Tagged: Chicago Cubs

Odds & Ends-Spring 2018 Edition


As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away.  I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out.  The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.

 

baseball-s-roaring-twenties

Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books.  It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront.  I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader.  If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out.  You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

51ut803QrJL__SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said.  It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them.  Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan.  It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically.  For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out.  It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it.  You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

 

51i-AZ3f94L__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past.  For my money, this one is the best of the bunch.  It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella.  It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused.  It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches.  He is telling it like he sees it at this point.  Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all.  If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet.  Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.

ImpossDrm_Cvr_eBkFnl

If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book.  1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era.  It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained.  Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history.  For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened.  If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about.   For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.

51EeOGlWVFL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Where would the game be without the Sportswriters.  They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field.  Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about.  Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before.  You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.

large

McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category.  Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print.  Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy.  Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.

51iIbWSfqcL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception.  Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again.  This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well.  It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times.  You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.

So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.

Happy Reading and Go Phillies!

Gregg


 

Advertisements

Spring has Sprung !!!!


Well, it’s that time of year again.  Opportunity abounds for all, the realization of a life long dream may be in the offing and as it is always said, hope springs eternal.  The new baseball season offers hope to every baseball fan that this is finally going to be their year and their hopes of a championship will be realized.  For those involved in the game, players are hoping to get their big break while others are hoping to hang one for just one more year.  If you take a good hard look at a baseball team, all of these hopes and dreams of just about everyone lay in the hands of just one person, the General Manager.  A position of amazing power, it is also one of great sacrifice and fortitude to attain it and one that comes with some unfair criticism at times.  Today’s book takes a look at arguably one of the modern eras greatest GM’s and what it took to reach the pinnacle.

51qNC3rrERL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Ned Colletti can easily be described as a baseball lifer.  Landing stints for the Cubs, Giants and finally the Dodgers, he got to contribute to three of the most storied franchises in the history of the game.  Now his new book shows what it took to reach his goals as both a person and a professional General Manager.

Ned walks us through his childhood and its a compelling story about an average American kid.  Next he shows us how barely making ends meet he gets his job with the Chicago Cubs and his professional journey truly begins.  It shows the reader how with great sacrifice and perseverance great things can be accomplished.  Next we stop with Colletti in San Francisco and see how the building blocks of a transformation were laid.  Finally we travel to the Dodgers and see what its like dealing with a meddling mess of an owner while trying to build a contender.  His professional story is a fascinating one and his accolades well-earned, but its his personal story that also resonates throughout this book.

You get to see the personal side of a highly respected General Manager and quite honestly we don’t always see that in these books.  His anecdotes may be about baseball, but you get a good feel of his personality when he is telling these stories.  I enjoy books like this that I walk away getting the sense that the subject seems like a pretty decent guy in real life.  The Baseball books afford us to get closer details and some inside information about events that take place, but not always closer to the people involved.

If you have an interest in getting to know a real guy and the inner workings of the front office then this is a book you should check out.  It will be time well spent to get a new perspective on the inner workings of the game and a glimpse at someone who comes off as a pretty decent guy as well.

You can get this book from the nice folks at G.P. Putnum & Sons

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Last Minute Christmas Ideas for us Baseball Book Lovers


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.

51kalQd433L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

Next up…….

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.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Leo Durocher-Baseball’s Prodigal Son


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.

51J0iYFgoyL__SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

By Paul Dickson-2017

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.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Babe’s Place-The Lives of Yankee Stadium


I am not a Yankee fan in any sense of the word, but I will acknowledge their achievements throughout history and the contributions they have made to both the game and its storied history.  The original Yankee Stadium was witness to many of the games greatest players and scores of historical moments.  With its closing a few years back, baseball lost one of its historical palaces, but I have found a book that chronicles its entire history and gives the stadium the true respect that it was due.

product_thumbnail

By:Michael Wagner-2015

There have been a few books in the past that have made me go wow, but this one beats them all.  Author Michael Wagner starts from the stadium’s original construction and provides all sorts of details about building a stadium in the 20’s.  It covers stories about building delays, internal political struggles, how many bricks that were used and monetary costs to build the palace.  I am using that brick number to dazzle my friends when we start asking each other obscure baseball trivia.  It obviously does cover the great moments that happened there during its original incarnation and gives the reader a good feel of what the stadium was like during that early era of baseball.

Next the book takes another in-depth look at the remodeling of the stadium in the mid 1970’s.  The deconstruction and remodeling details are plentiful in this book and gives an inside look at what really went on behind the scenes during this remodeling phase.  Many of these things you will find hard to believe when you hear the  lengths they went to preserving its original heritage.  This portion of the book also covers the great moments that happened at Yankee Stadium during this second phase of its life.  This is the phase many of us are most familiar with so it was nice to relive some of those memories.

This book provides an enormous array of pictures.  From the original building of the stadium to its remodeling.  Many are from the authors private collection, and they are a unique insight to the process and how large of an undertaking it was to remodel this stadium.

Finally, one aspect I found interesting was the personal correspondence of the author attempting to get memories from those who played there.  He had success to varying degrees, but it was a fun way to see what players thought about the old girl during her prime.

It doesn’t matter if you are a New York Yankee fan or not this is a book worth checking out.  The original Yankee Stadium has given way to progress, but I personally think it should have remained and been revered in such ways that Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are today.  Old Yankee Stadium had a large historical value and this book has done a wonderful job on preserving some of the details and memories for generations to come.

You can contact Author Michael Wagner directly via email for information on how to order this great book for all baseball fans.

yankeeswinws@yahoo.com

Happy Reading

Gregg

Two Very Similar Books That Leave Two Very Different Impressions


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.

gi_88841_elliott

By:Richard Elliott-2016

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.

51lejjplhcl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

By:Tom Molito-2016

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.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Rowman & Littlefield Knocking ’em Out for Baseball Fans


In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books.  Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books.  Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment.  With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season.  They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.

59143

By:Hal Bock-2016

This book could not have picked a better year to be published.  Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades.  Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I.  It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time.  It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success.  It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.

If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out.  It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment.  A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.

51fuxxveukl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

By:John A. Wood-2016

Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least.  You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly.  Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well.  It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball.  The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities.  It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.

It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives.  The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.

512p5teaal-_sx334_bo1204203200_

By:Steven Elliott Tripp-2016

The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever.  There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb.  No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.

The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times.  He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions.  Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country.  It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about.  Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.

51vebwqwg0l

By:Keith Craig-2016

A welcome addition to any fans library is this book.  It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him.  It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game.  Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter.  In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.

The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production.  This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.

515ve5hrhzl

By:Sherman L. Jenkins-2016

Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar.  A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all.  He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice.  This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life.  Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.

This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon.  Fans of any league or sport for that matter,  will not be disappointed in this one.

515lkdsotil-_sx312_bo1204203200_

By:Rocco Constantino-2016

Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up.  These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design.  It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game.  I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks.  These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled.  It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.

Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones.  These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !

51fpb3h8pl

By:Bryan Soderholm-Difatte-2016

Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration.  It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well.  When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation.  While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game.  It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening.  Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.

It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.

CubasBaseballDefectors

By:Peter Bjarkman-2016

If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need.  Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball.  He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players.  He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.

This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba.  If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here.  Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.

These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield

Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.

Happy Reading

Gregg