Category: st louis cardinals

A Little Bit of Everything


As you all know I don’t get as much time to devote to writing on here as I would like.  The responsibilities of everyday life have obviously gotten in the way and brought many thoughts of writing a post to a screeching halt.  I will say that just because the blog posts stop, it does not mean that I am not off reading somewhere in the shadows.  I get many books finished I just can never find the time to post the results on here.  Because of that, it has led me to do these things I don’t like to do, but honestly something is better than nothing.  I of course am talking about a multi book review.  I feel when I do these I don’t give each book the time it deserves, but honestly for the authors it is better than waiting two or three years for me to get it done. One thing can be said for these books though, they have been read and overall I would recommend them to the readers.  I try to keep it positive on here and if I find a book I don’t think anyone could find something positive in I steer away from it.  So every time you see one of these reviews from the beginning remember that they are all worthwhile books to check out.  So without further delay……….

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Brian Wright takes a cold hard look at the Mets through the ages with this one.  You have seen books on teams that show the highs of team history, the 50 greatest players and countless other positive bits on your favorite team.  Now while this book does those positive types of things it also takes a realistic look at team history and shows it warts and all.  Villains, losses, busts and worst trades ever are just a few of the things the author touches on.  It really gives a rounded look at the team history and gives an accurate portrayal of what the complete Mets team history really is.  Well worth checking out.

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To me before the 2016 World Series I did not think of David Ross as a household name.  Well I guess after that series, he is now.  This one was published just in time to cash in on the popularity of that series and the Cubs finally breaking through.  It’s a nice look at his life and the inside workings of a baseball life, but there is a downside.  You really have to be a hardcore David Ross fan to get your moneys worth.  It’s that way with most biographies but I think this one may need it just a little more than some of the others.

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I always enjoy new to me books about  Negro Leaguers.  There is so much history from that League that is lost to the passing of time that it is enjoyable to learn some new information.  Westcott as always, does not disappoint in this one.  I enjoy his writing style and he has done a great job of showcasing and almost forgotten piece of history that take you to so many places you never expected to go.  These stories need to be saved for generations to come.

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The late 60’s were a very pivotal time in both baseball and America.  We look back on that era with great reverence and spend a lot of time dissecting events of the day and what the outcomes were.  1967 is no stranger to being under that magnifying glass and this book is no exception.  It looks at what possibly may be the last true era of pure baseball.  Many books have been written about this year and the Red Sox and Cardinals in particular, but every one has put its own spin on the events.  If you have an interest in this period, then you should check this out because perspective is in the eye of the beholder or in this case the author.

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Not the first of its kind and I am sure not the last this one takes on the mental aspects of the game.  How a player has to prepare and how the mental aspects effect the game and its outcome.  I am not sure how many different spins we can get on these things as this is the second one I have read in as many months but they for now are still entertaining.  It may be one of those things that each era has a different approach to the game but as of yet, I haven’t got the answer to that.  It also leads me back to my previous of question of who needs a book.

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With Fathers Day right around the corner this is a timely book.  It takes a look at the relationship of a son and father and growing up around the love of your family and a mutual love of a baseball team.  It shows one of the many things that were better way back when and how this is one of the more important things that is missing n today’s world.  I could relate to this one we me and my own Dad and a love of the Phillies growing up.  worth checking out because it may bring back some great memories for the reader, like it did me.

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This is another strike while the Cubs iron is hot book.  While I am not totally sold on the Cubs becoming a Dynasty at this point, it is an interesting look at what their plan is and I assume what it still is going forward.  Other teams to some degree are following the same plan, so twenty years from now it will be interesting to see how the plans all worked out for the teams.  Love him or hate him, Theo Epstein has had a hot hand for many years, so Cubs fans will really enjoy this one.

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Hoping in the way back machine we take a look at a time in Boston where baseball was king.  To major League teams in opposing leagues fighting for the hearts of its many dedicated fans.  The fight was the same for many cities across the country for those fans.  Places like Philadelphia, St Louis and New York all had to fight and the outcome was the same as Boston, the loss of a team.  But this takes a good look at the competition was like and how hard it was to compete with a cross town rival.

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The Yankee Clipper hasn’t played a game in over 65 years and been gone from this Earth for almost 20 years, yet we still find him fascinating.  This book is another look at an outsider who to some degree broke through to the inner circle of DiMaggio’s life.  It is another look at his life and his persona from one of the few who somewhat knew him, because honestly did anyone really know him.  Take it for what its worth, as with all DiMaggio books it is hard to verify all the stories but it may be worth your time.

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Nearly half a century later and countless books about them you would think there would be no more stories to tell.  Luckily for readers there is more and this book offers just that.  Some of the stories are recycled but Jason Turbow puts his own spin on telling them, so it keeps it interesting.  They may still be relevant all these years later because we may never see another team like them.  From the roster, to the uniforms, the owner, the antics and of course the back to back to back Championships, its a feat that is near impossible to replicate in todays game.  Quite honestly in anther half century we may still be talking about them, so check this one out.

Hopefully this list jumpstarts some folks to new reading.  Its a varied list with some great new options so there should be at least something for everyone.  All these books are available on Amazon, or if you don’t like dealing with the evil empire you can get them direct from the publishers as well.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

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Bring In the Right-Hander!


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.

Reuss-Book-University-of-Nebraska-Press

By:Jerry Reuss-2014

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

Bring In the Right-Hander!

Happy Reading

Gregg

A Book That Most of Us Have Been Waiting For


There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career.  Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city.  Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential.  Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally.  There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels.  Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.

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By: Mitchell Nathanson-2016

Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen?  He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject.  The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself.  It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story.  This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.

Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors.  He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia.  The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen.   On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way.  Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery.  Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.

The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path.  While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on.  The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies.  You see the change in the city’s  mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand.  You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes.  To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions.  This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s.  The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level.  It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes.  I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.

This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career.  There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times.  All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame.   If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction.  He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game.  Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.

Baseball fans should not miss this book.  It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.

You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press

God Almighty Hisself

Happy Reading

Gregg

One Man Out – Curt Flood versus Baseball


Most, if not all baseball fans know who Curt Flood is.  For those fans that have been living under a rock for the past 45 years or so I can gladly explain who Curt Flood is.  Curt Flood is the man who upset the Major League Baseball owners apple cart.  Curt was traded from the Saint Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969.  Long and the short of the story is Curt did not want to go to Philadelphia.  Hey, nobody wanted to be traded to the Phillies in 1969, but Curt’s reasons ran deeper.  He felt that no man should be treated like a piece of property and should be free to choose where he played.  Thus set off a fire storm that still has ramifications in today’s game.

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By:Robert M. Goldman University Press of Kansas 2008

Curt Flood challenged to the very core the owners power structure.  The reserve clause allowed them to “own” their players as long as they wished, and pay them whatever amounts they felt like.  It was the basis of which the entire player/owner structure operated.  Essentially with the backing of the newly born players union and some of the other players Curt took on the system.  In the end it was basically career suicide for Curt Flood as his skills eroded during the time he was on the shelf while his court proceedings went on.  Also it gave other owners a bad taste for Curt and he may have been for the most part unofficially black-listed from Major League Baseball.

Robert Goldman takes a look at the legal aspect of the Curt Flood case and the legal maneuvers that transpired on both parts.  It is very detailed and painstakingly analyzes the events of the case.  If you are not familiar with the in-depth details of the suit, this would be a good book to take the time to read that explains all the events in an easy to use format.  It shows what actually transpired and cracked the door open to free agency within baseball for future generations.

Books on this subject lead me to another question.  It has been the good part of 50 years since this landmark case occurred.  When is the point we have learned as much as we can about the subject matter?  Curt Flood, Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller have all passed on, and most of the supporting cast members as well.  At what point do we not have any one left to get any more information first hand from?  At what point are we just getting hearsay and opinions from people who were not directly involved in the main story?

I think we may be getting to that point with Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball as well.  Its unfortunate with the passing of time we lose those with first hand knowledge, but when do we get to the point where we say we have learned or analyzed everything we can on this matter?  I don’t know when that time or place is, I am merely asking the question because I don’t know the answer either.

Students of the game should enjoy this book, it gives a thorough look at landmark case that changed the game forever.

You can get this book from the nice folks at the University Press of Kansas

http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

George Altman – An Amazing Career


I was well aware of George Altman’s Major League Baseball career before I read this book.  I have seen the stats from when he played in Chicago, St Louis and New York.  To say they were average at best is fair.  He never played for a pennant winner and was hard pressed to even play for a team that was in the first division.  Again, he was a serviceable player whom had an average career.  All of that being said this book opened my eyes to what a remarkable career he really did have after all.

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George Altman-My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors and Beyond

By:George Altman and Lew Freedman- 2013 McFarland Publishing

I was genuinely surprised by the journey George had throughout his career.   This book starts like an other baseball autobiography we come across.  You get the family background and the stories from childhood.  After a few stories about college George moves on to the Negro Leagues under the tutelage of Buck O’Neil.  After one season with the Monarchs which it seems he really enjoyed,  you move along with George to the MLB and his stops in the minors. The book gives great insight of what it was like to be a player in minor league baseball during the era.  It shows you the steps that needed to be taken in that era to make it to the big time.  It also shows the bigotry that still existed during that era in our society which found George as well.

Finally George makes it to the majors and you see how his journey evolves.  The reader learns how he adapted to the big time and how he worked on his game and battled through injury  to become a better player.  Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t, yet you get the complete picture of the whole process that George went through in his own words.  Eventually, you see the decline and eventual end of George’s American baseball career and the closing of one door and the opening of another……on another continent.

This is the point of the book that I found most interesting.  Most of the time when a player leaves the American baseball scene for the Japanese league you know about it.  I may be the only one that didn’t know about George’s incredible career in Japan but I was amazed at  his career over there.  He worked very hard to adapt to the culture and be an accepted guest in the country while honing his craft.  He truly had a remarkable career over in Japan and it seems that this may be some of the most enjoyable time George spent playing baseball.

After some injuries and health problems, you see how George prepared for, and adapted to life after baseball.  He had a remarkable journey through three leagues and seems very thankful for his experiences and the people he has met along the way.  From what I have seen it takes a special person to play and adapt to the two premiere baseball leagues in the world.  Actually George played in three leagues of that caliber, if you include the Negro League, and looks to have enjoyed every minute through his incredible journey.

I think all fans that know of George and his career will enjoy this book.  It gives an honest glimpse in to the man himself as well as the career he had.  It is well written and is a quick read, I just wish it had a few more pictures.

You can get this book from the nice folks at

McFarland Publishing 800-253-2187

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com

Happy Reading

Gregg

Hal Smith – The Barling Darling


I will be honest here.  Before I started this book I knew very little about Hal Smith.  I did know he spent most of his career with the St Louis Cardinals.  I also knew he was a serviceable catcher with a solid major league career.  Finally, I knew he shared his namesake with another player in the league at the same time.  All of these things I already knew.  But what did I learn after I read…..

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The Barling Darling – Hal Smith in American Baseball

By Billy D. Higgins – 2009 – The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

 

I am sad to report I learned less about the man Hal Smith than I expected.  Hal Smith is never a person I have heard much about.  So I was hoping to learn more about his personality, family life, growing up and life after baseball.  The book does give a somewhat detailed explanation of his childhood but then Hal Smith the man, tends to get lost.

 

This book gives a very detailed description of St. Louis Cardinal baseball during Hal Smith’s career.  At some points in the book it gives game by game details for certain years.  What disappoints  me about this book is that Hal Smith gets lost in the shuffle.  You don’t get any real feel as to who he was or what he wanted to accomplish in his career.  You learn more about his teammates and team accomplishments, rather than the person the book is named after.  Please do not get me wrong, the book was written very well.  It just tends to veer off course from the expectations I had from the title.

 

The one good thing this book did for me is show me some statistics for Hal Smith.  It was, according to these numbers, a very underrated career.  Smith was in the top 5 of several categories in Major League Baseball at the time for his position.  It did lead me to the conclusion that playing on the team he played with Stan Musial, it did keep some of the spotlight off of Hal.  The book never actually says that, this is just my feeling based on his numbers.  If his career wasn’t cut short by his heart condition, he may have, in the end, obtained some of the fame he deserved after moving on from St Louis.

 

With his playing days behind him and learning the coaching trade, he seems to have made a real impact on some players.  To me, that is a real skill; Being a talented player and then being able to switch it around and be a teacher as well.  As I stated above, I would have liked some more personal information about Hal but overall it was a good book. I sensed that Hal had taken some part in the writing of this book, which is why I found myself disappointed by the lack of personal information.

 

If you are a Cardinals fan you will love this book overall.  If you are looking for a book that is a detailed glimpse into a certain period of time in baseball, you will like it as well.  If you are looking for a detailed biography on a player that you wanted to know more about off the field, you may be disappointed.  Overall, it is a good book that was well written.  I think I was possibly expecting something totally different from what I got and it hindered my enjoyment of the book.

This book is a little hard to find but can still be picked up by contacting the folks at:

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

http://www.butlercenter.org

Happy Reading

Gregg