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.
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
Throughout baseball history there are some amazing stories. Stories that if you tried to have someone from Hollywood write it, the general public would never believe it was true. The down side to these stories is unless the are juicy and so far out of this world against the odds, they sometimes get lost to the annals of baseball history. One such story is the one involving Fred Hutchinson and the Reds of 1964. When one talks about 1964 the big story out of the National League is the collapse of the Philadelphia Phillies and how the St. Louis Cardinals when the dust settled were the National League champions. The third sister at the dance that year was the Cincinnati Reds and as the last day unfolded they were right there trying to win the pennant as well. In the end the Reds came up short but the fascinating underlying story of that team was that their manager was fighting terminal cancer the entire season. Hutchinson’s work for most of the year along with fill-in skipper Dick Sisler, got the Reds within one step of the World Series. While today’s book is not a new release, in my opinion it is an often overlooked story in baseball history that from time to time needs to be brought back to the forefront.
Doug Wilson for me is one of those writers that could write a phone book in such a way that I would find it interesting. His other works that I have been exposed to Brooks about Brooks Robinson and The Bird about Mark Fidrych are both top notch biographies and were reviewed on this site in previous posts. This book predates both of the other two books I mentioned above but I expected nothing but the same quality book from Wilson on this one. I am glad to report that I was not disappointed.
Doug Wilson starts out the book by giving a nice background on Fred Hutchinson. His personal background, his playing career, time spent managing in Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis showing how his baseball personality was shaped along the way. The book also shows us how the first few years Hutchinson spent shaping the Reds into contenders including an unexpected trip to the 1961 World Series. It also shows how he handled up and coming superstars such as Pete Rose and how he helped mold them into winners as well.
Obviously the biggest part of the book is spent discussing the 1964 season and how right before it Hutchinson was diagnosed with his terminal cancer. In December 1963 Hutchinson was diagnosed with his illness and from the start the prognosis was not good. 1964 from the start for the Cincinnati Reds was dedicated to the fight for the life of Fred Hutchinson and both he and his Reds fought a valiant fight from day one of the season. Unfortunately Fred Hutchinson’s health did not allow him to make it through the season and he was replaced by Dick Sisler. The Cinicnnati Reds fell a bit short on winning the N.L. Pennant for Hutch and subsequently he passed away a few weeks later.
It is a very compelling story from beginning to end and if it happened in todays world the outcome for Fred Hutchinson may have been very different as well as the media coverage given to his story. Disney would have grabbed on to it and made a movie out of it, Major League Baseball would have had an official business partner for it and we would have been inundated with lots of things regarding Hutch’s situation from Joe Buck each week on the national telecast. It is a perfect example as to how the business aspect of the game has changed and how they can and will use anything they find marketable.
Getting back to the book, Doug Wilson did a great job of sharing the story of Fred Hutchinson. It is a story that will eventually get lost to the annals of time, but nonetheless should be remembered. If this story was based in New York or Los Angeles I think the media play on it would have been much more, but Cincinnati was propbably just not flashy enough for the powers that be. Wilson gave the reader a real good look at the subject and while being a sad subject , turns it into an enjoyable experience for the reader. I would obviously recommend it to Reds fans, but all readers should check it out for the valuable history lesson contained within.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Some teams are able to creates dynasties, while others find the formula to success only once. The same amount of effort is put in by both teams, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out as planned. It is probably harder to repeat as Champions then to win the first one, just due to the overwhelming demands. Demands on time, personal appearances, team obligations, media interviews and the list goes on, because everyone wants a piece of the Champions. The 1990 Cincinnati Reds were one of those one and done teams. 1990 was a lightning in a bottle year for them and I have found a book that chronicles the whole season.
The 1990 Reds seem to be one of those team that gets lost in the shuffle. They led the league from the season opener to the final day. At the time, they became one of only three teams in the history of baseball at that time to do that. Then, they went on to sweep the heavily favored Oakland A’s in the World Series. It truly was a magical year for the Reds.
Erardi and Luckhaupt have written a book that takes a look at all the exciting moments in the 1990 Reds season. It shows all the highlights of the season that came their way, and how the team persevered a grueling baseball season to stay on top from beginning to end. The authors also take a look at all the personalities that made the Reds so special. Being led off the field by Sweet Lou Piniella, and on the field by Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the Reds but something special together. Players like the Nasty Boys, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo and off field personalities like Marge Schott, gave this team a personality that the fans of Cincinnati fell in love with.
It seems to me that some of the World Champion Reds teams fall through the cracks of history. They never seem to get the recognition they deserve. I think it has happened a few times with the prior Reds championship teams. Perhaps it is their location in Cincinnati that allows them to be forgotten, I am not really sure.
Baseball fans should enjoy this book. It gives a nice review of the entire 1990 season for the Reds. I have a feeling at the time most of us were not necessarily paying attention to what the Reds were doing, so you can take a look at what we all missed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
Certain places around Major League Baseball have been around since the birth of the league. Due to that fact, the history of those particular cities is deep. Thousands of people have been a part of the ran and file of that team, and helped create some amazing memories for their fans. The Cincinnati Reds have pretty much been around since day one, and contributed some defining moments to the game of baseball. Today’s book takes a look at some of those incredible moments in Reds team history.
When you have been in existence since 1869, where do you even start to define your greatest moments? Just by the sheer number of years you have been around you have more possible moments than everybody else. When you think about it the Cincinnati Reds have been around since almost the end of the Civil War. They are approaching 150 years in the league and are still on a daily basis making memories.
Greg Rhodes has compiled a book that was a monumental undertaking in my opinion. There are so many great moments over that near century and a half, that it has to be hard to narrow it down to just one book. The author breaks the book down into twenty year chapters. The initial chapter of the book covers the early years, 1866-1879 and then works in twenty year increments after that. Every section covers the who, what, when and why questions that have arisen in Reds history. It reviews the personalities that have graced the Reds, as well as major achievements on the field on both an individual and team level. It gives a good perspective of what the Reds have accomplished throughout their history.
If you are not Cincinnati Reds fan, or from that area, this book gives a good look at team history and player accomplishments. Many team books out on the market focus on one genre, and let some events or people fall through the cracks. This books make sure that the people and events that helped shape the team are not forgotten. You see names like Bucky Walters, Hugh Kritz and Clyde Shoun. While not Hall of Famers outside of Cincinnati, they have made big contributions to the team’s legacy. This book gives them their due and makes sure they don’t get lost in the passage of time.
I think books like these are important to fans. They are a nicely presented history lesson for the reader, and it makes sure that the people who contributed to the teams history are never forgotten. For other fans it may prove the Reds actually did exist before the birth of the Big Red Machine.
All fans that enjoy reading about history should read this book. It is very thorough in its team history from the beginning of the team, to its published date of 2007. It is presented so well, you won’t even realize you are learning something.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
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
Being New Years Day, one tends to look back at the past. Sometimes it is the past year one reflects on, and for others you may want to reflect back on something over 50 years ago. In baseball history we have many seasons we get the chance to reflect on and honestly, I think that there are so many it makes it hard to choose. Todays book takes a look at one of those spectacular seasons for a team that is almost forgotten due to the success of their team in subsequent years.
Before the Machine-The Story of the 1961 Pennant-Winning Cincinnati Reds
By:Mark Schmetzer – 2011 Clerisy Press
The 1961 Reds on paper looked to be nothing spectacular. A mix of aging veterans and young up and comers were not expected to make any real noise on the field. Playing in an antiquated ball park and dealing with the death of their owner just days before the start of the season, things were not looking great for the team. But little did the fans of Cincinnati and the world of baseball know, this was going to be their year.
Mark Schmetzer takes readers on a journey through that great 1961 season. You see it from beginning to end, starting with the off-season and spring training, you see the pieces assembled that made up this team. Players that were brought in to fill holes became vital pieces in the success on the field. The book also takes you through each month of the season, showing the highs and lows of a grueling seven month season. Player injuries, slumps, and hot streaks are all contained in the book. It gives you a great look at team struggles and chemistry, that add up to make a successful team. There are tons of never before seen pictures in this book that add to the feeling that you are witnessing this team at a level higher than just a book. You also get to re-live the disappointment of the 1961 World Series at the hands of the New York Yankees. While it may not be a great event that their fans want to re-live, it gives a very comprehensive account of events on the field.
I often have felt this team gets overlooked in the annals of history. Primarily because of the multi-year success of the Cincinnati Reds Big Red Machine. When people think of the Reds success they automatically gravitate towards the teams of the Big Red Machine. Perhaps because it was their first year of success in such a long period of time, but it does seem that sometimes they just are plain old forgotten. The author has done a great job of making sure this team never gets forgotten.
All fans should enjoy this book. It does a nice job of covering the history of the team and that magical season in Cincinnati. Also, books like this are important because they make sure certain teams and pieces of history, do not fall through the cracks of time. It makes sure these teams are remembered for all future generations of fans to appreciate and enjoy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
Baseball history is all about the people, places and things. People make the history, the places add to the charm of the moment and the things, well………things happen! As fans, sometime we get the feeling we were born too late. We can find an era of baseball that really appeals to our inner fan. For some lucky fans their moment is in the present and for others it can be 100 years before they were born. Today’s book gives those fans the opportunity to live in those moments that they missed.
Cincinnati’s Crosley Field – The Illustrated History of a Classic Ballpark
By:Greg Rhodes & John Erardi-2009 Clerisy Press
When you are a fan of a particular team, the stadium almost becomes part of the game. From their unique dimensions, the sights, sounds and smells contained within to the time spent bonding with the stadium it almost becomes an old friend. These parks both new and old, have personalities all their own.
Authors Rhodes and Erardi have taken us back in time to visit with an old friend. Crosley Field was the home of the Cincinnati Reds for over 50 years. It was the site of some great moments in Reds baseball and of baseball history in general. They have created more than just a picture book of Crosley field. They have actually captured the personality and written the detailed story of a member of the Cincinnati family.
You not only get all the nuances that made Crosley Field a great place to go see a baseball game, you get so much more. You get stories about the fans that visited, the growth of the game and how it pertained to the stadium and how Crosley fit into the growing populace of the city. The character of the stadium and physical changes within are captured in this book as well. This is really a comprehensive history that brings the old girl back to life.
If you are a fan that has lost your old stadium due to the influx of new baseball palaces over the last 20 years, you should appreciate this book. The Reds may bot be your hometown team but we can all relate to losing the place we called home. I know as a Phillies fan, Veterans Stadium was my home away from home growing up. Quite honestly, it was a giant crap-hole……but it was our crap-hole. It has been reduced to rubble and is now a parking lot for the glorious new Citizens Bank Park. But when I think of some of my favorite memories with my Dad growing up, that old crap-hole comes back to life and will forever be a part of my life. This book has the same effect. If you were ever at a game there it will bring back great memories. If you were never there than this will paint a great picture of what the place was all about. Sometimes you can go home again……even if home is no longer there.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clericy Press
Sometimes just being in the right place at the right time can change everything. Some people are just lucky that way. No matter what your chosen path in life, luck always plays a part. Which brings us to today’s book……
Big Red – By: Ken Griffey
Triumph Books 2014
Ken Griffey had a distinguished career in Major League Baseball. Playing for the Yankees, Braves, Mariners and most importantly as a member of The Big Red Machine. Griffey set off from his small town Pennsylvania upbringing and made a great career for himself. Along the way Griffey had brushes with history such as the Marshall University Thundering Herd. Through extenuating circumstances he missed the plane that killed 37 members of Marshall’s team when it crashed.
Griffey went on to be a key cog in the Big Red Machine of the Reds and has lots of stories to tell about that team. From the Hall of Fame caliber players and their manager to even having some thoughts on Pete Rose. After the Reds he moved to the Yankees and you get some quick stories about George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. Quickly, you move to the Braves after escaping the Bronx Zoo, as well as a second stop with the Reds. Finally you move on to the Mariners and you get the insight of more history in the making and his proudest moments in the game.
Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. became teammates on the Mariners and the pride that Ken Sr. was overwhelming. You get some warm and fuzzy feelings from the Father in describing the sons skills and accomplishments. Ken Griffey Sr. was never someone I ever considered warm and fuzzy, but this book shines a new light on him as to how strong a bond he had with Ken Jr.
The personal side of this book shows the bond, especially between father and son, is very strong. It puts a unique perspective on the book, in the fact that you are learning more about Ken Griffey the person. You are not getting the career description like so many of these autobiographies. It is more like a story of the people around him and how they have influenced his life and career.
This is a nice, easy read that all fans should enjoy. I went into this book with Ken Sr. not being my most favored player of the era. Big Red has made me change that view somewhat. It has shown Ken Sr. the person, in a whole new positive light for me.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
There is always good feelings in a community when a local kid does something good. Perhaps it is the community living vicariously through the over achievers. Maybe it is a matter of civic pride shining through in an overly negative world. Todays book dedicates itself to celebrating the local kids that accomplished their dreams, no matter how short-lived their celebrity status was.
The Local Boys-Hometown Players for the Cincinnati Reds
By: Joe & Jack Heffron-2014 Clerisy Press
As I have said numerous times before, I am a Phillies fan. Therefore I was not overly familiar with Reds player history. I found from the start, amazing how many hometown players the Reds have had in their history. In that sense you could consider the Reds lucky that they did not have to look much past their own back yard to find major league talent. In our new age of combing the globe looking for qualified talent this shows how things were different, not very long ago.
The Local Boys is very consistent in the time it dedicates to each of the player profiles. If you are a one day cup-of-coffee type of player or the all-time hit king……you get two pages in the book. Within those two pages the authors do a great job of giving you the full story on each player. You get the full details on their lives and careers. When they did a profile on a deceased player, they went the extra step and found family members to talk to for an accurate portrayal. The details really bring some of these players whom have passed on, back to life for the reader. In this instance some of those older players may be coming to life for the first time for some readers.
This book feels more like a celebration of the locals who made good, instead of a group of biographies. The Heffron boys display their own affection for the Reds and their storied history through this book. I think a book like this opens the doors for other authors to the same type of books. It would be a great service to each team to have a book like this, and be able to celebrate their own local history.
The authors should be proud of this book and their contribution to documenting Reds history. Sometimes in our fast paced world we forget where we came from and our history gets lost in the shuffle. Reds fans will truly enjoy this as well as other regional fans. You might even be surprised to see who was from Cincinnati.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press