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
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 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