Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
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.
With it being the thirtieth anniversary of the 1986 Mets, I figured we would be seeing more than a fair share of Mets related books. It is inevitable that some are going to be really good and some are going to be repetitious and unnecessary. I mean how many ways would authors be able to spin the Mets and their championship year. While so far this year there has been heavy saturation in the market of the 1986 Mets I am glad to say today’s book is one of the good ones out there.
When I first saw this one from Matthew Silverman I was a little hesitant. I reviewed his previous work Swinging ’73 and was a little disappointed. In the end I am glad I gave this one a chance because it was a great history lesson for a non-Mets fan.
Silverman walks the reader through a brief Mets history, from their inception in 1962, through their rough patch in the early 80’s. He shows the ups and downs of the franchise during that period and also shows how the wheels were set in motion for their winning of the World Series in 1986. He looks at player drafts and personnel moves that helped shaped a solid nucleus for the Mets. Finally some free agent acquisitions put the icing on the cake for the Mets to become a powerhouse in the National League East.
Next the author guides the reader through the 1986 season and shows events that transpired both hurting and helping the Mets as the season progressed. The post-season is then showcased for the reader to see how destiny played some sort of role in getting the Mets the World Series trophy when all the dust settled. It shows how hungry the Mets and their fan base truly were for a winner in Queens and how beloved the team had become in New York.
The final section of the book looks at the decline of the Mets and how they never repeated their championship. It is a very interesting look at what demons haunted the team and how in the end a lot of these personal demons were the demise of the Mets. You expect injuries to be a problem with a team, but some of those issues that plagued this team were unforeseeable.
Matthew Silverman has done a nice job with this book. It shows the complete story of what the 1986 New York Mets were all about. The book does not just show the team at the top of its game. He shows the reader the complete bell curve of the team and why certain movements on that curve happened when they did. Silverman has a very tough road ahead of him in the fact that he has so much competition this year in the field of New York Mets books. He did a great job of keeping the reader entertained and the story moving along at a good pace. He covered a lot of ground in this book and none if it felt like it was being glossed over. If you are a fan of Mets baseball you should check this one out, because it paints a very complete picture of the team.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
Some teams leave an indelible mark on the history of baseball. Everyone likes remembering the greats such as the 60 Pittsburgh Pirates, 76 New York Yankees, 69 New York Mets, 68 Detroit Tigers and my personal favorite, the 80 Philadelphia Phillies, are just a few of the teams that make the grade. Even beyond these there a few teams that stand higher above all the rest as the most memorable teams. The 1986 New York Mets are in a class all by themselves. A team of rough and ragged players that worked their way into the hearts of New Yorkers, and turned the baseball establishment on its ear for one glorious season. Erik Sherman has written a new book that takes a look at some of the key players from that team and where their lives have gone both in and out of baseball.
Being that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of their championship season, and the fact that the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series last year I expected a large selection of Mets themed books this year. The ones I have found so far all have varying themes. The 1986 season as a whole is looked at by some, reliving Bill Buckner’s nightmare is approached by others, but this is the first one I have come across that looks at the individual players.
Erik Sherman dedicates a chapter to each of several key players he has interviewed from the 1986 New York Mets. They discuss their contributions to the team and the instances of how they came about becoming a member of the Mets. Sherman does in depth interviews with each of the players and you get a nice feel of what they think were the most important qualities of that team. The players all make clear that they were proud to be a part of that team and some even show some disappointment that the Mets have not reached out after their playing days and done a better job of preserving team heritage.
One of the most important things I found in these interviews was that none of the players that had issues, on or off the field during this era, shied away from their indiscretions. Everyone manned up and admitted their faults. Perhaps that is just a product of growing older, but it was still refreshing to see former professional athletes admit to their mistakes.
You may not be a Mets fan but you have to give this team their due, honestly they were an interesting team to watch. The circumstances that surrounded the team at times and the way they won the World Series are a better script then Hollywood would have been able to produce. So put your team affiliation away and check this book out. Erik Sherman does a great job with his book. He asks honest and clear questions in his interviews and doesn’t pull any punches with the guys. I have enjoyed Erik Sherman’s other work and have reviewed his books about Mookie Wilson, Steve Blass and Glenn Burke in the past with positive results from all.
Take this walk down memory lane with the New York Mets of the past. You will find it is time well spent and probably like I did, find it hard to believe this was 30 years ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkely Books
Drugs has a nasty ring to it, no matter what your line of work. I am sure some occupations have a higher recreational drug use than others. Reasons could be stress or the dangers of the job, but it is still recreational drug use. What about the times that the drug use is because it gives you an edge over your co-workers. Essentially, that is what drug use is for in the professional sports leagues. To give you that edge over your teammates, to get you to the next big contract and reach that big pay day. The last 35 years or so there has been some well documented heavy duty drug use in baseball. So much so, that drug trials have almost been the norm every so often. Prior to the last 35 years Major League Baseball did a much better job of keeping the genie in the bottle. Now there is a book that takes a look at baseball’s drug abuse problem beyond the steroid’s scandals.
If you look at all the usual items that baseball players have used since the beginning of time, there are certain things that you could categorize as drugs just due to the fact that they have addictive qualities to them. Alcohol and tobacco have been around since the beginning of baseball. Now if you add in greenie pills, you get another drug that was a baseball staple long before cocaine and other performance enhancing drugs.
What Nathan Corzine tries to do with this book is show the full history of drugs within the game. The way he goes about it is very eye opening at least for me, because he is able to prove the progression of stimulants and illegal drugs throughout the game. It goes to show that the powers that be within baseball ownership did a very good job of hiding the truth. In all reality how many times have you looked at Mickey Mantle’s drinking problem and thought that is part of the bigger problem? This book takes those types of things to task and shows we have had the same types of problems all along, they were just hiding in different disguises.
Corzine’s book really makes you stop and think about baseball history. It takes issues with more than just Roger Clemens in a locker room bathroom or even Balco. These are just recent faces to the problems that have been hiding in the shadows of baseball for much longer than any of us have realized.
If you have any interest in the drug scandals of the last four decades, check this book out. You may be surprised to see that these issues have been lurking in the shadows much longer than any of us wanted to realize or admit to. Reader’s may not buy in 100% of all the things that would be considered drugs in this book, but it will definitely make you re-think what your definition truly is.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Illinois Press
I think I am a fairly ordinary guy. Growing older somewhat gracefully, as my inner child slowly calms down. I think a by-product of growing older is your memory is not as great as it used to be. If you asked me what I ate for breakfast a few days ago, I may have trouble giving you the correct answer. Another side effect of the passage of time on the memory is nostalgia. You may romanticize things and enjoy them much more today than you actually did thirty years ago. In the last few years there have been books published that dissect a game from several decades prior, inning by inning and pitch by pitch, which leads to my first of many questions. How do players remember everything that happened during a specific game, every thought process, every tobacco spit and every sneer at an opposing player. If you ask why am I asking such a silly question, please see the sentence above about my breakfast. Anyhow, today’s book follows this same format about game seven of one of the most dramatic World Series in recent memory.
The 1986 World Series without a doubt was full of plenty of drama. From the New York Mets trek to the big dance via Houston, to Bill Buckner making himself a footnote in baseball history, 1986 is a hard one to forget. Ron Darling on most other baseball pitching staffs would have easily been the Ace, but on the Mets he was in the shadows of one phenom, namely Dwight Gooden. Nonetheless Darling was the arm on tap to pitch Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Most people forget that the Buckner error was in Game 6 which then led to needing to play a game 7.
Ron Darling has made a nice little post pitching career for himself being a baseball analyst for both the Mets and the MLB Network. He has great natural insight into the game and always explains the nuances to the fans so that the get a full understanding of the issues at hand. Darling takes the same approach in his new book.
He takes the reader through Game 7 inning by inning, explaining the thought process used in his pitches as well as what was going on around him. You see how the pitcher Ron Darling was processing the events of the day, but he also shows how the person Ron Darling was interpreting it as well. It gives a real good rendition of the players take on what happened in Game 7, from a person who was on an emotional see-saw the entire evening.
Darling also gives a little glimpse of his personal life as well as some takes on his New York teammates. It is not an in-depth analysis of his fellow Mets but it certainly gives the reader a behind the scenes glimpse of the team.
The question still sticks in my mind, how do you remember this much vivid detail 30 years later? Admittedly he used some video footage to “refresh” his memory, but I still find it hard to accept these types of books as 100% credible. Time easily distorts things even with the aide of video tape. It also seems to some degree Ron darling is apologizing for his pitching performance but does seem to take the attitude of “I am sure glad we won, even though I sucked”.
This book is an enjoyable and quick read. It flows smoothly and if Ron Darling is remembering correctly, gives the reader some great detail into Game 7. It was a World Series to remember and all baseball fans will enjoy reliving this one special game.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press