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.
I hate to admit it, but I always enjoy a good book about the Yankees. The Phillies fan in me has a hard time justifying spending the money on purchasing one, much less enjoying a book about the evil empire. In the past there have been many avenues taken to relay the stories about the fabled team from the Bronx, but as of late it seems we keep taking the same walk around the same block. I would like to say today’s book would take us on a different tour, but I am sad to say we have been down this road many times.
Andrew O’Toole has taken the reader on an adventure with the New York Yankees during a time of transition. A time when the one of the teams greatest stars was fading and its next one was on the rise. It shows a time when the Yankees were full of uncertainty but about to embark on a sustained period of success that may never be rivaled. Say what you will about the Yankees, they have a history that is hard to top.
The book shows what the 1951 season was like for the New York Yankees. Di Maggio’s last season in pinstripes was not one of his greatest, but he earned the respect he demanded from the masses and his teammates and finished out the season and his career like only Joe DiMaggio could. Waiting in the wings was Mickey Mantle the young mid westerner who was on his way to fame and stardom and did not even realize what was awaiting him. Its a tale of two outsiders that came to New York and took a bite out of the big apple.
The downside to New York Yankees books is the fact that no matter what the subject matter is, it gets beat to death. We have several different authors attack the very same subject and for the most part attain the same results in the end. If I stop and take a look at my personal library, there are an insane number of books about Mickey Mantle and Joe Di Maggio. It makes it hard to figure out what is the real truth on either of them.
As far as the 1951 season goes we have seen a few books from different authors. While they attempt to each provide their own spin on the events of that year, unfortunately, it is impossible to. This is in no way a reflection on this book’s author, it is just the reality that this book falls into a very crowded playing field. It reminds me of the old politician saying that we may be saying the same thing, but you haven’t heard me say it yet.
While each of these books offers essentially the same thing, each writer has a different style that may appeal to different readers. So choose wisely, or if you are familiar with that authors previous work and enjoyed it, stick with that version. I was hoping we could get to the point where some authors would find something different and give us some new revelations, but I think that ship may have finally sailed.
If this book is one that might capture your interest on the 1951 season, you can get it from the nice folks at Triumph Books.
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
If you look at baseball history as a whole, it encompasses a large amount of time. Thousands of people and events are all part of the greater story for thousands of reasons. Some of those events get lost to the passage of time, and rightly so. Just because an event happened does not mean it had any significance to the history of the game itself, it was just the action within the game. Some events have been suppressed from the history books, for selfish reasons by those involved. Today’s book takes a look at one of those events and how they helped shape the game as it now known.
Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book. He takes a look at the 1890 Players League that was formed as a rival league to the existing National League. It offered better salaries and player shares of ownership to play in the league. This was in contrast to the business dealings of the National league already in existence. It also allowed the Players League to outdraw the Nationals by the end of the season. It is a valuable history lesson and shows the power the players have always had and what ownership would like to keep quiet.
This is truly one of the earliest player labor organization movements in the history of the game. They organized, had some backers and on most fronts were a success. While their success was for only one year, it shows the powers that the players held and what obstacles they could overcome if they worked together. In the end it was the fact that National League owners inflated their attendance numbers and cooked their books to the point that it made the Players League look inept. In the end that was the main downfall of the Players League.
After this failure the Owners held the upper hand for generations and the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association almost 75 years later was the first real inroad the players made toward leveling the field with Ownership. This is where it would have been a benefit to former players to be students of the game. If they realized they held the power and had banned together sooner, they could have realized better pay and individual rights sooner than they had. This whole theory could have changed the way free agency came about and would have revolutionized the entire game sooner.
If you have any interest in the labor side of baseball, or rival league history this book would be a good choice for you. Yes it happened over a century ago, but it definitely is something that could have changed the direction labor relations took over the past 115 years. This is one of those history lessons ownership to this day would like to under cover. Because even today some of these principles could be used to the players benefit.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
There are injustices throughout the history of baseball that people have tried to remedy with varying degrees of success. Integration was a major injustice on several levels that has been addressed within baseball. While it has not been conquered on all levels, at least on the playing field it went as planned. We are all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey integrating the National League and being racial pioneers within the game. But what about the first player on the American League side? Today’s book takes a look at what transpired for the second racial pioneer in the game Larry Doby, and why he never got the respect, attention or praise that Jackie Robinson received only a few weeks prior.
For me it is easy to understand why Larry Doby is not given as many pioneering accolades as Jackie Robinson, he was #2. Yes he was the first in The American League, but was second under the umbrella that was Major League Baseball at the time. No matter what the sport, being number two is never any good. People only care about the first at whatever it is, so that was a major reason as to why Doby never got as much press at the time. He also was in Cleveland instead of being in New York, a city with three teams which was just coming into its own golden era in the late 1940’s. That factor alone is a big reason why many players got the coverage from the media that they did. Doby could have been in Boise, Idaho and people could not have cared any less than they did when he was in Cleveland. Also his relationship with owner Bill Veeck could have hindered press coverage of his career because of the disdain the other owners and the old boys network had for old sport shirt Bill. These are just some of my ideas that I have had for a while and the book tries to prove some of these, but unfortunately does not make the grade.
Author Douglas Branson is a self proclaimed Larry Doby fan. Finding both Doby and baseball at an early age he always felt that Doby had been slighted by the baseball gods and the media. For various reasons I stated above he seems to want to try and prove these points through his research and other peoples writings. He like to quote a lot of others peoples books in trying to make his case on the above points. That method to me just felt lazy in the research of the book. He also quotes earlier pages in the same book you are currently reading, which at times was driving me nuts. It disrupted the flow of the book and was repetitive as well.
Factually, this book had several flaws as well. I am not sure if it an editing fault in which the person doing it did not have a strong baseball knowledge, or if the editors felt the author’s facts were correct due to his vast self proclaimed baseball knowledge. Either way there are several factual errors within the book. Names, places and events were all part of the problem. There were so many errors it was embarrassing. So many, that even the outside back cover where other authors tell you how great the book you are reading is, contained errors. Usually from this publisher we see fewer errors and this book really surprised me on that front.
As hard as I tried I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about this Larry Doby volume. I really wanted this to be a good biography, since so few exist. If you are one of those people that have to read any new book that contains anything about Larry Doby or the Cleveland Indians, then no matter what my final synopsis is you will still check it out. But in all honestly, save your money on this, it is so riddled with errors and factual mistakes that it brings into question the entire body of work.
I think there has always been a shortage of Larry Doby material on the market, but this is not the direction it needs to take. We need a quality Doby biography that is factually correct, and gives the man the respect he has deserved for decades.
If you still want to take a look at this one you can get it from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Jackie Robinson’s legacy is well known, so there is no need for me to lay it out there for everyone. Perhaps he has had the single greatest social impact on the game during his life and after it as well. Regardless of his legacy, Jackie Robinson has had a serious amount of articles and books written about him. Danny Peary has put together a book that is a compilation of Jackie Robinson quotes. It introduces a new and interesting way to see the profound impact Robinson made on the game.
Danny Peary’s book follows a unique path as far as a book goes. The format falls in line with his other book Derek Jeter In Quotes. Both of the books paint an interesting picture of their subjects. The Jackie Robinson volume draws from books, player and manager interviews, newspaper articles, historians and some quotes from Jackie himself. It allows the author to show a more intimate portrait of Robinson that a simple one dimension biography is unable to display.
Danny Peary’s books are always enjoyable to read and this one is no exception. The other books he has collaborated on are thoroughly researched and the subjects are accurately portrayed to the reader. This book is no exception to his past works and the new format he has with the quotes make it a very enjoyable read. You get both a feel for Robinson as well as the person making the quote. So in essence you are getting more than one perspective in this format.
I said it about the Derek Jeter In Quotes book and it carries true on the Jackie Robinson volume as well, this is a welcome change from the standard baseball player autobiography. Quite honestly when you read several different books in a year, you embrace a change and really enjoy something out of the ordinary. Fans should check this out because I can almost guarantee if you think you know everything about Jackie Robinson, you don’t. This book will surely give you some new information to add to your Jackie Robinson arsenal. Check it out I do not think you will be disappointed.
The more books I read, the more I think almost everybody is a baseball fan. It seems to touch everyone on some level and if they chose to admit it or not, is their prerogative. I have come across books in the past with an agenda of a very serious topic that also has some sort of baseball spin to them. These books usually put on display a great social injustice in a specific area, but to date I have not come across one that spells out the governmental backstabbing one specific community had to endure. Today’s book was found by a recommendation from a Facebook friend (thanks Debby!) and I was not disappointed in the least.
This books intended audience I believe was not to be considered a baseball book. Its original purpose was to show the social injustice that the Mexican community had to endure at the hands of the Los Angeles city government. Essentially they destroyed a tight knit community in the name of social progress and urban development. Change like that was to some degree inevitable in every big city during the post World War II era and Los Angeles was no exception. By destroying the Chavez Ravine community the city created numerous economic and social disasters that plagued that area for decades.
Most of the property the city claimed was through short purchase and eminent domain in the name of housing developments. In the end those housing developments never came to be, and the land was eventually used for other purposes. In case you haven’t figured it out, this is where the Dodgers come in to play and acquired their space to build Dodger Stadium. It shows the numerous back room deals that benefited Walter O’ Malley and the Dodgers franchise, all while backstabbing a community. It really shows the darker side of moving baseball to the west coast.
The book is a very thoughtful and insightful case study of Los Angeles politics during this time period. It also shows the scarier side of city politics and how as fans we don’t always see the dark side of the baseball business dealings. The book is not entirely a baseball product, but it does have enough content to hold a fans interest throughout the entire book . For those who think Walter O’Malley was a hero for bringing baseball west may really want to check this book out, because it really sheds a different light on the entire process.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Arizona Press
Baseball has been full of colorful characters during its existence. Players, managers, coaches owners and many other bigger than life personalities have fallen into this category. For some its an act that becomes pretty transparent, but for others it is a genuine trait. People have called these people flakes, or feeble or just plain crazy, but in the end they are probably some of the smartest people involved in the game. Using the above adjectives brings to mind Casey Stengel. The Old Professor could dazzle listeners, fans and writers alike with tall tales mixed in with his own brand of Stengelese, that in the end would make their heads spin and make them forget what the question was. Todays book is a collection of some of those masterful thoughts that help create his legacy on and off the field.
Casey Stengel was nobody’s fool in any sense of the word. He was in fact quite the genius both on and off the field. There is no reason to re-hash his baseball record because it speaks for itself, but most people dismissed him at time because of his double talking ways. This is not a new book, but has been released by Summer Game Books in 2015. What is important about this book is if you read between the lines, in Casey’s quotes you will find life lessons that almost anyone could live by. Now some of Casey’s quotes were obviously tongue in cheek comments but he had a lot of wisdom gained on the baseball trail that he shared with anyone who would listen.
This re-issue is important because these quotes still apply in today’s game. The way he treated his players and handled his team is something that carries from generation to generation and has proved effective more than once. The book also contains some interviews with some of his former players, and it shows he really cared about them becoming successful. That success was more of a personal thing, not monetary driven and he is portrayed as a caring manager and friend of the players.
Casey Stengel is a piece of American history beyond the New York Yankees and baseball itself. He has been gone for 35 years now but this book gives us the opportunity to relive his humor and showcase his personality to future generations. He should be remembered for what he accomplished on the field, his contributions to the game as well as the larger than life personality he was off the field.
Baseball fans will enjoy this. There are some funny quotes and interviews that will give the reader a chuckle. It also transports you back to a simpler time in the American Pastime.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
Teams that have been in existence for a long time have great histories. It is inevitable that through the passage of time some neat things are going to happen and in turn create some great traditions. The Dodgers are one such team that have that long and storied tradition. Being part of the national pastime almost from the beginning, they have created some wonderful memories through the years as well as leaving their mark on the great game we all love. One such tradition was Vero Beach, Florida. The spring training home of the Dodgers for decades, they basically made that town their own little world. Today’s book takes a look at the mark the Dodgers left on that sleepy little town in Florida.
Vero Beach in the 1940’s was a sleepy quiet little town in Florida, at least until the Dodgers arrived. Looking to save a buck and avoid segregation issues the Dodgers created their own little complex on a vacated military base. The idea of doing that at the time was unheard of, but does show how the Dodgers liked to not always follow tradition. It allowed for all the players to stay in one location and form a bond as a team, that none of the others had.
Rody Johnson has written a book that chronicles the entire existence of the Dodgers in Vero Beach. From their first spring at the crude facility through the end when the Dodgers folded their tent and moved to Arizona, you see what became Dodgertown. The book shows you how the Dodgers remodeled and expanded their facility through the years and how the local government was effected both by the Dodgers and other businesses that called Vero home. It also shows the results of the growth of Vero Beach had, because the Dodgers called that town home. Being more than a spring training complex you also get to see the operations the Dodgers had there pretty much year round that helped the economy of the area grow.
This is an in-depth book that shows how a team that you really only thought of as a spring training tenant really was a participant in the town all year. If you are not familiar with the Dodgers spring training operations, as I wasn’t, you will be surprised at the magnitude of their facility. It was called Dodgertown for a reason, and this book shows the reader that it really was warranted.
Dodgers fans will enjoy it as well as all baseball fans. It shows a cool operation that was a big part of the teams history, and the likes of something we may never see again of this magnitude.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University Press of Florida
There are certain people in baseball that when you mention their name you can get countless things that they are remembered for. Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are two such people who are remembered for various things of monumental proportions that changed the game we love. From the integration of baseball to the development of farm systems they both left the game in a better state than when they arrived. Today’s book takes a look behind the scenes of their biggest and best remembered project the integration of baseball by a writer who witnessed it first hand.
When I saw this book my first thought was why do we need to go down this road again? Have we not covered every angle as to what transpired leading up to the implementation of the project in 1947? It has been almost 70 years since this happened, so what stone was left unturned? Yes it is possibly the biggest single event in all of baseball in the 20th century and something we as a society should remember for both its social and historical value, but why now?
Roger Kahn is an accomplished and talented writer whom I enjoy reading his work. He has created a book that recounts the historical events of Branch Rickey’s project, and shows events that someone without first hand knowledge may not have known. Kahn recounts conversations with Dodgers management, other writers and people he associated with at that time. Bits of information that may have been inadvertently left out of the story at the original time or maybe on purpose, I’m not quite sure. The conversations he is recalling in this book are with people who have passed away, so there is no real basis to refute the private off the record conversations that Kahn has had with others. The reader is left to decide how much faith the have in Kahn ethically and did these conversations really ever happen?
If you take the book at it face value and accept the stories he tells as fact, then the book becomes an enjoyable first hand account of a historical moment. If you look at the aspect that Roger Kahn is the last living person involved in all these conversations, and then question the accuracy of comments, then you will ruin the book for yourself. Being Kahn’s self-proclaimed last book, I am not sure how to take the conversations. I can see the book from both sides of the fence, but would like to think after all these years of reading Kahn’s writing that there is no reason to even ask the integrity question.
Baseball fans need to read this and form their own opinions. It may be hearsay to some degree if you look at the book from that aspect, but it still is an enjoyable read from the history standpoint. Also as Kahn’s last work it does have some historical value in its own right due to that fact.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rodale