I am all about giving respect where respect is due. As always, anniversaries are a great way to show respect. Baseball has never been one to shy away from commemorating something either big or small, or both. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the last Mets World Series winner and the events marking that this year have been coming at fans both fast and furiously. The book arena has been no exception to these celebrations, and while we have covered several of these in previous posts, I think I have the last two out there this year that I am going to do. It is amazing how much time and money has been spent this year for this one and done World Series winner, but for me, it is time and I am ready to put this subject to bed. So without further ado, here are the final two books.
Originally released in 1995 One Pitch Away takes a unique look at all the post-season teams in 1986. You get perspectives from several key members who played for one of the four teams, which is a nice change, because most of these books about 1986 only cover the World Series teams. You get a real good feel as to what was going through the heads of those involved during this amazing post-season.
I first read this when it was released in 1995. My initial reaction then was the same as it is now. It gives great insight into the games from the players themselves and Sowell’s work comes through strong. The interviews seem well prepared for by both parties and is time well spent reading about the fab-four of the 1986 post-season.
If you are a fan of any of the teams involved check out this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books. One Pitch Away
The next book brings us to current times with the 2015 Mets. By winning the division last year the Mets re-captured the hearts of the New York faithful in the Big Apple. After a decade and a half or so of the Yankees being the toast of New York, it was nice to see the love spread around town.
Greg Prince who runs his own New York Mets blog, also has written about the Mets several times before. He has an intense love for his team and it shows in his writing. He takes a thorough look at the colorful cast of characters the Mets were able to put together for their improbable run in 2015. If you are a fan of the Mets it is a fun reflection on an improbable year. It is for sure a good read, but will probably be more enjoyable in 10 or 15 years when time has passed and the limelight has faded on this particular team. This is another book that is time well spent reading today, but as it ages will become even more valuable to certain fans. You can get this from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
One thing I really enjoy about this blog is I never know who I am going to talk to, get the chance to meet or what I might have the opportunity to obtain. One of those such people who I had the absolute pleasure to meet yesterday was the one and only Ron Kaplan. For those of you not familiar with Ron (and I say shame on you if you are into baseball books and don’t know who he is) he is the man behind Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf as well as an accomplished baseball author. One fact that may not have been as well know is that Ron was the man with an insanely large amount of acquired baseball books taking residence in his home, which led to this weekends meeting.
Ron decided it was time to clean house and get some of the boxes out the door and reduce some of his clutter. He worked tirelessly to find them a good home where they would be appreciated, because he and I both feel there is something inherently wrong with just throwing books in the garbage. The term one man’s trash is another man’s treasure applies here to some degree. Through his generosity he agreed to dispose of a large chunk of the book collection to me. It was Christmas in October on a quiet suburban New Jersey street if you will for this baseball fan.
I would guess roughly 800 books changed hands in this meeting, and with smiles on both our parts we ended the meeting, each of us very happy. The generosity of this to me was overwhelming to me and to Ron I send a heartfelt Thank You. I find it cool how baseball books can bring two strangers together and give them common link to build friendship upon.
To my wife Brina, if she does not leave me over bringing home 800 books to our house…….then I thank her too.
She was a real trooper after a late night Saturday in getting up bright and early for our trek to New Jersey. Without a complaint all day she helped greatly in loading and unloading of the truck and even had a few complimentary things to say about my blog…….yes, I was surprised too!
If you ever get a chance check out Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf using the link above. As far as baseball book sites out there go, there is Ron Kaplan’s…….and then there is the rest of us. He would in my opinion almost be the Godfather of Baseball Book Blogging. Again Ron, I thank you, the boxes of books are all settled in their new home waiting to be unleashed. If you ever feel the need to unleash more of your baseball books on the world, remember I am only a phone call away. Next time we will definitely take you up on the offer of the cup of coffee.
As baseball fans we should remember we are the keepers of the game, and if there is something we can do to help our fellow baseball book fans enjoy their time more, we should pay it forward. I know that’s what I am going to be doing with some of my books (new and old ones) in the next few months.
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
When a team has been around for almost 150 years, they have probably seen a lot of things happen. Within those 150 years there is the possibility that they had their hand in a historical moment or two off the field as well. Such is the case with the Chicago Cubs. They are more than just the curse and Wrigley Field. They have changed the world before our very eyes.
We are all familiar with the Cubs story on the field. They are forever waiting for next year, but it has yet to come. Now there is a book that shows what an effect the Cubs have on our society as a whole, and the effect a team can have on the entire world.
Scott Rowan has written a book that outlines all these points. It looks at how the Cubs have had an impact off the field and been inadvertently linked with some of the most important moments in American history. The book covers all major aspects of our lives. Politics, Society, Race, Vice, Innovation, Entertainment and of course Baseball. It looks at all the major events that occurred in these arenas and how the Cubs were in some way connected to the events that unfolded. It is a neat concept that really makes you wonder how big events touch all of our lives.
The book almost takes the approach of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. In all these great events the Cubs really are not that far off in the distance. There is always a way to bring the Cubs into the fold. I feel a few of the correlations are a bit of a stretch, but for the most part it’s a fun approach to the team history. It keeps you interested throughout the entire book in the fact that it makes you wonder how the Cubs are going to be tied into this one.
This book is a fun read and all Baseball fans will enjoy it. The book is based around just the Chicago Cubs, and one of the sections centers around the city of Chicago, but it does throw in that American history vibe that takes it beyond a regional realm. I think a lot of fans will be surprised in what the Cubs were actually a part of, and how they changed the world we all live in.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sherpa Multimedia
Bill Veeck has been called a lot of things through the years. Innovator, Showman, Maverick, the P.T. Barnum of baseball and of course some other not so many nice names. A definite man before his time, no matter how many books come out about old Sportshirt Bill, I feel the need to read them.
Bill Veeck, Baseballs Greatest Maverick
By:Paul Dickson-Walker & Company 2012
Bill Veeck always seemed to be the friend of the average fan. From early beginnings with his father working for the Chicago Cubs, Bill spent a lifetime sharing his love of the game. Working various jobs for the Cubs he cut his teeth in the field, and went on to team ownership. With stops in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland and Chicago, Veeck left an indelible mark on baseball that while unconventional at the time would be appreciated today.
Paul Dickson undertakes the task of fitting all of Veeck’s exploits into one book. He visits all of Bill’s baseball stops and the shenanigans that earned him some of the nicknames I mentioned above. Ladies nights, midgets, game day give aways and of course disco demolition etched Bill’s name into baseball history. Dickson also looks at Veeck’s activities outside of baseball including running a horse track. Veeck had so many innovations both in and out of baseball that he could almost be called spectacular.
Truly an ambassador for baseball, Veeck was rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame shortly after his death in 1986. But what I find even better about this book is you see the principled man who stood upon that wooden leg——that he used most times as an ash tray. From civil rights to baseball integration to countless other causes that presented themselves in society. Bill Veeck had several causes he thought were worth fighting for. This shows the worth of the man himself. He may not been popular with the other owners for several different reasons, but as a person Bill Veeck seems like a really great guy. This is finally the biography Bill Veeck deserves. It portrays a complete and accurate picture of the man who was well before his time and someone to be admired for his forethought and decency for his fellow-man.
Paul Dickson did a great job with this book. It is one of the best pieces I have ever read on Veeck and anyone who is any kind of fan of Veeck should read it. There may be some duplicity in some of the stories you have heard before, but the painted picture is complete. He may have made a lot of owners angry through the years, but he made lots more people happy and in the end, that’s what matters. He leaves a legacy that should be appreciated for all time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Walker & Co.
I was well aware of George Altman’s Major League Baseball career before I read this book. I have seen the stats from when he played in Chicago, St Louis and New York. To say they were average at best is fair. He never played for a pennant winner and was hard pressed to even play for a team that was in the first division. Again, he was a serviceable player whom had an average career. All of that being said this book opened my eyes to what a remarkable career he really did have after all.
George Altman-My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors and Beyond
By:George Altman and Lew Freedman- 2013 McFarland Publishing
I was genuinely surprised by the journey George had throughout his career. This book starts like an other baseball autobiography we come across. You get the family background and the stories from childhood. After a few stories about college George moves on to the Negro Leagues under the tutelage of Buck O’Neil. After one season with the Monarchs which it seems he really enjoyed, you move along with George to the MLB and his stops in the minors. The book gives great insight of what it was like to be a player in minor league baseball during the era. It shows you the steps that needed to be taken in that era to make it to the big time. It also shows the bigotry that still existed during that era in our society which found George as well.
Finally George makes it to the majors and you see how his journey evolves. The reader learns how he adapted to the big time and how he worked on his game and battled through injury to become a better player. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn’t, yet you get the complete picture of the whole process that George went through in his own words. Eventually, you see the decline and eventual end of George’s American baseball career and the closing of one door and the opening of another……on another continent.
This is the point of the book that I found most interesting. Most of the time when a player leaves the American baseball scene for the Japanese league you know about it. I may be the only one that didn’t know about George’s incredible career in Japan but I was amazed at his career over there. He worked very hard to adapt to the culture and be an accepted guest in the country while honing his craft. He truly had a remarkable career over in Japan and it seems that this may be some of the most enjoyable time George spent playing baseball.
After some injuries and health problems, you see how George prepared for, and adapted to life after baseball. He had a remarkable journey through three leagues and seems very thankful for his experiences and the people he has met along the way. From what I have seen it takes a special person to play and adapt to the two premiere baseball leagues in the world. Actually George played in three leagues of that caliber, if you include the Negro League, and looks to have enjoyed every minute through his incredible journey.
I think all fans that know of George and his career will enjoy this book. It gives an honest glimpse in to the man himself as well as the career he had. It is well written and is a quick read, I just wish it had a few more pictures.
You can get this book from the nice folks at
McFarland Publishing 800-253-2187