Baseball allows fans unparalleled access to our heroes. It could be an autograph appearance at the local supermarket, a brief encounter at the ball park or some other circumstance that allows a friendship to blossom. On that last event some of us are luckier than others in what happens, but in the end, it is all of sharing our love of the game. Roy Berger is no stranger to the game, a life long fan that has had the great opportunity of attending multiple fantasy camps for some of his favorite teams. I showcased Roy’s Previous book here last year that details his exploits as a fantasy camper. The Most Wonderful Week of the Year Now Roy is back with a new book sharing some of the friendships he has gained by being lucky enough to live the life even if it’s only one week a year.
I will admit it, Roy is one lucky guy. Having the means many of us don’t have, he is able to hob-nob with our heroes from various eras and make some really great memories in the process. His just released book, Big League Dream walks us through the relationships he has created and also showcases the stories of some great names as well.
The veteran of several fantasy camps, Berger has gotten friendly with former players such as Kent Tekulve, Mike LaVaillliare, Jim Mudcat Grant, Bucky Dent, Fritz Peterson and Steve Lyons, just to name a few. But, the better side is he has forged relationships with these guys and gets the memories that goes along with it.
Each chapter in this book showcases the player’s life and career and also details the authors interactions with them on a personal level. It shows a more human side of these guys that some of us may never have access to at any time in our lives. It is a neat look behind the curtain that portrays to the reader what it might be like if we were in his shoes. Another nice aspect of this book is Roy’s story about attending fantasy camp for the first time with his sons recently. It adds a nice family theme to the book and shows what great relationships and memories baseball is capable of fostering.
Roy’s books are always a good read for the average baseball fan who loves the game. It gives us an opportunity to live vicariously through Roy and see what it’s like to cross those lines even if only for one week a year. Fans should check this one out, it’s a fun and easy read and gives a great glimpse at what life is like for those lucky enough to do something like this.
Check out Roy Berger’s website Big League Dream and check out all the various formats you can get this book in, you won’t be disappointed.
I have of late, spent a lot of time looking at books that go back over a century in baseball history. Sometimes the books I have on hand steer the blog more than I ever do. When you go back this far in history, it is a daunting task to try and answer some question. Record keeping was not even close to the standards that it is today, and the game as a whole created some questionable outcomes. So I am not really sure how an author would even try and research something from this era and feel confident in the outcomes. As a baseball community I think we have accepted as accurate what is in the record books but it is still open to some questions no matter who it is. Rick Huhn has in the past written books from this era and has done an admirable job with the, so with today’s book I am expecting more of the same.
For those not familiar with this story, auto magnate Hugh Chalmers offered a new Chalmers automobile to the winner of the 1910 batting championship. By today’s standards a car is no big deal but by 1910 standards, cars were new fangled contraptions that were not commonplace. So for the players involved this was a big deal.
The long in the short of it is that the race came down between Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie and Detroit’s Ty Cobb. There was also some controversy about record keeping for both players at the time. In the end, American League President Ban Johnson made the final decision and awarded the car to Ty Cobb. Still surrounded in controversy to this day no one is sure who really one, but Cobb got the car.
Rick Huhn does a really good job of relaying to the reader the course of events of 1910. Individual game details, scoring decisions and events all paint a vivid picture for the reader. He also details the aftermath of Ban Johnson’s decision and court depositions that show the mess that baseball was in during that time period. It also gives the reader a real good idea of how fixed baseball was during that time period and how it could have been human error, judgement calls or just plains and simple, the fix was in for the car’s winner that caused this giant mess.
The passage of 100 years clouds some of the details, but the author does a nice job throughout the whole book giving the reader what is to believed to be the complete story. It is something that we prior to this book did not have great clarification on. This book does that job very well and hopefully can lay to rest the true events of the 1910 season.
If you have an interest in this era check this book out. It is another book that gives a good feel of what really was going on in baseball during this era. It also is another book that clarifies some of the Ty Cobb myths. That is not its main intention, but it is a good side effect. You just need to be a fan of baseball history to enjoy this one, it slows down a little bit at the mid point in the book, when it gets bogged down in the court proceedings. But once you are through that it picks back up and completes its mission.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying? A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market. These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.
I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous. What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader? I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.
What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s. It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.
In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence. From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues. One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball. The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side. One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man. You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.
Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball. After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next. Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology. You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told, I couldn’t put it down. It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.
You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book. It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it. As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska 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
The passage of time is a fact of life. No matter what happens in the world around us, time always marches on. In baseball we measure time by seasons, innings and even outs. As time passes, nostalgia tends to creep in and distort memories of the past. So how does one keep those memories straight and know exactly what was going through their mind at a given point in time almost 50 years ago? You ask Bob Gibson how to do it of course!
I don’t know about any of you, but I can’t keep straight what I did last week, let alone decades ago. So you can understand my apprehension with this book when you realize Gibson is trying to remember his thought process from one single game in 1968. Granted that game was game from the 1968 World Series, but I still started reading this book with some skepticism.
After reading this one, I am very glad to report that Gibson and Wheeler have produced a very enjoyable book that is fun to read. Bob Gibson walks us through the entire game of the 1968 that he started. Inning by inning he gives the reader the inside angle on pitch selection, how he approached certain batters and his overall attitude. All these things put together give you a view of the game that fans can rarely see.
Another nice aspect of this book is that it is not strictly game details. He weaves in stories and anecdotes that give the reader some things in which to connect with Gibson. A fierce competitor who some would consider downright scary at times and a person never known to hold back his opinions, this book puts a face to that side of his personality that you rarely see from Bob Gibson.
I imagine it is very hard for anyone to remember all the details from that long ago and I am sure some video watching was involved in prepping for this book, but Bob Gibson does a really great job of getting the entire story across to the reader. This game was a few years before my time, but I found within these pages what was needed to make me feel like I was really there.
Baseball fans across the board should enjoy this book. It is a rare glimpse into the mind of a great competitor doing what he does best. At almost 80 years old the recall of the game is an amazing feat in and of itself, but the book makes you feel like you are on the field with him. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books
Sometimes even the best of us get fooled. While we try our hardest to know what we are getting ourselves into, sometimes the old bait and switch applies. I try to have a general idea as to what I am going to read before I start a new book, but it once in a great while will be the exact opposite. You can usually tell from the cover notes what a book is about, but then other times you are really not sure. Today’s book is one that I feel was not quite what it was supposed to be.
This book was about the life of the Major League Pitcher Hank Aguirre. A durable pitcher for his time, he put up some respectable numbers but nothing Hall of Fame worthy. He also spent a great portion of his life after baseball dedicated to making the community around him a better place. These are all very nice sentiments for a local hero but unfortunately for someone looking for a baseball book this one would be considered a swing and a miss.
The book does briefly touch on Hank’s baseball career in the majors as well as his upbringing in the Hispanic community. It focuses largely on Hank’s post baseball career as a businessman and humanitarian. It shows how he was instrumental in bringing decent jobs to the Hispanic community in Detroit during a period of economic death. The details are great from a business standpoint and show the human side of this former baseball player. You get a sense of great compassion for his employees and great civic pride Hank was known for.
If you’re looking for a good Baseball book this may not be the one for you. It is light on the details of Hank’s career and very heavy on his involvement in the business and Hispanic community. Over all it is a good book, it just misses the mark on being an actual baseball book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press
It’s the day after the 2015 All-Star Game and MLB has released the Franchise Four for each of the teams. Depending on your personal feelings you may agree or disagree with the results, but honestly how do you even measure such things? Anytime one compiles a list of the Greatest of anything, how much of it is really objective and how much of it is emotionally based. I know my Franchise Four votes all had some sort of emotional tie to them. So where does this fit in with Baseball books? There are hundreds of books out there that compile some sort of all-time greatest list. So how do you know when you are getting an objective view, instead of what that particular author thinks? I think I have found two that are good sources for the fans.
Both of the above books were written by Lew Freedman and released in 2015. If that name sounds familiar to veteran baseball readers, it is because Freeman has penned dozens of books about baseball in the past and these are two of his latest. Freedman is a veteran sportswriter that likes to delve into the obscure and often forgotten names of the game. Here he has compiled lists of the 50 greatest players to wear the respective team uniforms. I have read a few of Freedman’s works in the past and always found the books to be educational and historically honest. I expected no different from these titles.
I will start with the Pirates book. They have been in Pittsburgh for a very long time and had some very big names call the steel city home. So I thought it was going to be hard to limit the pick to just the 50 greatest. Some of the names were easy picks such as, Clemente, Stargell, Kiner, Wagner and Traynor. But then there were a few others that at first glance made me ask why, names such as Hebner, Giles, Kendall, Bonilla and Thomas. Each chapter in the book ranging from 3-8 pages is dedicated to each player. You get a career bio, personal bio and why that player was special to his team. Even though the chapters are brief it does give you just enough information to see why that player was a vital cog in the machine. It gives a nice quick, detailed and informative overview of some of the greatest names to ever wear the uniform.
The Tigers book follows the exact same format and allows the reader to see who has stopped in the Motor City throughout their storied history. Cobb, Kaline, Gehringer, Greenberg and Kell were all easy picks for this list for me. But names like Steve Kemp and Pat Mullin made me scratch my head and ask why. The value in these books is that the name might surprise you, but the facts help back up the pick. So there is knowledge to be gained for the reader if you are not very familiar with each specific team history.
These type of books also have another feature, beyond just being able to read them. If you ask 100 people to compile this list, you will get 100 different replies. If you and your friends enjoy talking about the history of the game, these books become both great conversation starters and reference guides. The format of the book being each player is his own chapter makes finding facts about that particular player a breeze. These books will be a valuable asset in a fans library if ever some fact checking needed to be done to win a bet.
Each of Lew Freedman’s books I have read in the past have all met a very high standard and these two new ones are no exception. Fans of the specific teams will love them and have the knowledge to agree or disagree with the picks in the books. If your knowledge of the specific team is not very strong these books are still valuable to the reader. It will allow you to strengthen your knowledge of some of the greats and not so greats in the game’s history, as well as decide whom you really think are the 50 greatest players of that team. In the end you may not agree with all 50 of the picks but it definitely gets you to start thinking.
You can get these books from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing Group
It seems like every generation in baseball has a phenomenon all their own. Something that takes the game by storm and regardless of who your team is that you root for and want to be part of it. Things that come to mind are Roger Maris in 1961, McGwire and Sosa in 1998 and even the Bash Brothers in the 80’s. But the 1970’s were a unique decade. We have seen in the past from some of the other books we reviewed like Stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein, how the 70’s were a decade of change both on a social level and on the ball field. The 70’s can lay claim to a few different memorable events, but one stands out above the rest. Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers was about to take the baseball world by storm, and they didn’t even see it coming.
Mark Fidrych was the product of a small Massachusetts town, coming from a modest background. Never groomed to be a star athlete, he just played because he wanted to do so. But Mark Fidrych’s antics on the pitching mound, a big head of unmanageable hair and blazing fastball made him the talk of the country in 1976. Nicknamed The Bird due to his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, Fidrych had brief but magical career that to this day makes fans wonder what could have been.
Doug Wilson has written a book that explores the man behind the legend. Everyone is familiar with all the on-field antics that were part of Fidrych’s quirky personality, but unless you lived in Detroit at the time, you may have not been all that familiar with the real Mark. Wilson’s book gives a nice, detailed look at the man himself. From his roots in Massachusetts, through the minor leagues, his gig as “The Bird” and finally life after baseball, it paints a very detailed picture of what a nice guy he was. You always hear old players saying that they played for the love of the game, but I actually believe it with this one. He just seemed to have fun with everything he did and baseball was no exception. Many of the first hand accounts of Mark are taken from interviews with friends and family so they are really nice remembrances of a man who was taken from this world too soon.
Of course, what baseball book would be complete without taking a look at the on field activities of The Bird. You see his minor and major league career, his attempts at rehabbing his bad arm and finally his life after baseball. Most times the reporting on Mark Fidrych does not get beyond the on-field antics. It was nice to see someone finally put something together that showed the complete picture.
All baseball fans should like this one. If you were around during that magical summer that he took the game by storm, it will be fun re-living it. If The Bird was before your time, it will be another fun ride seeing what made the 70’s so groovy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books
It seems like throughout baseball history, each decade has had one season that stands out more than the others. Dynasties come and go, Superstars rise and fall and our country follows along as well. The 1960’s were by far one of the most turbulent times in modern American history. The world was a changing place, and baseball never one to be far behind society, was changing as well. Today’s book takes a look at one of those turbulent years in both society and baseball.
1968 has been coined as the year of the pitcher. Miniscule ERA’s and lower batting averages produced rule changes that have withstood to modern times. America was a changing place as well, so it was no surprise that the national pastime was part of the changes. What transpired in the summer of 1968 was the end of an era in baseball and ushered in changes that would help shape the future of our game.
Tim Wendel has written another winner with Summer of 68. The book starts by taking an overall look at the state of baseball in 1968. Starting out in spring training you see what shape the game was in and get a good feeling of where it was heading that year. The overall main focus of the book though is the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. These two teams would eventually meet in the World Series that year. You get an in-depth look at both teams. Who they were, how the functioned and how the both were great successes on the field that year.
Intertwined in the journey of a baseball season the author shows how the societal landscape of the United States was changing. You see how the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. effected the country and both of the baseball teams as well. The reader is shown how the home cities these teams were part of, were turned into war zones. You can feel the frustration of a generation coming out in the summer of 1968. The book gives a very good look at a bygone era and what transpired in our country to change the world that we live in today. It is a nice balance between baseball and society. The book is of course heavier handed in the baseball subject, but still gives you enough of the outside world to see how it effected the players within the game.
Tim Wendel did a very nice job with this book. If you were not able to witness 1968 first hand, it gives you not only a history lesson, but also a feel for what the world was like back then. You get to see the ups and downs that have shaped our world and made both our country and sport the greatest in the world. Baseball fans will enjoy this one, no matter what team you choose to root for.
You can get this book from the nice folks at DaCapo Press
I wasn’t sure if I was going to use this book on the blog or not. I have no clue what my reader base is and didn’t want to do something inappropriate for that audience. After seeing all the articles on the internet about Umpire Dale Scott announcing his homosexuality, I figured this was a s good of a time as any to take a look at this book.
Going the Other Way
By:Billy Bean-2014 The Experiment Publishing
Being politically correct has never been one of my strengths so if I offend anyone, my apologies up front. Billy Bean was a major league player in the late 80’s to early 90’s. He bounced around to a few cities and played for a few years in the majors but was never a player who produced substantially. While we all may know of his baseball side, this book is more of a personal revelation book in the sense that he seems to come to grips with who he really is.
For those unaware Bean is gay. I am in no way judging his lifestyle on here at all. I am just stating facts and letting each reader have their own opinion whatever that may be. I am not sure I would necessarily call this a baseball book so much as possibly it is just a book about reflecting on one’s own life. Sure there are baseball stories but it is not an overwhelming theme.
Bean takes a look back at his own life and the choices he has made, his career and where is life is going. He talks about the struggles of being gay and how he came to grips with who he really was. You get amazing insight into a person’s journey through this topic and oh yeah by the way, he was a professional baseball player. Billy pulls no punches and does not try to sugarcoat any of the choices he has made, good, bad or indifferent. It is a surprisingly honest account from a professional athlete. There is nothing written in the book to try to portray Bean in a different light from what he really is. He comes across as human just like the rest of us, and you share in the journey of him finding himself. This honesty about his own being has probably led to MLB naming him the Ambassador of Inclusion in 2014.
This book was originally written 7 or 8 years ago and the new edition has some more pages. Whether you read the original printing or the new one it is a well written book and in the end you admire Bean for his forthrightness in the story. With homosexuality starting to come to the forefront in professional sports in the past few years, this is a very good book to get a glimpse at what an athlete endures to play the game. Perhaps they can get the players who are enduring this scenario to read this book and use it as some sort of guide.
If you want a strong baseball book, this may not be the best choice for you. If you are looking at an honest human interest memoir and learning about the author’s journey, who, oh yeah, happened to be a professional baseball player, then you will really enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The Experiment Publishing