Category: Indians

The Chalmers Race and the 1910 Batting Title


I have of late, spent a lot of time looking at books that go back over a century in baseball history.  Sometimes the books I have on hand steer the blog more than I ever do.  When you go back this far in history, it is a daunting task to try and answer some question. Record keeping was not even close to the standards that it is today, and the game as a whole created some questionable outcomes.  So I am not really sure how an author would even try and research something from this era and feel confident in the outcomes.  As a baseball community I think we have accepted as accurate what is in the record books but it is still open to some questions no matter who it is.  Rick Huhn has in the past written books from this era and has done an admirable job with the, so with today’s book I am expecting more of the same.

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By Rick Huhn-2014

For those not familiar with this story, auto magnate Hugh Chalmers offered a new Chalmers automobile to the winner of the 1910 batting championship.  By today’s standards a car is no big deal but by 1910 standards, cars were new fangled contraptions that were not commonplace.  So for the players involved this was a big deal.

The long in the short of it is that the race came down between Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie and Detroit’s Ty Cobb.  There was also some controversy about record keeping for both players at the time.  In the end, American League President Ban Johnson made the final decision and awarded the car to Ty Cobb.  Still surrounded in controversy to this day no one is sure who really one, but Cobb got the car.

Rick Huhn does a really good job of relaying to the reader the course of events of 1910. Individual game details, scoring decisions and events all paint a vivid picture for the reader.  He also details the aftermath of Ban Johnson’s decision and court depositions that show the mess that baseball was in during that time period.  It also gives the reader a real good idea of how fixed baseball was during that time period and how it could have been human error, judgement calls or just plains and simple, the fix was in for the car’s winner that caused this giant mess.

The passage of 100 years clouds some of the details, but the author does a nice job throughout the whole book giving the reader what is to believed to be the complete story.  It is something that we prior to this book did not have great clarification on. This book does that job very well and hopefully can lay to rest the true events of the 1910 season.

If you have an interest in this era check this book out.  It is another book that gives a good feel of what really was going on in baseball during this era.  It also is another book that clarifies some of the Ty Cobb myths.  That is not its main intention, but it is a good side effect.  You just need to be a fan of baseball history to enjoy this one,  it slows down a little bit at the mid point in the book, when it gets bogged down in the court proceedings.  But once you are through that it picks back up and completes its mission.

You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

The Chalmers Race

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Greatness in the Shadows


There are injustices throughout the history of baseball that people have tried to remedy with varying degrees of success.  Integration was a major injustice on several levels that has been addressed within baseball.  While it has not been conquered on all levels, at least on the playing field it went as planned.  We are all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey integrating the National League and being racial pioneers within the game.  But what about the first player on the American League side?  Today’s book takes a look at what transpired for the second racial pioneer in the game Larry Doby, and why he never got the respect, attention or praise that Jackie Robinson received only a few weeks prior.

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By Douglas Branson-2016

For me it is easy to understand why Larry Doby is not given as many pioneering accolades as Jackie Robinson, he was #2.  Yes he was the first in The American League, but was second under the umbrella that was Major League Baseball at the time.  No matter what the sport, being number two is never any good.  People only care about the first at whatever it is, so that was a major reason as to why Doby never got as much press at the time.  He also was in Cleveland instead of being in New York, a city with three teams which was just coming into its own golden era in the late 1940’s.  That factor alone is a big reason why many players got the coverage from the media that they did.  Doby could have been in Boise, Idaho and people could not have cared any less than they did when he was in Cleveland.  Also his relationship with owner Bill Veeck could have hindered press coverage of his career because of the disdain the other owners and the old boys network had for old sport shirt Bill.  These are just some of my ideas that I have had for a while and the book tries to prove some of these, but unfortunately does not make the grade.

Author Douglas Branson is a self proclaimed Larry Doby fan.  Finding both Doby and baseball at an early age he always felt that Doby had been slighted by the baseball gods and the media.  For various reasons I stated above he seems to want to try and prove these points through his research and other peoples writings.  He like to quote a lot of others peoples books in trying to make his case on the above points.  That method to me just felt lazy in the research of the book.    He also quotes earlier pages in the same book you are currently reading, which at times was driving me nuts.  It disrupted the flow of the book and was repetitive as well.

Factually, this book had several flaws as well.  I am not sure if it an editing fault in which the person doing it did not have a strong baseball knowledge, or if the editors felt the author’s facts were correct due to his vast self proclaimed baseball knowledge.  Either way there are several factual errors within the book.  Names, places and events were all part of the problem. There were so many errors it was embarrassing.  So many, that even the outside back cover where other authors tell you how great the book you are reading is, contained errors.  Usually from this publisher we see fewer errors and this book really surprised me on that front.

As hard as I tried I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about this Larry Doby volume.  I really wanted this to be a good biography, since so few exist.  If you are one of those people that have to read any new book that contains anything about Larry Doby or the Cleveland Indians, then no matter what my final synopsis is you will still check it out.  But in all honestly, save your money on this, it is so riddled with errors and factual mistakes that it brings into question the entire body of work.

I think there has always been a shortage of Larry Doby material on the market, but this is not the direction it needs to take.  We need a quality Doby biography that is factually correct, and gives the man the respect he has deserved for decades.

If you still want to take a look at this one you can get it from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

Greatness in the Shadows

Happy Reading

Gregg

The Tall Mexican – The Life of Hank Aguirre


Sometimes even the best of us get fooled.  While we try our hardest to know what we are getting ourselves into, sometimes the old bait and switch applies.  I try to have a general idea as to what I am going to read before I start a new book, but it once in a great while will be the exact opposite.  You can usually tell from the cover notes what a book is about, but then other times you are really not sure.  Today’s book is one that I feel was not quite what it was supposed to be.

By: Robert Coplay -1998

By: Robert Coplay -2000

This book was about the life of the Major League Pitcher Hank Aguirre.  A durable pitcher for his time, he put up some respectable numbers but nothing Hall of Fame worthy.  He also spent a great portion of his life after baseball dedicated to making the community around him a better place.  These are all very nice sentiments for a local hero but unfortunately for someone looking for a baseball book this one would be considered a swing and a miss.

The book does briefly touch on Hank’s baseball career in the majors as well as his upbringing in the Hispanic community.  It focuses largely on Hank’s post baseball career as a businessman and humanitarian.  It shows how he was instrumental in bringing decent jobs to the Hispanic community in Detroit during a period of economic death.  The details are great from a business standpoint and show the human side of this former baseball player.  You get a sense of great compassion for his employees and great civic pride Hank was known for.

If you’re looking for a good Baseball book this may not be the one for you.  It is light on the details of Hank’s career and very heavy on his involvement in the business and Hispanic community.  Over all it is a good book, it just misses the mark on being an actual baseball book.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press

https://artepublicopress.com/product/the-tall-mexican-the-life-of-hank-aguirre-all-star-pitcher-businessman-humanitarian/

Happy Reading

Gregg

Bob Feller’s Little Blue Book of Baseball Wisdom……at least the color is different


I have said this in one of my prior posts that I have the utmost respect for Bob Feller.  His service to our country, his baseball career and the stand up guy he was, speak volumes about his character.  While most of us don’t think much beyond his Hall of Fame career, he really was an incredible personality who was a great ambassador for the game.  Feller has been the subject of, or involved in several books throughout his life so my first question upon seeing today’s book is why do we need another one now?  One of my very first posts on this site was Bob Feller’s Little Black Baseball Book, and quite honestly I wasn’t all that impressed.  So this book had me going into it questioning why it even existed.

By:Bob Feller & Burton Rocks-2009

By :Bob Feller & Burton Rocks 2009

I was hoping I was going to find some great insight into life and about baseball from this book that I may have missed in Feller’s Black Book.  I thought maybe I was too hard on that book in the review I wrote and perhaps it was me as the reader, that was not connecting with that books message.  Well, after reading two of these books, I am confident in saying……I am not the problem here.

Bob Feller’s Little Blue Book of Baseball Wisdom has really given the reader nothing more than the Black Book did.  It is background on Feller’s childhood and how he had the greatest childhood ever.  Nothing could ever top Feller’s skill or experiences on the field and in his own eyes he has lived a charmed life all of his own doing.  At times the book comes off quite pretentious and somewhat overbearing.

I originally wondered why we needed this book, and I am now still wondering why.  It is essentially a reworded version of the Black Book and doesn’t give the reader any new information.  I realize the publication of the books is the good part of a decade apart, but it to me is essentially an updated volume of the black book.  I have trouble recommending anyone who has Bob Feller’s Little Black Book to drop the money to pick up Bob Feller’s Little Blue Book.  To me it is really just the same recycled stories and Feller patting himself on the back.

Indians fans who have a strong association with Bob Feller will enjoy it just because the hometown boy wrote a book. Fans in other cities should probably pick either the Blue Book or the Black Book because essentially you are getting the same product in a different color.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books

http://www.triumphbooks.com/bob-feller-s-little-blue-book-of-baseball-wisdom-products-9781600782190.php

Happy Reading

Gregg

Whatever Happened To Super Joe?


In our busy daily lives its always fun and enjoyable to catch up with family and friends.  Jobs, your own family and limited time and resources all play into the distance between us.  When you are a baseball fan and spend eight months out of every year following your favorite team, you create a bond with the players.  They almost become a part of our family in a sense that we know a lot about them and their personal lives.  It creates a bond that grows stronger with time, but then one day their careers are over and they are gone.  It creates a void in our lives that as the years go by makes fans wonder what they are doing now.  For lucky Cleveland Indians fans, now you can see what your favorites of yesteryear are up to now.

By:Russell Schneider-2006

By:Russell Schneider-2006

This book is obviously a bit dated, but still a good resource for fans.  Some of the 45 players interviewed for this book have since passed on, but it gives you a good feel for that individual players take on his own career and what happened after the spotlight burned out.

Russell Schneider picks 45 fan favorites, or as he likes to call them, the good old guys from the bad old days of the Cleveland Indians.  Schneider does not just take the superstars from the Cleveland diamond, he also talks with those players who had very short careers with the Tribe.  The one underlying theme in this book are these are definite fan favorites.  Some of these players with marginal careers in the majors are still this day beloved by the fans in Cleveland.

From Ken Suarez and Eddie Leon to Jim Bibby and Super Joe Charboneau it gives a nice variety of personalities that got to call Cleveland home for a while.  The author created this book from interviews with the former players and another theme holds true with them as well.  Every one of them, no matter how bad the team was during their tenure, was proud to be a part of the Indians.  It shows that even in the bad times, the pride a city and team can create for fans and players.

I think all baseball fans will like this one.  Many of the players interviewed spent time outside of Cleveland so it will have a mass appeal to the fans of other teams.  This book is a nice game of remember when, where you can catch up with some old friends that you haven’t heard from in a while.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Gray & Company Publishers

http://www.grayco.com/cleveland/books/10274/index.shtml

Happy Reading

Gregg

The Curse of Rocky Colavito – A Loving Look at a 30 Year Slump


Every baseball fan has their team.  Some people have more than one team, or an entire division, or league, but all fans pull for somebody.  Some of those fans have it easier than others.  Obviously Yankees fans with 27 World Series Championships to their credit, have an easier time pulling for their team then say Houston Astros fans.  They have one World Series appearance in the last 50 plus years, so their dedication has a higher price.  These are obviously two ends of the spectrum, but for other teams there have been prolonged slumps in that team’s history that has been difficult for fans to endure.  The Cleveland Indians was one of those teams.  From the mid 1950’s through the mid 90’s, fans endured a slump that they felt would never end.  Most thought they were cursed when the Tribe made a bad trade and sent Rocky Colavito packing to Detroit, which brings me to today’s book.

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By:Terry Pluto Gray & Co. 2007

Terry Pluto, writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a homer in every sense of the word.  He has had a life-long love affair with the Cleveland Indians and now writes about them on a daily basis.  He has written several books about the Indians and this one is a real winner as far as I am concerned.  Originally released in 1994 and updated in 2007, Pluto has chronicled the Indians stumble through the American League.

Starting in the 50’s with the Colavito trade the Indians operated on a shoestring budget, barely staying afloat in Cleveland and playing at cavernous Municipal Stadium.  They put teams on the field that would make any beer leaguer proud.  For over three decades they were the laughing-stock of the American League, always hoping for that promise of next year.  Failed trades that left the Indians on the short end of the deal, prospects that never panned out, free agents signings that imploded, ownership changes every few years and Gabe Paul doing what he thought best all added up to miserable times to be a Indians fan.  The Indians also were no strangers to money woes and poor attendance.  All of these factors kept the Indians in the basement of the American League bailing out water as fast as they could.  It is no wonder the fans of Cleveland were so excited in the 90’s when the Indians finally found success.

This is a fun book for all fans to read.  If you are an Indians fan these are all probably very familiar stories for you.  If you’re a fan of any other team, you will enjoy it because hey…….you are not an Indians fan.  Check it out because you will gain new respect for the history of your own team and they may not be as bad as you thought they were.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Gray & Co.

http://www.grayco.com

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Dealing-The Cleveland Indians New Ballgame


Cleveland fans have no illusions about their team history.  The Indians were the doormat of the American League for decades.  Flashes of greatness came and went, with nothing substantial to show for it.  Happily, the fortunes changed in the decade of the 90’s.  With the opening of a new stadium and new ownership breathing new life into the tired franchise, the Indians fans time had finally come.  Well as with most things in life, all good things come to an end, and the Indians were in the crapper once again.  Today’s book shows how the Indians took on a plan to rebuild again in hopes of finding new success on the field.

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By:Terry Pluto-2008 Gray & Co.

Terry Pluto loves his Indians.  Being a home-grown Cleveland guy, he has taken on the Indians a few different times in his books and always produced  quality, insightful results.  Pluto’s newest topic is the rebuilding of the Indians after their success of the late 90’s and eventual decline due to the normal baseball shift of power.  This book discusses ownership, players, management, the stadium and everything in between that has contributed to the downfall of the Cleveland Indians.

You can always tell through his writings that Terry Pluto is a homegrown Cleveland guy.  That being said, it does not seem to have a negative effect on his work.  You can see an intense passion towards the city and the team, as well as his personal caring about them.  What it doesn’t do is incorporate any sort of bias about the team.  He is quite honest in his assessments of the moves the Tribe has made and the final results of such moves.  He is honest in his assessments of the players and management and the future plans of the team.

The most interesting aspect of this entire book was his look at ownership change and the newness of Jacobs field wearing off.  It is interesting to see how these two things have such a great effect on the team you see on the field.  Change in ownership can usher in a change of culture that affects the entire team.  It effects who makes what decisions and that can wreck all sorts of havoc for a team.  Also when a stadium loses its newness, naturally attendance will drop if the product on the field is not all that good and that is another challenge a team then has to overcome.  These are all things every team will face at one point or another, and it’s actually something my Phillies are going through currently.  This book is a little dated and the Indians are really now on the second round of rebuilding but the same basic principles and problems are still applicable.  At least this time around they seem to be heading in the right direction.

This is a very good book and will easily appeal to Indians fans.  Some general baseball fans may have a little trouble getting into it, but should really give it a chance, because eventually your own team will be facing the same problems and doing the exact same thing.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Gray & Company Publishers

http://www.grayco.com

Happy Reading

Gregg