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.
It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
If there is one thing I have learned in the new stadium craze over the last 25 years, it is that baseball and politics do not always mix. The involved parties are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as to what is warranted and who should pay for what. The same problems arise, weather it is replacing an existing stadium or creating an expansion franchise. It all comes down to how the details are handled as to what success comes from all the hard work. Today’s book takes a look at all the struggles one city went through to get a team but still wound up on the losing end of the deal.
Becoming Big League takes a look at the city of Seattle and their efforts to land a Major League franchise in the 1960’s. It shows how some infighting and disagreements over the future of the city led to delays and confusion. It also shows how the local ownership group of the Seattle Pilots were flying by the seat of their pants in all aspects of the business.
From the feel the book gives you their was a group of people, along with the powers at Major League Baseball who really wanted to see the Pilots come to Seattle and succeed. They felt it was a great location that would help baseball thrive in the northwest area of the country and be a nice accent to the teams already placed in California. In theory the Pilots were a great idea, they just met too many off the field problems to thrive.
Local government infighting along with stadium construction issues and owners who financially flew by the seat of their pants while conducting business all doomed the Pilots in Seattle. Even almost a decade after the Pilots were gone and the Mariners arrived for round two of baseball in Seattle, many of the same problems still existed. The only plus side at that point was that Seattle had at least learned the minimum required of them to keep their baseball franchise. More recently Seattle has had the same problems luring the NBA to Seattle almost 50 years later.
Bill Mullins has created a great two part book. One is the baseball study that chronicles baseball coming to the Northwest. From the inception of the Pilots and agreements with Major League Baseball, to the moving of the franchise to Milwaukee and the birth of the Brewers. Secondly this book is a great urban study of local politics. Seattle wanted to keep its small time charm and quaintness, but still attract big money players. It shows how Seattle citizenship was split down the middle as to which path they wanted their city to follow.
If you have an interest in the Seattle Pilots their is lots of great information in here about the team and their short operations. There are some things i here that you don’t always easily come across when researching the Pilots. If you have an interest in local politics and how Seattle of the past functioned, you should give this book a look as well. It shows how some cities have trouble growing when they need to.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Washington Press
Its that time of year where baseball’s winter meetings are upon us. The one week a year where the business side of baseball comes to the forefront. Players are traded, free agents get signed and the Rule 5 draft occurs. For some fans it is an early Christmas present when your team signs that key free agent, while for others it might be the time you say goodbye to one of your favorite players. For the people that work these meetings it is just another day of business as usual. Fans sometimes get so engrossed in their team they may forget at the end of the day that baseball is still a business. For the people who are involved it is their job. A job many of us envy, but still a job nonetheless. Now there is a book that walks us through the business side of baseball and shows how the more things change, they somehow stay the same.
In Pursuit of Pennants takes an in depth look at the business of baseball, almost a history of the business side of you will. It looks at franchises over the last 100 years, showing the reader the dealings and hard business decisions that had to be made to produce winners. The book looks at how the teams were assembled and what worked and did not work. What key moves were made to help teams lay the groundwork for success, what moves should have been made to sustain the success or which moves proved to be just plain foolish.
The book also shows how teams heavily rely on their off-field personnel to help them build winners. The chain of command goes well beyond just the General Managers. All aspects of the front office play a part in the success of the team. It shows how everyone must believe in the team philosophy to be able to have it work at any level. It also shows that the same principles employed in the Moneyball theory have always been around. It may not have been the same ways to measure productivity or forecast any outcomes, but there were still theories that they adhered to that evolved as the game changed. The bottom line for all teams is to produce a winner.
Like other Armour and Levitt books, this book may not be for everyone. It is part history book, part reference book and part narrative. If you are looking for a nice easy flowing story that rolls through the book, this is not it. If you are looking for detailed information on the business side of baseball and a very thorough history lesson then this is your book. The authors have done a great job of explaining a not so glorious subject to the readers. The topic to some may be the equivalent of watching paint dry, but for those who stick with the book, you will be greatly rewarded in the end. You will walk away with a better understanding of how teams function off the field and understand the mindset needed to build a winner.
Baseball fans across the board that dedicate the time to reading this book will enjoy it. It honestly does start of a little slow but does pick up the pace enough to keep your interest through the rest of the book, so overall you wont be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Baseball is in the midst of a Golden Age. It is hard to deny they are raking on unprecedented money, getting tremendous amounts of exposure and attracting new fans from all around the world. Now the man at the head of this renaissance of Major League Baseball for over two decades was Bud Selig. He was heralded as breathing new life into baseball and being the innovator of many things new to the game. But what was it really like behind the scenes? The fans and the general public only get the positive spin on situations. Jon Pessah has written a new book that takes fans behind the scenes and shows us how the process was manipulated.
I have always thought there was more to the Bud Selig story than met the eye. From his ownership of the Milwaukee Brewers, to the power play that he made to become the Commissioner, Avoiding Pete Rose to the legacy he left when retiring. When he was talking, it always felt like you were not getting the whole story. His ownership of the Brewers was never something dreams were made of it. Run on a shoestring budget, they always had roster and financial issues and always were considered the bottom feeders of the league.
Jon Pessah gives the reader a very thorough look at the journey that is Bud Selig. From used car salesman to his journey to become the king of baseball, you get it all. You see all the backroom deals and double crosses that made up the reign of Bud. You see his true personality shine through in the business dealings and how no real friendship was actually safe when it involved Selig. This book puts a real face on the personality of Selig in all of his business dealings, not just the positive spin that was created for the general public.
The other aspect of this book which I find interesting is Selig’s relationship and dealings with George Steinbrenner, who was basically the only man in the game almost as powerful as Selig. The book shows a lot of business dealings that the Yankees conducted and how they both meshed and contradicted Major League Baseball’s desires. It does give a nice glimpse of he internal strife that exists within baseball even to this day. Overall it was a good example of a team that at times worked against the machine. The only down side to that approach is that it becomes too Yankees heavy instead of staying on course with the Major League Baseball story, but overall it still works within the book.
Baseball fans should check this one out because it really raises the curtain on the reign of Bud Selig. He is not the shiny penny everyone always portrayed him as, and it shows what the Commissioner truly was like to deal with. This book will not in any way tarnish Selig’s legacy but at least now we all know the truth about the man from Milwaukee.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little, Brown & Co.
It would be a whole lot easier to figure out what hasn’t been said about Derek Jeter over the last twenty plus years. Countless books have been written, articles printed and in New York the television coverage was never scarce. Everyone has opinions of Jeter for better or worse, but it really is almost impossible to deny what he brought to the table day after day. If you take away the fact that he played for the New York Yankees, he still would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. With all that has been written about Derek Jeter, Danny Peary has taken a unique approach at looking at both the player on the field and the man behind the legend.
Not wanting to take the ordinary approach to celebrating Derek Jeter, Peary has assembled a compilation of his life and career in quotes. Tidbits from everyone around him or having some sort of contact with Jeter, it produces a very unique story that is weaved sentence by sentence. It gives a better result than that of a standard biography of the player, in the fact that in the end, you know so much more about the player and understand what makes him tick. You can always learn a lot about a person by what those around him feel about him.
The author has pulled quotes from friends, family, other players, managers, scouts, writers, coaches, teachers, celebrities, fans and critics. It wasn’t like he was trying to pull a select few people who would give the best quotes and allow him to paint a happy picture. He pulled from every source available and created a tapestry that shows the complete picture of Derek Jeter. The book is broken up into different chapter that lend a natural progression to Jeter’s life and career and help the reader follow a continuous timeline.
This is by-far the most unique approach I have come across on a book about a player. I am not sure you would call it a biography, but I don’t think it necessarily fits well in other categories. The approach is very refreshing and honestly enjoyable, because it allows the reader to see different information about a player that we all know so much about. I am not sure this approach would work for many other players. The New York media has brought so much information forth about Jeter that it has helped create the marketing machine that is Derek Jeter in our society.
Danny Peary has done a great job with this. It was unique and a much welcomed change in the player biography arena for me. I really enjoyed it and think those who are not fans of the New York Yankees will even enjoy it. The quotes keep it moving at a quick pace and present information about both the man and player without getting bogged down in cumbersome details.
Check out this book, I don’t think fans will be disappointed
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