Category: National League

Macho Row-The 93 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code


This weekend will be a momentous occasion for my fairly new little family.  We have decided to take my Daughter Aubrey to her first Phillies game this Sunday.  Now for some families this might not be a big deal, I mean come on she will never have any recollection of this game except for any pictures that get taken, but for us this is a big deal.  It is the start of hopefully a life long love of going to the ballpark, smelling the grass and taking in the sights and sounds.  It is also a milestone in our return to the Philly area because this is one of the things we missed doing the most.  So I decided it was a good time to check out today’s book, because no better time than now to make it a full Philadelphia Phillies weekend.

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By :William Kashatus-2017

William Kashatus is no stranger to authoring books about the Phillies.  His previous book showcases a great era in team history and has been featured on here previously.  I thought this books’ timing was a little odd since it is the 24th anniversary of the team……..not the 25th and there was no real notable events surrounding team members other than Curt Shilling still can’t shut his mouth.  But I can once again Kashatus has thrown this avid Phillies fan another walk back through time to revisit the glory days of a team whose successes at that time were few and far between.

This team was a bunch of freaks and cast offs from other teams to put it nicely.  Assembled as an attempt to right a sinking ship in Philadelphia, they endeared themselves through rugged play and in the end easily became one of the most beloved teams in the history of the Phillies.  This book takes a look at these personalities and shows what they were like both on and off the field.  Pulling no punches, it brings up the question of who was using PED’s on that team, but this book does show once again that unfortunately we as fans may never get a definitive answer on the subject.

The book also highlights some of the more monumental events of that magical season and the effect it had on the city of brotherly love.  As a first hand witness of this team and its effect on the city, the author does a great job of portraying the team, its players, its attitude and general overall demeanor.  They were a bunch of guys that everyone in the city wanted to hang out at the bar with.  For no other team would fans sit through a twi-night double header that stated at 5:30 p.m., endured multiple rain delays and ended at 4:41 a.m..  It is still my most favorite game that I have ever been to, one reason being once the bars closed at 2 a.m. everyone was coming to the ballpark.  There were more people there at 4 a.m. then when the game started.  All because everyone loved these guys.

If you were not able to witness the team first hand, this book gives fans a great feel of what they were all about.  Almost 25 years later Macho Row holds a special place in fan’s hearts.  They may be a little older now, but it hasn’t slowed any of them down, they still get in fist fights amongst themselves when the make appearances in the area and quite honestly the true Phillies fans don’t expect any less from most of them.

All baseball fans should check this out because it is a vivid contrast against the super teams of today’s baseball.  The were a bottom feeding, scrapper team that made it to the top on strictly grit and determination.  Make the effort to check this one out from the University of Nebraska Press, it is definitely worth the time.

Happy Reading

Gregg

McFarland-Never Ones to Shy Away from Obscurity


In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche.  Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game.  McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game.  The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would.  It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there.  They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.

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By: William A. Cook-2016

Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days.  Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career.  Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball.  He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB.  The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league.  He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.

Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed.  Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days.  The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making.  Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.

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I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book.  George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years.  He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team.  There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering.  This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.

It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze.  This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era.  This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.

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By:Jorge Iber-2016

Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish?  Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it.  Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young.  All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.

This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step.  Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career.  Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject.  Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books.  If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out.  70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.

Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

The 1986 World Series-There Was More Than Game Six


I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball.  Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes.  This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series.  It seems to  be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused.  Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record.  With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.

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By: SABR-2016

If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing.  They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible.  They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both.  New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.

Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes.  The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season.  Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players.  They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers.  So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.

Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit.  Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series.  Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.

Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them.  It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects.  Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.

Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.

You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.

1986 Mets/Red Sox

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

When Shea Was Home


Baseball stadiums are a funny business.  In the last few years we have opened the remainder of the publicly funded monsters that are basically welfare projects for the mega rich owners. Convincing the fan base that it is a good idea to fund the building of these monsters through tax dollars, all in the name of civic pride.  Everyone that has wanted a new stadium has gotten one in the last 25 years, we are even starting to see some of these stadiums become outdated and cries for replacements are starting.  These stadiums are all one dimensional and other uses of these parks is very limited.  It makes one look back and see how useful the last generation of stadiums truly were.  Baseball, Football, Concerts, Monster Truck Rallies or almost anything you could imagine would happen there.   In today’s game almost everyone has their individual dedicated to one type of event stadium. But what about that one glorious year when one stadium housed two Baseball teams and two Football teams.  Rarely a day went by when something wasn’t going on.  Today’s book looks at that one unique and busy year.

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By Brett Topel-2016

Shea Stadium was the lucky recipient of all this attention in 1975.  The obvious home of the New York Mets, but also temporary home to the New York Yankees during the remodeling of Yankee Stadium.  It also housed the New York Giants and the Jets while construction of the Meadowlands was  wrapping up.  It made for scheduling nightmares and helped create an atmosphere within Shea that was hard to beat.

Brett Topel’s new book takes a look at that busy season and gives a solid background on each of the teams that called Shea home.  He shows the reader how each of the tenants agreements came to be with the city owned stadium and how the legalities of it all threw a few wrenches into the works.

Topel, through interviews with the men who were on the field in 1975 explain what the vibe was like that year.  How the Yankees felt playing on enemy territory across town from their beloved stadium and having to call Shea home.  It had to be a very interesting mind set for the players since the dimensions were so different between the two stadiums.  It also shows how the transplant to Shea Stadium effected the Yankees fans and their attendance.

The book covers both the Baseball and Football teams that called Shea stadium home in 1975, but it is much more centered on the baseball side of the stadium activities.  More than likely because in a given year with two teams calling Shea home you would have 162 baseball games that would be considered home games versus the 16 home games for Football on Sundays.  It shows how utilitarian these multi purpose stadiums really were.  They were treated like a jack of all trades, instead of todays specialized delicate little flowers that are sparingly used for only one activity.  I find it amazing that these new sport palaces are starting to have a shorter life span than the older and more widely used multi purpose stadiums.

If you are a fan of New York sports you should check this one out.  It shows a very unique situation in an interesting time period of sports league growth.  A situation like this we will never see again and for good reason.

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

When Shea Was Home

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Willie Stargell-A Life in Baseball


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.

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By Frank Garland-2013

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

Willie Stargell- A Life in Baseball

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Kings of Queens-Life Beyond Baseball With the ’86 Mets


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.

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By Erik Sherman-2016

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

Kings of Queens

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

The Great Baseball Revolt-The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League


If you look at baseball history as a whole, it encompasses a large amount of time. Thousands of people and events are all part of the greater story for thousands of reasons. Some of those events get lost to the passage of time, and rightly so.  Just because an event happened does not mean it had any significance to the history of the game itself, it was just the action within the game.  Some events have been suppressed from the history books, for selfish reasons by those involved.  Today’s book takes a look at one of those events and how they helped shape the game as it now known.

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By Robert Ross-2016

Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book.  He takes a look at the 1890 Players League that was formed as a rival league to the existing National League.  It offered better salaries and player shares of ownership to play in the league.  This was in contrast to the business dealings of the National league already in existence.  It also allowed the Players League to outdraw the Nationals by the end of the season.  It is a valuable history lesson and shows the power the players have always had and what ownership would like to keep quiet.

This is truly one of the earliest player labor organization movements in the history of the game.  They organized, had some backers and on most fronts were a success.  While their success was for only one year, it shows the powers that the players held and what obstacles they could overcome if they worked together.  In the end it was the fact that National League owners inflated their attendance numbers and cooked their books to the point that it made the Players League look inept.  In the end that was the main downfall of the Players League.

After this failure the Owners held the upper hand for generations and the formation  of the Major League Baseball Players Association almost 75 years later was the first real inroad the players made toward leveling the field with Ownership.  This is where it would have been a benefit to former players to be students of the game.  If they realized they held the power and had banned together sooner, they could have realized better pay and individual rights sooner than they had.  This whole theory could have changed the way free agency came about and would have revolutionized the entire game sooner.

If you have any interest in the labor side of baseball, or rival league history  this book would be a good choice for you.  Yes it happened over a century ago, but it definitely is something that could have changed the direction labor relations took over the past 115 years.  This is one of those history lessons ownership to this day would like to under cover.  Because even today some of these principles could be used to the players benefit.

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

The Great Baseball Revolt

Happy Reading

Gregg