This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Choosing the best of the best can really ignite some serious debates. Who belongs, who doesn’t, who should be eligible and who should not even be there always makes for good conversations among friends. The Baseball Hall of Fame, which is nestled in that sleepy little town in upstate New York, is the mecca of baseball junkies. You can walk among some of the greatest artifacts throughout the history of the game as well as visiting the memorials to all the games brightest stars. If you are not lucky enough to be located within a reasonable distance of the Hall like I am (2 hours), then you may not be able to get there as often as you would like or even at all for that matter. I found a book, if you are one of the unlucky few that may never get there that will help you experience some of the magical aura that is The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has really published a first-rate book with this one. The quality of the book alone is incredible. From the paper stock, to the printing this is a really nice book. Quality of the book is something I really never comment on, but this one is really that good.
The Hall has compiled all its members, including managers, executives and umpires and given the reader in-depth overviews of every single person. Each player section is broken down by position into its own chapter and then sorted by induction year. It has dedicated two pages to each personality and gives a nice biography of their career as well as a brief snippet of that persons unique personality. It is a nice feature for each person that you don’t always get in these types of books, because it is usually more focused on the career numbers. Each person’s Hall of Fame plaque also heads their individual page so you are able to read exactly what is hanging on the wall in Cooperstown.
The other nice feature is a several page essay at the beginning of each chapter. A player from that chapter has written about his own experiences during his career that led him to The Hall of Fame. It is something you don’t normally see in a Hall of Fame coffee table book and adds a real human touch to this book. I think the Hall of Fame sometimes lacks a human touch when speaking about its members, so this brings it back to a very personal and fan friendly level.
This book covers all the players that were enshrined as of the publication date. The only down side to these types of books is that they are not accurate for very long. Once the next July rolls around someone is missing. But honestly this book is done so well it should belong in every fan’s library. You may be familiar with some of the names, but there are others that are a real learning experience for fans young and old.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little Brown and Company
It is the Baseball Hall of Fame induction week. A week where we celebrate the new batch of baseball immortals and their careers. As each year passes it seems more and more people with large impacts on the game slowly pass to the side, never to get their due. Today’s book showcases one of those personalities of the game that love him or hate him, you can not deny the changes he generated in Major League Baseball.
Growing up in humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York, Marvin Miller was not a person you would expect to have such an influence on the sport of baseball. Well educated and professionally schooled outside the sport, he took the opportunity in his career to make a mark for himself in the real world. Miller used his professional knowledge and education to build one of the strongest unions within pro sports and upset the owners apple cart.
Robert Burk takes an in-depth look at Marvin Miller in this book. You get a lot of personal information about Miller that helps see how his own experiences and life events helped shape his personality and effect his business dealings. It also shows the fortitude that was a Miller trademark, was forged and how the players were able to benefit from it. This book offers a very complete picture of Marvin Miller both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I was always familiar with his MLB dealings with the players union but this book put forth a personal dimension to Miller that is sometimes missing when he is the topic of conversation. Most of the time in my opinion he is portrayed as a ruthless union organizer that was just after the almighty dollar for his members, so this definitely put a different spin on him for me.
Now the twenty million dollar question………does Marvin Miller deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Well, for my dollar I say a resounding YES! Take away any personal opinions you have on the man himself and take a look at the actual changes he helped institute within the game. Yes, money has increased to insane amounts and sometimes the players are glorified children at times, but he has gotten them better working conditions, pension increases as well as increased safety initiatives. While only remembered for the money aspect, he has helped usher in positive changes for both the players and the game as a whole. Now, back to the question will he ever get in the Hall? That I am not so sure of. It seems people in baseball have long memories and are able to hold some serious grudges. As more time passes by, the odds diminish but hopefully some day he gets in where he deserves.
This book is not a light read by any means. You do have to pay attention to what you are reading or you will get lost. The details in labor law is something that will confuse the reader if they don’t watch, but still is a vital component, and those heavy subjects are needed to tie the entire story together. Baseball fans will enjoy it so give it a chance even when the big words get you discouraged. The reader gets rewarded for their work in the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Illinois Press
1981 was somewhat of a transition year for America. Disco was dead, the Phillies were after 97 years, reigning World Series Champions and old school baseball was changing. The recent advent of free agency in the second half of the last decade was making wholesale changes to the way the old school owners conducted business. Those same changes were leading to the selling of teams and making dollar signs bounce around like super balls. Some of it was for the betterment of the game, but it was driving the old guard nuts. After a few years of tumultuous relations between the players union and MLB, the season became fractured due to a players strike that would never leave baseball the same.
The events of 1981 have always needed some clarification for me. I have never quite understood what the basis of the strike was other than money. Now, I am totally clear as to what the issues were and why the issues at hand were worth fighting for.
Jeff Katz has created to me essentially the bible of the 1981 season. He takes an in-depth look at the labor issues leading up to the 1981 players strike and what the players felt needed to improve. He discusses the issues both on and off the field in 1981 and how the strike effected everyone and everything. He also paints an overall picture of the state of relations between players and owners after the advent of free agency.
A large portion of this book obviously centers on the strike itself. Katz takes the reader on a journey of all the events that happened in negotiations and you get to see the key players and negotiators at work. The authors account is a painstaking journey through the legal avenues traveled within Major League Baseball. It gives insight to the strike and negotiations that I have never seen before. It helps clarify to the reader that the players were not just a bunch of money hungry thieves that were looking for a big score. They had legitimate complaints that needed to be addressed by the owners in the changing ways in which MLB now needed to function. The book also shows the owners side of the table and in the end, the were fumbling bunch of idiots that harmed their own cause in the end.
Jeff Katz has created a great book that is a very enjoyable read that moves along quickly. Even though a large portion of the book is off-field events, it keeps the reader’s interest and makes you not want to put it down. All baseball fans should enjoy this book. You can see how your favorite team and a few star players fared during the strike and at the negotiation table.
You can pick up this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press
Most, if not all baseball fans know who Curt Flood is. For those fans that have been living under a rock for the past 45 years or so I can gladly explain who Curt Flood is. Curt Flood is the man who upset the Major League Baseball owners apple cart. Curt was traded from the Saint Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Long and the short of the story is Curt did not want to go to Philadelphia. Hey, nobody wanted to be traded to the Phillies in 1969, but Curt’s reasons ran deeper. He felt that no man should be treated like a piece of property and should be free to choose where he played. Thus set off a fire storm that still has ramifications in today’s game.
Curt Flood challenged to the very core the owners power structure. The reserve clause allowed them to “own” their players as long as they wished, and pay them whatever amounts they felt like. It was the basis of which the entire player/owner structure operated. Essentially with the backing of the newly born players union and some of the other players Curt took on the system. In the end it was basically career suicide for Curt Flood as his skills eroded during the time he was on the shelf while his court proceedings went on. Also it gave other owners a bad taste for Curt and he may have been for the most part unofficially black-listed from Major League Baseball.
Robert Goldman takes a look at the legal aspect of the Curt Flood case and the legal maneuvers that transpired on both parts. It is very detailed and painstakingly analyzes the events of the case. If you are not familiar with the in-depth details of the suit, this would be a good book to take the time to read that explains all the events in an easy to use format. It shows what actually transpired and cracked the door open to free agency within baseball for future generations.
Books on this subject lead me to another question. It has been the good part of 50 years since this landmark case occurred. When is the point we have learned as much as we can about the subject matter? Curt Flood, Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller have all passed on, and most of the supporting cast members as well. At what point do we not have any one left to get any more information first hand from? At what point are we just getting hearsay and opinions from people who were not directly involved in the main story?
I think we may be getting to that point with Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball as well. Its unfortunate with the passing of time we lose those with first hand knowledge, but when do we get to the point where we say we have learned or analyzed everything we can on this matter? I don’t know when that time or place is, I am merely asking the question because I don’t know the answer either.
Students of the game should enjoy this book, it gives a thorough look at landmark case that changed the game forever.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University Press of Kansas