I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog. That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late. I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not. But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at. Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books. While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis. Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception. These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.
From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered. Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.
Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published. How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t. McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market. For baseball readers this should be an item of importance. I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.
I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care. They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.
You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game. It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.
I am not a Yankee fan in any sense of the word, but I will acknowledge their achievements throughout history and the contributions they have made to both the game and its storied history. The original Yankee Stadium was witness to many of the games greatest players and scores of historical moments. With its closing a few years back, baseball lost one of its historical palaces, but I have found a book that chronicles its entire history and gives the stadium the true respect that it was due.
There have been a few books in the past that have made me go wow, but this one beats them all. Author Michael Wagner starts from the stadium’s original construction and provides all sorts of details about building a stadium in the 20’s. It covers stories about building delays, internal political struggles, how many bricks that were used and monetary costs to build the palace. I am using that brick number to dazzle my friends when we start asking each other obscure baseball trivia. It obviously does cover the great moments that happened there during its original incarnation and gives the reader a good feel of what the stadium was like during that early era of baseball.
Next the book takes another in-depth look at the remodeling of the stadium in the mid 1970’s. The deconstruction and remodeling details are plentiful in this book and gives an inside look at what really went on behind the scenes during this remodeling phase. Many of these things you will find hard to believe when you hear the lengths they went to preserving its original heritage. This portion of the book also covers the great moments that happened at Yankee Stadium during this second phase of its life. This is the phase many of us are most familiar with so it was nice to relive some of those memories.
This book provides an enormous array of pictures. From the original building of the stadium to its remodeling. Many are from the authors private collection, and they are a unique insight to the process and how large of an undertaking it was to remodel this stadium.
Finally, one aspect I found interesting was the personal correspondence of the author attempting to get memories from those who played there. He had success to varying degrees, but it was a fun way to see what players thought about the old girl during her prime.
It doesn’t matter if you are a New York Yankee fan or not this is a book worth checking out. The original Yankee Stadium has given way to progress, but I personally think it should have remained and been revered in such ways that Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are today. Old Yankee Stadium had a large historical value and this book has done a wonderful job on preserving some of the details and memories for generations to come.
You can contact Author Michael Wagner directly via email for information on how to order this great book for all baseball fans.
Most things in life are at the perspective of the person doing it. Baseball offers many things that could be relative to the person witnessing the action, and you could have 100 people and get 100 different perspectives. Today’s books offer essentially the same type of biography but the readers give two totally different outcomes from their authors.
Richard Elliott offers his biography of Clem Labine from a personal perspective. Theirs was essentially a life long friendship that grew from hero worship as a child when Clem was still an active player, to a relationship as a trusted colleague when Clem was an instrumental member of the author’s family business. It is an interesting transition between player and fan and adds a unique twist to the story. It is not often you come across a story like this where the former player becomes almost a member of the family.
This book is very sentimental and has every right to be. It is stories about the many interactions between player and young fan and how they formed an unlikely friendship. The book also allows the reader to see the fondness Elliott has for Labine still to this day, and the emotion of the author comes through strongly. If you are looking for an in-depth bio on Labine’s career, then this one comes in a little light, but in all truth it is an enjoyable story on a personal level that really carries its own weight and worth the read.
The next book also attempts to do the same. Tom Molito was a die hard Mickey Mantle fan growing up and as he aged his business dealings allowed him to get close to Mantle on a personal level. This one has the same hero adulation that the Clem Labine book does, but it also is from the perspective of a businessman. It shows the struggle between childhood memories and hero worship, and the dark realities of an alcoholic and former hero you are trying to work with.
It gives a very interesting look into the life of Mickey Mantle during his final years and the daily struggles Mickey had with his own demons and those that his handlers had in up keeping his public persona. The author has done a great job of being honest with the struggles he had dealing with the childhood memories and the stark truth that stared him in the face. Fortunately for the author, there was some good memories that came from his dealings with The Mick, so all was not lost.
Both of these books offer good things for the reader. Labine’s book I believe was intended to be just what it was, a tribute to a dear friend and since Labine’s death it may have been a way to write the final chapter on their friendship. The Mickey Mantle book on the other hand offers a direct look at the bleak reality of what Mickey Mantle really was near the end of his life. I don’t think it was in any way intended to be a smear book and the authors tone throughout the book solidifies my opinion on that. It is just one book had an easier subject to work with than the other.
Check out both books, because they are both short easy reads and give unique perspectives on both subjects. Labine is a hard subject to find books on and this is one of the few I have found available. Also, when was the last time you read a new and different story about Mickey Mantle, for most of us I bet it has been awhile.
In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
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
The history of baseball has so many nooks and crannies that it is almost impossible as a fan to say you have heard everything. Some of the history is well documented and some is taken from legend or word of mouth. No matter what its historical format, baseball allows for almost everyday to be a learning experience. Today’s book is one of those that puts a unique and interesting spin on some well-known and some of the more obscure baseball personalities that were an integral part of the game’s history.
Now I am in no way an artsy guy. Never a big fan of the creative arts and not a big fan of comic books growing up for whatever reasons that may be. So when they guy who admits all that, says to you this book is something very unique an enjoyable, you may want to pay attention.
Gary Cieradkowski is hard to pin down. Is he an artist or a writer? He created both parts of this book and did a very good job with each. He has brought to life through his artwork, faces of the past. He has done both the famous and obscure from the annals of baseball history. Creating both artwork and a baseball card set that puts faces to some of the names you may never have heard of, actually seen a picture of or been exposed to up until now. Showing the stars in their pre-fame lives, you get to see a glimpse of Sandy Koufax in Coney Island garb and Walter Johnson on an Anaheim baseball card. It also brings to light the stories of those that lurked in the shadows of Major League Baseball. Semi-pros, Negro Leagues, Barnstormers, Journeymen, Rouges, Odd Balls and players from the Amateur and International leagues all have stories to contribute to this book.
Not to be overlooked by his great artwork, is the quality stories Cieradowski offers the readers about all these unique and varied personalities. His writing is both entertaining and informative and a few of them leave the reader wanting to go further and research more about certain players. It is a great tool for a fans knowledge base.
This book is a fun and entertaining read and should not be overlooked. It is not your average baseball compilation book in the fact that it is not packed full of stars. It gives the lesser known players their due and appreciates their impact and contributions to the history of the game. Check this book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed, because quite honestly there is something for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Touchstone
As I sit here and recover from surgery, I remember this is the week that my wife and I were going to be crisscrossing the country catching our baseball games at various stadiums. It is somewhat depressing thinking about what could have been, but it is on the back burner for next year and hopefully without any unforeseen issues. The time off recovering has forced me to read more and allowed me to catch up on some of my posts. I have been able to look at some varying topics as of late and found a very interesting, off the beaten path topic for today’s book.
Inventing Baseball Heroes takes a look at how the media picks a certain player and uses their skills to fulfill a certain agenda. That agenda is creating hero worship for certain players within the game. This book centers on the early twentieth century and shows how the media helped make certain baseball players household names.
The book is looking at a different time in the world of media. The two main forms at that time were Newspapers and Radio. Through the use if these mediums the writers were able to promote their agendas in making certain players seem larger than life. Their exploits on the field were magnetized to an audience that was looking for new heroes.
The down side to the public looking for heroes was the fact that it allowed journalists of that period to blur the line between fact and fiction. Call it creative license if you want, but it leads me back to the old saying of never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. With reporting being what it was during that time period, you really have to wonder how much of what we accept as truth now is actually accurate.
Throughout the history of baseball and more precisely through each generation, you can see players who were regarded as both the clear and concise hero and one who was the clear and concise villain. These players are easily identifiable, and in more current times during the steroid era, some players have been on both sides of that line, again blurring the definition of hero and villain
Amber Roessner does a very nice job of looking at the actions of the media during the formative years of baseball as we all know it. It makes you wonder how much of what we accept as historical fact in the game is actually generated from the imagination of the media. It is something that one can clearly see continuing throughout the history of the game as the generations have passed on.
If you have any interest in the early media coverage of the game you should check this book out. It shows how our game was shaped in the eyes of our society. It also shows to some extent how we as an American society look to our heroes for guidance on how to act in our world.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Louisiana State University Press
Baseball likes to portray itself as the upholder of all that is right with the game. The keeper of standards and arrow straight morals, and they want to remain steadfast in that regard through all time. The most recent example of the high moral standard within Major League Baseball has been Pete Rose. For the integrity of the game they think they should keep old Pete on the outside looking in to atone for his sins. This has not been a new approach for Major League Baseball. For about the past 100 years or so in an effort to clean up the game and install some confidence with the general public they decided to clean house. It all started with the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series, but what about all the other problem children in the game before the Black Sox? Today’s book takes a look at one of the larger than life problem athletes in the game at the time, who oh by the way was one of the best players in baseball history.
This book is a re-issue of the volume originally released in 2004. Hal Chase was one of the darlings of the diamond during his playing career. A man who was friendly with gamblers and gangsters, regularly bet on games and was not a stranger to throwing a game or two. One big thing to take note of is that Hal Chase was the scape-goat for bigger names than his who’s hands were much dirtier when the crap hit the fan. You always hear about Shoeless Joe taking the fall for gambling but not so much about Hal Chase.
This book takes a very good luck at Chase’s life and gives the reader a real good feel of what baseball was really like at that time. It shows in great detail that most if not all of the games had some shadow of not being on the level and that so many peoples hands were dirty it is not even funny.The book also does not miss the opportunity to showcase Hal Chase’s on the field skills. Easily one of the best players to swing a bat and grab a glove up to that point. Rated by Babe Ruth as one of the all-time greatest players, that is some serious praise to live up to.
This is a great book to get a real good feel of what baseball was like during this era. It leaves no stone un-turned in showing the reader what Chase was really like and gives an honest look at what Ragtime baseball was all about.
Fans of this era will love this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Ragtime era take the time to check it out because it is a great history lesson. Finally, if you want to get another view of crooked baseball, other than the Black Sox scandal, this paints a pretty good picture of what was going on at that time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield