always the door mats of baseball as some would have you believe.  There were plenty of good times in the early years, but in the end the battle with the Cardinals for supremacy just became too much.

This book is a great look into those wonder years in St Louis.  It takes an in-depth look at the teams roots, its early success and its fights for league supremacy.  It is a great learning tool for those that are not familiar with their history or the people who wore the uniform through the years.

The Browns were more than just Bill Veeck and his ahead of the curve promotions.  More than just an aging ballpark, more than tiny batters and all those things everyone is familiar with.  For the new generation of baseball fans this is huge opportunity to learn about a team that has fallen from the landscape but never from the fabric of the game.  If we as the generations of fans, post Browns baseball do not take the time to learn about them now, then we risk losing them to the passage of time.   This has happened to other teams throughout history and I would for one be very sad to see this happen to the Browns and their storied past.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Reedy Press

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Spring has Sprung !!!!


Well, it’s that time of year again.  Opportunity abounds for all, the realization of a life long dream may be in the offing and as it is always said, hope springs eternal.  The new baseball season offers hope to every baseball fan that this is finally going to be their year and their hopes of a championship will be realized.  For those involved in the game, players are hoping to get their big break while others are hoping to hang one for just one more year.  If you take a good hard look at a baseball team, all of these hopes and dreams of just about everyone lay in the hands of just one person, the General Manager.  A position of amazing power, it is also one of great sacrifice and fortitude to attain it and one that comes with some unfair criticism at times.  Today’s book takes a look at arguably one of the modern eras greatest GM’s and what it took to reach the pinnacle.

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Ned Colletti can easily be described as a baseball lifer.  Landing stints for the Cubs, Giants and finally the Dodgers, he got to contribute to three of the most storied franchises in the history of the game.  Now his new book shows what it took to reach his goals as both a person and a professional General Manager.

Ned walks us through his childhood and its a compelling story about an average American kid.  Next he shows us how barely making ends meet he gets his job with the Chicago Cubs and his professional journey truly begins.  It shows the reader how with great sacrifice and perseverance great things can be accomplished.  Next we stop with Colletti in San Francisco and see how the building blocks of a transformation were laid.  Finally we travel to the Dodgers and see what its like dealing with a meddling mess of an owner while trying to build a contender.  His professional story is a fascinating one and his accolades well-earned, but its his personal story that also resonates throughout this book.

You get to see the personal side of a highly respected General Manager and quite honestly we don’t always see that in these books.  His anecdotes may be about baseball, but you get a good feel of his personality when he is telling these stories.  I enjoy books like this that I walk away getting the sense that the subject seems like a pretty decent guy in real life.  The Baseball books afford us to get closer details and some inside information about events that take place, but not always closer to the people involved.

If you have an interest in getting to know a real guy and the inner workings of the front office then this is a book you should check out.  It will be time well spent to get a new perspective on the inner workings of the game and a glimpse at someone who comes off as a pretty decent guy as well.

You can get this book from the nice folks at G.P. Putnum & Sons

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Last Minute Christmas Ideas for us Baseball Book Lovers


It’s that time of year again.  The malls are packed,  packages are getting wrapped, the credit cards are melting and for us procrastinators, the last-minute shopping rush is on.  If you are shopping for a Baseball book lover you may have a hard time deciding what to get that special someone.  Don’t fear because I have a few last minute ideas for you.

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Up first is the new book released this year by Greg Lucas, and quite honestly it could not have come at a more opportune time.  With winning the World Series this year, anything about the Astros is a hot commodity.  They have a rich and storied history and while it may be shorter than some of the other teams, they have still had some big names come through the Lone Star state.

Houston to Cooperstown takes a look at the overall history of the franchise.  From its inception in 1962, Lucas walks you through the history of the upstart franchise, through its time in the Astrodome, finally reaching some success on the field and highlighting it with its two newest members in Cooperstown, Biggio and Bagwell.  Next Lucas shows how the team moved to its next stage of existence, getting to their new ballpark, reaching the World Series for the first time and the epic rebuild that helped them win the World Series this year.

For the die-hard Astros fan this is a book that they can’t miss.  It is both comprehensive and enjoyable.  It flows smoothly and keeps the reader wanting more.  They get to re-live some of the great and really not so great times in the team’s history and can honestly feel like they were there, even if some of the stories were before their time.  This book is a really nice way to finish up a World Championship year for the fans of Houston.

Next up…….

I have said this before about books like these, they scare me.  The subject is very subjective and quite honestly no two will have the same set of standards as to what makes a player great.  For example, my favorite player of all-time is Phillies Outfielder from the 70’s Greg Luzinski.  Hardly a household name, but he easily makes my top five Phils, so you see what can happen with these books.

Looking at these two releases I can honestly say there was some serious thought put into the selection of the players chosen to be included.  I usually agree to the selections in these types of books at about of rate of 50%, which I feel is a pretty good rate, but both of these books came in at close to 80% agreement.  I honestly think that I have an average fan outlook and historical evaluation criteria for the most part, so I think that agreement percentage is a great achievement.

Cohen paints vivid pictures of some storied careers that were parts of these historical franchises.  It gives some one on one perspectives of some of the games greats of all time.  These type of books also offer an education element to them because you learn about some names you may never have heard of before.

Fans of either of these teams will obviously want to check these out and see if they agree with Robert Cohen’s pics as well.  These are also valuable to fans that fancy themselves as amateur historians of the game, because you can get some good information on some of the featured players.

You can get any of these books from the nice folks at Blue River Press

Finally, I apologize to all my loyal followers (yes all three of you), with our new addition to the family last year, time is at a premium and unfortunately baseball books have fell victim to my time crunch.  Aubrey does not give me much spare time to read and post, but I will try my darndest to post more in 2018.  I will not after almost 400 posts let this become a zombie blog.

Happy Holidays to all and a safe and healthy New Year to each and every one of you.

Happy Reading

Gregg