Tagged: 1970’s baseball

Tony Oliva – The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend

Have you ever been the fan of a superstar player, but never felt like you really connected with him.  When we have players that we really like, on some level you feel some sort of connection with them.  Whether it is admiration of their skills, or of the off field personality they have, you need something to hold on to and make that connection.  Such is the case with Tony Oliva and myself.  I always admired his career even though it was over before I could say the word baseball, I still thought he was a pretty great player.  What was missing for me was some sort of wow factor though.  In that vein is where my hopes were lying in todays book, that it would create some sort of better connection for me with Tony.

By:Thom Henninger-2015

By:Thom Henninger-2015

Tony Oliva could be considered the King of Minnesota.  Playing a majority of his career with the Twins, he is respected and loved above almost all others.  Being from outside Minnesota I have heard all the stories and highlights of his career.  But for me there was never any feeling of connection with Oliva that I have with some other players that I had never seen.  Perhaps it is Oliva’s low-key personality that didn’t get him the limelight of other Hall of Famers, or maybe it was the fact that he played in Minnesota and became a symbol of greatness for a team that is largely forgotten at times.  So I was going into this book hoping for something that would improve my feelings toward Oliva.

Thom Henninger does a really nice job in this book at portraying the career of Tony Oliva, from his beginnings in Washington D.C. to the end of his career as an on field legend.  The author shows the ups and downs of his storied career and some of the experiences that helped shape Oliva’s personality.  The reader gets to see some personal tribulations that you would not see if you followed only his on field accomplishments.  It is a very well-rounded biography that are the results of in-depth research and tireless fact checking.

The down side to this book for me is that I don’t feel I got any sort of new information on a personal level.  When I read a biography I want to feel that I made a personal connection of some sort with the subject or could relate to the situation at hand.  As I said above it is a well-rounded biography, but to me came off very dry on the personal level.  It seems to be a very strict agenda of stick to the on-field activities and don’t reveal anything new about Tony Oliva, if it can be avoided.  So for me after reading this the legend remained intact and nothing was gained for me as a fan.  There is the old publishing saying – If the legend is more interesting than the facts…….print the legend.

Henninger’s writing style was enjoyable and moved along at a good pace.  I am just unsure as to why we got nothing new.  Perhaps it is the subject matter that keeps himself very guarded and won’t allow the world to see more, or maybe there really isn’t anymore to get.  I as a fan may never know, but in the end I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to get a bigger piece of what is the Tony Oliva legend.

If you are a fan of Oliva then you should check it out.  Maybe I am missing something hardcore Minnesota fans will only be able to find.  Perhaps I expect too much out of a biography, but I really don’t get disappointed by a lot of them, so I am not 100% sold on the fact that I am to blame here.

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


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The Little General – Gene Mauch A Baseball Life

I think there are many great injustices within the game of baseball.  From plays on the field that get called incorrectly to the many talented people who fall into the cracks of history.  There are too many baseball professionals that give their entire lives and every fiber of their beings to the game and in return do not receive the accolades they truly deserve.  Managers sometimes are a bunch that gets forgotten if they do not reach the pinnacle of the game.  Regardless of how they perform over their entire career, if they don’t win a World Series, they usually get forgotten when speaking of the greats.  Todays book takes a look at one of those people who truly was a great manager and gets forgotten when the conversation turns to Baseballs Greatest Managers.

By:Mel Proctor-2015

By:Mel Proctor-2015

I must admit I was very excited about this book.  Gene Mauch has for a long time topped my list of one of the best managers the game has had to offer during its history.  Always one to be saddled with the task of building a winner from the ground up, he never shied from a task like that and rose to the challenge of laying the groundwork for winning teams.

Mel Procter has taken a look at Gene Mauch’s entire career in this book.  From border line Major League player and star in the minors.  You get to see the passion and fire that was a Gene Mauch trademark on the field.  The reader sees what made Mauch tick and the drive that helped propel his small stature and guts into a hard-nosed player who earned the respect of teammates and fans alike.  Being a fan of Mauch this is something that I was not very familiar with.  There is plenty of documentation about his short stays in the Majors, but the Minor League stories were new ones to me, which helped paint a broader picture of his skills and his career.

Seizing the opportunity with the Phillies, the reader then journeys through his managerial career.  It shows the methodical nature that Mauch tried to build winners and the inherent struggles associated with trying to build from within during that era.  Gene’s next stops were Montreal, Minnesota and California, all of which saw varying degrees of improvement under Gene.  You see how his personality of hard-nosed play and determination is transmitted to his players, so maybe winning is contagious after all.  The only down side to the manager portion of the story is that I would have liked to see some more stories about the Twins and Angels.  Those sections weren’t as long as the ones about Philly and Montreal, but when you have a career that spans this many decades you probably have to make some cuts somewhere.

Mel Proctor should be very proud of this book.  He has given complete and honest coverage to a baseball personality that I think gets shafted sometimes.  Just because he came within one pitch of actually making the World Series and was also the captain of the Titanic in Philadelphia in 1964 does not make him a bad manager.  To the contrary I think Mauch was one of the more dedicated and smarter managers in the game during his era and was unfortunately the victim of some bad baseball timing.  There are other managers in the Hall of Fame with multiple World Series trophies that are there partly due to the pinstripes they wore.  I think man for man, Gene Mauch could outshine many of them.

Check out this book for yourself and give Gene Mauch the respect he deserves.  After a life long dedication to the game, he deserves at least that much and honestly baseball fans will enjoy this one.  This may be one of the few chances we as fans get to learn about the real Gene Mauch

You can get this book from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing


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A Father’s Day Reflection

For every baseball fan in the world, the journey starts somewhere.  Is it something you found on your own, was it something that just called your name or was it something someone else taught you the things you needed to know to become a good fan?  They say baseball brings families together and more often than not helps build a bond between fathers and sons.  So where did your journey begin?

For me, everything I know about baseball stems from my Dad.  I am a Phillies fan by birth, thanks to my Dad, I root for my hometown team, thanks to my Dad and I am not a fair weather, bandwagon fan, once again thanks to my Dad.  I was raised with the notion that good or bad they are your team, and you stick by them no matter what.

My Dad was raised in an era of Philadelphia baseball that consisted of two teams, the Phillies and the Athletics.  During his formative baseball years, neither team was very good but he stuck by his teams.  When Philadelphia became the victim of baseball re-location, my Dad’s allegiance was given solely to the Phillies.  From that point on in the mid 50’s the Phillies for the most part stunk.  Except for a glimmer of hope here and there, as a fan you didn’t have much to get excited about.  But as I was taught growing up, you stick by your team.

As I grew up, I was lucky enough to be one of the kids whose Dad took him to ball games.  He traveled a lot for his job, but there was always time when he was home to fit in a baseball game at Veterans Stadium.  It was there in Section 322 at the Vet that my education began.  I was taught the intricacies of the game, who was a good player, who stunk and the reason why a pitchers duel was more fun to watch then a slug fest.  It was an education that I didn’t realize I was getting at the time, but has proved useful thousands of times over in the days since.  I am not even sure he realized he was being a teacher at the time, it was more just a conversation between Father and Son.

Hot summer nights at the Vet have been replaced with Citizens Bank Park, adult duties like jobs, a wife, bills, distance and illness have gotten in the way, but we will always have the memories of the Vet and our first base line seats.   No matter what happens in life I realize you can never go back to your happiest place, but I can still push the buttons on those memories and re-play them whenever I want in my head.  I kept all my ticket stubs from those games when we went together and whenever I stumble across that envelope of stubs in my drawer, it brings a smile to my face.


Me and my Dad at Citizens Bank Park vs. Arizona in 2013

So, since it is Father’s Day I want to say Thanks Dad.  You have made me the rabid Phillies fan that I am today.  It is because of you, I live and die with this team.  You taught me the integrity required to be a fan of a horrible team, and how not to give up even though they are 26 games below .500.  You also taught me the value of a good baseball book and the broader point that you can always learn something from reading.   It is these values that I hope to pass long to my kid someday, and hopefully I will teach them what they need to know about baseball and life, half as well as you taught me.

Veterans Stadium is long gone, but the legacy of me and my Dad at a baseball game on a hot summer night will live on with me forever.  Happy Fathers Day Dad, I love you and we should probably take in a Phillies game real soon.

Happy Reading


The Bird-The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych

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.

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By:Doug Wilson-2013

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


Happy Reading


The Time Has Come – The Bookcase is Moving

I am not sure how many people actually pay attention to my blog, which is fine , I understood that when I started this.  Why would people want to read what I think sometimes, in all honesty these blogs are just my opinions.  Anyway, my posts on here have been few and far between as of late, and maybe for some that may be a good thing that I have been quiet.  The reason behind the silence is that myself, my wife and three fairly ungrateful but still loveable cats are moving.  So the time has come for this.


We are loading up the bookcase and moving to new digs over the next few days.  So internet access ability will be few and far between and time at a premium, and besides I have a crap-ton of books to pack up and move.  So for the next ten days or so Gregg (that’s me) will be among the missing until we get everything situated at the new place.

For those of you that have stopped by in the past year and checked out the blog, I thank you.  This site is a labor of love for me and nothing more.  So please be patient because in a few days we will be back rolling again.  Also, if anyone has sent me a book to review, please be patient, you will not be forgotten, maybe just delayed a little bit.

I know I am looking for the restoration of some sanity in my life, not living out of cardboard boxes anymore and having some time to start reading again.  So in the mean time, everyone keep reading and if you have any idea for books I should check out, drop me a line and let me know.

Be back soon and Happy Reading


and of course Brina, Phillie, Booger and Moose (All the innocent victims in moving all these books)

Big Hair and Plastic Grass – A Funky Ride Through the 70’s

We all have a decade in baseball that we relate to the most.  Maybe it’s because it’s where our personal knowledge base is the strongest. Perhaps it is the first decade we remember growing up, or it could be countless other reasons.  For me the 1970’s is my favorite decade in recent past.  It’s the first decade I remember growing up and it’s also the decade my Phillies had any measurable success.  Because I like the 70’s so much I had a lot of hope for today’s book……..and it did not dissapoint!!!


Big Hair and Plastic Grass-A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swingin’ 70’s

By Dan Epstein 2010-Thomas Dunne Books

I know there have been other reviews of this book in the last few years on the internet.  Usually, when there are a lot of good reviews I find they don’t actually live up to the hype  but this book is different.  It is actually as good as all the reviews say it is.  It is a detailed and comprehensive overview of a turbulent decade in baseball.

The book dedicates a chapter to each year in this glorious decade, which you would figure it would do in a book dedicated to a single decade.  What makes it more interesting, is in between years, the author drops in a topic that happened in the 70’s that changed the face of the game for more than one year.  Things like the mass introduction of astro-turf, cookie cutter stadiums, afro’s,  polyester uniforms and mascots.  These things sometimes get overlooked in regards to when they began. Dan Epstein does a great job of  bringing all these things into perspective as to when they did burst on to our scene.

Dan Epstein, from what I have read, has a very diverse background as far as what he writes.  He did a great job of bringing baseball history to life.  He also did a great job of analyzing how society fits into the baseball lure.  I think he has a personal appreciation of this decade and it comes through in his writing.  I almost feel he likes the 70’s so much that he would enjoy riding around in Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine.  He seems like a fun guy.

Overall if you enjoy the 70’s,this is a great book.  You will really enjoy re-living each year and seeing how much changed in only ten short years.  Dan Epstein did a really great job with this book and his since published Stars and Strikes about just the 1976 season.  I am really looking forward to that book to see how he follows this one up.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books and I believe you can get autographed copies direct from the author as well.



Groovy Reading


1970’s Baseball – A Review of the Decade’s Best Season, Teams and Players

I have noticed in recent months in looking for books for my blog that the 1970’s have become a very popular subject.  There were so many monumental changes to the game of baseball that are rooted in this decade.  Free agency, escalating salaries, new modern ash tray stadiums with Astroturf and the resurgence of the New York Yankees immediately come to mind.  In that respect, it does seem fitting with the passage of time that we now analyze and celebrate that decade.


1970’s Baseball-A History of the Decades Best Seasons, Teams and Players

By:Joe Gersbeck 2014

These type of books that do yearly overviews and statistical analysis do not always interest me.  When I find several different books on the same decade, I have noticed that the reader gets the same recycled information with the authors own slant on the topic.  I think sometimes you have the same issue with team dedicated books.  I am starting to see the same problem with the Red Sox and breaking the curse of Ruth.  But this book surprised me…..and in a good way.

Joe Gersbeck did a nice job of analyzing the seasons in a way that kept it interesting and informative.  It was not just a season overview but you felt like you were back in time re-living it.  Next, it moves on to rankings by position.  Again, it was a very detailed analysis that shows a lot of thought put in to the ranking process.  He also throws in some non-traditional positions such as Clutch-Players which becomes subjective but still very well done and thought out.

The next section reviews each teams overall record for the entire decade.  It also analyzes the team statistical leaders on both the offense and defensive side of the ball.  Diffused in between teams is the star players of the decade.  It is a nice overview of their accomplishments during the decade and their value to their teams.

Finally, the book wrapped up reviewing the All-Star Games of the 70’s as well as the top ten moments of the 70’s.  They were again very thorough and well thought out for the book.  I thought it was a little odd that there was no World Series section.  There was obviously some dominance by certain teams in the 70’s but for the complete package it should have been in there, in my opinion.  Lastly, there is a very detailed appendix included in this book that covers all the normal statistics of the decade.

As you can tell I enjoyed this book.  A well thought out book with significant detail becomes timeless.  I have said in the past that I much prefer a hard copy book over an electronic version.  As far as I can tell this one is only available in E-form.  If I am wrong please someone let me know and I will update this.  I just think this would be a great reference book to have on the shelf for myself.  I do believe you can download it from Amazon.com, or get direct from the author as well at http://www.1970sbaseball.com.

Nice Job Joe!

10/1/14 UPDATE:  Author now has printed copies available for sale.

Happy Reading