It’s the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 Induction day today. The one day a year where that sleepy little hamlet in upstate New York looks like Times Square at 11:59 p.m. on New Years Eve. As I watched the speeches of the new members today I took notice as the MLB Network panned around the field, of all the diverse people in attendance. Family, former players, members of the Hall and of course, the people who honestly make this great game possible through their support, the fans. Different people from different generations, backgrounds and paths in life all come together for one day and celebrate the greatness of our game. On days like this you never know who is going to be in the crowd but you can be sure its an interesting mix of fans and baseball history. For the reason of diversity and in honor of Induction day, we are going to look at a very diverse group of books that are currently available in the market and why you should check them out.
1-When the Braves Ruled the Diamond-14 Flags Over Atlanta
Take some time to reminisce about the Atlanta Braves. People can say that the Yankees were the team of the 90’s because of their championships, but honestly who was the one team that you was sure was going to be in post season play? Yes, these Braves! It is a fun look at what made these N.L. East destroying teams from Atlanta repeat year after year after year. The only thing that stood in their way in one magical year or their run was my Phillies in 1993. As with Schlossberg’s other books, this one is time well spent re-living the magical ride of the Atlanta Braves.
2-Tony C.-The Triumph and Tragedy of Tony Conigliaro
This one is a new edition by a new publisher of the 1997 release under the same name. While not a new book, it is a reminder of the tragedy that can plague our game. A beloved hero in Boston whose career and life was cut tragically short. A career full of promise and from most accounts a pretty interesting guy off the field as well, this book chronicles the story of Tony C. and what he meant to the Fenway Faithful. I read this when it first came out about 20 years ago and really enjoyed reading it through the fresh edition from Summer Game Books. Another book that will easily get you through the remaining dog days of Summer.
3-A Life Lived-The Story of William “Bill” Blair
A very inspiring story of a former Negro League player and his life after baseball. A short book that comes in under 90 pages but still tells the inspiring story of William ” Bill” Blair and how he spent his life after baseball giving back to his hometown community. A great story of a man who never forgot where he came from and how baseball inspired him his whole life through. A quick read, but well worth the time.
4-Last Train to Cooperstown
Author Kevin Mitchell takes a look at the inadvertent but probably final class of Negro League inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The book offers thorough profiles on each of the chosen few and what their contributions to the game were. He also offers a conclusion as to what may occur with others from the Negro Leagues in the future. Its very good insight into this well deserved class of Negro Leaguers that made the hall in 2006.
5-Tales From the San Francisco Giants Dugout
An updated and re-release of previous versions, this new issue adds some new stories and anecdotes about the Giants and their fans. If you are a fan of this team you will not want to miss this book. There also are the same books available for almost every other team out there, so check Sports Publishing’s website if you are looking for another team. These books are always a good time for the reader.
6-The Tigers and Yankees in ’61
Another magical year in baseball history is showcased in this one. A hard fought pennant race, the chase to make history for teammates and a few star players who had career years. The Yankees are getting near the end of their dominating years in this one but does show the reader what the American League landscape looked like during this era. If you are a fan of this era and a fan of the types of books McFarland publishes as well, then this is a book you will not want to miss.
7-A Band of Misfits-Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants-Triumph Books
8-The Fightin’ Phillies-100 Years of Phillies Baseball-Triumph Books
I group these together because while the may be different, they have very strong similarities. The both cover a specific team and give important anecdotes and stories about their histories. Whether they are covering one specific season or a full century worth of that teams stories, they are entertaining for fans of the respective teams. The only warning I give readers on these types of books is to go into them realizing these are the same stories you have probably heard 100 times over. You will probably get no new stories out of these, but they are good for reminiscing about your favorite team.
9-Jackie Robinson-An Integrated Life
Another perspective on the groundbreaking life of Jackie Robinson. We are all familiar with the story, but instead of taking it from a baseball point of view, it shows the results from a social impact perspective. It puts a different spin on the whole Jackie Robinson story and adds new insights to the entire story. Jackie Robinson’s admirable legacy is about so much more than just baseball, and this is only one of the many different angles.
10-Out of Left Field-Jews and Black Baseball
Another book that takes a look at the social impact a baseball team had on our world. This one takes a look at how a team made up of black Jews made a name for themselves in the Negro Leagues. It shows how they were able to further the cause of the Negro Leagues and help promote social justices. It was a bit of history I had no idea about and a very good learning experience for me. If you have any sort of interest in the Negro Leagues then check this one out.
11-The Cardinals Way
The Cardinals have come to be America’s team. I am not really sure how that happened, but they have through their history churned out some great moments and players that will be remembered for decades to come. By embracing that history and tradition as well as the new theories such as Moneyball, they have become a baseball powerhouse. It shows how combining old and new methods of thinking can have positive outcomes. I am thinking you will see more and more teams following this ideology in the future.
12-The Knuckleball Club
An in depth look at the most confounding pitch ever to grace the game of baseball. The who’s, whats and why’s of this quirky pitch are covered in this book. It also shares the stories of the Pitchers and Catchers who shared the success of the weird and wild pitch. This is the first book I have found that has shown how it fits into the fabric of the game, and is great knowledge for the average baseball fan. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
13-The Games That Changed Baseball-Milestones in Major League History
This book takes a look at some very important games throughout history. Dissecting what happened and what made them so important. While I do not agree with 100 percent of their picks, all of them were well researched and presented. Fans should check out this book and see if they agree with all of the authors picks. It does introduce some games that would probably create some very spirited debates among fans and friends.
Finally, after we got through all of these books today, I wanted to say a word of thanks to everyone who reads my blog. We have reached our second anniversary and have read a lot of books together up to this point. I do the best I can since this is a hobby and not my job and try and turn out material as quickly as possible. With the pending arrival of our first bundle of joy in the next few weeks, year #3 will be a challenge but I will still find a way to get some posts done. I thank all of you who have sent me books and allowed me to read them and post reviews. Also to the folks that read my posts because without you, there would be no reason to write them. Finally if you have sent me a book recently and I have not posted it yet, don’t worry you are not forgotten. I am a little behind for the reasons stated above but you will not be forgotten, please just be patient. Thank you to all again and looking forward to year #3.
Sometimes the best things happen in life due to plain old luck. Timing is everything I always say. It could be meeting your spouse, or could come in to play with your job. It’s hard to deny luck because it has worked to everyone’s advantage in life probably more than once. Todays book shows how dedication, pride and a little luck can help you attain anything.
Designated Hebrew-The Ron Blomberg Story
By:Ron Blomberg/Dan Schlossberg – 2006 Sports Publishing
Ron Blomberg never made it to the hall of fame in the plaque room…….but he did make it. It was all through dumb luck that Blomberg became the first Designated Hitter in the American League in 1973 when the rule was adopted. It very well could have been anyone else, but lady luck made it him. That little bit of trivia has entered him into the same building with baseball immortals for all time. Through the course of events, hard work and luck Blomberg has had an enjoyable career and life.
Born in Georgia, Blomberg takes us for the ride through his life journey. You get to hear about the stories of growing up near Atlanta, and being the only Jewish kid in the area. From there you move through the high school years and coming of age. The next portion is the most important and detailed in the book…..The New York Yankees.
Blomberg takes us through his signing with the Yankees, working through the minor leagues and finally becoming the first Jewish New York Yankee. From Blomberg’s accounts being a Jewish New York Yankee in the early 70’s, made the world his oyster. It made a situation he thought would be troublesome, more enjoyable than his wildest dreams. From fan support to his on the field accomplishments he was living the great life. Injuries shortened his playing time, but from all accounts it still seemed like a great experience in New York.
Blomberg is very proud of his faith and goes in to great detail as how it was a strength and a benefit to him on and off the field. After injuries hindered him for several years Blomberg showed how through his faith he remained strong and trusted his chosen path. Finally you see life after the Yankees and a shorter stay with the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the story book ending for Blomberg’s career that he had hoped for, but still nothing to be ashamed of.
In the end you get a complete picture of a player while not Hall of Fame worthy by the playing numbers, still made it. That small piece of immortality will live on forever and something he can always be proud of. If you like Ron Blomberg or the New York Yankees this would be a good one to pick up and check out. It is a very quick read at only 171 pages but moves quickly and holds your attention from beginning to end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
I often wonder like any other fan, what some umpires are thinking. It seems that they almost want to show up the players at times by making themselves not only part of the show, but the show itself. The baiting of players into confrontation has never been one of my favorite scenes. I may be old school in thinking like this, but I enjoy when an umpire blends into the scenery and does his job. Umpires do have the opportunity to some degree, to enhance the show, but never have I ever seen them as THE show. That thought brings us to todays book…
Called Out But Safe – A Baseball Umpire’s Journey
By Al Clark and Dan Schlossberg
2014 University of Nebraska Press
I am never quite sure what to expect from an umpires autobiography. In the past, the books that I have read about umpires portray them as pompous and stuffy, not only on the field, but off the field as well. The one exception to that statement is Ron Luciano’s book. He has been viewed as an odd duck and not widely accepted as a traditional umpire.
I have not been very familiar with Al Clark’s field skills until I read this book. Growing up in a National League city and Clark being an American League umpire most of his career, I rarely saw his work on the field. Clark is very forthcoming in this book and leaves no stone unturned. He covers both his professional and personal life in this book. From his upbringing in New Jersey, to the Minor and Major Leagues, prison time and life after prison. He takes the time to chronicle how he was proud of his craft and what steps he took to become better at it. He reviews his personal accomplishments on and off the field and shows a tremendous pride in being an umpire. For me, the most interesting part of his on-the-field explanations, is the descriptions he gives of how to be a technically better umpire. I think someone in the MLB may want to seriously look at getting him into some sort of umpire scouting or training program, just to improve the current batch that are out there on the field.
I have said in previous reviews, sometimes life is full of redemptions and this book is no exception. Clark goes in to great detail about how he wound up losing his umpiring job and wound up in prison. You get the feeling that Clark learned a lot, from both his on and off the field experiences. I believe through those experiences, it has made him more appreciative for what he has now.
My overall feeling of this book is that Al Clark tried to be the best umpire he could be on the field and the best person he could be off of the field. To err is human, you have to live and learn and I think Clark did just that. If you enjoy books about someone on the field but that person doesn’t have to be a baseball player, this is a book for you. It is a very smooth read and flows very good and was a book I learned something from. It may not be as easy to be an umpire as it looks, after all!
You can get this book from the fine folks at University of Nebraska Press