When I had the thought of doing a book review blog, I figured I would stick to just doing autobiographies. I knew there were tons of those types of books out there to pick from. What I didn’t realize was that there was books on so many different facets of the history of the game. I have been pleasantly surprised at some of the books I have found, and it has allowed me to become a history student again. Todays book added some new information to my ever-growing knowledge base.
Baseball’s Peerless Semipros
Thomas Barthel-2009 St. Johann Press
I will admit before I got this book I had never heard of the Bushwicks. Happily though, through my learning process I found a very interesting story. A bunch of semi-pros, former major leaguers and negro-leaguers formed a high quality team that most competitors found, was hard to beat. Through the process of winning they also produced a form of civic pride that most residents of Brooklyn found more appealing than the professional teams of the day.
Max Rosner who was a Jewish immigrant was the owner of the Bushwicks. Through his hard work and promotion he built a local empire. He basically created one of, if not the biggest draw of the first half of the twentieth century participating in baseball. That is no small feat if you consider he was competing against the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants in the same city.
I always find it interesting that you can see where something considered an innovation back in the day was derived from. Rosner was the brainchild behind the idea of night baseball under the lights. His idea sprang forth a full five years before the Cincinnati Reds decided to give it a try. It is small innovations like that which are now part of the everyday norm in baseball.
Barthel gives you a year by year look at the Bushwicks and the triumphs and struggles they encountered along the way. One of the big things they had an issue with was finding qualified competition. The team existed in almost a no-mans land if you will. They were not major league quality but still too good to be considered amateurs. It almost looks as if they were a quality minor league team in an era before minor league baseball existed.
You really get a glimpse in to the inner workings of a baseball team before MLB ruled the world. They may not have been the big apples within the Big Apple but they were still a pretty impressive team. Books like this I always enjoy because they are definitely off of the mainstream that baseball fans normally read and talk about. History buffs will really enjoy this and each fan should take the time to read and learn something new.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Johann 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
It’s World Series time. What better time then now for the people who have no idea about balls and strikes to become die-hard baseball fans. If you didn’t notice the sarcasm in that last sentence, let me point it out to you. Visit any local watering hole and you will find lots of eyes fixated on the TV screens plastered on the walls. Now don’t get me wrong there are true fans out there watching for the great love of the game. Then there are those other people who have no idea what is going on, and only care because it’s the World Series and think they probably should have an interest. Today’s book gives those later folks a chance to actually learn about what they are hearing on the TV.
The New Ballgame-Understanding Baseball Statistics for the Casual Fan
By:Glenn Guzzo-2007 Acta Sports
As long time baseball fans, we sometimes take things for granted. We forget that at one time in our lives we were rookies in our knowledge base. We did not have the knowledge of the history of the game, the intricacies of certain plays or even the general knowledge of how to read a box score. We all have to start somewhere and this book does that for those fans that need help.
The author starts out simple and reviews basic everyday stats that give the uninformed fan a starting point to build their knowledge. Then you get a historical breakdown of how the stats have been used in baseball and how they play into the overall business of baseball. Moving on you learn how to score a game and read a box score. Throughout the game’s history reading a box score has been paramount in bringing the final result of the game to the masses.
The next few chapters show how the game is moving into the future. Guzzo discusses the real life application of the stats as they are discussed on television. Also talked about is how fantasy baseball has become a success in our world, and how it plays a part of being a good fan. Finally the book finishes up with the future of statistics in baseball.
For the casual fan who needs some background and knowledge this is a good, informative and quick read. It will give them the basic platform on to which they can build a better understanding of the game and possibly the desire to learn even more. Hardcore fans with a strong knowledge base may find some of the information repetitive.
While reading this, I used my own Wife as the basis of application of this book. Her knowledge base is higher than that of a novice fan, but still not at the level of a baseball lifer. I find that when she asks a question about a statistic, I sometimes have trouble explaining thoroughly and clearly what the situation is. I feel the reason is that I have known about the subject for so long, it is now something I just…..understand. I can’t necessarily explain it, but I know how it works. This book would do a great job of filling in the pieces I have trouble explaining to her, in a way she would easily understand.
You can get this book from the friendly folks at Acta Sports