Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark. Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget. These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball. They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck. They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator. The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era. A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game. During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy. The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about. Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.
Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations. She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years. She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years. She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans. Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.
Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition. That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty. Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.
What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader. She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley. Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.
This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era. It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before. It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.
This book is a fun trip through the Finley era. I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look. It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History
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
Baseball is a game full of firsts. First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless. But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book. For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt. For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are. Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.
There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson. This one from 1984 I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first. My first baseball book was a shear accident. My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book. From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me. Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.
I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero. He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in. He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard. So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.
Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades. But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one. For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever. It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like. This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock. To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.
I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book. For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie. Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose. For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree. It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.
So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you. Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.
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
I am a born and raised product of Philadelphia. I am loyal to my teams, much of it to a fault and live and die by what they accomplish. In my lifetime my Phillies have won two World Series Championships, five pennants and twelve division titles. For some teams that may be impressive considering it covers over four decades, but not for the Phillies. They have been around for almost 135 years and have had limited success. Even when they capture the brass ring they somehow find a way to screw it up. Today’s book takes a look at how the Phillies are intertwined with the city of Philadelphia’s self image and how they have helped shape each others destinies.
Let me start out by saying, we Philadelphia sports fans are nowhere near as bad as our reputation states. Yes we are passionate, yes we are dedicated and yes we expect 110% effort from our players. We hate to see other stadiums where the game is an afterthought, people only go there for the social status attached to it and leave by the 7th inning to beat traffic. We are not the baby hating, nun tripping, puppy kicking hate mongers the world has made us out to be. We are just very, very dedicated, I mean seriously we only beat up Santa Claus that one time.
Mitchell Nathanson has written a book that take a look at the 1977 Phillies NLCS series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That series contained a sequence of events that Phillies fans to this day refer to as Black Friday(Game 3). Basically, it was the game that shifted the entire series momentum to the Dodgers and they never looked back. My journey as a Phillies fan started the next day after Black Friday when my Dad took me to Game 4 for my very first in person game at Veterans Stadium at the ripe old age of four.
Nathanson does a very nice job of reviewing the series but what I found more interesting about this book is how shows the parallel between the city’s baseball teams and its self worth. It chronicles both the Athletics and their time in town as well as the Phillies. Quite honestly when Philly had two teams the Phillies were the red headed step child of the town. Only after the A’s departure did the city start to identify with the hapless Phillies.
The book does do a very nice job of covering the events of the 1977 NLCS as they unfolded. The downside is that portion of the story is no more than 30% of the entire book. It has more written about activities in Philadelphia and the history of the city. If you are not from Philadelphia or do not have some sort of interest in city politics you may have a bit of trouble getting through this. Overall it does a very nice job of sharing the story of Philadelphia, but if you are looking for a true baseball story it may not have enough game information to hold your interest.
Readers should check it out so that they can get a better idea of why the Phillies fans are the way we are, and may God have mercy on our Philly sports fan souls.
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
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
You can always find a team that one year or another falls in the cracks of existence. It could be a bad season or a string of bad years that makes most of America forget or even care that the team is still playing. Perhaps it is even the locale or the personality of the team and ownership that makes it less appealing to the masses. Teams that have had these problems such as the Montreal Expos, Miami Marlins and even the Seattle Mariners at times have trouble sustaining success on the field when none of the fans really care. The Minnesota Twins are one team that I feel that gets lost in the shuffle of baseball. Be it a lack of success in recent years or geographical location, the Twins just seem to get no love from the rest of the country. It’s a good thing they have a rich history to celebrate and a die-hard fan base that will enjoy today’s book.
The Twins started their existence as the transplanted Washington Senators in 1961. Moving to a colder and more temperamental climate they set off to build a whole new tradition on and off the field. They have succeeded in building one of the most dedicated fan bases in the game and achieved some moderate success through the years on the field including a few World Series Championships.
Doug Grow takes fan’s of the Minnesota Twins on an entertaining ride through their existence. Year by year, you are walked through the history of the team, along with some pop-culture snippets going on at the same time as well. Published in 2010, this book only takes you through the opening of Target Field, so currently it is a little dated. Each year starting with the shift that bore the Minnesota Twins you get player insight, on and off field team drama, as well as fun facts about the team itself. If you are not a die-hard fan of the Twins or have not spent a lot of time learning their history it is very helpful.
These type of books that chronicle a franchises complete history allow general baseball fans to learn specific details of a team and form a connection. When you have fans forming a connection with a team, you in the end create a fan of that team. These books then become dual purpose, by being both a history book and also the ability to generate new fans for that team. Doug Grow did a very thorough and entertaining job with this book. It was hard to put down because it was so enjoyable. If you are a Minnesota Twins fan you probably have heard some of these stories before, but will more than likely enjoy them again. If the Twins are not that familiar to you, this book becomes a great learning experience and is entertaining at the same time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Minnesota Press
When you think of the New York Yankees, you might think of an evil empire. Some others may think Dynasty or Mickey Mantle, or World Series, the possibilities are endless. They have had so many great players throughout their history that some of those that did not make the Hall of Fame, get lost in the shuffle. Usually you find books that celebrate era’s of Yankee history, but now there is one that helps celebrate the lesser remembered players.
I know the Yankees have more than their share of books out there. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson alone have enough titles to fill their own bookcase. So some might be tired of the usual Yankee stories and coverage, but this book gives you something that is a little different.
The authors have chosen to incorporate the players who may get forgotten mainly due to the sheer magnitude of the New York Yankees. Dave Righetti, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Clete Boyer, Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Luis Arroyo are just some of the names included in this book. Each was a solid quality player in their own right, but their legacies gets swallowed whole by the Yankees machine.
The book takes a look at each players best year in Yankees pinstripes, which most times coincides with the best season of their careers. It gives a nice overview of that season for the player, along with player bio data, stats for the player as well as news from around baseball and the world for that year, It’s an enjoyable book that allows you to remember some pretty good players.
Yankees fans should enjoy as well as baseball history fans. This is not the standard “the Yankees are wonderful” book you see so often. The authors did a pretty nice job and put in some serious effort to compile this list of players and it shows.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Jonathan David Publishers
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