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.
When a team changes cities it is a daunting process. Ownership has to make sure it crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s to make sure everything will be to their, and more importantly their fans liking. No where as near as common place as it once was, team transfers can be a great thing for those involved. New stadiums, new fan base, a whole new chance to invent yourself and the financial rewards usually aren’t too bad either. That is just what the New York giants were hoping for with their move to San Francisco. A shiny new stadium to call home accompanied with lots of parking spaces for ownership to sell each night helped sell them on their new locale. But sometimes all is not what you hope it will be, and todays book takes a look at the Giants move to California and good or bad, depending on where you stood, their new Home Sweet Home.
We are all well aware of the story of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles and their conquering of the Southern California market. Sometimes lost in that great shadow is the Giants, who abandoned the Polo Grounds and the city of New York at the exact same time to help usher in baseball across the continent. Walter O’Malley was larger than life at times and in that shadow one can understand how Horace Stoneham may have fallen by the wayside. So with that, it easy to forget the history of the Giants during the first years in California. Luckily for us this book shows us what it took to get the Giants in place in San Fran and the hopes ownership had for the new frontier.
Robert Garrett does a good job of giving us the background of the team in New York and the situation it found itself in during the late 50’s. From stadium woes to the personality of Horace Stoneham you get a pretty good feel of what it was like for the team during their waning days in New York. He shows the courtship of the Giants by a new city and the promises bestowed by the local government, the biggest of all being a new stadium.
Stoneham had a somewhat of a hands off approach to his new stadium as the book shows and it in turn came to bite him in the butt. Candlestick Park had its own set of issues that are well chronicled in the book which in turn snowballed, enough so that it would essentially destroy many of the dreams of what Stoneham had for this new venture. In the end it is one of the driving factors that ends the Stoneham ownership of the team.
Next we look at the struggles to find new ownership and the quest to keep the Giants in San Francisco less than twenty years after the had arrived. Once new ownership was found you see the same struggles of old ownership with the albatross of Candlestick still dangling around its neck. It shows an interesting look at how baseball operated in regards to stadiums, success at the gate and play on the field. You see how the Giants, except for a few years as a whole, struggled while they called Candlestick home. It’s also shown how the people of San Fran really didn’t care if they ever got out of there.
Finally, you see a final change on ownership that get the Giants to a new frontier and a stadium worthwhile of Major League Baseball and the success that comes with that type of arena. I honestly think this book is a great look at this era of Giants baseball, no matter how bad it was on the field. It’s a portion of team history that gets overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers moving at the same time, the expansion of baseball and the evolving changes that were going on in both baseball and society. It proves some dreams take longer than others to come to fruition.
If you have an interest in California baseball during this era this book is definitely worth checking out. You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.
It’s that time of year again. The malls are packed, packages are getting wrapped, the credit cards are melting and for us procrastinators, the last-minute shopping rush is on. If you are shopping for a Baseball book lover you may have a hard time deciding what to get that special someone. Don’t fear because I have a few last minute ideas for you.
Up first is the new book released this year by Greg Lucas, and quite honestly it could not have come at a more opportune time. With winning the World Series this year, anything about the Astros is a hot commodity. They have a rich and storied history and while it may be shorter than some of the other teams, they have still had some big names come through the Lone Star state.
Houston to Cooperstown takes a look at the overall history of the franchise. From its inception in 1962, Lucas walks you through the history of the upstart franchise, through its time in the Astrodome, finally reaching some success on the field and highlighting it with its two newest members in Cooperstown, Biggio and Bagwell. Next Lucas shows how the team moved to its next stage of existence, getting to their new ballpark, reaching the World Series for the first time and the epic rebuild that helped them win the World Series this year.
For the die-hard Astros fan this is a book that they can’t miss. It is both comprehensive and enjoyable. It flows smoothly and keeps the reader wanting more. They get to re-live some of the great and really not so great times in the team’s history and can honestly feel like they were there, even if some of the stories were before their time. This book is a really nice way to finish up a World Championship year for the fans of Houston.
I have said this before about books like these, they scare me. The subject is very subjective and quite honestly no two will have the same set of standards as to what makes a player great. For example, my favorite player of all-time is Phillies Outfielder from the 70’s Greg Luzinski. Hardly a household name, but he easily makes my top five Phils, so you see what can happen with these books.
Looking at these two releases I can honestly say there was some serious thought put into the selection of the players chosen to be included. I usually agree to the selections in these types of books at about of rate of 50%, which I feel is a pretty good rate, but both of these books came in at close to 80% agreement. I honestly think that I have an average fan outlook and historical evaluation criteria for the most part, so I think that agreement percentage is a great achievement.
Cohen paints vivid pictures of some storied careers that were parts of these historical franchises. It gives some one on one perspectives of some of the games greats of all time. These type of books also offer an education element to them because you learn about some names you may never have heard of before.
Fans of either of these teams will obviously want to check these out and see if they agree with Robert Cohen’s pics as well. These are also valuable to fans that fancy themselves as amateur historians of the game, because you can get some good information on some of the featured players.
You can get any of these books from the nice folks at Blue River Press
Finally, I apologize to all my loyal followers (yes all three of you), with our new addition to the family last year, time is at a premium and unfortunately baseball books have fell victim to my time crunch. Aubrey does not give me much spare time to read and post, but I will try my darndest to post more in 2018. I will not after almost 400 posts let this become a zombie blog.
Happy Holidays to all and a safe and healthy New Year to each and every one of you.
I am sure no one has missed me on here, but I should probably give a brief explanation of my MIA status. Between a new job, moving back to Philadelphia and figuring out this whole Fatherhood thing, baseball books have become the victim of circumstances. Now that we are settled in our new place and the very large former Ron Kaplan book collection has been moved, I can hopefully focus on some more books, but if anyone has any ideas how to get an eight month old to sleep through the night, I would love to hear from you. I figured I would start back with a book that was highly anticipated by myself and did not disappoint.
I was familiar with Dickson’s previous work on his Bill Veeck book and really enjoyed that one, so I expected more of the same with this. Leo Durocher was one of those figures in baseball history that was either loved or hated, somewhere in the middle was not an option. To date, there have been a few books about Durocher, but none recently so it was a subject worth revisiting.
Paul Dickson takes a hard look at both Durocher’s playing and managing career. Not really much of a player numbers-wise, he had the small guy attitude that was appreciated by many a manager. This book looks at his trouble with Babe Ruth and the hard-nosed play that forged his cocky reputation. It is very thorough look at an often overlooked part of Leo’s resume.
Durocher’s real strength was his managing obviously. With varying degrees of success at all of his stops in the big leagues, you see how his hard-nosed playing attitude spills over into his managing. The reader also sees how Leo becomes the victim of a changing game. How more success early in his career does not carry over in the latter years. The game changed along with player attitudes, but old Leo stuck to his guns. It translated into some rough times for the long time manager, but those stops still put the finishing touches on an impressive career.
The one aspect of this book I found most interesting was the details of his private life. From associations with known gamblers, to his friendships with the Hollywood types, it leads to a very interesting life. Of course, the four wives add some zing to that private life also. It is an interesting aspect of Leo that we know some details about, but this sheds a whole new light on the subject.
Overall, this book is tirelessly researched and prepared well. It gets a little stat heavy at times, but the overall content of the book makes up for that lone aspect I did not like. If you have any interest in Durocher, or are a fan of this era of the game, check this one out. At 300+ pages it is a lot of reading but is for sure, time well spent.
Check it out, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.
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.
We have seen in the last few posts how certain publishers focus on baseball fans and really provide a great selection for them. As we head into the pending long, hard winter, I figured it is always a good idea to showcase a few more publishers that take care of the fans and get us to our awaited destination, the first pitch of Spring. Sports publishing has long been a staple of baseball book publishers and offers a diverse catalog for fans. They offer multiple sports, but for me it’s all baseball or bust. Historical, team related, biographical, new release or not, there always is something that fans can find that will appeal to everyone.
While this is not a new release, it still is a great look at the most vital position on the field, the Pitcher. By going through the entire history of baseball, Westcott gives the reader some of the most memorable feats performed by Pitchers. Heroes of the game such as Waddell, Chesbro, Cy Young and Mathewson through modern day greats like Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Maddux and Randy Johnson all get their due. It is a nice mix of various pitching accomplishments that have help build the history of the game. 51 chapters covering one position is a lot of memorable feats for the reader, and also introduces them to some not so mainstream stories. Check this book out if you want to expand your knowledge of the game’s history and see the value that the Pitcher has added to our great game.
Lets face it, the Home Run is one of the coolest aspects of the game. It can change the entire momentum of a game, series or even a season. There is a reason we keep so many Home Run records and why we still are arguing who is the real Home Run King. There are easily more than 101 home runs that one can call to mind but this is one of those books that narrows it to a certain number. The one thing the reader has to remember is that they will not always agree with the 101 that were picked. So it offers some debate material for you and your friends to discuss over a few beers, but in the end, everyone’s list will be different. The authors give a nice sampling of Homers and it allows the readers to re-live some of the greatest moments in the game’s history. But in the end, someone, somewhere is going to disagree with at least 1/3 of the picks. So keep an open mind going into this one.
There was a post in a Facebook group this week asking about this series of books. It is a very interesting series that puts a unique spin on your favorite team. The Pittsburgh Pirates book above is the latest in the series and offers you the worst players to wear certain uniform numbers, statistics and history base off the numbers as well as first home runs by certain numbers. There are so many various things they offer related to the numbers that it is almost impossible not to enjoy these books. If you are a fan of a certain team you will enjoy this series immensely. Check out Sports Publishing’s web site for their other team offerings.
We are all familiar with the Black Sox scandal of 1919 so no need to rehash it here. I tend to shy away from the Joe Jackson books at this point because I am not really sure if I am going to get anything new from reading another one. Well I am glad to say Hornbaker has given me a more complete picture of Joe Jackson than I ever had before. He looks at his time prior to joining the Chicago White Sox and his career blossoming career in Cleveland. It paints a much broader picture of the center focal point of the Black Sox scandal and an further understanding of the real Joe Jackson. No matter what side of the scandal you sit on, this book is worth taking a look at. It provides some new perspectives of all events of Jackson’s career and life.
I wonder honestly if Ty Cobb gets more coverage now than he did while he was alive. He also is a very tough market to write a book during the last few years. Hornbaker’s book is another in a long line of recent Cobb themed books and like his Joe Jackson book provides a different perspective on the Hall of Famer. As always it is up to the reader to decide what is fact and what is legend, but the author does an admirable job at presenting alternative truths about Cobb. It is worth the time to read but in the end, the reader has to make the decision which one of the Cobb books presents the most truth. After all the books, both fact and fiction, that have addressed Cobb, it is going to be hard for readers to ever figure out what Cobb’s true story actually is.
Finally, we take a look at one of my hometown favorites. This book covers more than just baseball and usually I don’t touch these book on here,(see my disclaimer above), but hey……….it’s Philly! It takes a thorough look at Philadelphia and the Championships we have been lucky enough to celebrate through the years. Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey are covered as well as showing the transition from a town built on Dynasties to a town laden in a Championship drought for so many years. It events like these that helped shaped me as the sports fan I am today. It also shows that the Philly fans may not be as bad as we are always portrayed.
Take the time to check the books out on Sports Publishing’s website. They have these and many other great baseball books that are sure to please everyone.
Some baseball books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors. These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents. I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent. Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up. I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages. Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.
When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix. The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays. Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.
Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture. It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century. He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.
Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league. Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras. Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had. He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years. Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.
I always enjoy books of the lesser known players. As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books. I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult. There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.
If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago. If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield