Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark. Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget. These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball. They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck. They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator. The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era. A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game. During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy. The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about. Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.
Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations. She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years. She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years. She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans. Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.
Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition. That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty. Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.
What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader. She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley. Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.
This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era. It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before. It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.
This book is a fun trip through the Finley era. I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look. It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History
Baseball is a game full of firsts. First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless. But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book. For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt. For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are. Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.
There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson. This one from 1984 I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first. My first baseball book was a shear accident. My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book. From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me. Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.
I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero. He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in. He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard. So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.
Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades. But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one. For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever. It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like. This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock. To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.
I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book. For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie. Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose. For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree. It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.
So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you. Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.
It always starts somewhere. No matter who your team is, their history begins at a specific point in time. Now for the first few years they may not be very good, but eventually there is a point when they get better. You can see a point where the team improves and success is imminent. Now for some teams success is fleeting, while for others the highs ride along for several years. For the New York Yankees they have had decades of success. With a few speed bumps along the way and a bad era or two, they really have been the most successful franchise in baseball history. This streak of great teams had to start somewhere and there had to be a certain person responsible for building that winner, now there is a book that shows when the Yankees started to take over the game of baseball.
I have never hidden the fact that I am not a New York Yankees fan. But even I have to admit as a baseball fan that they have such a rich history, it is hard not to admire it. Once playing second fiddle in New York City to the Giants, the Yankees found the right combination of ownership, management and players that helped propel them into the stratosphere of sports.
Steinberg and Spatz walk the reader through the partnership between Miller Huggins and Jacob Ruppert. More than just an owner and employee relationship, they worked together to build the foundation of a team destined for glory. They found unprecedented success and took over as the number one team in New York. The most important thing to take away from this book is that it was not Babe Ruth that turned around the Yankees, it was these two Hall of Famers.
This book is a great walk through an entirely different era of baseball. Completely 180 degrees different from what we are used to as fans of the sport today. Society may have changed as well as the financial structure of the game, but the end result has never changed. To win championships and maintain success have always been the underlying theme to the game. The Yankees certainly have done that through the years and this book shows the reader exactly when those events occurred that started this ball rolling down the hill.
The authors did very thorough research on this book and it shines through. They kept the story moving at a good pace which made it very hard to put down at times. With so many books out there about the Yankees, this one portrays a different era in baseball and also shows that the New York Yankees existed before George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson came to town.
This book should appeal to more than just Yankees fans. It shows a different time in both the world and baseball and is a very good history lesson to readers. It shows the steps that needed to be taken to build a winner and sustain that success. I really think if you put the time into this one, you will not be disappointed.
You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Too much of a good thing is not healthy. But how does one know when they get to that point. It could be with food and drink, gambling, or countless other vices, usually you know when you have had enough. With baseball books how are we to know when the market has been saturated with a particular subject? Is it when the subject runs its course of popularity and what defines the point that subject transcends its own timeline? There are certain personalities out there that no matter how much time passes between their relevance to the game and current times, the books keep on coming. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and a handful of others come to mind as players with too many books about them out there. But today’s book to me is another biography on an above average player and manager that gets a ton of coverage no matter how many decades have passed.
Billy Martin is a guy who got more mileage out of his personality than almost anyone in baseball. People loved him and hated him, all at the same time, but you couldn’t deny his passion and skills. On and off the field he was a lightning rod for trouble and everywhere he went, some sort of altercation interrupted his career at that time. He has been the subject of many, many books and this new one tries to give the reader something different.
Bill Pennington has thrown his hat in the Billy Martin Ring with his new volume. Pennington has done thorough research and given the reader a comprehensive story of the life of the volatile player and skipper. From his early days in California to his career at various stops in the majors, the author has given you a good look at what made Billy tick. There were some minor details about Martin’s story that knowledgeable fans may question but overall it is a nice piece of work that readers will enjoy.
The bigger question I have is why do we need another Billy Martin biography? What has happened in recent years that has changed any opinions of Billy. In the almost 25 years since Martin’s death, nothing new has surfaced that would warrant another book. There have been several books on the market that have done this dance. I know of at least ten other biographies that have chronicled Martin’s life and there is a lot of overlap between those books already. So I am not sure why we needed another one. I understand the appeal of the Yankees and Martin’s personality, so that is really the only reason I can conceive as to why this book, at this point in time.
As I said above, Bill Pennington did a really nice job with this book, save for the few minor details he doesn’t have quite right. If you haven’t inundated yourself with Billy Martin biographies in the past, then you will really enjoy this book. If you are like me and read all the other versions available, then you may have trouble finding some new information to keep your attention. I don’t want to discourage readers from checking out this book, I just want them to keep in mind it is a lot of the same stories that have been visited many times before.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
When you do the same job for several decades it can get stale. You get to the point that nothing new ever really happens and you just start phoning in your job. You do the bare minimum just to skate by until you wind up retiring. Now this is true for most of us, but if you are lucky enough to have a job that no two days are ever the same, it’s totally different. You can’t wait to get to work and enjoy all the ups and downs of your job. Now most of us obviously fall into the former description, but if you are the New York Yankees beat writer like Phil Pepe was for several decades, you have a ton of great stories filed away in the memory bank just waiting to be shared. Todays book does just that.
This would probably be a dream job to most Yankee fans. Following the team day in and day out, mingling among the legends and almost becoming an extension of the team itself. While I am sure it is not a walk in the park every single day, I can think of a few professions that this would highly rank above.
Phil Pepe takes the reader on a journey with this book through several decades of Yankee stories. It is personal, first hand interactions with the team and stories he has witnessed in his years covering the team. He takes us from Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio all the way up through Derek Jeter. In between those two icons the book is filled with stories about other Yankee legends that donned the pinstripes while he was their beat writer. If you look at it from a historical standpoint this was a great time to be covering the team, because the baseball history he has witnessed is amazing.
This is a typical Pepe book in the style in which it is written. I have always found his books to be engaging and able to pull the reader into the story and make them feel like they were there as well. Phil Pepe has a real knack for getting the reader into a story and holding onto them until the very end. Perhaps I am a little biased because the other books he has written have ranked up there among my favorites. I am not sure if this was Pepe’s swan song for his distinguished career, but if it was he goes out on the top of his field. He shows his skill and dedication to his craft and does not use it as any sort of retribution towards people in the stories he tells. He tells stories that the everyday fan would never have known about if not told in this book. I found these stories in no way to be malicious or scandalous in any way, it was just more of a fun reflection on his career covering the Yankees.
Baseball fans and Yankee fans especially will enjoy this one. Its just a lot of fun stories from a raunchy locker room that is not always visible to the public. Readers should give this one a shot, I don’t think they will be dissapointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
Baseball books can provide valuable history lessons. Even if they are of the biography genre, they can still give valuable lessons to the reader about a multitude of things. It has always been said that baseball mimics society and in the case of todays book that may ring true. It shows how society has changed and become more tolerant and accepting. Baseball may be slow to change at times but in this case, they have finally caught up with society.
Glenn Burke was the first openly gay athlete in Major League Baseball. While that alone is trailblazing, in the end he suffered the wrath of the game and became black-balled. He had a very short career in the majors playing for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 70’s. For his brief career he put up decent numbers and probably had he not been openly gay would have had a longer career. When you are the first person who does anything different in baseball it seems that you have a much more difficult time being accepted than the next person. Just ask Jackie Robinson, being a trend setter is hard work.
Glenn Burke suffered the wrath of the baseball hierarchy and essentially lost his career for it. Even though some of his teammates knew about his sexual orientation and didn’t care, the baseball establishment was not embracing it. Glenn eventually died of AIDS in 1995 and this book was his way of getting his story out before his untimely death. It is a very good book that shows the struggles and humiliation Glenn had to endure just to be himself and play the game he loved. It shows some of the intolerant practices that existed during his time in the jock world of Major League Baseball.
More importantly this book allows the reader to see how both the game and society has evolved in the twenty years since its initial publication. MLB has now added the Ambassador of Inclusion position in Billy Bean so that these issues don’t happen again. This book also shows how society’s views have evolved in regards to homosexuality and it is not as big of an issue as it once was. It shows that everyone has a place within our society and while it may not happen as fast as some people would like it has made some progress. One thing I found interesting between the original publication of this book and the re-issued edition is that they used the same cover photo, but the Dodgers logos had been removed his uniform. It just struck me as odd that after all this time they would remove them.
Glenn Burke is pretty much at this point a footnote in baseball history but this book does give you a nice glimpse of both the player and the man. Perhaps if he was somewhere else on a less profile team than the Dodgers, his career may have lasted longer but honestly who knows. After all he went through you get no signs of bitterness from Glenn for his outcome in life. He was proud of who he was and who he loved, and hoped in the end he would be remembered as a good person and what more can any of us ask for in life.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkeley Publishing Group
When you think of the New York Yankees, you might think of an evil empire. Some others may think Dynasty or Mickey Mantle, or World Series, the possibilities are endless. They have had so many great players throughout their history that some of those that did not make the Hall of Fame, get lost in the shuffle. Usually you find books that celebrate era’s of Yankee history, but now there is one that helps celebrate the lesser remembered players.
I know the Yankees have more than their share of books out there. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson alone have enough titles to fill their own bookcase. So some might be tired of the usual Yankee stories and coverage, but this book gives you something that is a little different.
The authors have chosen to incorporate the players who may get forgotten mainly due to the sheer magnitude of the New York Yankees. Dave Righetti, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Clete Boyer, Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Luis Arroyo are just some of the names included in this book. Each was a solid quality player in their own right, but their legacies gets swallowed whole by the Yankees machine.
The book takes a look at each players best year in Yankees pinstripes, which most times coincides with the best season of their careers. It gives a nice overview of that season for the player, along with player bio data, stats for the player as well as news from around baseball and the world for that year, It’s an enjoyable book that allows you to remember some pretty good players.
Yankees fans should enjoy as well as baseball history fans. This is not the standard “the Yankees are wonderful” book you see so often. The authors did a pretty nice job and put in some serious effort to compile this list of players and it shows.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Jonathan David Publishers