It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball. Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes. This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series. It seems to be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused. Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record. With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.
If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing. They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible. They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both. New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.
Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes. The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season. Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players. They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers. So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.
Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit. Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series. Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.
Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them. It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects. Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.
Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.
You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.
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
I figured with my extended time off to recuperate I would have plenty of time to write on my blog. Boy was I wrong, between needing to get up and walk around every ten minutes because I am stiffening up and the fact the the medicines keep knocking me out, I am having trouble finding the time to write, let alone read. But, what it has done is given me the chance to look at some books that I would not always feel were the correct fit for an entire single post. The book could be too short, it could be a coffee table book or it could be a book that doesn’t really target my audience. These are in no way bad books, because honestly if they sucked, I wouldn’t waste the time putting them on here for everyone to look at them, but there is a format issue that doesn’t work well within my bookcase. So from time to time we do one of these multi book posts to clean up one of the shelves in the bookcase……and share some of these books to the world. So here we go…..
Baseball’s No -Hit Wonders-More than a Century of Pitching’s Greatest Feats
By Dirk Lammars-2016
Is it me, or do no hitters seem to happen more often today then they did say thirty of forty years ago? Has the level of play in the league diminished that much that these have become commonplace? Lammers takes the readers through the interesting history of the no hitter and how it has played out through the history of the game. He shows the pitchers and hitters involved, no hitters that were broken up after 26 outs and all the other odd and wacky things that happened in the past to those pitchers, both lucky and good enough to even flirt with a no-no. If your interested in the who, what, when, where and why of no-hitters you will really enjoy what this book will bring to your table. You can get this book from the nice folks at Unbridled Books
The 50 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Pirates History
By David Finoli-2016
These types of books are always fun. For the one and only reason that no two people will ever agree 100 percent as to who belongs at what spot on the list. I really don’t know what the criteria is by the authors to make it on to these types of lists, but they never seem to disappoint the reader. They always include the Hall of Famers, team superstars as well as the hometown heroes. You would also have to think they target their specified teams fan base so they are always eager to please the homers. I had done this type of book by another author on the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and I went back to pull it out to compare. What I found is that more then half of the players they can agree on being in the book,, but differ on where they rank. So bottom line is if you read one of these books about your team and find another one, check it out because it may give you a different spin on the players that may be more in line with your personal rankings as well. You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
The BUCS!-The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates
By John McCollister-2016
Lets stay in Pittsburgh for a second on this book. The BUCS! takes a very brief look at the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. From its 19th century beginnings to its current day under field manager Clint Hurdle, this book takes an abbreviated, but fast paced look at the history in Pittsburgh. If the Pirates are not your team and never have been in the past, this book is a great way to get a good albeit brief history from Kiner and Roberto to Bonds and McCutchen. Its only roughly 200 pages, so even if you are familiar with Bucs history it would be a quick and easy refresher course. You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press.
The Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies
By Bob Gordon-2016
What would one of these posts be without a Phillies book? This book, first released by Bob Gordon in 2005, compiles some of the greatest names in Phillies history and gives strong bios on each of those lucky enough to be a Phillie. It gives a great look at team history from an author that has some great ties to the team itself, through several other books he has written. So why do you need to buy the reprint of a book released ten years ago? It has been updated for deaths of the older players and it also has added a few Phillies superstars that became prominent in the last half of the last decade when the Phillies were on top of the world. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
The Grind-Inside Baseball’s Endless Season
By Barry Svrluga-2015
Without question, Baseball has the most grueling schedule of all the professional leagues. Almost stretching to nine months of the year when you factor in pre and post season, it would take some sort of toll on even the strongest of personalities. Svrluga has taken a look at this relentless schedule and the effect it has on the personal lives of those involved and how it effects almost everyone involved with a team. It looks at varying position players , the 26th man on most rosters, travelling secretaries, spouses, kids and clubhouse attendants. It really is an interesting look behind the scenes of the game and what those involved are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the great game of baseball. You van get this book from the nice folks at Blue Rider Press
Diamond Madness-Classic Episodes of Rowdyism, Racism and Violence in Major League Baseball
By William A. Cook-2013
William Cook’s Diamond Madness gives the reader a good look at the scary side of baseball. When you get beyond all of the normal hero worship that comes as part of the normal territory with the game and when those things get really scary. Fan obsessions, death threats, violence, racism, shootings and robberies are all just a part of what is shown to the readers of this book. It is amazing how even though these are normal stories in the everyday world, they are so many times magnified just by playing baseball. It also goes to show how much work the people behind the scenes in baseball put in to making sure nothing tarnishes the wholesomeness of the American Past-time. I think if you check this out it will show some new perspectives to the average fan of what really goes on. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press.
Tales From the Atlanta Braves Dugout
By Cory McCartney-2016
I will admit it………..I love this series! You can get whatever team you wish at this point because it seems like almost every team is available now. You can also use it as a history lesson to brush up on all the funny stories of a team that you are not very familiar with and get a good feel for what that teams history is all about. If you grab the book of your favorite team it is a chance to regale in all the stories you have heard time and time again and like a favorite uncle at a holiday dinner, are glad to listen to over and over. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
I See the Crowd Roar-The Story of William “Dummy” Hoy
By Joseph Rotheli & Agnes Gaertner-2014
This book is intended for a younger audience but it does provide a very deep lesson for all fans. William Hoy was hearing impaired and never heard a single fan cheer for him. The book shows how Hoy overcame his disability and made the best if it as well as keeping up a positive attitude during the course of events. The book also shows the positive impact had on the function of the game and how things like hand signals that were originally implemented for Hoy alone, have become mainstays of the game generations later. It truly is an inspiring story that younger fans should be made aware of so they have a complete baseball education. There is also a movie version of the book in the pipeline as well. You can get this book from the nice folks at the lil-red-foundation.
Black Baseball, Black Business-Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar
By Roberta Newman & Joel Nathan Rosen-2014
In baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems. This book takes a look at how the integration of baseball, while a great thing on the civil rights front, created waves that destroyed black economies in the larger cities that were homes to Negro League Teams. It is a really interesting look at the economies of the integration of baseball on those parties that were not in any way involved in the decision making process or the game of baseball itself. It also shows how the innocents involved were essentially destroyed by the baseball powers that were at the time pushing it as a cause for greater good.
Choosing the best of the best can really ignite some serious debates. Who belongs, who doesn’t, who should be eligible and who should not even be there always makes for good conversations among friends. The Baseball Hall of Fame, which is nestled in that sleepy little town in upstate New York, is the mecca of baseball junkies. You can walk among some of the greatest artifacts throughout the history of the game as well as visiting the memorials to all the games brightest stars. If you are not lucky enough to be located within a reasonable distance of the Hall like I am (2 hours), then you may not be able to get there as often as you would like or even at all for that matter. I found a book, if you are one of the unlucky few that may never get there that will help you experience some of the magical aura that is The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has really published a first-rate book with this one. The quality of the book alone is incredible. From the paper stock, to the printing this is a really nice book. Quality of the book is something I really never comment on, but this one is really that good.
The Hall has compiled all its members, including managers, executives and umpires and given the reader in-depth overviews of every single person. Each player section is broken down by position into its own chapter and then sorted by induction year. It has dedicated two pages to each personality and gives a nice biography of their career as well as a brief snippet of that persons unique personality. It is a nice feature for each person that you don’t always get in these types of books, because it is usually more focused on the career numbers. Each person’s Hall of Fame plaque also heads their individual page so you are able to read exactly what is hanging on the wall in Cooperstown.
The other nice feature is a several page essay at the beginning of each chapter. A player from that chapter has written about his own experiences during his career that led him to The Hall of Fame. It is something you don’t normally see in a Hall of Fame coffee table book and adds a real human touch to this book. I think the Hall of Fame sometimes lacks a human touch when speaking about its members, so this brings it back to a very personal and fan friendly level.
This book covers all the players that were enshrined as of the publication date. The only down side to these types of books is that they are not accurate for very long. Once the next July rolls around someone is missing. But honestly this book is done so well it should belong in every fan’s library. You may be familiar with some of the names, but there are others that are a real learning experience for fans young and old.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little Brown and Company