It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time. Which players really deserve a book? What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question? To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered. Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell. It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time. With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from. For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before. Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.
If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away. That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys. It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes. Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed. He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.
Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball. You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling. You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade. Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher. It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.
Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level. Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade. While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.
One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field. He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment. How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more. Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this. It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.
If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out. It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to. It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways. So I ask again……….Who deserves a book? Many more people than you would originally think.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
Happy Reading Gregg
In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche. Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game. McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game. The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would. It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there. They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.
Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days. Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career. Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball. He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB. The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league. He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.
Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed. Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days. The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making. Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.
I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book. George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years. He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team. There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering. This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.
It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze. This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era. This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.
Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish? Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it. Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young. All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.
This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step. Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career. Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject. Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books. If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out. 70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.
Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.
I am all about giving respect where respect is due. As always, anniversaries are a great way to show respect. Baseball has never been one to shy away from commemorating something either big or small, or both. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the last Mets World Series winner and the events marking that this year have been coming at fans both fast and furiously. The book arena has been no exception to these celebrations, and while we have covered several of these in previous posts, I think I have the last two out there this year that I am going to do. It is amazing how much time and money has been spent this year for this one and done World Series winner, but for me, it is time and I am ready to put this subject to bed. So without further ado, here are the final two books.
Originally released in 1995 One Pitch Away takes a unique look at all the post-season teams in 1986. You get perspectives from several key members who played for one of the four teams, which is a nice change, because most of these books about 1986 only cover the World Series teams. You get a real good feel as to what was going through the heads of those involved during this amazing post-season.
I first read this when it was released in 1995. My initial reaction then was the same as it is now. It gives great insight into the games from the players themselves and Sowell’s work comes through strong. The interviews seem well prepared for by both parties and is time well spent reading about the fab-four of the 1986 post-season.
If you are a fan of any of the teams involved check out this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books. One Pitch Away
The next book brings us to current times with the 2015 Mets. By winning the division last year the Mets re-captured the hearts of the New York faithful in the Big Apple. After a decade and a half or so of the Yankees being the toast of New York, it was nice to see the love spread around town.
Greg Prince who runs his own New York Mets blog, also has written about the Mets several times before. He has an intense love for his team and it shows in his writing. He takes a thorough look at the colorful cast of characters the Mets were able to put together for their improbable run in 2015. If you are a fan of the Mets it is a fun reflection on an improbable year. It is for sure a good read, but will probably be more enjoyable in 10 or 15 years when time has passed and the limelight has faded on this particular team. This is another book that is time well spent reading today, but as it ages will become even more valuable to certain fans. You can get this from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball. Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes. This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series. It seems to be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused. Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record. With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.
If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing. They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible. They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both. New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.
Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes. The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season. Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players. They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers. So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.
Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit. Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series. Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.
Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them. It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects. Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.
Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.
You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.
Some teams leave an indelible mark on the history of baseball. Everyone likes remembering the greats such as the 60 Pittsburgh Pirates, 76 New York Yankees, 69 New York Mets, 68 Detroit Tigers and my personal favorite, the 80 Philadelphia Phillies, are just a few of the teams that make the grade. Even beyond these there a few teams that stand higher above all the rest as the most memorable teams. The 1986 New York Mets are in a class all by themselves. A team of rough and ragged players that worked their way into the hearts of New Yorkers, and turned the baseball establishment on its ear for one glorious season. Erik Sherman has written a new book that takes a look at some of the key players from that team and where their lives have gone both in and out of baseball.
Being that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of their championship season, and the fact that the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series last year I expected a large selection of Mets themed books this year. The ones I have found so far all have varying themes. The 1986 season as a whole is looked at by some, reliving Bill Buckner’s nightmare is approached by others, but this is the first one I have come across that looks at the individual players.
Erik Sherman dedicates a chapter to each of several key players he has interviewed from the 1986 New York Mets. They discuss their contributions to the team and the instances of how they came about becoming a member of the Mets. Sherman does in depth interviews with each of the players and you get a nice feel of what they think were the most important qualities of that team. The players all make clear that they were proud to be a part of that team and some even show some disappointment that the Mets have not reached out after their playing days and done a better job of preserving team heritage.
One of the most important things I found in these interviews was that none of the players that had issues, on or off the field during this era, shied away from their indiscretions. Everyone manned up and admitted their faults. Perhaps that is just a product of growing older, but it was still refreshing to see former professional athletes admit to their mistakes.
You may not be a Mets fan but you have to give this team their due, honestly they were an interesting team to watch. The circumstances that surrounded the team at times and the way they won the World Series are a better script then Hollywood would have been able to produce. So put your team affiliation away and check this book out. Erik Sherman does a great job with his book. He asks honest and clear questions in his interviews and doesn’t pull any punches with the guys. I have enjoyed Erik Sherman’s other work and have reviewed his books about Mookie Wilson, Steve Blass and Glenn Burke in the past with positive results from all.
Take this walk down memory lane with the New York Mets of the past. You will find it is time well spent and probably like I did, find it hard to believe this was 30 years ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkely Books
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.
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
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