There are certain seasons that stand out from others. Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight. 1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here. It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values. Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business. Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.
1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans. Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it. It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped. Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings. On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles. But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness. Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.
Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season. Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds. Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values. On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society. Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.
The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season. The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well. Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets, Hank Aaron was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy. It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants. It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.
This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball. Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point. I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events. We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68. Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line. These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.
This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint. I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier. The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball. For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957. Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.
If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it. It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well. You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark. Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget. These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball. They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck. They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator. The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era. A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game. During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy. The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about. Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.
Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations. She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years. She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years. She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans. Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.
Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition. That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty. Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.
What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader. She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley. Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.
This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era. It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before. It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.
This book is a fun trip through the Finley era. I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look. It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History
Owners are an interesting lot in Major League Baseball. Some are from the old school and don’t really care about the fortunes of the company, they just want to own a team. Some are in it for the profit aspect, while others ownership groups are part of a corporate conglomeration. I have always found the individual owners the most intriguing. Some of the best off-field personalities within baseball have come from ownership. Walter O’Malley, George Steinbrenner, Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley are just a few of the greats that have come from that group. Baseball has always been considered a good-old boys club but there have been a few exceptions to that rule. Today’s book takes a look at those exceptions and the great contributions the lady owners have made to the game of baseball.
William A. Cook has taken some of the most influential names in female ownership within baseball and created in-depth biographies of each one. Owners such as Effa Manley, Joan Payson, Jean Yawkey, Marge Schott, Joan Kroc and Grace Comisky to name a few. Each woman came into ownership through a unique set of circumstances. Some were by design and some were by accident, but nevertheless it shows how each overcame the obstacles inherent to being a minority and owning a baseball team.
This author does a great job of showing the state of each respective team when the owner took over, the coming to power and the final results the team achieved under their ownership. Finally the author tells us how each team was disposed of. It really shows a complete picture of what the ownership by each of the lady moguls accomplished during their tenure and where they have missed their mark.
I have seen individual biographies on some of the women mentioned in this book, but really did enjoy the format of covering several of them in one book. 20-30 pages was plenty to cover each one of the owners and gave a thorough picture as to what each ownership group achieved. Obviously you would be able to complete a stand alone biography on any of the owners covered but this is a very nice resource to get your feet wet with a group of female owners.
Fans who have an interest in the off-field history of the game really will enjoy this. It is a glimpse behind the curtain of stuffy team ownership and shows some of the driving personalities throughout history. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press
Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality. It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades. The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement. Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game. 1973 was no different. The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter. So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not. Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.
In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it. Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure. From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.
The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers. Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.
The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above. Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point. You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine. Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash. So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973. The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.
I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season. There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.
By far this is not a bad book. It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well. Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73. He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.
Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard. I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
Baseball is a game full of firsts. First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless. But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book. For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt. For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are. Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.
There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson. This one from 1984 I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first. My first baseball book was a shear accident. My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book. From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me. Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.
I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero. He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in. He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard. So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.
Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades. But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one. For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever. It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like. This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock. To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.
I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book. For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie. Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose. For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree. It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.
So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you. Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.
There are certain players that have incredible careers, but somehow fall into the background. Perhaps they are overshadowed by a more popular teammate, or their personalities are the type that naturally keep them out of the limelight. When you think of the Chicago Cubs, most people automatically think of Ernie Banks. Mr.Cub as he was affectionately known, basically owned Chicago. He could do no wrong as far as Cubs fans are concerned and every teammate of that era was subject to living in Ernie’s shadow. The subject of todays book is one of those teammates that had a Hall of Fame career that was just as good as Mr. Cubs, but is not always at the forefront of the conversation when you talk about the stars of Wrigley.
From his roots in the Negro Leagues to his final destination in Cooperstown, Billy Williams had a very nice career. He crossed paths with some of the games immortals as well as etching his own name among them. If Williams had played for almost any other team in baseball during his era except maybe the Yankees, he would have been the toast of that town. He played almost his entire career behind Ernie Banks who had Chicago wrapped around his finger, so Billy sometimes becomes an afterthought. That fact alone is hard to comprehend because he put up career numbers that easily gained him acceptance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Billy Williams book is a nice light reader that walks you through his career. From his early start in the Negro Leagues as well as the Minor Leagues you see the personal and professional obstacles he had to overcome to reach his goal. Many of the struggles were socially accepted at the time but were still a lot for any individual to handle. He also shows the reader the steps needed to make it and stay in the majors for any young player at that time wanting to be a Cub.
A majority of the book is obviously spent covering his time as a Chicago Cub. While the team had trouble finding any sort of success on the field, it still comes across as a great time to be a Cub player or fan during a great era of baseball. The book also covers his brief stay with the Oakland A’s and the bizarre dealings with Charlie Finley. Finally it finishes up with his induction to Cooperstown and his life with his family after baseball.
If you are looking for sordid behind the scenes details of the life of a baseball player, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for nice, light and easy reading about a sometimes forgotten but nonetheless loved superstar of the Chicago Cubs, then you should take a look at this one. I learned a few things about Billy Williams on both the personal and professional level in this one and in the end think better of him as both a player and a man. All baseball fans will enjoy this book, even those outside of the Windy City.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
It is hard to deny that the Athletics baseball team have a pretty incredible history. Having called three separate cities home over the course of their existence, they have reached the pinnacle of the game several times over, along with finding the depths of despair. Some people think of the A’s as three separate teams at each of their locations, but now you can get a book that covers them as one entity.
David M. Jordan has taken on the task of covering the entire history of the Athletics franchise. Each location the A’s have called home are covered in this book. It is easier to find a book that covers one location, but it is I think, harder to find one book to cover their full history. Jordan covers the history in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland with great detail. He shows the mainstay personalities that helped create their storied history in each city. He also covers the championships that have come their way throughout the years.
Books like this are usually for the hard-core fans of that team and this one is no exception. It gives a lot of detail of certain memorable seasons and glances over the not so memorable ones. They have a long history that is very hard to cover in a single book, especially when you are trying to cover the time from Connie Mack to Charlie Finley and then on to Billy Ball. Nonetheless, David M. Jordan does a thorough job and gives the reader a real feel for this teams history. If you are not very familiar with the A’s complete history, this gives you a good taste of what you have been missing.
If you are a hard-core fan, this is a good book for you. The reader gets some obscure facts that those type of fans will appreciate. I think if you are a casual fan and looking for a light easy read, this may not be for you. This book gives a detailed history lesson of the A’s that is hard to beat. No matter what city that you were a fan of the A’s in, it is worth checking out.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing