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 who you are, if you are a baseball fan, you have opinions on how to make the game better. It could be ways to speed up the game, a way to play the game more effectively or even personnel decisions that would alter the complexion of your team. Regardless of what your ideas are, more than likely they will fall on deaf ears. Now if you are a baseball lifer like today’s author, you automatically gain some credence to your ideas just because of the experience and respect you have attained during your career.
Buck Martinez has been a solid baseball lifer. Spending a career as an on field back up Catcher, he had the opportunity to study the game during his three team stop in the major leagues. His final stop in Toronto seemed to provide him the best education and allow him to find as permanent a home as one can find in baseball. His post retirement career as both field manager and television analyst have continued his baseball education and allowed him to become one of the most respected minds in baseball.
This book has almost a Frankenstein feel to it. It really could have been several different stand alone books all by the same author, but here it is rolled all in to one product. The first part of the book that Buck gives the reader, is his childhood and playing career. You see his love of the game from his youth and how he worked himself hard to become a major leaguer. He was for most of his time in the major leagues a back up or fringe player which allowed him to study the game. All three teams, The Royals, Brewers and Blue Jays, were all fairly bad teams that were attempting to build a quality product on the field and Buck was part of the construction of all three. It was those three stops that Buck learned what it took to be a winner and how to build success.
After his playing days were over Buck found a home as an analyst for the Blue Jays and has made himself a vital part of the Jays TV crew and a respected voice from the booth. His analyst career was interrupted by a brief and not so successful stint as Blue Jays manager. It was a wrong place, wrong time career move, that if it was under a different set of circumstances, may have turned out much different.
The third part of this book conglomeration is Buck’s opinions of what works and does not work within today’s game. He cites examples of who he thinks is playing and respecting the game at the correct level. He also presents some ideas that he thinks would improve the game. He has some decent ideas that someone within the game and the powers that be, may want to stop and take a look at. They are not way out ideas and would help enhance the game as we know it today.
When you think of Buck Martinez you don’t think of a Hall of Fame player. While he had an average career, he has made himself a spectacular student of the game and makes educated and well thought out suggestions to improve the game. If you are looking for an educated view of the current game this may be a book you would want to check out. He presents his ideas in ways that would improve the game without disrupting its natural flow. The book showed a whole new side of Buck Martinez to me and allowed me to gain a whole new respect for him.
You can get this book from the nice folks at HarperCollins
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
Baseball is full of storied careers. With the passage of time, some of the stories become bigger than life. Some of those careers get clouded by the haze of nostalgia, or the feeling of what we used to have is better than today. Todays book takes an honest look at a high-profile career and gave me a clear look at what really happened.
The Wizard of Waxahachie
By:Warren Corbett – 2009 Southern Methodist University Press
Paul Richards mark on baseball is undeniable. There are many things, by design or perhaps by accident, that have been attributed to him. Pitch counts, five man pitching rotations, tracking on-base percentages, his fingerprints are all over baseball today. What you don’t always see is the way the mind operated during his lifetime dedicated to the sport.
Warren Corbett wrote a book almost 25 years after Richards death. Relying on family memories, notes and audio recordings that the family had provided, and has given a seldom seen side of Paul Richards. He delves in to the devious side of Richards and his dealings with players and management during his illustrious career. He also creates an accurate feeling that he was a hustler to many, both on the field and the golf course.
The most interesting aspect of this book to me is the trouble Paul Richards had bridging the generation gap. When I say generation gap I am talking about the gap that was created near the end of his career in the dawn of free agency. Richards had a lot of problems accepting the birth and subsequent power of the MLB Players Union. It shows how after almost 50 years in baseball he was very set in his ways.
While after finding moderate success on and off the field in all his stops in baseball, Richards was a man of many friends and able to work the old boy network to his advantage and always find work. That may be some of the reason he was not interested in adjusting to the new era of baseball. The book is very heavy in detail about his time in Baltimore with the Orioles. It was the longest stop of his career but still dominates about half of this book. His stops in Houston, Atlanta, both stops in Chicago and finally Texas seem to be condensed versions to fit in the book. I think a little more time could have been spent in Houston alone, due to the challenges of building a new franchise.
In the end Richards does not come out of the book looking like the genius he is regarded as today. He seems almost human and to an extent skating through some of the stops in his career. The end result of the book has shown us what I feel is a very fair and accurate portrait of Paul Richards. Wayne Corbett did a great job on this biography especially since he was doing it almost 25 years after Richards death.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Southern Methodist University Press
No matter what your chosen profession in life, there is always enough blame to go around when failure arises. Even if its not justified blame, someone has to accept it. Baseball is no different from any other business, someone has to take the fall. Today’s book takes an interesting look at that unjustified blame phenomenon.
When in Doubt, Fire the Skipper
By:Gary Webster – 2014 McFarland
The old saying goes Managers are hired to be fired. Whenever a team is going down the tubes quick, the skippers head is always the first one destined for the chopping block. Gary Webster has undertaken the task of reviewing and analyzing every midseason managerial change from the turn of the twentieth century through the 2012 season.
The author breaks down each season into its own chapter, then reviews each team that made a change at the top. You see the two managers in the scenario and what was going on with that team as a whole. He analyzes the team performance before and after the management change and then looks at what the overall result was. Sometimes the manager switch brought a team back from the brink of death, and for others it finally pushed them over the edge. It shows that most times, midseason managerial changes are not a good idea.
Overall, Gary Webster has done a very nice job of analyzing each change. You get great information about the team and their change at the top. You also get the opportunity to see some names that have been forgotten as time has marched on. Some extremely obscure names pop up in here that you may have never known were given a shot at managerial glory. Also you can see some managerial moves that propelled certain people on to Hall of Fame careers. It really is an interesting book for someone who likes to read about managers.
The knowledge base alone that is contained in here is enough of a reason for fans to add this book to your collection. You see countless moves that have both helped and hindered teams and changed baseball history in the process. If you have any interest in managers, this should be a must read for those fans.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland.
There are several teams within Major League Baseball that just get no respect. Sometimes the reason may be their own ineptitude, financial shortcomings or even as simple as being a group of unlikable guys. Teams that come to mind are the Miami Marlins, Washington Senators, Philadelphia and K.C. Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros just to name a few out there. They all have their place in history and it is not always negative. The loyal fan bases that these teams maintain always hold out that glimmer of hope for next year and the fortunes that may come their way. Todays book takes the time to celebrate one of those team that struggles to be respected.
Houston Astros-Deep in the Heart
By:Bill Brown & Mike Acosta-Bright Sky Press 2013
The Houston Astros were born out of National League expansion in 1962. Originally named the Colt 45’s, they started play with a bunch of over the hill and wet behind the ears players. They spent more than a decade languishing near the bottom of the standings before reaping the fruits of their labor and becoming perennial contenders for the fans of Houston. Unfortunately like most things in life, baseball standings come full circle and the Astros are rebuilding for the future once again.
Bill Brown and Mike Acosta have compiled a book that shows the pride the fans of the Astros have in their beloved team. They show that you don’t always have to meet prettiest girl at the dance to find true love. Like most teams that have a loyal following, the fans of Houston are proud of their team and its heritage no matter how they finish.
This book is really great. It has 11 different chapters and breaks the 50 plus years of Houston baseball into each. You learn about the stadiums the Astros have called home. You learn about a variety of different players and off field personnel that have worn Houston’s colors proudly. Finally you see the Astros high points on the field, most recently being the 2005 World Series. One part of this book I though was interesting is that is it gives a glimpse into the future of the Astros, it shows rising stars they are hoping will propel the team to new heights. I also found that I had no idea who has actually played for the Astros during their existence. The Houston portion of some players career’s may have been short, but there were some big time names that hung their hat in Houston for a bit.
The pictures in this book are of great quality. You get a chance to see some never before seen shots that make you feel like you were there. I for some reason wish I had the chance to see a game at the Astrodome, but never did. So I always like seeing old pictures of the eighth wonder of the world, and this book does not disappoint at all!
Astros fans will love this book. Fans of team history as well. Books like this always have a place in our bookcases. They allow fans to go back and relive the memories they have and add that special nostalgic magic to it. As we all know that nostalgic magic can make things seem better and more enjoyable than they really were, but sometimes we all need that in life. Also when you order this book it arrives with a bag of baseball candy and a bag of Cracker Jack in the box. What is more enjoyable or nostalgic in baseball than Cracker Jack????
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press
I have always thought a hobby was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be something to pass your time and make you forget the everyday grind. Not something that necessarily made you think, but perhaps something mindless. With all that in mind statistical analysis was never something I thought would fit into the category of a hobby, until now……..
The Book-Playing the Percentages in Baseball
By:Tom Tango, Mitchell Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin -2007
Books like this I have never really given a chance. I always thought they were strictly the authors interpretation on any given situation, backed by their own derived numbers. Being that the main purpose of this blog was to explore new avenues of reading and share my thoughts with you, I figured I would give this one a shot.
What I found was a book of incredible analysis. The authors analyze every conceivable scenario within the game and give you every possible outcome. It uses numbers and graphs to show what the best and most probable outcome may be in any given situation. If you are not a numbers person some of this book may be over your head, but with a little understanding of their methods you can gain a lot of knowledge.
Honestly on a book like this, I found some of the explanations dry. I do not think it had anything to do with the authors writing style. I feel it all has to do with the nature of what you are reading about. Honestly there are only so many ways to make statistical analysis interesting, even to the most hard-core fan.
In the new era of Sabermetrics a book like this is important. It gives the casual reader a chance to see how numbers are effecting the thought processes on the field. It also gives fans who sit on their couches an opportunity to second guess the strategies playing out in front of them on the TV. The Book also has some sort of validity to the lower leagues and teachers of the next generation of ball players. Those coaches can generate a stronger knowledge of the game and the moves they can make to better prepare their players for the future.
I struggled with this book a bit, mostly because of my personal dislike of statistical analysis. As stated above this book is a quality tool that could help people both in the game, and watching it from home. So I would recommend it for anyone who has an interest in this topic.
You can get this book from the friendly folks at Potomac Books