Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information. The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike. Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.
Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team. A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways, Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game. Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers. Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.
Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it. Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal. It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.
What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved. We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more. For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal. Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now, Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.
Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal. We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago. We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events. Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago. So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended? For that I am not so sure. But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own. I myself like this book on its own, because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?
If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
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
There are injustices throughout the history of baseball that people have tried to remedy with varying degrees of success. Integration was a major injustice on several levels that has been addressed within baseball. While it has not been conquered on all levels, at least on the playing field it went as planned. We are all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey integrating the National League and being racial pioneers within the game. But what about the first player on the American League side? Today’s book takes a look at what transpired for the second racial pioneer in the game Larry Doby, and why he never got the respect, attention or praise that Jackie Robinson received only a few weeks prior.
For me it is easy to understand why Larry Doby is not given as many pioneering accolades as Jackie Robinson, he was #2. Yes he was the first in The American League, but was second under the umbrella that was Major League Baseball at the time. No matter what the sport, being number two is never any good. People only care about the first at whatever it is, so that was a major reason as to why Doby never got as much press at the time. He also was in Cleveland instead of being in New York, a city with three teams which was just coming into its own golden era in the late 1940’s. That factor alone is a big reason why many players got the coverage from the media that they did. Doby could have been in Boise, Idaho and people could not have cared any less than they did when he was in Cleveland. Also his relationship with owner Bill Veeck could have hindered press coverage of his career because of the disdain the other owners and the old boys network had for old sport shirt Bill. These are just some of my ideas that I have had for a while and the book tries to prove some of these, but unfortunately does not make the grade.
Author Douglas Branson is a self proclaimed Larry Doby fan. Finding both Doby and baseball at an early age he always felt that Doby had been slighted by the baseball gods and the media. For various reasons I stated above he seems to want to try and prove these points through his research and other peoples writings. He like to quote a lot of others peoples books in trying to make his case on the above points. That method to me just felt lazy in the research of the book. He also quotes earlier pages in the same book you are currently reading, which at times was driving me nuts. It disrupted the flow of the book and was repetitive as well.
Factually, this book had several flaws as well. I am not sure if it an editing fault in which the person doing it did not have a strong baseball knowledge, or if the editors felt the author’s facts were correct due to his vast self proclaimed baseball knowledge. Either way there are several factual errors within the book. Names, places and events were all part of the problem. There were so many errors it was embarrassing. So many, that even the outside back cover where other authors tell you how great the book you are reading is, contained errors. Usually from this publisher we see fewer errors and this book really surprised me on that front.
As hard as I tried I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about this Larry Doby volume. I really wanted this to be a good biography, since so few exist. If you are one of those people that have to read any new book that contains anything about Larry Doby or the Cleveland Indians, then no matter what my final synopsis is you will still check it out. But in all honestly, save your money on this, it is so riddled with errors and factual mistakes that it brings into question the entire body of work.
I think there has always been a shortage of Larry Doby material on the market, but this is not the direction it needs to take. We need a quality Doby biography that is factually correct, and gives the man the respect he has deserved for decades.
If you still want to take a look at this one you can get it from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
It is a very sad fact that no matter how good a player is or was, they sometimes get forgotten in baseball history. Flashier, louder and more savvy players come along and steal the spotlight while these great players just go about their business playing the game. This also extends to other arenas like the Hall of Fame, because some players get forgotten by the voters in Cooperstown as well. Baseball publishing is another area where so many of the stories that should be told, if for no other reason than preservation of the game’s history, usually are not. Ken Boyer is one of those players that had an incredible career, but truly never got any of the written credit he deserved. Boyer recently shared a book about himself and his siblings and a few books aimed at the juvenile set were published during his career, but up until now he has never gotten the book he really deserved. Kevin McCann has published the book that baseball fans have been wanting and waiting for about Ken Boyer.
Ken Boyer was a staple of St. Louis Cardinals baseball for a long time. Receiver of numerous accolades during his career, he was the type of baseball player parents were glad that their kids looked up to. For some reason throughout time, Boyer never got the recognition he deserved form historians. Perhaps it was his low key demeanor and how he went about his business or some other unknown reason, but it really is a shame the world has not recognized his talents.
Kevin McCann has produced a real gem with this book. He takes a look at Boyer’s early life and how his early life struggles helped forge the strong personality that his was. He also takes a look at Boyer’s climb up the baseball ladder. Experiences in the Minor Leagues all added to the personality that eventually shone through in St. Louis.
McCann also takes the reader on a journey along with Ken Boyer through his impressive time manning Third Base for the Cardinals. World Series triumphs, All-Star Games and an MVP award just to keep it interesting were all bestowed upon Boyer while manning the hot corner. Next he takes you through the winding down portion of his career with stops with the Mets, White Sox and Dodgers. But the journey doesn’t stop there with Boyer. The author shows us the steps Boyer took to remain in baseball. By starting at the bottom and working his way back up again, he was able to take over the managerial reigns of the Cardinals for a while with limited success before his untimely death in 1982.
Finally McCann makes a solid case for Boyer’s inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly if you can make a solid case to have Ron Santo in the Hall at this point then Ken Boyer is a no-brainer for induction. For some reason baseball has overlooked Boyer’s career and has shown to some degree the flaws with the Hall of Fame voting system.
McCann has written a great book with this one. The writing style flows smoothly, moves fast and makes the reader feel like they were actually there. It is a great story that I for one am glad is finally being told on the level it deserves. The book is very hard to put down once you get started.
Baseball fans should check this one regardless of team allegiance. It is a player that should be given the historical respect he deserves and hopefully this book takes an important step forward in gaining recognition for the legacy Ken Boyer left behind.
You can get this book from the nice folks at BrayBree Publishing
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.
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
There are certain moments in baseball history that transcend time. The team, the year and the location are of little consequence, but that moment stays fresh in everyone’s mind forever. For me, one of those moments is Carlton Fisk’s home run in Fenway Park during Game Six of the 1975 World Series. It is one of the most iconic moments in the history of the game, and possibly the one thing Carlton Fisk is most famous for. What else do we really know about Fisk though? Everyone is familiar with his playing career and the numbers he put up during his Hall of Fame career, but how much do we really know about his personality? Recently a book has been published that gives an inside look at the Hall of Fame slugger.
To me for some reason, Carlton Fisk is one of those Hall of Famers that hides in the shadows. When you think of the Hall of Fame he is not the first person that comes to mind. Perhaps it is because his lone World Series was in 1975, or maybe its his calm and steady demeanor that relegates him to the background. Whatever the reason may be, he is truly worthy of his place in Cooperstown and Doug Wilson has done a really nice job of walking the reader behind the curtain that is Carlton Fisk.
A man of great integrity that came from a strong New England upbringing, Fisk is portrayed as a pillar of character and personal strength. The author takes readers on a journey through Fisk’s growing up and forging the character that is a staple of his personality. You also get to see his debut in the majors and how he came to be a respected catcher and dedicated teammate. Obviously this book would not even be close to complete without getting the inside story on the World Series Home Run. It does a very nice job of showing the true story of Fisk’s time in Boston. It shows the behind the scenes struggles with team management that ultimately led to the home-grown slugger heading to Chicago.
His time in Chicago and life after baseball for Fisk is also covered very nicely here. It does show a complete picture of Fisk’s career. It also lends a personal side to the Catcher that is not something I have come across before. It was nice to see a book that focused on the person, instead of just the Home Run in 1975.
Doug Wilson always does a nice job with his books. They are not overly flashy, but are always well researched and the subjects are usually ones that are lacking in other coverage. His three other books that are out there do a nice job as well of covering their subject matter. In my opinion Doug Wilson is becoming one of the better baseball biographers of this era.
All baseball fans should check this one out. We are all familiar with the player and now its time to get to know the man behind the Catcher’s mask.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books
It’s that time of year where the playoffs are in full swing and the World Series is right around the corner. With the events over the next few weeks looming it is a time to write another chapter in the history books as well as reflecting on past seasons. The World Series has always been a source of great memories, as well as a few not so great moments. Some of those not so great moments have helped shape the game we all know today. The biggest one that has a World Series tie-in is the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It is an event that shook baseball to its core and todays book takes a hard look at what really happened almost 100 years ago.
The 1919 White Sox were approached by gamblers to throw the World Series. Just about every baseball fan is familiar with the story, but its lasting effects have been felt throughout the game for almost a century. This particular series brought gambling to the forefront in baseball and essentially destroyed almost all of the credibility the game had with the general public. It also made the scape goat of the series Shoeless Joe Jackson a household name for generations to come.
Charles Fountain takes a new and refreshing approach to the Black Sox scandal. The author removes the Hollywood glamorization of the Black Sox scandal and gives the reader the actual facts about what happened. He looks at the events from players, management and the gamblers aspects and paints a vivid picture for the readers of actual events. The details are so good in this book the reader can almost get the feeling they are a fly on the wall when all of this takes place. It does clarify some of the details that may have gotten blurred through the passage of time.
There are other books out there that take a look at the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Some do a good job and some take poetic license if you will and blur the details. Thankfully, this one falls into the prior category and is one of the better books on the market. It forces the reader to look at the details objectively and to form some of their own opinions. The one interesting aspect is that you can see where the events helped transform todays game into what it is. You can see how leagues changed and the end result was the American League we now know.
For fans who fancy themselves novice historians of the game, this book will be eye-opening and enjoyable. Pete Rose might even want to take a look at this one because he can see all the events that led up to the rules that banished him from baseball. It’s nice to see a book with fresh perspective almost a full century after the fact.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Oxford University Press
Bill Veeck has been called a lot of things through the years. Innovator, Showman, Maverick, the P.T. Barnum of baseball and of course some other not so many nice names. A definite man before his time, no matter how many books come out about old Sportshirt Bill, I feel the need to read them.
Bill Veeck, Baseballs Greatest Maverick
By:Paul Dickson-Walker & Company 2012
Bill Veeck always seemed to be the friend of the average fan. From early beginnings with his father working for the Chicago Cubs, Bill spent a lifetime sharing his love of the game. Working various jobs for the Cubs he cut his teeth in the field, and went on to team ownership. With stops in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland and Chicago, Veeck left an indelible mark on baseball that while unconventional at the time would be appreciated today.
Paul Dickson undertakes the task of fitting all of Veeck’s exploits into one book. He visits all of Bill’s baseball stops and the shenanigans that earned him some of the nicknames I mentioned above. Ladies nights, midgets, game day give aways and of course disco demolition etched Bill’s name into baseball history. Dickson also looks at Veeck’s activities outside of baseball including running a horse track. Veeck had so many innovations both in and out of baseball that he could almost be called spectacular.
Truly an ambassador for baseball, Veeck was rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame shortly after his death in 1986. But what I find even better about this book is you see the principled man who stood upon that wooden leg——that he used most times as an ash tray. From civil rights to baseball integration to countless other causes that presented themselves in society. Bill Veeck had several causes he thought were worth fighting for. This shows the worth of the man himself. He may not been popular with the other owners for several different reasons, but as a person Bill Veeck seems like a really great guy. This is finally the biography Bill Veeck deserves. It portrays a complete and accurate picture of the man who was well before his time and someone to be admired for his forethought and decency for his fellow-man.
Paul Dickson did a great job with this book. It is one of the best pieces I have ever read on Veeck and anyone who is any kind of fan of Veeck should read it. There may be some duplicity in some of the stories you have heard before, but the painted picture is complete. He may have made a lot of owners angry through the years, but he made lots more people happy and in the end, that’s what matters. He leaves a legacy that should be appreciated for all time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Walker & Co.
Sometimes the best things happen in life due to plain old luck. Timing is everything I always say. It could be meeting your spouse, or could come in to play with your job. It’s hard to deny luck because it has worked to everyone’s advantage in life probably more than once. Todays book shows how dedication, pride and a little luck can help you attain anything.
Designated Hebrew-The Ron Blomberg Story
By:Ron Blomberg/Dan Schlossberg – 2006 Sports Publishing
Ron Blomberg never made it to the hall of fame in the plaque room…….but he did make it. It was all through dumb luck that Blomberg became the first Designated Hitter in the American League in 1973 when the rule was adopted. It very well could have been anyone else, but lady luck made it him. That little bit of trivia has entered him into the same building with baseball immortals for all time. Through the course of events, hard work and luck Blomberg has had an enjoyable career and life.
Born in Georgia, Blomberg takes us for the ride through his life journey. You get to hear about the stories of growing up near Atlanta, and being the only Jewish kid in the area. From there you move through the high school years and coming of age. The next portion is the most important and detailed in the book…..The New York Yankees.
Blomberg takes us through his signing with the Yankees, working through the minor leagues and finally becoming the first Jewish New York Yankee. From Blomberg’s accounts being a Jewish New York Yankee in the early 70’s, made the world his oyster. It made a situation he thought would be troublesome, more enjoyable than his wildest dreams. From fan support to his on the field accomplishments he was living the great life. Injuries shortened his playing time, but from all accounts it still seemed like a great experience in New York.
Blomberg is very proud of his faith and goes in to great detail as how it was a strength and a benefit to him on and off the field. After injuries hindered him for several years Blomberg showed how through his faith he remained strong and trusted his chosen path. Finally you see life after the Yankees and a shorter stay with the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the story book ending for Blomberg’s career that he had hoped for, but still nothing to be ashamed of.
In the end you get a complete picture of a player while not Hall of Fame worthy by the playing numbers, still made it. That small piece of immortality will live on forever and something he can always be proud of. If you like Ron Blomberg or the New York Yankees this would be a good one to pick up and check out. It is a very quick read at only 171 pages but moves quickly and holds your attention from beginning to end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
Baseball is full of storied careers. With the passage of time, some of the stories become bigger than life. Some of those careers get clouded by the haze of nostalgia, or the feeling of what we used to have is better than today. Todays book takes an honest look at a high-profile career and gave me a clear look at what really happened.
The Wizard of Waxahachie
By:Warren Corbett – 2009 Southern Methodist University Press
Paul Richards mark on baseball is undeniable. There are many things, by design or perhaps by accident, that have been attributed to him. Pitch counts, five man pitching rotations, tracking on-base percentages, his fingerprints are all over baseball today. What you don’t always see is the way the mind operated during his lifetime dedicated to the sport.
Warren Corbett wrote a book almost 25 years after Richards death. Relying on family memories, notes and audio recordings that the family had provided, and has given a seldom seen side of Paul Richards. He delves in to the devious side of Richards and his dealings with players and management during his illustrious career. He also creates an accurate feeling that he was a hustler to many, both on the field and the golf course.
The most interesting aspect of this book to me is the trouble Paul Richards had bridging the generation gap. When I say generation gap I am talking about the gap that was created near the end of his career in the dawn of free agency. Richards had a lot of problems accepting the birth and subsequent power of the MLB Players Union. It shows how after almost 50 years in baseball he was very set in his ways.
While after finding moderate success on and off the field in all his stops in baseball, Richards was a man of many friends and able to work the old boy network to his advantage and always find work. That may be some of the reason he was not interested in adjusting to the new era of baseball. The book is very heavy in detail about his time in Baltimore with the Orioles. It was the longest stop of his career but still dominates about half of this book. His stops in Houston, Atlanta, both stops in Chicago and finally Texas seem to be condensed versions to fit in the book. I think a little more time could have been spent in Houston alone, due to the challenges of building a new franchise.
In the end Richards does not come out of the book looking like the genius he is regarded as today. He seems almost human and to an extent skating through some of the stops in his career. The end result of the book has shown us what I feel is a very fair and accurate portrait of Paul Richards. Wayne Corbett did a great job on this biography especially since he was doing it almost 25 years after Richards death.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Southern Methodist University Press