Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying? A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market. These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.
I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous. What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader? I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.
What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s. It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.
In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence. From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues. One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball. The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side. One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man. You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.
Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball. After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next. Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology. You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told, I couldn’t put it down. It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.
You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book. It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it. As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Success is fleeting. For some people it is faster than others. Some players it lasts twenty years and for others it can only be one day. No matter its length of time, it will eventually vanish, and all you are left with is memories. For John Paciorek the game of baseball allowed him one day of immortality and generated hopes of long-range success. That grand success was never to be, but now there is a book that lets readers take a glimpse of the one game wonder that finished with a perfect career.
John Paciorek was a hometown hero. Brought forth from a family of standout athletes, he showed the promise of greatness on high school teams that garnered the attention of the Houston Colt 45’s. In today’s game Paciorek would be considered a can’t miss prospect and all sorts of attention would be paid to him to make sure he had an All-Star career. Due to a series of back problems an All-Star career was not in the cards for Paciorek, but he did get to play in one single game for the Colt 45’s in 1963 and went a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate. This feat was something that had never happened before or since and left the slugger with a perfect 1.000 career batting average. It was a game that left John with the distinction of the only payer with more than one at bat in the major leagues to have a perfect career batting average. That officially makes him the answer to a trivia question.
Author Steven K.Wagner has undertaken the task of sharing John Paciorek’s career story with the whole world. He covers his humble upbringings in Michigan, through his high school years highlights. You see a complete picture of the background and values of the local star athlete. Next you see John’s progression through the minor leagues and his eventual call up to the Colt 45’s. That brief stint with the Colts leads to one game in which John takes the field. The book takes in-depth analysis of the one game John played in and shows how every single event transpired that day. It also unfortunately shows how things did not work out in John’s career after that great game. A nice portion of the book shows John’s life after baseball and what you find is a man who is at peace with the hand he was dealt in life. Paciorek does not seem bitter at all, especially as one might think he would after his brother Tom had a successful major league career for several years.
It is a good book for all readers who like to learn about obscurity in baseball. It is well written and tells the complete story of both the man and the player, and allows John to become more than just a footnote in baseball history. Books like this I feel are necessary so that we don’t lose the minor things to the passage of time in our sport. He will always be that trivia question answer, but now we are able to understand his full story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Breakaway Books