The game of baseball is forever changing. One could almost consider it some form of living organism. The product is always changing and evolving into something much different from what you may have seen years before. It could be the actual play of the game, rules or even subtle changes to position players that have become unique. The role of the closer has been one such animal over the last 60 years or so, that has morphed itself to the forefront of the game. If a team doesn’t have a great stopper in their bullpen, they are going nowhere quick. Todays book takes a look at that changing role straight from the horse’s mouth.
This book takes a rather unique, but definitely effective approach to the role of the closer. You get the information direct from some of the names that have defined the role throughout the years. Starting in the 1950’s with the person whom many consider the original closer Elroy Face, to current day closing specialists like John Smoltz, you get the story of why these roles have become so important. The book breaks down the closer role into three eras. The beginning, the transition years and the modern era. Each section has interviews with several of the pitchers that became closers in their careers during those periods, and how the changing role of the closer within the game affected them.
The authors have done a nice job of showing the reader how the player viewed themselves within the game. It shows how the pitcher really fit in the game both before and after they became a closer, and how it changed their careers. There are several Hall of Fame careers that were actually saved by becoming a closer. Some guys had fairly succesful careers before the switch, but everyone interviewed seemed to view the switch as a positive thing for their careers.
If you want to see how the game has evolved and read some really good interviews at the same time you should check out this book. The authors did a nice job with it and should be proud of their work.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Running Press
In life sometimes you find people, that no matter the circumstances, just don’t click. It could be differences in personality, belief differences, values or a host of other reasons. Todays book takes an in-depth look at Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and the relationship they had during the integration of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie & Campy
By: William C. Kashatus – 2014 University of Nebraska Press
Jackie Robinson was obviously the player chosen by Branch Rickey to integrate the Dodgers. We are all familiar with Robinson so really no need to go through the history of integration here. Roy Campanella was also chosen by Branch Rickey to further integrate the Dodgers after the success of Robinson. The fascinating part about this story is that these two men were chosen to do the same job, and had such extremely different personalities.
Jackie Robinson was deeply planted in his beliefs and was very prideful.. He understood what his place in history was going to be and realized that it would lead to the opportunity to further the cause in society. Roy Campanella was a former Negro League player and understood what the cause was trying to promote. The difference was that Roy wanted to just play baseball and not be a crusader for the cause. He was never one looking to rock the boat or make a point. Both men were aware of their place in history, they just went about securing that place in different ways.
Kahatus does a very nice job in this book. He takes the approach that the reader is not very familiar with the entire process that ensued with Branch Rickey’s great experiment. He details each players background on and off the field, and the steps that Rickey walked them through prior to reaching Brooklyn. If you are very familiar or well read on baseball integration, this part may be a little tedious for you. Next the author moves to the on field activities between the Dodgers and the other teams. It shows the bigotry and events that transpired during this ground breaking time. Again it may be a little tedious for the reader if they are well versed in these events.
The most interesting part of this book I found was the dynamic between Robinson and Campanella. You see how their difference of opinion as to what their role in integration was, created friction between the two teammates and eventually led to animosity in the clubhouse. It’s an interesting look at the way two people fighting for equality and acceptance were not able to extend that courtesy to each other. It is the first time I came across this story and found it quite interesting. The chapters leading up to this section may be repetitive and found in other books, but the last section made the book worthwhile. These two men made a lasting impression and changed the game for the better and proved they were human as well. If you are not well read in the history of baseball integration this book does a great job of giving you a comprehensive picture. If you are well versed on it, all is not lost. You do get some new information that makes it worth the time to read.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Nebraska Press
Being born and raised in Philadelphia I believe I have seen some horrible Phillies teams. Even New York Mets fans can relate to that after being through their inaugural season. Those teams fail in comparison to the 1916 Philadelphia A’s. After a final record of 36 wins in a 154 game season, they secured their spot in history. Which brings us to today’s book….
A’s Bad as it Gets-Connie Mack’s Pathetic Athletics of 1916
By:John Robertson and Andy Saunders-2014 McFarland
Connie Mack, the grand ol’ man of baseball was obviously at the helm of this lackluster team, and even he could not work his magic on this team. The odd thing about this team was the fact, that in the first half of the decade they were a team of great success. Perhaps they were cursed, perhaps the penny-pinching ways of Mr. Mack was catching up with them or maybe some undisclosed curse of the A’s in Philadelphia. Whatever the reason was, this team was horrible!
This book starts out giving you some background on the Philadelphia Athletics and some of the triumphs they had in years prior. The authors then break down a month by month recap of the 1916 season including spring training. This team seemed doomed from the get go. Finally, the aftermath of the 1916 season and the lasting effects were analyzed as to how they effected the subsequent seasons in Philadelphia. Except for a few seasons of success here and there, this was the first signs of an almost cursed franchise.
Personally I think the A’s were the worst team ever. I know to some degree it has been debated in the baseball realm, but based on winning percentage the 1916 A’s win hands down………hey the A’s finally won something. I also think it was the result of Mack’s penny-pinching that resulted in such a bad team. These type of financial moves hindered Mack for most of his remaining time in Philadelphia.
Usually books pertaining to this era, I have some trouble getting through, but that was not the case with this one. The authors were very structured and each chapter was well thought out. The two authors who hail from Canada were also very well versed in Philadelphia Athletics history. The relevance of this book shows in the fact that there still has not been a team that played worse than the 1916 A’s almost a full century later.
All baseball fans should enjoy this book. It sheds some light on an important benchmark that still stands with in the game to this day. I honestly feel that this record will never be broken. With the quality or lack there of in baseball today, I just don’t see it being possible. You can’t lose them all in reality.
You can get this from the friendly folks at McFarland Books