As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away. I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out. The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.
Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books. It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront. I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader. If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out. You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said. It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them. Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan. It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically. For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out. It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it. You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.
There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past. For my money, this one is the best of the bunch. It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella. It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused. It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches. He is telling it like he sees it at this point. Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all. If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet. Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.
If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book. 1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era. It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained. Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history. For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened. If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about. For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.
Where would the game be without the Sportswriters. They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field. Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about. Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before. You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.
McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category. Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print. Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy. Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.
Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception. Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again. This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well. It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times. You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.
So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.
Happy Reading and Go Phillies!
Every once in a while in baseball we lose a team. Good or bad, there are lots of reasons why this usually happens. Most recently over a decade ago, the Montreal Expos disappeared from the baseball landscape and some folks are rightfully so, still up in arms about it. The longer a team is gone, the more time marches on and the more that team inevitably slips from memory. I have witnessed this first hand in my area with the Philadelphia Athletics Historical society. The people who saw them play first hand aged and passed on and the memories and interest faded despite folks best efforts.
The St Louis Browns have been gone for over 60 years now and probably most of the people who had seen them first hand have passed on at this point. So more than likely, other than the hard-core baseball fans, people don’t have as much of an interest in the team or its history. Today I have a book that does a very nice job of introducing a new wave of fans to a team of yesteryear and hopefully help keep their legacy alive.
The St. Louis Browns were in a tough spot. Fighting for fans loyalty in a baseball crazy town with the Cardinals was no easy task. In the end we all know how it worked out, the left St Louis and pitched their new tent in Baltimore with a brand new name. They were not always the door mats of baseball as some would have you believe. There were plenty of good times in the early years, but in the end the battle with the Cardinals for supremacy just became too much.
This book is a great look into those wonder years in St Louis. It takes an in-depth look at the teams roots, its early success and its fights for league supremacy. It is a great learning tool for those that are not familiar with their history or the people who wore the uniform through the years.
The Browns were more than just Bill Veeck and his ahead of the curve promotions. More than just an aging ballpark, more than tiny batters and all those things everyone is familiar with. For the new generation of baseball fans this is huge opportunity to learn about a team that has fallen from the landscape but never from the fabric of the game. If we as the generations of fans, post Browns baseball do not take the time to learn about them now, then we risk losing them to the passage of time. This has happened to other teams throughout history and I would for one be very sad to see this happen to the Browns and their storied past.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Reedy Press
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.
I easily admit that my favorite genre of baseball books are the biographies. They help show the real person behind the player’s public image and sometimes allows fans to get an inside scoop on some events. On the other hand some of the biographies are ghost-written, self-serving and are just a ploy to both increase popularity and pocket a few extra bucks. Thankfully for readers, those books are usually evident before you ever make the mistake of buying them. Readers should also be grateful to find books like today’s autobiography, because it shows the human side of a player, flaws and all, and does not sugar coat anything.
Now we all know Eli Grba did not have a Hall of Fame baseball career by any measure but he this book shows that he is a Hall of Fame caliber person. He had a well known problem with alcohol during his playing days and subsequent years and that honestly is just the tip of the iceberg in this compelling life story.
Eli Grba walks the readers through his entire life story in this book. From his upbringing and his time labeled as a troubled youth and the multiple problems associated with that tag to the his showing promise as a stud pitcher. You see the highs and lows of his life through all of its stages and it shows his true human side. It also shows the love he had for his family, especially his mother, and how he has realized later in life the trouble and pain he has caused for those who loved him.
Grba also walks the readers through his rise through the baseball ranks and his eventual arrival to the majors. He shows us the troubles he had along the way and how alcohol was the usually the underlying theme to these issues. He also shows us how in the end, alcohol derailed his promising career and how except for a few highlights it was talent wasted.
This book is a great look at a player who has come to terms with his demons and admirably overcome them and made his life better for both himself and those around him. He talks extensively about his mother and the closeness they had and now realizes the pain he caused her over the years. Throughout the book Eli is very honest with the readers and pulls no punches about his faults and failures along the way. It is refreshing in this day and age to say anyone take responsibility for their actions, but it is even more eye opening to see a former professional athlete do it .
This is a great book for baseball fans to read. It sheds a bright light on both Eli Grba’s life and career and shows how he was able to beat those demons. Both Eli and co-author Doug Williams have made this a great story to read and a book that many people will not be able to put down. It is one of those books that people dealing with the same types of problems will be able to relate to and in the end be able to take something from it that will help them with their own struggles.
Take a look around on social media sites because you can get autographed copies direct from Eli Grba as well as getting it from the standard on-line retailers.
Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed, because the first angel has written a first rate book.
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
Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark. Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget. These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball. They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck. They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator. The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era. A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game. During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy. The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about. Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.
Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations. She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years. She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years. She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans. Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.
Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition. That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty. Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.
What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader. She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley. Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.
This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era. It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before. It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.
This book is a fun trip through the Finley era. I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look. It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History
When you look back over the history of the game of baseball, there are certain things that may never happen again. The game changes with every generation and certain things will just never be allowed to happen again. I don’t think anyone will break Cal Ripken Jr’s consecutive game streak. I know no pitcher will ever win 30 games again, mostly due to the five man rotation and of course Harvey Haddix’s 12 inning Perfect Game will never be topped either. The feat itself as it stands is next to impossible, and the way pitchers are used today, none starter will ever get to the 12th inning in a game. Today’s book takes a great look at why that game was so special.
I have said it before when doing other books that I really like Lew Freedman’s work. I have read several in the past and really enjoyed them, so that is one of the reasons why I chose to take a look at this one. One of the other reasons is I always liked Harvey Haddix. He was a durable pitcher that quietly went about his business without much fanfare. He reminds me a lot of Bobby Shantz in the fact that they just went about their routine and you almost forgot they were on the team until they entered a game.
Freedman’s book walks the reader through this 12 inning masterpiece inning by inning. It is a back and forth format between each inning and the team itself. You get game details and some stories about his teammates, but more importantly it fills in a lot of the blanks about this game.
Played on a day that rain was a threat all day in Milwaukee, in an era where not every game was televised, there are a few questions about the details of this game that I always had. Unless you had a radio recording of this you were out of luck. Haddix was under the weather all day and through shear inner strength he pulled it together and pitched one of the greatest games of all-time………..that resulted in a loss.
In the end Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings and lost in the 13th. In the end he was more mad that he got the game loss instead of losing the perfect game. In a night that no one saw the game on television and less than twenty thousand showed up, hundreds of thousands of people will remember exactly what happened because they were there or saw it on TV. This game and its details followed Harvey until his untimely death in 1994.
This book is worth picking up, because it really explains all the details. Its something that is eventually going get lost to the passage of time, so it is good that Freedman got the story on record before everyone forgets who Harvey Haddix was and why for one night he really was perfect.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
It is the Baseball Hall of Fame induction week. A week where we celebrate the new batch of baseball immortals and their careers. As each year passes it seems more and more people with large impacts on the game slowly pass to the side, never to get their due. Today’s book showcases one of those personalities of the game that love him or hate him, you can not deny the changes he generated in Major League Baseball.
Growing up in humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York, Marvin Miller was not a person you would expect to have such an influence on the sport of baseball. Well educated and professionally schooled outside the sport, he took the opportunity in his career to make a mark for himself in the real world. Miller used his professional knowledge and education to build one of the strongest unions within pro sports and upset the owners apple cart.
Robert Burk takes an in-depth look at Marvin Miller in this book. You get a lot of personal information about Miller that helps see how his own experiences and life events helped shape his personality and effect his business dealings. It also shows the fortitude that was a Miller trademark, was forged and how the players were able to benefit from it. This book offers a very complete picture of Marvin Miller both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I was always familiar with his MLB dealings with the players union but this book put forth a personal dimension to Miller that is sometimes missing when he is the topic of conversation. Most of the time in my opinion he is portrayed as a ruthless union organizer that was just after the almighty dollar for his members, so this definitely put a different spin on him for me.
Now the twenty million dollar question………does Marvin Miller deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Well, for my dollar I say a resounding YES! Take away any personal opinions you have on the man himself and take a look at the actual changes he helped institute within the game. Yes, money has increased to insane amounts and sometimes the players are glorified children at times, but he has gotten them better working conditions, pension increases as well as increased safety initiatives. While only remembered for the money aspect, he has helped usher in positive changes for both the players and the game as a whole. Now, back to the question will he ever get in the Hall? That I am not so sure of. It seems people in baseball have long memories and are able to hold some serious grudges. As more time passes by, the odds diminish but hopefully some day he gets in where he deserves.
This book is not a light read by any means. You do have to pay attention to what you are reading or you will get lost. The details in labor law is something that will confuse the reader if they don’t watch, but still is a vital component, and those heavy subjects are needed to tie the entire story together. Baseball fans will enjoy it so give it a chance even when the big words get you discouraged. The reader gets rewarded for their work in the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Illinois Press
Most, if not all baseball fans know who Curt Flood is. For those fans that have been living under a rock for the past 45 years or so I can gladly explain who Curt Flood is. Curt Flood is the man who upset the Major League Baseball owners apple cart. Curt was traded from the Saint Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Long and the short of the story is Curt did not want to go to Philadelphia. Hey, nobody wanted to be traded to the Phillies in 1969, but Curt’s reasons ran deeper. He felt that no man should be treated like a piece of property and should be free to choose where he played. Thus set off a fire storm that still has ramifications in today’s game.
Curt Flood challenged to the very core the owners power structure. The reserve clause allowed them to “own” their players as long as they wished, and pay them whatever amounts they felt like. It was the basis of which the entire player/owner structure operated. Essentially with the backing of the newly born players union and some of the other players Curt took on the system. In the end it was basically career suicide for Curt Flood as his skills eroded during the time he was on the shelf while his court proceedings went on. Also it gave other owners a bad taste for Curt and he may have been for the most part unofficially black-listed from Major League Baseball.
Robert Goldman takes a look at the legal aspect of the Curt Flood case and the legal maneuvers that transpired on both parts. It is very detailed and painstakingly analyzes the events of the case. If you are not familiar with the in-depth details of the suit, this would be a good book to take the time to read that explains all the events in an easy to use format. It shows what actually transpired and cracked the door open to free agency within baseball for future generations.
Books on this subject lead me to another question. It has been the good part of 50 years since this landmark case occurred. When is the point we have learned as much as we can about the subject matter? Curt Flood, Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller have all passed on, and most of the supporting cast members as well. At what point do we not have any one left to get any more information first hand from? At what point are we just getting hearsay and opinions from people who were not directly involved in the main story?
I think we may be getting to that point with Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball as well. Its unfortunate with the passing of time we lose those with first hand knowledge, but when do we get to the point where we say we have learned or analyzed everything we can on this matter? I don’t know when that time or place is, I am merely asking the question because I don’t know the answer either.
Students of the game should enjoy this book, it gives a thorough look at landmark case that changed the game forever.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University Press of Kansas