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.
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.
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.
Like it or not, wherever your favorite team plays is an integral part of the game experience. From unique dimensions, playing surfaces and the elements, these things can all add or detract from the overall experience. With the birth of so many new venues over the last 25 years, the fan experience has been dramatically improved. For the most part the previous generation of stadiums lacked ingenuity or any sort of bling and at the bare minimum left something to be desired for the fans. The only fun part of them was the nicknames that were bestowed to several of them such as concrete doughnut and my personal favorite…..the Toilet. There was one stadium that stood out among all of these circular disappointments and stood above all the rest, The Houston Astrodome. Its amenities were well ahead of the times and served the fans of Houston well for several decades. Now there is a book that celebrates the creation of the iconic stadium and shows all the work that went into building the eighth wonder of the world.
I have always looked at the Astrodome as a baseball stadium. Never giving much thought to the other uses for this multi-purpose marvel. First, this book takes a look at the political wrangling that it took for the city of Houston to procure a Major League team as well as some of the promises it was required to make as part of that deal. It shows the tireless efforts of several key figures in Houston and the many failed previous efforts of the town. It paints a vivid picture of how much time and effort goes in to just getting a promise of a team.
The book also goes into great detail about the political obstacles the new stadium faced in Houston as well as all the engineering hurdles that had to be cleared to create something of this magnitude. It goes into great depth to explain how the stadium was physically built to withstand the elements and how it has been able to withstand the test of time. The authors also show the readers all of the unique attributes that were built into the stadium and you can see how forward thinking those involved with its construction truly were.
The book also addresses the many uses the Astrodome had. From concerts, rodeos, football and countless other uses, it really lent itself to being a jack of all trades. Like all stadiums of this era, it was a living, breathing and evolving building and changed with the needs of the times. Finally, it does take a harsh look at the aging of the dome and how it fell victim of the current times. In the end, the once grand palace of baseball became just another decrepit old stadium. A stadium that no one is sure what to do with and probably at some point, like all the one time greats, will meet its demise.
The book is very comprehensive and shows those not living in Texas what the Astrodome was truly about. It also gives a nice glimpse at Texas politics and how that works as well as the way the people of Houston have helped change their self image with the help of the dome.
While this is not a baseball only book, it still has a large chunk of Colt 45’s/Astros information. If you have interest in old stadiums this book covers it from its beginnings to its possible near end. It has lots of information readers will find informative and entertaining, If like me, you were never lucky enough to visit the Astrodome, this book will surely make you wish you had.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
The Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions are complete. The old members have all stopped by Cooperstown and waved to the fans, welcoming this years class of immortals. The old stories have been swapped, photos have been taken and another year has come and gone of happy times in Cooperstown, Now we look forward to the debates and arguments that will ensue regarding the next class to be enshrined. One of the more interesting personalities that was part of this years class, is Pedro Martinez. Pedro came out with a new autobiography this year and it has brought varying degrees of response from the masses, so I figured I should check it out for my blog.
My first reaction when I heard the release date of this book was, how ironic it was coming out in his Hall of Fame year. I guess good marketing strategies never sleep. Pedro had always been a source of controversy to some degree during his career. Early in his career he picked up the label of head hunter, mainly due to his pitching inside and making sure the batter knew who owned the plate. For the record I have no problem with that, it is a part of the game that has disappeared through the last few decades and probably something that should find a way to return. Pedro also had a well-remembered battle with Don Zimmer one time that might have made some highlight films on a few stations. But on the field it was hard to deny Pedro was an incredible competitor, No matter where he played you could always see his skill and desire, but now this book gives you the personal side of Pedro.
If you listen to interviews with Pedro, he his a big fan of himself and in this book, he has no reservations in telling you why. From his on field play, to those people around him Pedro is a guy that demands respect from people and it seems he is not one to shy away from the limelight. The book starts from his growing up in the Dominican Republic and how he had struggled as a child to be taken seriously as a baseball player. His brother Ramon, signed by the Dodgers, was Pedro’s ticket to getting a serious look from a big league team. Pedro walks you through his progression from dim prospect, to major leaguer, to superstar and introduces you to all the people he met in between. He has a very long memory of those who did him wrong and makes sure you know who they are in this book.
I had read some reviews of this book before I read it, just to see what I was getting myself into. Many other folks said that Pedro liked to remind the reader how great he really was. I am not disagreeing that point in any way with this book, but I don’t think it is Pedro being a conceited jerk. I think it more his immense pride coming through. He has very strong family roots and pride in his accomplishments. Also, the points he makes in the book about respect and his troubles along the way with getting any respect, it to me came off as a man with a strong pride. Now I say all this never being a huge Pedro fan when he was playing. The only regular first hand account of his playing days I had, where when he played half a season in 2009 for my Phillies. Even at the end of his career you could see his determination, pride out on the field and his ability to lead by example. So maybe Pedro isn’t as big of a jerk as some of the other book reviews have made him out to be.
Baseball fans should check this out for themselves. Maybe I am right or maybe everyone else is, but it’s you job as the reader to make that determination, I am just one guy’s opinion, who found after reading this, a new-found respect for Pedro Martinez. No for his on the field playing, but for the person he is.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt