I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
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
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
In Baseball you always have to stay one step ahead of the competition. Both on the field and behind the scenes that same principle applies. You need to find the edge to beat your competitors because even if you keep the status quo, in reality you are falling behind. Sabermetrics and the Moneyball theory have turned baseball on its head and changed the way teams address their needs. So who really started that revolution and is it really a good thing after all?
Sandy Alderson is the current General Manager of the New York Mets and the man in charge of reviving that struggling franchise. While all has not been golden in the Mets re-birth, he has done a commendable job in restoring some dignity to the franchise. But is Sandy Alderson really the baseball genius everyone says he is, or is it just sometimes thinking outside the box that gets him some acclaim. That is what Baseball Maverick tries to figure out for the reader.
The book starts with Alderson’s upbringing and distinguished military career. It paints a nice picture of a man with courage and dedication. Two traits that come in very handy in the baseball world. You follow his professional career starting with the Oakland Athletics where he mentored current GM Billy Beane. It shows how Alderson got his reputation for thinking outside the box in regards to evaluating his team. Many of these ideas were born of necessity due to ownership and money constraints. It is during this stop in his career that Billy Beane gained most of the knowledge that he uses running the Oakland A’s.
The next stop for Alderson was San Diego where he again got the team back to respectability, but was unable to pull of a World Series triumph. After the Padres he put down roots with the New York Mets. Hi current home of Citi Field shows the reader in-depth how he has attempted to turn that franchise back into a winner. Attempting to overcome the Madoff scandal that has handcuffed the team financially has been an obstacle he has had to figure out how to overcome along with some bad player deals of the past. The 2015 season has brought them hopefully the start of lasting success, along with players they have developed finally reaching their expected potential.
After all this is Sandy Alderson the Baseball Maverick the book suggests he is? My thought is no. While he is a very talented General Manager, he is not the reason that Oakland has been able to compete on a shoe string budget. Billy Beane has been able to work with some of Alderson’s fundamental ideas and make them his own. That is what has made Oakland a success. Alderson may have planted the seed, but Beane made it grow. San Diego has been up and down so many times since the start of Alderson’s tenure there, that they should be a roller coaster not a baseball team. Finally the Mets were a train wreck when Alderson signed on, and it has to his own admission taken much longer for that team to make a substantial turn around than even he anticipated.
The book tries to make it seem that Alderson is responsible for the birth of Moneyball theories and I just don’t see that connection to just him. I see pieces of it in the way he has operated at certain stops, but it is a far cry from him being the one that designed it for the world to use. That being said, this is a very well written and entertaining book. It keeps the reader’s interest but it is very Mets heavy in subject matter.
Sandy Alderson is almost a mystery man in the baseball world. He has always worked behind the scenes and low-key, so this book gives you some insight on his personality. Again, I don’t agree with the Maverick term in the title, but he has made some substantial contributions to his teams and the game as a whole. Mets fans will love this book, and general baseball fans will like it. It gives us a glimpse of the man behind the curtain once and for all.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Atlantic Monthly Press
I thought in the spirit of Independence day we could take a look at how baseball books can play into that. Now this is not a post about the patriotic side of baseball and how it coincides with America, but how it allows one to be independent, no matter what interests them within the sport. There are tons of options out there that allow the reader to follow any avenue they choose, some are related and others are not but they still have that common theme of baseball. So what is out there for us readers?
Biographies are a fun way for readers to learn all about their favorite players. Whether it is first hand by the player himself or a true biography, you get great stories and once in a while some new information is discovered in the author’s research. You most times come away with a more favorable impression of the player, but there are instances that you think what a jerk he was. So it sometimes is better to stay away from your favorite player if you are not prepared for a bad impression. McFarland publishes biographies of some of the most obscure players and often overlooked subjects. The authors they work with are often SABR members and often provide an excellent finished product like the Evers biography shown above. McFarland books are most times and enjoyable history lesson for the reader.
Are you more dedicated to an entire team as opposed to an individual player? Well then these types of books may be for you. Yankee Stadium Memories compiles the thoughts of 26 of the best writing professionals who spent time working in old Yankee Stadium. What this book gives you is an inside look into the building and what went on behind the scenes that the average fan would not see. To some degree I think all writers have some sort of underlying fan allegiance to their team. So this book gives those people the chance to express those sentiments without taking a hit to their professional credibility. Sports Publishing creates this book that allows the fan to get the feel of being there, even if you never were. It re-creates events that many of the readers never witnessed and will never happen again. These book are a great deal of fun for team devotees and casual fans as well.
Maybe, you are more of a quirky superstitious number person or something of the sort. Do you wonder why every player on your team that ever had the number 8, never became anything. Or do you lay awake at night trying to remember every player on your team that ever wore number 34? Well Sports Publishing again has this series that looks at the each teams roster in this series from 0-99. It shows the fun stories and highlights surrounding these individual numbers. It also shows how some numbers may be cursed and no matter what that number should be retired. It’s another fun look at team history that all fans should enjoy.
Are you more of a history buff, but don’t want the stiff side of baseball. This book gives you brief history lesson of the game while keeping it entertaining. It gives some great player bio’s along with keeping the facts fun and interesting. I never have come across a book in my life that is a history book but still fun. It asks questions about how certain things have happened in baseballs past along with what might have been if certain aspects changed. It really makes the reader think and Acta Sports did a nice job with this one that fans will enjoy.
Are you more of a minor league fan? This one would be for you. It shows what life was like in the minor leagues in the 1950’s in the Southwest. Major league baseball had not quite made it past St. Louis yet so minor league baseball had a stronghold on these small towns. The author paints a very vivid picture of a bygone era, that should never be forgotten. These small towns and teams are what modern baseball is built upon. It is always important to remember where you came from.
Are you more of a casual fan that only pays attention when your team makes it to the World Series. Clerisy Press has the book just for you then. The Comeback Kids gives fans a chance to re-live the magical 2010 season where they defied the odds and made the post season. None of the so-called experts gave the Reds a fighting chance for any success that year. But sticking to their guns they pulled off the impossible. Clerisy Press always does a nice job on the Cincinnati Reds. They are locally vested in the Cincinnati community and their pride in these books shine through. Reds fans should make sure they check out their catalog beyond just this book on the Reds, because they are truly something to behold.
Baseball is full of quirky little tricks and gimmicks. The Hidden Ball Trick takes a look at the history of this dying art form. It has been successful a few hundred times in the history of the game, but more often it’s not. It truly is an art-form to get this trick to work in today’s modern game, but it is a fun look at how it can be conducted. Rowman & Littlefield made a fun book with this one and fans should check it out
They always say records were made to be broken, but is that really true. Certain records probably won’t be broken after all because of the changing nature of the game. James Baehler and Sports Publishing take a look at those records and see whether or not the possibility is there for them to be broken. I agree with some and not others ones, but it is a good book to fuel some debates with your buddies.
Finally, you always hear about the little things that help make great teams. Chemistry and other unspoken dynamics that help pull 25 players together to make a winner. Intangiball looks at all these dynamics together and explores how they work together to help make teams better over the course of a season. It really makes you think about what has to come together to create a winning team on the field.
So as you can see there are lots of choices for readers under the baseball umbrella. Each one is really an independent avenue for which the reader can explore fun facts and theories. I always say knowledge is power and having all these different types of books that fall under the subject of baseball helps promote reading among the fans. Everyone should take some times to explore some of the above sites because you will find tons of other great baseball books available by the same publishers.