Sometimes even the best of us get fooled. While we try our hardest to know what we are getting ourselves into, sometimes the old bait and switch applies. I try to have a general idea as to what I am going to read before I start a new book, but it once in a great while will be the exact opposite. You can usually tell from the cover notes what a book is about, but then other times you are really not sure. Today’s book is one that I feel was not quite what it was supposed to be.
This book was about the life of the Major League Pitcher Hank Aguirre. A durable pitcher for his time, he put up some respectable numbers but nothing Hall of Fame worthy. He also spent a great portion of his life after baseball dedicated to making the community around him a better place. These are all very nice sentiments for a local hero but unfortunately for someone looking for a baseball book this one would be considered a swing and a miss.
The book does briefly touch on Hank’s baseball career in the majors as well as his upbringing in the Hispanic community. It focuses largely on Hank’s post baseball career as a businessman and humanitarian. It shows how he was instrumental in bringing decent jobs to the Hispanic community in Detroit during a period of economic death. The details are great from a business standpoint and show the human side of this former baseball player. You get a sense of great compassion for his employees and great civic pride Hank was known for.
If you’re looking for a good Baseball book this may not be the one for you. It is light on the details of Hank’s career and very heavy on his involvement in the business and Hispanic community. Over all it is a good book, it just misses the mark on being an actual baseball book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press
It seems like every generation in baseball has a phenomenon all their own. Something that takes the game by storm and regardless of who your team is that you root for and want to be part of it. Things that come to mind are Roger Maris in 1961, McGwire and Sosa in 1998 and even the Bash Brothers in the 80’s. But the 1970’s were a unique decade. We have seen in the past from some of the other books we reviewed like Stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein, how the 70’s were a decade of change both on a social level and on the ball field. The 70’s can lay claim to a few different memorable events, but one stands out above the rest. Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers was about to take the baseball world by storm, and they didn’t even see it coming.
Mark Fidrych was the product of a small Massachusetts town, coming from a modest background. Never groomed to be a star athlete, he just played because he wanted to do so. But Mark Fidrych’s antics on the pitching mound, a big head of unmanageable hair and blazing fastball made him the talk of the country in 1976. Nicknamed The Bird due to his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, Fidrych had brief but magical career that to this day makes fans wonder what could have been.
Doug Wilson has written a book that explores the man behind the legend. Everyone is familiar with all the on-field antics that were part of Fidrych’s quirky personality, but unless you lived in Detroit at the time, you may have not been all that familiar with the real Mark. Wilson’s book gives a nice, detailed look at the man himself. From his roots in Massachusetts, through the minor leagues, his gig as “The Bird” and finally life after baseball, it paints a very detailed picture of what a nice guy he was. You always hear old players saying that they played for the love of the game, but I actually believe it with this one. He just seemed to have fun with everything he did and baseball was no exception. Many of the first hand accounts of Mark are taken from interviews with friends and family so they are really nice remembrances of a man who was taken from this world too soon.
Of course, what baseball book would be complete without taking a look at the on field activities of The Bird. You see his minor and major league career, his attempts at rehabbing his bad arm and finally his life after baseball. Most times the reporting on Mark Fidrych does not get beyond the on-field antics. It was nice to see someone finally put something together that showed the complete picture.
All baseball fans should like this one. If you were around during that magical summer that he took the game by storm, it will be fun re-living it. If The Bird was before your time, it will be another fun ride seeing what made the 70’s so groovy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books