I have mentioned before how I find it odd how certain great players get lost to the passage of time. I don’t know if that is a product of playing for a smaller market team, playing in the shadow of a teammate or them being the type of player that does not seek the spotlight of the media. Whatever the case may be, today’s book takes a look at one of those players that left a huge mark on the field but never seems to get the full recognition he deserves.
Over the past year I have talked on here about two or three other Willie Stargell books. I have come to the same conclusion with each one that he was an extremely underrated player that was finally getting his deserved props even if they were coming posthumously.
Frank Garland takes an approach to Willie Stargell that is in many ways like the other books. Looking at his upbringing in California, through his time in the segregated minor leagues to his rise to stardom as member of the Pittsburgh Pirates that culminated in immortality in Cooperstown. Garland’s research is very thorough and paints a very detailed and complete picture of Willie Stargell the baseball player.
What is different about this book from the others out there is Garland takes his research beyond just the field. He gets involved in the story line of Stargell’s life after baseball. This area is one place where the other biographies fail in comparison. This book shows Willie’s love and involvement in the classical music scene after his retirement. It also shows his involvement as a coach with the Atlanta Braves. Many people forget that Willie was a coach in the Braves system and his tutelage left an undeniable mark on some of their up and coming big league prospects. These are the same prospects that when they finally came to the big leagues won 15 or so division championships. It shows the knowledge Stargell possessed and how he was able to pass it on to a new era of superstars.
This book is another example of giving Willie Stargell his accolades while presenting some different aspects of the player and the man. If you have read other Stargell biographies you may find some of what is talked about repetitive, but in the end it does present some new information that was not included in other books. The book does move along at a moderate pace and allows the reader to stay engaged with the story.
I have yet to figure out why Willie Stargell is relegated to the shadows. Is it playing in Pittsburgh his entire career, is it the quiet strength he brought to his team or is it playing in the shadow of Robert Clemente? I am not sure if it is all or any of these but they are reasonable questions to ask. For this fan though, it is nice to see Willie Stargell remembered for being the superstar that he was both on and off the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career. Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city. Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential. Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally. There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels. Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.
Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen? He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject. The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself. It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story. This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.
Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors. He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia. The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen. On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way. Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery. Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.
The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path. While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on. The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies. You see the change in the city’s mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand. You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes. To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions. This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s. The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level. It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes. I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.
This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career. There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times. All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame. If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction. He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game. Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.
Baseball fans should not miss this book. It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press
I have mentioned in the past, that through the passage of time some players lose their magic. Sometimes locale plays a factor, other times it may be a great player on a crappy team and then there are the times when a player gets overshadowed by his own teammates. Such is the case with today’s book, and its nice to see this player get some book time.
Willie Stargell spent his entire career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They won a couple of Championships during his time and became a powerhouse for the Iron City that was tough to beat. When people think of the Pirates, automatically Roberto Clemente is the first one they speak of. He gave up his life doing something for his fellow man in need, and created a legacy that stands the test of time. But what about Willie Stargell? He played many great seasons and sometimes gets forgotten in the shadows of Clemente’s legacy.
This book is not a new release but it is one of very few out there on the market about Willie Stargell. It takes a very nice look at Willie’s career with the Pirates as well as an in-depth look at Willie’s personal life. The personal side of Willie is something new for me. We all are familiar with the career but I always felt he may have been a fairly private person and that may have effected what we were able to know about him.
His untimely death in 2001 may also have played a part in not always getting the recognition he ultimately deserved. So this book does give him some of the praise he earned and is more thorough than the biography that was first published on Willie in the early 80’s.
Since Willie is a Hall of Famer, his appeal will transcend Pittsburgh. Fans from all over the world should enjoy this book. Its a look behind the curtain, if you will, of a man we honestly don’t know that much about. Dozens of books have been written about his teammate, and now almost 30 years later there is finally another one written about Willie. Check it out because I don’t think fans will be disappointed.