Category: National League

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

 

Characters from the Diamond-Wild, Crazy and Unique Tales from Early Baseball


I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately.  I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and  I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education.  My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so.  Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.

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By Ronald T. Waldo-2016

Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era.  For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years.  From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories.  He also does go beyond just the players.  He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.

Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years.  Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses.  This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today.  The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.

Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era.  From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books.  He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive.  Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line.  That is a monumental task for a writer.  The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental.  As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story.  That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style.  This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.

Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out.  It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find.  It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield

Characters from the Diamond

Happy Reading

Gregg

Burleigh Grimes-Baseball’s Last Legal Spitballer


I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best.  It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed.  When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era.  In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible  and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans.  But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964?  I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.

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By:Joe Niese-2013

For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide.  I was familiar with his writing from  his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good.  He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.

Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes.  From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers.  It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II.  It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era.  Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.

Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days.  His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees.  On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about.  Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person.  Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life.  To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.

For my money,  Joe Niese did a great job with this book.  He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with.  He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by.  Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.

I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this.  It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality.  Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time.  This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters.  Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese

Burleigh Grimes

Happy Reading

Gregg

Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds


Throughout baseball history there are some amazing stories.  Stories that if you tried to have someone from Hollywood write it, the general public would never believe it was true.  The down side to these stories is unless the are juicy and so far out of this world against the odds, they sometimes get lost to the annals of baseball history.  One such story is the one involving Fred Hutchinson and the Reds of 1964.  When one talks about 1964 the big story out of the National League is the collapse of the Philadelphia Phillies and how the St. Louis Cardinals when the dust settled were the National League champions.  The third sister at the dance that year was the Cincinnati Reds and as the last day unfolded they were right there trying to win the pennant as well.  In the end the Reds came up short but the fascinating underlying story of that team was that their manager was fighting terminal cancer the entire season.  Hutchinson’s work for most of the year along with fill-in skipper Dick Sisler, got the Reds within one step of the World Series.  While today’s book is not a new release, in my opinion it is an often overlooked story in baseball history that from time to time needs to be brought back to the forefront.

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By: Doug Wilson-2010

Doug Wilson for me is one of those writers that could write a phone book in such a way that I would find it interesting.  His other works that I have been exposed to Brooks about Brooks Robinson and The Bird about Mark Fidrych are both top notch biographies and were reviewed on this site in previous posts.  This book predates both of the other two books I mentioned above but I expected nothing but the same quality book from Wilson on this one.  I am glad to report that I was not disappointed.

Doug Wilson starts out the book by giving a nice background on Fred Hutchinson.  His personal background, his playing career, time spent managing in Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis showing how his baseball personality was shaped along the way.  The book also shows us how the first few years Hutchinson spent shaping the Reds into contenders including an unexpected trip to the 1961 World Series.  It also shows how he handled up and coming superstars such as Pete Rose and how he helped mold them into winners as well.

Obviously the biggest part of the book is spent discussing the 1964 season and how right before it Hutchinson was diagnosed with his terminal cancer.  In December 1963 Hutchinson was diagnosed with his illness and from the start the prognosis was not good.  1964 from the start for the Cincinnati Reds was dedicated to the fight for the life of Fred Hutchinson and both he and his Reds fought a valiant fight from day one of the season.  Unfortunately Fred Hutchinson’s health did not allow him to make it through the season and he was replaced by Dick Sisler.  The Cinicnnati Reds fell a bit short on winning the N.L. Pennant for Hutch and subsequently he passed away a few weeks later.

It is a very compelling story from beginning to end and if it happened in todays world the outcome for Fred Hutchinson may have been very different as well as the media coverage given to his story.  Disney would have grabbed on to it and made a movie out of it, Major League Baseball would have had an official business partner for it and we would have been inundated with lots of things regarding Hutch’s situation from Joe Buck each week on the national telecast.  It is a perfect example as to how the business aspect of the game has changed and how they can and will use anything they find marketable.

Getting back to the book, Doug Wilson did a great job of sharing the story of Fred Hutchinson.  It is a story that will eventually get lost to the annals of time, but nonetheless should be remembered.  If this story was based in New York or Los Angeles I think the media play on it would have been much more, but Cincinnati was propbably just not flashy enough for the powers that be.  Wilson gave the reader a real good look at the subject and while being a sad subject , turns it into an enjoyable experience for the reader.  I would obviously recommend it to Reds fans, but all readers should check it out for the valuable history lesson contained within.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Hairs vs. Squares…and the Tumultuous Summer of ’72


There are certain seasons that stand out from others.  Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight.  1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here.  It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values.  Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business.  Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.

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By:Ed Gruver-2016

1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans.  Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it.  It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped.  Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings.  On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles.  But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness.  Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.

Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season.  Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds.  Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values.  On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society.  Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.

The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season.   The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well.  Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets,  Hank Aaron  was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy.  It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants.  It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.

This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball.  Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point.   I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events.  We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68.  Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line.  These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.

This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint.  I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier.  The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball.  For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957.  Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.

If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it.  It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well.  You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.

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

Hairs vs. Squares

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Hangin’ Out…Down on the Korner


We all have that one.  The one that fills our summer airwaves with Baseball memories, and the one who we relate to an almost personal basis.  The one I am talking about is of course your local baseball announcer.  The one you spend summer after summer hearing in the background of your life.  The person who is the conduit to your childhood dreams and your adult celebrations, all through the game of baseball.  Each team controls their own brand of baseball.  They are the ones responsible for their pre and post game shows and local telecasts. Through the years the local television teams have created some great and not so great ideas for shows, and honestly you can’t win them all anyway.  In the days before 24-7 media coverage of the sport, these local shows may have been a big part of your personal contact with the team.  One show seems to have stood the test of time and even the changes in the game to maintain it’s spot in the hearts of it’s many fans.

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By: Mark Rosenman & Howie Karpin   2016

For fans of the New York Mets, Ralph Kiner and Kiner’s Korner was almost a religion.  A post game show that while not big on set production value, always gave the viewers something to remember.  Through the use of “Kinerism’s” Ralph endeared himself to the fans and through the use of his knowledge of the game he educated them in ways few announcers have been able to.  Kiner always attempted to have the star of the game on there and friend or foe, it always made for some good interviews of which none have really survived the passage of time.

Rosenman and Karpin have taken their readers on a stroll down memory lane.  Through interviews with those that worked on the show as well as those whom were interviewed at one time or another, they have been able to piece back together some of the shows history. Many of the player have fond memories of their time hanging on Kiner’s Korner and felt it was an honor to have been selected to sit and talk with Ralph.  Throughout it’s history the Korner had superstars, future Hall of Famers, rookies and everyone in between take a seat on the set and it made for some very interesting television.

It is a shame there is no real video history of Kiner’s Korner available.  It would show how greatly the game has changed through the decades and how the media attention and formats they use has evolved as well.  Also fans of the New York Mets would clamor to get their hands on these as well.  The fans in the early years of the Mets existence did not have much to look forward to, but Kiner’s Korner was always one of the lights at the end of the tunnel.  It also was another showcase besides the game telecast itself where Kiner’s knowledge could shine through and enlighten the fans.

New York Mets fans will obviously want to check this out, but if you are a Ralph Kiner fan you will as well.  You get a feel of what his broadcasts were truly about and a sense of what baseball telecasts were like back in the day, before we became 24/7 baseball fans.

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

Down on the Korner

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Game 7, 1986-Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life


I think I am a fairly ordinary guy.  Growing older somewhat gracefully, as my inner child slowly calms down.  I think a by-product of growing older is your memory is not as great as it used to be.  If you asked me what I ate for breakfast a few days ago, I may have trouble giving you the correct answer.  Another side effect of the passage of time on the memory is nostalgia.  You may romanticize things and enjoy them much more today than you actually did thirty years ago.  In the last few years there have been books published that dissect a game from several decades prior, inning by inning and pitch by pitch, which leads to my first of many questions.  How do players remember everything that happened during a specific game, every thought process, every tobacco spit and every sneer at an opposing player.  If you ask why am I asking such a silly question, please see the sentence above about my breakfast.  Anyhow, today’s book follows this same format about game seven of one of the most dramatic World Series in recent memory.

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By:Ron Darling-2016

The 1986 World Series without a doubt was full of plenty of drama.  From the New York Mets trek to the big dance via Houston, to Bill Buckner making himself a footnote in baseball history, 1986 is a hard one to forget.  Ron Darling on most other baseball pitching staffs would have easily been the Ace, but on the Mets he was in the shadows of one phenom, namely Dwight Gooden.  Nonetheless Darling was the arm on tap to pitch Game 7 of the 1986 World Series.  Most people forget that the Buckner error was in Game 6 which then led to needing to play a game 7.

Ron Darling has made a nice little post pitching career for himself being a baseball analyst for both the Mets and the MLB Network.  He has great natural insight into the game and always explains the nuances to the fans so that the get a full understanding of the issues at hand.  Darling takes the same approach in his new book.

He takes the reader through Game 7 inning by inning, explaining the thought process used in his pitches as well as what was going on around him.  You see how the pitcher Ron Darling was processing the events of the day, but he also shows how the person Ron Darling was interpreting it as well.  It gives a real good rendition of the players take on what happened in Game 7, from a person who was on an emotional see-saw the entire evening.

Darling also gives a little glimpse of his personal life as well as some takes on his New York teammates.  It is not an in-depth analysis of his fellow Mets but it certainly gives the reader a behind the scenes glimpse of the team.

The question still sticks in my mind, how do you remember this much vivid detail 30 years later?  Admittedly he used some video footage to “refresh” his memory, but I still find it hard to accept these types of books as 100% credible.  Time easily distorts things even with the aide of video tape.  It also seems to some degree Ron darling is apologizing for his pitching performance but does seem to take the attitude of “I am sure glad we won, even though I sucked”.

This book is an enjoyable and quick read.  It flows smoothly and if Ron Darling is remembering correctly, gives the reader some great detail into Game 7.  It was a World Series to remember and all baseball fans will enjoy reliving this one special game.

You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press

Game 7, 1986

Happy Reading

Gregg