Baseball allows fans unparalleled access to our heroes. It could be an autograph appearance at the local supermarket, a brief encounter at the ball park or some other circumstance that allows a friendship to blossom. On that last event some of us are luckier than others in what happens, but in the end, it is all of sharing our love of the game. Roy Berger is no stranger to the game, a life long fan that has had the great opportunity of attending multiple fantasy camps for some of his favorite teams. I showcased Roy’s Previous book here last year that details his exploits as a fantasy camper. The Most Wonderful Week of the Year Now Roy is back with a new book sharing some of the friendships he has gained by being lucky enough to live the life even if it’s only one week a year.
I will admit it, Roy is one lucky guy. Having the means many of us don’t have, he is able to hob-nob with our heroes from various eras and make some really great memories in the process. His just released book, Big League Dream walks us through the relationships he has created and also showcases the stories of some great names as well.
The veteran of several fantasy camps, Berger has gotten friendly with former players such as Kent Tekulve, Mike LaVaillliare, Jim Mudcat Grant, Bucky Dent, Fritz Peterson and Steve Lyons, just to name a few. But, the better side is he has forged relationships with these guys and gets the memories that goes along with it.
Each chapter in this book showcases the player’s life and career and also details the authors interactions with them on a personal level. It shows a more human side of these guys that some of us may never have access to at any time in our lives. It is a neat look behind the curtain that portrays to the reader what it might be like if we were in his shoes. Another nice aspect of this book is Roy’s story about attending fantasy camp for the first time with his sons recently. It adds a nice family theme to the book and shows what great relationships and memories baseball is capable of fostering.
Roy’s books are always a good read for the average baseball fan who loves the game. It gives us an opportunity to live vicariously through Roy and see what it’s like to cross those lines even if only for one week a year. Fans should check this one out, it’s a fun and easy read and gives a great glimpse at what life is like for those lucky enough to do something like this.
Check out Roy Berger’s website Big League Dream and check out all the various formats you can get this book in, you won’t be disappointed.
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
When you look back over the history of the game of baseball, there are certain things that may never happen again. The game changes with every generation and certain things will just never be allowed to happen again. I don’t think anyone will break Cal Ripken Jr’s consecutive game streak. I know no pitcher will ever win 30 games again, mostly due to the five man rotation and of course Harvey Haddix’s 12 inning Perfect Game will never be topped either. The feat itself as it stands is next to impossible, and the way pitchers are used today, none starter will ever get to the 12th inning in a game. Today’s book takes a great look at why that game was so special.
I have said it before when doing other books that I really like Lew Freedman’s work. I have read several in the past and really enjoyed them, so that is one of the reasons why I chose to take a look at this one. One of the other reasons is I always liked Harvey Haddix. He was a durable pitcher that quietly went about his business without much fanfare. He reminds me a lot of Bobby Shantz in the fact that they just went about their routine and you almost forgot they were on the team until they entered a game.
Freedman’s book walks the reader through this 12 inning masterpiece inning by inning. It is a back and forth format between each inning and the team itself. You get game details and some stories about his teammates, but more importantly it fills in a lot of the blanks about this game.
Played on a day that rain was a threat all day in Milwaukee, in an era where not every game was televised, there are a few questions about the details of this game that I always had. Unless you had a radio recording of this you were out of luck. Haddix was under the weather all day and through shear inner strength he pulled it together and pitched one of the greatest games of all-time………..that resulted in a loss.
In the end Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings and lost in the 13th. In the end he was more mad that he got the game loss instead of losing the perfect game. In a night that no one saw the game on television and less than twenty thousand showed up, hundreds of thousands of people will remember exactly what happened because they were there or saw it on TV. This game and its details followed Harvey until his untimely death in 1994.
This book is worth picking up, because it really explains all the details. Its something that is eventually going get lost to the passage of time, so it is good that Freedman got the story on record before everyone forgets who Harvey Haddix was and why for one night he really was perfect.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
I have mentioned in the past, that through the passage of time some players lose their magic. Sometimes locale plays a factor, other times it may be a great player on a crappy team and then there are the times when a player gets overshadowed by his own teammates. Such is the case with today’s book, and its nice to see this player get some book time.
Willie Stargell spent his entire career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They won a couple of Championships during his time and became a powerhouse for the Iron City that was tough to beat. When people think of the Pirates, automatically Roberto Clemente is the first one they speak of. He gave up his life doing something for his fellow man in need, and created a legacy that stands the test of time. But what about Willie Stargell? He played many great seasons and sometimes gets forgotten in the shadows of Clemente’s legacy.
This book is not a new release but it is one of very few out there on the market about Willie Stargell. It takes a very nice look at Willie’s career with the Pirates as well as an in-depth look at Willie’s personal life. The personal side of Willie is something new for me. We all are familiar with the career but I always felt he may have been a fairly private person and that may have effected what we were able to know about him.
His untimely death in 2001 may also have played a part in not always getting the recognition he ultimately deserved. So this book does give him some of the praise he earned and is more thorough than the biography that was first published on Willie in the early 80’s.
Since Willie is a Hall of Famer, his appeal will transcend Pittsburgh. Fans from all over the world should enjoy this book. Its a look behind the curtain, if you will, of a man we honestly don’t know that much about. Dozens of books have been written about his teammate, and now almost 30 years later there is finally another one written about Willie. Check it out because I don’t think fans will be disappointed.
It is amazing how the game of baseball evolves right in front of our eyes. Players get stronger, equipment and playing conditions get better, fan experiences are more enhanced and the basic business model of a baseball team changes dramatically. These are all things that have happened through the last several decades that change the end product fans see out on the field. Today’s book takes a look at how one of the longest losing streaks in professional sports history was ended by evolving with the times and changing a teams basic business approach.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were a team that could not catch a break. The owners of bad team morale and essentially no end in sight to the losing streak no matter what moves they made. Baseball history is full of superstitions, so you could almost call them cursed. The Pittsburgh Pirates was desperate to break this cycle and decided a fundamental change was needed in their approach to the game to help end their misery.
Big Data Baseball walks the reader step by step through the Pirates plan. Showing how they saw the need for fundamental change and how they implemented it into their system. By following charts and data analysis they were able to play the numbers for batter tendencies and apply essential Sabermetric principles to their on the field game.
By implementing this new culture within the franchise, they started at the lowest level of the minors and installed in their up and coming players how these moves were beneficial to the team. By doing this they were able to establish some credibility to their new system that carried over to higher levels of play which essentially created a winning culture that spilled over to the field.
Travis Sawchik does a real nice job of showing the reader how the Pirates fostered the change in their system and how they have now built a consistent winner. While they are not steam rolling all of baseball this system is good enough for the second best record in all of baseball this season. It has ushered in the winds of change in Pittsburgh and breathed new life into that struggling franchise.
Even if you are not a fan of the Pirates or the new numbers game within baseball you will still like this book. It is a good story of how hard work and outside the box thinking leads to great results for an ailing franchise.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books
Sometimes you come across a player that has a lot of book presence in the market. Billy Martin is one that comes to mind as well as most of the other Yankee stars like Mantle and DiMaggio. Then there are others that have the market presence but still languish in the shadows. They may have played for a team in a smaller market or be from an era that is not as popular as some others. Honus Wagner is one of those players that has had several biographies written about him. So how do fans decide which ones are worth their time and which ones they should avoid at any cost? They stop by the bookcase of course and I give them my thoughts………
Honus Wagner was the National League superstar of his era. He was the nicer, friendlier version of his American League counterpart Ty Cobb. Playing in Pittsburgh probably diminished his popularity to some degree, but he still produced on the field and became one of the brightest stars in the game. You would think it would be easy to write about a career of this caliber but this book proves that it may be harder than one thinks.
Honus Wagner, A Biography disappointed me. I was hoping for a book that would give me a good feel for the player and the personality contained within. What I found was a book that was very big on game detail. Within those details it made it cumbersome to get through the book, because you were never sure where it was headed. Me being the reader, also had trouble with keeping track of who the author was talking about at that particular time. Was it Wagner or one of his teammates? It just was missing some sort of structure in the writing that really left me at times, confused.
The author’s research and work involved in fact-finding is the one bright spot of the book. It really came across that they tried to find every fact they could about Honus Wagner that was out there. The big problem was that the presentation of all those facts was missing some structure and in the end, not good in my opinion. I also didn’t get any good information regarding Honus Wagner. I had wanted to learn more about him on a personal level and had high hopes that this book would deliver. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I have read other books on Wagner in the past and reviewed some of them on here as well, and this sadly fails in comparison to the others.
Pirates fans might enjoy this book, just for the fact that it is a local boy makes good story. Other fans not so much and I recommend you gravitate towards some of the other Honus Wagner biographies that are out there on the market. If you still are interested in this one though, you can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pittsburgh Press.
I have said it before and like a broken record I will say it again, knowledge is power for baseball fans. No matter who your team is, you need a strong knowledge of their history. That way you can have intelligent conversations or even arguments with other fans about who was the best on your team. Every fan needs some ammunition in these fights and this book may help you win your battles.
For Pirates fans this could prove to be invaluable. It answers for you the who, what, when, where and why of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It covers players, managers, general managers, the post season and some of the best era’s of Buccos history. It is a great source of team statistics as well as covering the All-Stars that called Pittsburgh home. The most controversial thing this book may produce is a list of the 10 best Pittsburgh Pirates. This list alone can give Pirates fans something to chew on for hours, days even weeks. The debate quite honestly may never come to an end, because with a history as rich as the Pirates, how can you only pick ten?
We live in the world where statistics are at our fingertips with the internet and certain baseball sites. I find it very comforting, being a guy who likes books, to be able to grab a book off the shelf and find exactly what I need right in front of my eyes printed in black and white. Even in the electronic world these team encyclopedia’s warrant a place on every fans bookshelf. Plus you never know when the power may be out for a few hours and you will need to have some information at your fingertips.
Pirates fans will really enjoy this, because it gives them a wealth of information in an easy to find format. It is both entertaining and educational and can help make anyone a stronger fan of the Pirates.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing