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.
Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality. It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades. The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement. Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game. 1973 was no different. The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter. So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not. Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.
In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it. Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure. From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.
The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers. Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.
The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above. Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point. You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine. Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash. So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973. The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.
I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season. There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.
By far this is not a bad book. It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well. Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73. He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.
Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard. I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
Certain places around Major League Baseball have been around since the birth of the league. Due to that fact, the history of those particular cities is deep. Thousands of people have been a part of the ran and file of that team, and helped create some amazing memories for their fans. The Cincinnati Reds have pretty much been around since day one, and contributed some defining moments to the game of baseball. Today’s book takes a look at some of those incredible moments in Reds team history.
When you have been in existence since 1869, where do you even start to define your greatest moments? Just by the sheer number of years you have been around you have more possible moments than everybody else. When you think about it the Cincinnati Reds have been around since almost the end of the Civil War. They are approaching 150 years in the league and are still on a daily basis making memories.
Greg Rhodes has compiled a book that was a monumental undertaking in my opinion. There are so many great moments over that near century and a half, that it has to be hard to narrow it down to just one book. The author breaks the book down into twenty year chapters. The initial chapter of the book covers the early years, 1866-1879 and then works in twenty year increments after that. Every section covers the who, what, when and why questions that have arisen in Reds history. It reviews the personalities that have graced the Reds, as well as major achievements on the field on both an individual and team level. It gives a good perspective of what the Reds have accomplished throughout their history.
If you are not Cincinnati Reds fan, or from that area, this book gives a good look at team history and player accomplishments. Many team books out on the market focus on one genre, and let some events or people fall through the cracks. This books make sure that the people and events that helped shape the team are not forgotten. You see names like Bucky Walters, Hugh Kritz and Clyde Shoun. While not Hall of Famers outside of Cincinnati, they have made big contributions to the team’s legacy. This book gives them their due and makes sure they don’t get lost in the passage of time.
I think books like these are important to fans. They are a nicely presented history lesson for the reader, and it makes sure that the people who contributed to the teams history are never forgotten. For other fans it may prove the Reds actually did exist before the birth of the Big Red Machine.
All fans that enjoy reading about history should read this book. It is very thorough in its team history from the beginning of the team, to its published date of 2007. It is presented so well, you won’t even realize you are learning something.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
Being New Years Day, one tends to look back at the past. Sometimes it is the past year one reflects on, and for others you may want to reflect back on something over 50 years ago. In baseball history we have many seasons we get the chance to reflect on and honestly, I think that there are so many it makes it hard to choose. Todays book takes a look at one of those spectacular seasons for a team that is almost forgotten due to the success of their team in subsequent years.
Before the Machine-The Story of the 1961 Pennant-Winning Cincinnati Reds
By:Mark Schmetzer – 2011 Clerisy Press
The 1961 Reds on paper looked to be nothing spectacular. A mix of aging veterans and young up and comers were not expected to make any real noise on the field. Playing in an antiquated ball park and dealing with the death of their owner just days before the start of the season, things were not looking great for the team. But little did the fans of Cincinnati and the world of baseball know, this was going to be their year.
Mark Schmetzer takes readers on a journey through that great 1961 season. You see it from beginning to end, starting with the off-season and spring training, you see the pieces assembled that made up this team. Players that were brought in to fill holes became vital pieces in the success on the field. The book also takes you through each month of the season, showing the highs and lows of a grueling seven month season. Player injuries, slumps, and hot streaks are all contained in the book. It gives you a great look at team struggles and chemistry, that add up to make a successful team. There are tons of never before seen pictures in this book that add to the feeling that you are witnessing this team at a level higher than just a book. You also get to re-live the disappointment of the 1961 World Series at the hands of the New York Yankees. While it may not be a great event that their fans want to re-live, it gives a very comprehensive account of events on the field.
I often have felt this team gets overlooked in the annals of history. Primarily because of the multi-year success of the Cincinnati Reds Big Red Machine. When people think of the Reds success they automatically gravitate towards the teams of the Big Red Machine. Perhaps because it was their first year of success in such a long period of time, but it does seem that sometimes they just are plain old forgotten. The author has done a great job of making sure this team never gets forgotten.
All fans should enjoy this book. It does a nice job of covering the history of the team and that magical season in Cincinnati. Also, books like this are important because they make sure certain teams and pieces of history, do not fall through the cracks of time. It makes sure these teams are remembered for all future generations of fans to appreciate and enjoy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
Sometimes just being in the right place at the right time can change everything. Some people are just lucky that way. No matter what your chosen path in life, luck always plays a part. Which brings us to today’s book……
Big Red – By: Ken Griffey
Triumph Books 2014
Ken Griffey had a distinguished career in Major League Baseball. Playing for the Yankees, Braves, Mariners and most importantly as a member of The Big Red Machine. Griffey set off from his small town Pennsylvania upbringing and made a great career for himself. Along the way Griffey had brushes with history such as the Marshall University Thundering Herd. Through extenuating circumstances he missed the plane that killed 37 members of Marshall’s team when it crashed.
Griffey went on to be a key cog in the Big Red Machine of the Reds and has lots of stories to tell about that team. From the Hall of Fame caliber players and their manager to even having some thoughts on Pete Rose. After the Reds he moved to the Yankees and you get some quick stories about George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. Quickly, you move to the Braves after escaping the Bronx Zoo, as well as a second stop with the Reds. Finally you move on to the Mariners and you get the insight of more history in the making and his proudest moments in the game.
Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. became teammates on the Mariners and the pride that Ken Sr. was overwhelming. You get some warm and fuzzy feelings from the Father in describing the sons skills and accomplishments. Ken Griffey Sr. was never someone I ever considered warm and fuzzy, but this book shines a new light on him as to how strong a bond he had with Ken Jr.
The personal side of this book shows the bond, especially between father and son, is very strong. It puts a unique perspective on the book, in the fact that you are learning more about Ken Griffey the person. You are not getting the career description like so many of these autobiographies. It is more like a story of the people around him and how they have influenced his life and career.
This is a nice, easy read that all fans should enjoy. I went into this book with Ken Sr. not being my most favored player of the era. Big Red has made me change that view somewhat. It has shown Ken Sr. the person, in a whole new positive light for me.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books