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
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.
A few weeks ago we looked at a new batch of books recently published by McFarland. I touched on the obscure factor that some of their books tend to embrace and how they fill a niche spot in the baseball book market. Today we are going to look at a few more because honestly McFarland has a little something for every baseball fan.
McFarland is always willing to publish team history books. Looking at both the powerhouse teams that are part of the baseball fabric as well as those that time has essentially forgotten. The year 1910 was an interesting point for the two teams involved in this volume and shows how it laid the groundwork for a streak that lasts to this day.
The 1910 World Series brought us the end of one dynasty and the birth of another. The Chicago Cubs, coming off several very successful years and a win in the 1908 series were nearing the end of their reign. While Connie Mack’s Athletics were poised to start a championship run of their own. It was a fairly anti-climatic Series, but did offer an interesting historical note. For the first time in World Series history, game two to be precise, was the first time all nine starters recorded a hit in the same game. Its a neat little trivia factoid you can now impress all your friends with.
This is a timely book with the Cubs poised to possibly end their World Series drought and also it allows the reader to travel back in time to see an entirely different generation of the game. Fans of either of these teams or of this era, will not be disappointed in this one.
This one takes a look at the history of the Most Valuable player award in Baseball. It looks at the voting results and provides current statistical analysis to see what may have been different by todays standards.
It is an interesting view as at what may have been overlooked by voters in the past as well as what other factors may have played into the voting results. It also shows how race may have been an underlying issue on some of the ballots. The book is a good mix of history, commentary and statistical analysis. For fans of these types of “what did we miss books” this is another one you will really enjoy.
Finally, as the title says, Pud Galvin, not only the owner of an odd name was baseball’s first 300 game winner. Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965, 63 years after his death, his numerous records and 300+ wins still did not keep him from dying penniless. One of the first real superstars of the game he had some amazing accomplishments on the field and helped grow the credibility of the early game.
One of the other footnotes to Galvin’s story is he may have been the first user of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Major League Baseball. An advocate of using a monkey testosterone elixir, it seemed to enhance his on field performance. The difference from today to over 100 years ago is that everyone was on board with the use of the concoction. It shows a very different time in Baseball and quite honestly is a very interesting story for fans of the early eras of baseball.
You can check out these books and other great titles offered by this publisher at the following link:
It’s really no secret that I like baseball books. Up until recently I spent all my waking moments reading them while not working. The key part of that last sentence is “up until recently”. Something has gotten in the way of my reading and writing time and significantly made me cut down on my posts. Now I am realistic in the fact that probably no one other than a few publishers have noticed that I have not written much in the past two months and I realize there is not a single person out there thinking “Gosh, I miss Gregg’s amazing baseball book posts”. But this being a project I enjoy doing, I figured I would offer some explanation of whats going on. If you have followed this site over the last year, you have read about the forthcoming life changes, surgery and a trip that in the end was aborted for numerous reasons. Several weeks back the biggest life change arrived and since that very moment nothing has been the same in any way, shape or form.
This little munchkin is the reason for all the mayhem. She arrived on August 18th (yes, I was reading Fastball John waiting for the delivery) and has disrupted our flow of life in so many wonderful ways. She has cut into my reading time and destroyed anything resembling a good nights sleep, but my Wife Brina and I are loving it in so many amazing ways.
I have been working on her baseball book collection a few months before she arrived and thanks to Facebook friend Debby Brown, she received her first official Phillies book today. So her book collection is starting to come along very nicely. She doesn’t know it yet but she is a Phillies fan. Good or bad, that’s how this house rolls. We have had lots of early morning feedings with the baseball game replaying on the TV in the dark and that manicured green grass gets her attention every time. So I think we will have no problem raising another fan.
So how does this all tie into baseball books? Well, I am glad you asked that very important question. I have several review copies waiting for me on my desk, and to all, I just ask that you be patient. I will not forget anyone, it may just take me longer than I had hoped to get some books done. I did not realize how life changing, in a great way mind you, this addition to our family was really going to be. Because quite honestly every time I try and read, this is the look I get……………
……….so it does slow me down a bit. But I promise everyone who sent me a book, your time will come. For those of you that have enjoyed this blog over the last two years I appreciate the support and look forward to many more books together. Its my love of baseball books that brought me to do this blog and I have been lucky enough to make some great new friends along the way as well.
I have about 30 books on tap to get us through the Winter together, and hopefully Aubrey allows me a little more time to get them read. Either that, or she learns how to read sooner rather than later so she can help me out on the reviews.
Wish me luck in figuring out parenthood. The only thing I know for sure is she can not date until at least age 35! Everything other than that is a work in progress ;).
Gregg………and Aubrey too!
Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information. The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike. Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.
Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team. A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways, Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game. Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers. Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.
Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it. Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal. It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.
What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved. We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more. For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal. Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now, Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.
Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal. We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago. We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events. Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago. So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended? For that I am not so sure. But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own. I myself like this book on its own, because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?
If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Each of us has a certain player or an event that they can link with a certain point in time. In the 50’s it was Mantle and the New York Yankees the 60’s it may have been Sandy Koufax and the newly transplanted Dodgers and the 70’s it could have been Charlie Hustle and the Big Red Machine. For myself, the 1980’s is the first decade that I was a fan from beginning to end. The decade promised prospect after prospect that were going to have Hall of Fame careers. Some panned out while some others went up in flames. One name that stands out to me in my own head and is the first go to guy when I think about that decade is Dwight Gooden. He took the world by storm in the epicenter of the baseball universe in the Big Apple. A Pitcher who from day one showed flashes of greatness and made his way into main stream America during the middle of the decade. A career derailed by personal demons and bad choices, one is left only to ask what might really have been.
Fast forward thirty years later to today, a hot summer day in upstate New York. I heard about a local autograph appearance at a business by none other than Dwight Gooden, the baseball stud of the mid-80’s, a childhood dream come true, and the best part about this whole thing was it was a free appearance. My first thought was how awesome was this because we never get baseball appearances around here, the closest ones are usually two hours away. My second thought was which of my baseball books can I get signed. So, I loaded up the Wife, a few things to get signed and off we went to see Doc Gooden.
I honestly thought this was going to be a mob scene when we arrived, I mean, come on, its Doc Gooden in New York state. I did find it on the odd side that Doc would be making an appearance at a place that manufactures mobile trailer homes, but I figured if it was free it was for me. When we got there it was the exact opposite of what I expected. No long lines, no great Mets Nation turnout, no real fanfare for this baseball icon of the 80’s. What we got in return when we arrived was this….
Doc Gooden waiting patiently for people to arrive all by himself. Like I said no lines and nor rush to get the autographs and move on. To say I am shocked at the fan turnout and how this went is an understatement, I mean it wasn’t like this was Casey Candaele or a player of that caliber……..this was Doc!. Greeted with a smile and a handshake, Dwight Gooden was everything this 10 year old trapped in an old man’s body could have ever hoped for. Sometimes when you finally get the chance to meet one of your baseball heroes you come away disappointed, because they are not what you expect. Thankfully not this time, this was easily one of the top 3 experiences I ever had meeting a former player. There was also a local reporter there from a small town local newspaper asking Doc some easy questions and recording the interview on his phone. While waiting for our autographs he was answering the reporters questions. After he was done with the reporter Doc turns to my wife and asks, “how did I do with that interview, was it ok?” Holy crap, if my wife only had the realization of the magnitude of that question and who it came from. I know she goes to things like this to appease me, and its a good trade off for killing spiders around the house for her I guess.
I chose to take two of Doc’s books to get signed, DOC published in 2013 and Heat published in 1999.
While signing the books Doc asks me”so which one did you like better?” I told him I thought DOC felt more authentic and Heat felt like a quickie bio. He explained that “DOC is the true and accurate story and I took the time to give the actual story to the fans, Heat was just mostly crap“. So now we have it from the source as to where the truth lies. The books have conflicting stories in them so it is nice to hear which version of those stories are accurate.
These books are also takes of what could have been. A career and life derailed by Alcohol and Drugs, and all the bad things that come with that. Doc had multiple chances to overcome them and made the best he could of the opportunities at the time. He seems from other books I have read this year and by seeing him in person that he is on the right track to long term sobriety. He may have let his demons destroy his Hall of Fame possibilities and a good portion of his career, but it looks like he is not interested in letting them destroy his future. Check out both of these books, because it is very interesting to see the contrast between the two volumes.
On a personal note I would like to thank Doc Gooden. Thank you for not even being close to what I expected. For not being a bitter former star, who is still pissed his star faded. For not being another former Met with a chip on his shoulder because he was a New York Met. Thank you for not destroying my illusion of what I thought you would be like, if I met you when I was ten years old and you were in your prime. Thank you for being friendly with my wife, because not all former players are. Most importantly thank you for coming to some crap hole town in the middle of nowhere New York to meet your fans, at least one of us (me) really appreciated it. I may have been ten when you came along but I knew greatness when I saw it even then, and today just proved I was right about you all along. This has shown me how even the mightiest may fall, but they can still do it with grace and dignity while finding the strength to carry on.
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