Baseball is a game full of firsts. First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless. But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book. For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt. For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are. Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.
There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson. This one from 1984 I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first. My first baseball book was a shear accident. My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book. From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me. Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.
I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero. He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in. He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard. So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.
Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades. But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one. For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever. It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like. This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock. To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.
I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book. For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie. Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose. For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree. It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.
So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you. Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.
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.
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
I will admit that I am not an easy person to impress. I can spot flaws in a lot of things, and usually it is about something that most people would never give a second thought to. Call me picky, difficult or any number of adjectives, you have to work pretty hard to make me go wow. I have looked at books from Insight Editions on this blog before, and they made me go wow. They now have another book out that is making me have the same reaction……..again!
The Baltimore Orioles were created from the charred remains of the St. Louis Browns for the 1954 season. A legacy left behind in St Louis of ineptness and failure, the Baltimore Orioles hoped that a new beginning would bring forth success and happier times. Welcomed by the fans of Baltimore, the Orioles embarked on a love affair with the city that has created remarkable memories and seen some pretty great players pass through that town.
Insight Editions has published a new book that marks the 60th anniversary of the Orioles coming to Baltimore. Author Jim Henneman walks you through the rich history that has been created in Baltimore along with some monumental moments in baseball history. It takes a journey starting in 1954 with manager Jimmy Dykes, and brings you to the present, visiting with superstars such as Brooks and Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and some other fellow named Ripken.
The book is broken into several era’s of Orioles history and shows what unfolded in each decade. From World Series triumphs, through the changing of the guard on the field at the end of each era, you get a complete look at the Orioles history in Baltimore. You also get some incredible pictures of Cal Ripken Jr’s breaking of Lou Gehrig’s record in 1996. How many of us, when we think of the Orioles reflect back on that moment? Through a couple of ball parks, a few generations of employees, players and a few thousand games, you get the complete picture of what the Orioles have accomplished in Baltimore, and also get a feel as to what they mean to the fans in Baltimore.
As with the other baseball team books that Insight Editions has produced, they have made this one a pop-up book for adults. By that I mean, they have included folders in the book with postcards of special moments in Orioles history, ticket stubs from World Series games, actual copies of letters from fans and a few other cool surprises. They really out-do themselves with these types of books and this one does not disappoint in any way.
Orioles fans should check this out to re-live some of the great moments in Baltimore Orioles history. Non-Orioles fans should also check it out because it gives a very valuable history lesson of the franchise that has produced some great players and even greater memories for us all.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Insight Editions
Not every player that makes it to the big time is a Hall of Fame player on the field. In real life though, some of them are Hall of Fame caliber people. Thousands of players have graced the playing fields throughout time in Major League Baseball. Some playing careers have been better than others, while others have fallen into obscurity due to the passage of time. The common denominator with all these guys is that they realized their dreams. To whatever degree they have succeeded on the field, it is nice to read about players that have appreciated how lucky they really were. Todays book is about a player who may not have been a HOF player, but he had a HOF attitude that has carried him throughout his life.
Hank Foiles came from humble beginnings in Virginia, growing up in an era marked by the depression and World War II. Always one of positive character, Hank grew up happy and excelled at sports in his native area. Feeling that Baseball was his true calling Hank pursued that sport and made it his life’s work. First signed and called up by the New York Yankees and crossing paths with superstars like Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio, Hank always keeps his humble persona. The book follows Hank through various stops in his MLB career and you get interesting stories about teammates and friends he has made along the way at each stop.
An interesting aspect of the book is Hank talks about his personal pride in being a Mason. It is something he is very proud of and dedicated his life to giving back. It is enjoyable to see a player who does take the time to give his time and service to a community organization. It is not something you see in today’s game, unless it is pre planned publicity. Finally the book gives you a look at Hank’s life after baseball and the jobs he held.
The book is very easy read and fans should enjoy it. It is nice to see a player who had a solid, but not superstar career, appreciate what he accomplished. By todays standards Hank may have been a superstar. So many time it seems players don’t appreciate what they have and it makes me so mad. Hank comes across as a great guy that has spent his life appreciating what he has been given and trying his best to give back to those around him. In my book that makes him a Hall of Fame person. Our game needs more guys like this!
You can get signed copies of this book direct from Hank himself
Knowledge is power. Baseball history affords us the opportunity to gain greats amount of knowledge. If you appreciate the game as an entire institution or just an individual team holds your attention, the information available is endless. Todays book allows fans the ability to learn in-depth about their favorite team.
The Orioles Encyclopedia
By:Mike Gesker – 2009 The Johns Hopkins University Press
Fans of the Baltimore Orioles have a very valuable tool at their disposal. Whatever morsel of knowledge they want to acquire is now contained in one neat little package. From their roots deep in the transplanted St. Louis Browns, starting play in 1954 as the Baltimore Orioles through the date of the book’s publication, you get it all. Fifty plus years of information rolled in to one neat little 862 page package.
Readers get several interesting aspects of the teams history. The book is split into various sections. Seasons, all-time rosters, coaches, managers, ballparks, post season berths, award winners and broadcasters are all covered in here. One of the more interesting sections I found was first round draft choices. You get to see the successes and busts that have come through Baltimore’s farm system. Off the field is fun is not forgotten in this book either. You get some behind the scenes glimpses of what antics went on in the Baltimore locker rooms as well. This book is invaluable to Orioles fans that want to complete their team knowledge.
There have been several of types of these team encyclopedias published through the years for various teams. I think they are a very important piece in a fans personal library. You get the ability to sit down and browse through the book and relive some great memories of your favorite team. I know by reading through this I came across some players I didn’t even know played for the O’s. The only down side to these types of books is that they need to be updated every few years with new editions. Orioles fans, this should be on your must buy list because it will really be enjoyable to have the information at your finger tips and the ability to re-live some old memories.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The Johns Hopkins University Press
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
By now we all know who Rick Dempsey is. A serviceable catcher who put up decent numbers, but was never a Hall of Fame caliber player. Even with those types of numbers it seems Rick Dempsey is almost a folk hero to the fans of the Orioles. That brings us to today’s book…….
Rick Dempsey’s Caught Stealing
By Jonathon Schaech-2014 Cemetery Dance Publications.
Folk hero is the only reason that I can come up with as to why we need this book. Other than becoming the 1983 World Series MVP, he had an ordinary career. My other thought was that maybe Dempsey wanted to be like everyone else and rake in some extra money from writing a quick autobiography. The only problem with that second idea was that Dempsey didn’t write the book and is talked about in the third person throughout most of it. Except for a few select quotes in each chapter there does not seem to be much of the subjects influence throughout this writing.
The author grew up in Maryland and is an Orioles fan. So that explains to some degree why he chose Dempsey. His writing style almost comes across as “why don’t you all pull up a chair, because I am gonna tell ya a little story bout Rick Dempsey“. Which is great if it works, but I don’t think on a player biography it necessarily works. It almost felt like it was some sort of hero-worship book that was written by a fan with some bias towards his career. I have had the same problem of not enjoying this kind of writing style with Jimmy Breslin’s books as well. So maybe it is just me that is the problem with this book.
By no means am I trying to knock Dempsey’s career here. I think he had a career to be proud of with his skills and has made a success of himself both on and off the field. I just think the author missed his mark on this book, whatever that mark was supposed to be. It’s a small book, approximately 130 pages, with photos and a few dead pages between chapters. So for the price of the book, I don’t think you are getting much bang for your buck. The low number of pages also force the book to lack any type of detail to any subject matter. With so many other baseball books out there you get more product for your dollar.
Orioles fans will love the book I am sure, and think I am out of my mind with this review, but I’m just being honest. If you can find the book for a discounted price pick it up and read it, maybe I just expect to much out of a player biography.
You can get the book from the nice folks at Cemetery Dance Publications