Category: Negro Leagues

A Little Bit of Everything


As you all know I don’t get as much time to devote to writing on here as I would like.  The responsibilities of everyday life have obviously gotten in the way and brought many thoughts of writing a post to a screeching halt.  I will say that just because the blog posts stop, it does not mean that I am not off reading somewhere in the shadows.  I get many books finished I just can never find the time to post the results on here.  Because of that, it has led me to do these things I don’t like to do, but honestly something is better than nothing.  I of course am talking about a multi book review.  I feel when I do these I don’t give each book the time it deserves, but honestly for the authors it is better than waiting two or three years for me to get it done. One thing can be said for these books though, they have been read and overall I would recommend them to the readers.  I try to keep it positive on here and if I find a book I don’t think anyone could find something positive in I steer away from it.  So every time you see one of these reviews from the beginning remember that they are all worthwhile books to check out.  So without further delay……….

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Brian Wright takes a cold hard look at the Mets through the ages with this one.  You have seen books on teams that show the highs of team history, the 50 greatest players and countless other positive bits on your favorite team.  Now while this book does those positive types of things it also takes a realistic look at team history and shows it warts and all.  Villains, losses, busts and worst trades ever are just a few of the things the author touches on.  It really gives a rounded look at the team history and gives an accurate portrayal of what the complete Mets team history really is.  Well worth checking out.

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To me before the 2016 World Series I did not think of David Ross as a household name.  Well I guess after that series, he is now.  This one was published just in time to cash in on the popularity of that series and the Cubs finally breaking through.  It’s a nice look at his life and the inside workings of a baseball life, but there is a downside.  You really have to be a hardcore David Ross fan to get your moneys worth.  It’s that way with most biographies but I think this one may need it just a little more than some of the others.

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I always enjoy new to me books about  Negro Leaguers.  There is so much history from that League that is lost to the passing of time that it is enjoyable to learn some new information.  Westcott as always, does not disappoint in this one.  I enjoy his writing style and he has done a great job of showcasing and almost forgotten piece of history that take you to so many places you never expected to go.  These stories need to be saved for generations to come.

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The late 60’s were a very pivotal time in both baseball and America.  We look back on that era with great reverence and spend a lot of time dissecting events of the day and what the outcomes were.  1967 is no stranger to being under that magnifying glass and this book is no exception.  It looks at what possibly may be the last true era of pure baseball.  Many books have been written about this year and the Red Sox and Cardinals in particular, but every one has put its own spin on the events.  If you have an interest in this period, then you should check this out because perspective is in the eye of the beholder or in this case the author.

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Not the first of its kind and I am sure not the last this one takes on the mental aspects of the game.  How a player has to prepare and how the mental aspects effect the game and its outcome.  I am not sure how many different spins we can get on these things as this is the second one I have read in as many months but they for now are still entertaining.  It may be one of those things that each era has a different approach to the game but as of yet, I haven’t got the answer to that.  It also leads me back to my previous of question of who needs a book.

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With Fathers Day right around the corner this is a timely book.  It takes a look at the relationship of a son and father and growing up around the love of your family and a mutual love of a baseball team.  It shows one of the many things that were better way back when and how this is one of the more important things that is missing n today’s world.  I could relate to this one we me and my own Dad and a love of the Phillies growing up.  worth checking out because it may bring back some great memories for the reader, like it did me.

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This is another strike while the Cubs iron is hot book.  While I am not totally sold on the Cubs becoming a Dynasty at this point, it is an interesting look at what their plan is and I assume what it still is going forward.  Other teams to some degree are following the same plan, so twenty years from now it will be interesting to see how the plans all worked out for the teams.  Love him or hate him, Theo Epstein has had a hot hand for many years, so Cubs fans will really enjoy this one.

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Hoping in the way back machine we take a look at a time in Boston where baseball was king.  To major League teams in opposing leagues fighting for the hearts of its many dedicated fans.  The fight was the same for many cities across the country for those fans.  Places like Philadelphia, St Louis and New York all had to fight and the outcome was the same as Boston, the loss of a team.  But this takes a good look at the competition was like and how hard it was to compete with a cross town rival.

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The Yankee Clipper hasn’t played a game in over 65 years and been gone from this Earth for almost 20 years, yet we still find him fascinating.  This book is another look at an outsider who to some degree broke through to the inner circle of DiMaggio’s life.  It is another look at his life and his persona from one of the few who somewhat knew him, because honestly did anyone really know him.  Take it for what its worth, as with all DiMaggio books it is hard to verify all the stories but it may be worth your time.

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Nearly half a century later and countless books about them you would think there would be no more stories to tell.  Luckily for readers there is more and this book offers just that.  Some of the stories are recycled but Jason Turbow puts his own spin on telling them, so it keeps it interesting.  They may still be relevant all these years later because we may never see another team like them.  From the roster, to the uniforms, the owner, the antics and of course the back to back to back Championships, its a feat that is near impossible to replicate in todays game.  Quite honestly in anther half century we may still be talking about them, so check this one out.

Hopefully this list jumpstarts some folks to new reading.  Its a varied list with some great new options so there should be at least something for everyone.  All these books are available on Amazon, or if you don’t like dealing with the evil empire you can get them direct from the publishers as well.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

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Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man


I will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books.  The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late.  One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.

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By:Jim McConnell – 2016

Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others.  Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it.  One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom.  Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus.  Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.

Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game.  Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether.  Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on.  Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.

Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life.  For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others.  His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about.  I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace.  His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.

Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game.  If you are a  fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well.  In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities.  This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Still Throwing Heat-Strikeouts, the Streets and a Second Chance


When you think of the Houston Astros in the 1970’s, one of the first names that comes to mind is J.R.Richard.  Being a tall and lanky pitcher with a blazing fastball, he combined both of these attributes to scare the crap out of hitters throughout the National League.  In an era in Houston before Nolan Ryan, Richard was the ace on the staff of the young up and coming group.  With the signing of Nolan Ryan the Astros became a force to be reckoned within the league and the sky was the limit for everyone. Then one day the glass ceiling shattered and for one player life would never be the same.

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By: J.R. Richard & Lew Freedman-2015

I was really looking forward to this one.  I was always a fan of J.R.’s growing up and remember him in the Astros uniforms of the late 70’s.  I remember hearing of his stroke and trying to follow his comeback as best a fan who lived in Philadelphia in 1980 could.  The translation of that last sentence means I could not follow it very well.  So between the story line and Lew Freedman working on this book I expected a winner.  I am happy to say I was not disappointed.

The book follows a back and forth format.  Each chapter starts with an overview of what that chapter is going to cover, presumably in the words of Freeman.  Then it shifts to Richard sharing his story.  It is a good format that works very well for this book, instead of trying to make it all seem like J.R. doing all of the storytelling.

The book covers a great deal of topics in Richard’s life.  It talks about his poor upbringing, his trek through the minors and then finally arriving in Houston to stay.  The biggest part of this book is of course, talking about his unfortunate stroke and the devastating after effects it has had on his entire life.  He shows you how his career was never able to be revived, how marriages failed, business dealings went bad and all the things that eventually led to him living on the streets of Houston.

One would think after all of this J.R. Richard would be extremely bitter, but I found just the opposite in this story.  He has been lucky enough to find God and get his life back on track.  He has through his faith been able to understand his past, and accept it for who it has helped him become.  It really is a remarkable story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles in one’s life.  He shows great character and is a better man than I ever could because of his outlook of his own life.  If it was me that had to struggle through all of this, I don’t ever think I could have kept the positive outlook he was able to maintain.

There has not been a lot of things published on J.R. in the past, so this book really helps fans understand what truly went on in J.R. Richard’s life. All baseball fans should check this out it really is both an enjoyable and remarkable story.

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

Still Throwing Heat

Happy Reading and Merry Christmas to all, may Santa be nice to your library this year.

Gregg

 

 

Black Baseball Entrepreneurs 1902-1931


The Negro Leagues offer an amazing amount of history to the Baseball fan.  They offer a history in length that rivals Major League Baseball, as well as offering up some incredible players.  Unfortunately due to poor record keeping and the social failings of our country, much of that history has been lost to time.  Now there is a book that helps unearth some more of the Negro League history, and fill in some of those up until now missing pieces.

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By:Michael E. Lomax – Syracuse University Press 2014

I will admit I screwed up on this one.  Michael Lomax wrote a book prior to this one that covered the earlier years of the Negro Leagues and should probably be read prior to this one, if only for continuity sake.  I have yet to get a hold of it but will at some point.

Michael Lomax has undertaken a pretty large and significant task of trying to piece the Negro League history back together during this era.  As has been noted before, their record keeping was not the greatest and the social ills that were present in our country at the time contributed to the lack of interest in keeping good records.  He has done a very nice job of showing the ins and outs of the league and the important players of the game both on and off the field.

The author shows how the league went from just an independent league that barely survived, to a structured powerhouse that held an important place in Negro society.  Its ascension within society,  in a way mirrored that of Major League Baseball.  Because of society’s rules, it always had to operate as organization lurking in the shadows and was forever barely on the fringe of legitimacy and financial solvency.

Students of the game and especially of the Negro Leagues will find this book very informative and helpful.  It provides great detail and probably some information that we may have not known before.  My one recommendation would be to read Lomax’s history books in order.  That way you maintain continuity throughout the entire history of the leagues.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Syracuse University Press.

http://www.syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Negro Baseball……..Before Integration


Whatever your chosen avenue of reading is, there are always books that are considered classics.  Almost all baseball books do not fall into the category of great examples of classic American literature.  Once in a great while you will find some baseball books that baseball fans will consider a must read.  Ball Four and Veeck as in Wreck are two that come to mind for me that every fan should read.  I am sure if you ask 100 different fans you will get 100 different answers as well.  Nonetheless, there are some books that every fan should read, if for nothing more than the historical value they provide to the reader.  Today’s book is one of those.

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BY:Effa Manley and Leon Herbert Hardwick 2006-ST Johann Press

Originally published in 1976,  Negro Baseball……Before Integration is a great history lesson.  In the generation before the internet brought the world to our fingertips, this book brought us back to a long ago time and told us how it really was.

Written basically in a first person account, Effa Manley walks you through what transpired during the life of the entire league.  It shows the ups and downs and the monumental moments that occurred throughout the league.  You also got an idea of what the leagues overall general health was like and the way the league ultimately folded after the integration of Major League Baseball.  It truly gives a first hand account of the league and what ultimately transpired.

This book is an important one in each fans library.  It is a good account of what transpired in America in a totally different era, but is something that should never be lost to the ages.  I have always said knowledge is power, and as fans it is our duty to learn as much as we can about the game.  With that knowledge, it allows fans to keep the by-gone eras alive and well for future generations.

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

http://www.stjohannpress.com

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Bill Veeck Baseball’s Greatest Maverick


Bill Veeck has been called a lot of things through the years.  Innovator, Showman, Maverick, the P.T. Barnum of baseball and of course some other not so many nice names.  A definite man before his time, no matter how many books come out about old Sportshirt Bill, I feel the need to read them.

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Bill Veeck, Baseballs Greatest Maverick

By:Paul Dickson-Walker & Company 2012

Bill Veeck always seemed to be the friend of the average fan.  From early beginnings with his father working for the Chicago Cubs, Bill spent a lifetime sharing his love of the game.  Working various jobs for the Cubs he cut his teeth in the field, and went on to team ownership.  With stops in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland and Chicago, Veeck left an indelible mark on baseball that while unconventional at the time would be appreciated today.

Paul Dickson undertakes the task of fitting all of Veeck’s exploits into one book.  He visits all of Bill’s baseball stops and the shenanigans that earned him some of the nicknames I mentioned above.  Ladies nights, midgets, game day give aways and of course disco demolition etched Bill’s name into baseball history.  Dickson also looks at Veeck’s activities outside of baseball including running a horse track.  Veeck had so many innovations both in and out of baseball that he could almost be called spectacular.

Truly an ambassador for baseball, Veeck was rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame shortly after his death in 1986.  But what I find even better about this book is you see the principled man who stood upon that wooden leg——that he used most times as an ash tray.  From civil rights to baseball integration to countless other causes that presented themselves in society.  Bill Veeck had several causes he thought were worth fighting for.  This shows the worth of the man himself.  He may not been popular with the other owners for several different reasons, but as a person Bill Veeck seems like a really great guy.  This is finally the biography Bill Veeck deserves.  It portrays a complete and accurate picture of the man who was well before his time and someone to be admired for his forethought and decency for his fellow-man.

Paul Dickson did a great job with this book.  It is one of the best pieces I have ever read on Veeck and anyone who is any kind of fan of Veeck should read it.  There may be some duplicity in some of the stories you have heard before, but the painted picture is complete.  He may have made a lot of owners angry through the years, but he made lots more people happy and in the end, that’s what matters.  He leaves a legacy that should be appreciated for all time.

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

http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/search?q=bill+veeck&Gid=1

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Houston Baseball – The Early Years 1861-1961


There was a point in time in the United States, that you could throw a stone and hit some sort of baseball team.  Prior to the late 1950’s Major League Baseball was fairly regional, with no team calling anywhere west of St. Louis home.  That led to the opportunity for small towns and larger forgotten towns to have their own brand of baseball outside of the Big Leagues.  Unfortunately relocation of existing teams westward generated by the Dodgers move to Los Angeles, and the ensuing expansion in both leagues killed some of the small time baseball in those towns.  Lucky for all of us, at least one of those towns history before big time baseball arrived has been preserved in print.

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Houston Baseball-The Early Years 1861-1961

By:Mike Vance/SABR-2014 Bright Sky Press

Prior to 1962 Houston never had a Major League team.  The Colt 45’s were the first time Houston got invited to dance with the big boys.  For the century prior to 1962, Houston was not forgotten by the baseball gods.  They had the opportunity to see their fair share of talent pass through town and entertain the locals.  From amateur ball, to the negro leagues and even minor league baseball, Houston was a big time player in the history of the game.

Editor Mike Vance and the Larry Dierker chapter of SABR have created a very informative and entertaining book.  It takes an in-depth look at what transpired in Houston during the 100 years prior to the arrival of the Houston Colt 45’s.  It covers everything from the very early years of organized baseball in the city to the transition to major league baseball.

The contributors to the book have made sure that every facet of Houston baseball gets covered.  Ballparks through the years are covered in the book.  Seeing drawings of the makeshift fields to formal stadiums you see how the game grew and progressed in the city.  They also show some of the Major Leaguers that made stops in the early careers in Houston on their way to stardom.  Each of the various minor league teams that called Houston home are also remembered in this book.  Owners, semi pro leagues as well as the Negro Leagues in the Houston area are not forgotten either.

The research in this book has been painstakingly done and it shows.  They went above and beyond in creating a really comprehensive book that showcases Houston’s history within the game.  Students of the history of the game really should take a look at this book, because almost everyone is guaranteed to learn something from it.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press

http://www.brightskypress.com

Happy Reading

Gregg