If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
One thing I really enjoy about this blog is I never know who I am going to talk to, get the chance to meet or what I might have the opportunity to obtain. One of those such people who I had the absolute pleasure to meet yesterday was the one and only Ron Kaplan. For those of you not familiar with Ron (and I say shame on you if you are into baseball books and don’t know who he is) he is the man behind Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf as well as an accomplished baseball author. One fact that may not have been as well know is that Ron was the man with an insanely large amount of acquired baseball books taking residence in his home, which led to this weekends meeting.
Ron decided it was time to clean house and get some of the boxes out the door and reduce some of his clutter. He worked tirelessly to find them a good home where they would be appreciated, because he and I both feel there is something inherently wrong with just throwing books in the garbage. The term one man’s trash is another man’s treasure applies here to some degree. Through his generosity he agreed to dispose of a large chunk of the book collection to me. It was Christmas in October on a quiet suburban New Jersey street if you will for this baseball fan.
I would guess roughly 800 books changed hands in this meeting, and with smiles on both our parts we ended the meeting, each of us very happy. The generosity of this to me was overwhelming to me and to Ron I send a heartfelt Thank You. I find it cool how baseball books can bring two strangers together and give them common link to build friendship upon.
To my wife Brina, if she does not leave me over bringing home 800 books to our house…….then I thank her too.
She was a real trooper after a late night Saturday in getting up bright and early for our trek to New Jersey. Without a complaint all day she helped greatly in loading and unloading of the truck and even had a few complimentary things to say about my blog…….yes, I was surprised too!
If you ever get a chance check out Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf using the link above. As far as baseball book sites out there go, there is Ron Kaplan’s…….and then there is the rest of us. He would in my opinion almost be the Godfather of Baseball Book Blogging. Again Ron, I thank you, the boxes of books are all settled in their new home waiting to be unleashed. If you ever feel the need to unleash more of your baseball books on the world, remember I am only a phone call away. Next time we will definitely take you up on the offer of the cup of coffee.
As baseball fans we should remember we are the keepers of the game, and if there is something we can do to help our fellow baseball book fans enjoy their time more, we should pay it forward. I know that’s what I am going to be doing with some of my books (new and old ones) in the next few months.
Canada has always in my opinion, been an overlooked area when we read about baseball. I realize it really only came into play in the last 45 years or so, but I never thought it got the attention it deserved. In reality over the last 50 years it has created two strong teams, introduced Canadian fans to the game and to some degree cut into the Hockey monopoly in Canada. With talk of the Rays possibly packing up and moving to Montreal, I thought now would be a good time to see what books are available for the teams north of the border.
The Expos in Their Prime 1977-84
By Alain Usereau – McFarland & Co. 2013
To me it feels like the Expos didn’t exist. Maybe its a matter of nobody remembers that they were even there or that nobody wants to remember. But whatever the case may be they did exist at one point. During that existence they had a span of years where they were always at the top of the standings fighting for the division crown. The years from 1977-84 were really the defining years of the franchise. They had a steady parade of Hall of Famers on the roster but could never quite get over the hump to glory. When you have names like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and countless other stars like Rusty Staub, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, you would think they would be able to pull it off a few times during those years.
Obviously they did not, but Alain Usereau has taken a deep, hard look at the Expos during their glory years. You get some behind the scenes look at the way the team operated on and off the field, both as a group and individually. You see the mind-set of the front office and why they made some of the moves they did during those years. The reader also gets a look at what the team meant to the fans of Montreal. This book proved to me that Montreal is still today, a viable option for a MLB team as the fans would support it there. Perhaps it was the poor product on the field in the final years of the Expos that contributed to poor fan support. It seems that in Montreal if you build it, they will come……if it’s a decent product.
This book gives a lot of insight to an often forgotten team with limited success. It’s overall a good book, that most baseball fans should enjoy. I only mention this next thing because it is a pet-peeve of mine. It would have benefitted from a little better copy editing because their were to many grammatical errors for my liking in a finished book. But as I said its a good book that most fans will enjoy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland & Co Publishing, http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com
Lets look at the other side of the coin in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. Since their inception they have had good fan support and produced some serious thrills for their fans. A few division titles, and oh yeah, two World Series Championships, which make for a happy fan base. While the Blue Jays had their growing pains in the beginning, they seemed to stumble upon a better plan for on-field success that the Expos could never quite attain. But what happens in Toronto when the team and the fans have huge expectations and it blows up in their faces?
Great Expectations, The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season
By Shi Davidi and John Lott – 2013 ECW Press
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was supposed to be the Toronto Blue Jays year. Much like the Chicago Cubs have done this off-season, the Blue Jays blew up the roster and started over. The looked at weaknesses at every position and went out and brought in some of the best names in the game to fix their problems. On paper the Blue Jays looked like the team to beat and at the start of the 2013 season other teams noticed. But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the 2013 was a flat-out train wreck. Injuries, career declines and pretty much the fact that anything that could go wrong……did go wrong, the Blue Jays had a dismal year.
Davidi and Lott take the reader on a journey through the 2013 season. They look at the blockbuster trades that were made in the off-season, free agent signings, spring training and of course the season. They give a nice look at the operations side of the Toronto front office and how the fans had embraced the new hope in Toronto. It also shows the mindset of the GM and what management felt they were accomplishing by assembling this team on the field. The book gives a detailed look at how the season in Toronto, and in the end the fans turned on the team and the front office. It is a great look at how the Blue Jays and its fan base operate and feed off of each other.
The 2014 season was a little better than 2013, and probably the residue of this 2013 team will achieve the initial success they expected eventually. But I think much like the Expos, the Blue Jays are often an afterthought to fans outside of Toronto. But it is nice to see that books are coming forth that show the Canadian pride in their teams and most of the time they are just as good if not better than the other teams out there. Just because most of the country is hockey crazy does not mean that they have forgotten how to love baseball.
Before I read this book I had what I thought was a pretty accurate opinion of Al Oliver. As a player, I felt he was often overlooked in terms of the quality of his play and his final career numbers. As a person I felt he came off as a grumpy guy. The personality take was based on the very limited media exposure I saw of him when he played for the Phillies briefly near the end of his career in 1984. He just came off as a guy who wasn’t very friendly when interviewed. After reading todays book it looks like I was wrong about Ol’ Scoop.
This book pleasantly surprised me. Al Oliver really delivered with a pleasant account of his life, career and faith. He goes into great detail giving you the inside “scoop” on his childhood, friends and family life. You get an honest glimpse of the man himself outside of baseball. He is like any other human being on this earth with family issues. He does not hide from any of the issues (good or bad) and shows how his faith has made him a better person and guided him through these issues. As far as the man himself goes, this book has improved my personal perception of Al Oliver. He really wasn’t the grump that came across on the TV screen. He was just very intense and a somewhat private person.
On the career side of things I always knew Al Oliver was a good player. I just never realized how good. The book has several detailed pages of his hitting and fielding stats. Which leads me to my next question, why has he been overlooked so long for the Hall of Fame? With the types of numbers Oliver put up during his career, which are better than some of the others that have already made the Hall during his era, it makes me wonder why. Al Oliver also I think has the same questions in the book, but it is not a bitter former player asking why. He has said several times in the book if it is God’s will then it will be. Which is a great attitude and belief to have if you are in his position. It again shows his strength in his own faith.
Getting back to the question of why hasn’t Al Oliver made the Hall of Fame. I have no idea personally as to why. The man’s numbers speak for themself. With career numbers like this, he belongs in the Hall. Which now leads to another sticky topic of the Hall of Fame being a popularity contest with the writers. Perhaps several of the writers that would have voted for Al, got the same impression of him that I had previously. Perhaps some of those writers should read this book and get perspective on who the man actually is. Perhaps it would put some long-held grudges to rest.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a very quick read that I finished in an afternoon. The book is very heavy on pictures but gives you a comprehensive look in to his personal and professional life. Baseball fans that were around when Al played should really enjoy it. The book is being release on 9/30/14 and is available from two sources that I know of:
From the publisher at http://www.vippublishing,com
or direct from Al oliver at http://www.al-oliver.com where I think you can get a signed copy.