I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog. That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late. I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not. But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at. Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books. While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis. Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception. These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.
From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered. Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.
Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published. How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t. McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market. For baseball readers this should be an item of importance. I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.
I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care. They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.
You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game. It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.
I asked this question on another post recently and received a litany of great answers. I am well aware that there really is no criteria to who gets a book, but each of us has their own criteria of what really merits a book. I for one am not here to pass along my thoughts on the subject because each of us has different views and it becomes a personal choice more than anything else. I found two books recently that come from two ends of the spectrum on the field, but give the reader a very similar product in the end.
Ralph Mauriello and Ron Fairly have several things in common. Most notably they are both Dodgers Alumni, and I have noticed the feeling of once a Dodger, always a Dodger. But their careers took very different paths throughout the years. While Mauriello had a short stint with the Major League team, he spent the majority of his playing years toiling in the minors, while Fairly put a couple of decades at the big league level with a few different stops around the league. Now with such different playing careers and reaching different levels of success you would thing the end resulting books of their lives would be wildly different. I am glad to say that could not be further from the truth.
Now that is not to say that both books are mirror images, but there are certain important qualities that shine through. They both share their life and career experiences for the reader which helps give a well-rounded view of what they offered on the field. This comes in especially helpful those readers that may not have been around during their playing days, it paints a picture in your mind of what baseball was like for each author as they made their way along their unique journey. Both books also illustrate what great men both players were, the humility they had, both on and off the field and the honor it was for both of them to be part of the game they loved. Family is also an important factor in both men’s lives and it is showcased very clearly in both books. Finally, both books show what life is like after you are off the field. While both men have taken very different paths in life you can see the underlying love of the game and the immense pride they both had to be on that field.
When I asked the who deserves a book question previously I thought I had a better handle on the answer . Today I realize if you have a story to tell, no matter what their contribution to the game was, it’s a story worth telling. It’s up to the readers to decide which stories that they want to read and what they find worthy of their time. If it is a 20 year veteran or a cup of coffe player, they still have a lot to offer the readers. For my money these both books make the cut.
If you like the Dodgers and the early years of California baseball, along with a spattering of stories about celebrities and baseball royalty then these books would be for you. They both tell great stories throughout flow very nicely and you get two different views of the Once a Dodger Always a Dodger tag.
You can get these great books at the following links:
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!
When a team changes cities it is a daunting process. Ownership has to make sure it crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s to make sure everything will be to their, and more importantly their fans liking. No where as near as common place as it once was, team transfers can be a great thing for those involved. New stadiums, new fan base, a whole new chance to invent yourself and the financial rewards usually aren’t too bad either. That is just what the New York giants were hoping for with their move to San Francisco. A shiny new stadium to call home accompanied with lots of parking spaces for ownership to sell each night helped sell them on their new locale. But sometimes all is not what you hope it will be, and todays book takes a look at the Giants move to California and good or bad, depending on where you stood, their new Home Sweet Home.
We are all well aware of the story of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles and their conquering of the Southern California market. Sometimes lost in that great shadow is the Giants, who abandoned the Polo Grounds and the city of New York at the exact same time to help usher in baseball across the continent. Walter O’Malley was larger than life at times and in that shadow one can understand how Horace Stoneham may have fallen by the wayside. So with that, it easy to forget the history of the Giants during the first years in California. Luckily for us this book shows us what it took to get the Giants in place in San Fran and the hopes ownership had for the new frontier.
Robert Garrett does a good job of giving us the background of the team in New York and the situation it found itself in during the late 50’s. From stadium woes to the personality of Horace Stoneham you get a pretty good feel of what it was like for the team during their waning days in New York. He shows the courtship of the Giants by a new city and the promises bestowed by the local government, the biggest of all being a new stadium.
Stoneham had a somewhat of a hands off approach to his new stadium as the book shows and it in turn came to bite him in the butt. Candlestick Park had its own set of issues that are well chronicled in the book which in turn snowballed, enough so that it would essentially destroy many of the dreams of what Stoneham had for this new venture. In the end it is one of the driving factors that ends the Stoneham ownership of the team.
Next we look at the struggles to find new ownership and the quest to keep the Giants in San Francisco less than twenty years after the had arrived. Once new ownership was found you see the same struggles of old ownership with the albatross of Candlestick still dangling around its neck. It shows an interesting look at how baseball operated in regards to stadiums, success at the gate and play on the field. You see how the Giants, except for a few years as a whole, struggled while they called Candlestick home. It’s also shown how the people of San Fran really didn’t care if they ever got out of there.
Finally, you see a final change on ownership that get the Giants to a new frontier and a stadium worthwhile of Major League Baseball and the success that comes with that type of arena. I honestly think this book is a great look at this era of Giants baseball, no matter how bad it was on the field. It’s a portion of team history that gets overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers moving at the same time, the expansion of baseball and the evolving changes that were going on in both baseball and society. It proves some dreams take longer than others to come to fruition.
If you have an interest in California baseball during this era this book is definitely worth checking out. You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.
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
Well, it’s that time of year again. Opportunity abounds for all, the realization of a life long dream may be in the offing and as it is always said, hope springs eternal. The new baseball season offers hope to every baseball fan that this is finally going to be their year and their hopes of a championship will be realized. For those involved in the game, players are hoping to get their big break while others are hoping to hang one for just one more year. If you take a good hard look at a baseball team, all of these hopes and dreams of just about everyone lay in the hands of just one person, the General Manager. A position of amazing power, it is also one of great sacrifice and fortitude to attain it and one that comes with some unfair criticism at times. Today’s book takes a look at arguably one of the modern eras greatest GM’s and what it took to reach the pinnacle.
Ned Colletti can easily be described as a baseball lifer. Landing stints for the Cubs, Giants and finally the Dodgers, he got to contribute to three of the most storied franchises in the history of the game. Now his new book shows what it took to reach his goals as both a person and a professional General Manager.
Ned walks us through his childhood and its a compelling story about an average American kid. Next he shows us how barely making ends meet he gets his job with the Chicago Cubs and his professional journey truly begins. It shows the reader how with great sacrifice and perseverance great things can be accomplished. Next we stop with Colletti in San Francisco and see how the building blocks of a transformation were laid. Finally we travel to the Dodgers and see what its like dealing with a meddling mess of an owner while trying to build a contender. His professional story is a fascinating one and his accolades well-earned, but its his personal story that also resonates throughout this book.
You get to see the personal side of a highly respected General Manager and quite honestly we don’t always see that in these books. His anecdotes may be about baseball, but you get a good feel of his personality when he is telling these stories. I enjoy books like this that I walk away getting the sense that the subject seems like a pretty decent guy in real life. The Baseball books afford us to get closer details and some inside information about events that take place, but not always closer to the people involved.
If you have an interest in getting to know a real guy and the inner workings of the front office then this is a book you should check out. It will be time well spent to get a new perspective on the inner workings of the game and a glimpse at someone who comes off as a pretty decent guy as well.
You can get this book from the nice folks at G.P. Putnum & Sons
Well, I will admit it, I am a lousy Blogger. Time management is not my strength when it comes to blogging, but nonetheless I have returned to try to catch up on some books. What better time than now, it being Hall of Fame induction weekend, to catch up on some HOF books so without further comment, lets dive right in.
Released earlier this year to conveniently coincide with his induction this year, this book takes a hard look at both Raines’ life and career in his own words. It comes across as an honest and open account of his own life. He admits many of his mistakes along the way and how he has tried to make amends to those he hurt. It also opened my eyes to some of the numbers Raines put up in some of his seasons. To me he always blended into the scenery of the N.L. East and always looked good but never seemed as good as he turned out to be. If you have an interest in the Montreal Expos, or like Tim Raines, you will really enjoy this book from Triumph Publishing. I for one am glad that he finally got his due, Congrats Tim!
Last summers inductee Mike Piazza got his own book this year as well. The book does cover his whole career but really shows the reader why he is in Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap. It shows the love between Mets fans and Piazza and why he meant so much to them even though he played for other teams. Greg Prince always brings his A-Game to his books and this is no exception, Mets fans, Piazza fans and even those in Philadelphia will enjoy the story of this local kid who made good. You can get this one from Sports Publishing.
Kaplan’s new book brings an interesting look at a single season of Hank’s storied career. It’s easily one of the strongest years of his career and it shows the trials and tribulations hank endured while chasing the Babe’s single season home run record. I think this is a rather hard subject to try to unearth so many years later but Kaplan does an admirable job at it and if you have an interest in this period of baseball or the social problems that came along with being Jewish you will enjoy this book. It also proves that Jackie Robinson was not the only one enduring slurs on the field during that era. This is another one you can get from Sports Publishing.
This is someone who should be already in the hall, but keeps getting overlooked. This book is very unique in that it contains tons of pictures. It shows great images of Allen throughout his entire life and the text that accompanies it with in the book is top-notch. Its different from any other Dick Allen book on the market so it is worth checking out if you like Dick Allen. You can grab this one from Schiffer Publishing.
I think Alan Trammell will someday be up on that stage getting his plaque in Cooperstown, but until that time all his fans have is this lone book. Trammell is an often overlooked subject but I have never been able to figure out why. This is the only book I have ever been able to find on him, but it is thorough and well written and gives his fans a chance to relive his one day Hall of Fame career. Sometime all you need is one book, as long as it is good, so for Trammell fans and Tigers fans of this era this is your book. You can pick this one up from McFarland Publishing
Finally, Clemens is an often covered subject and one day I have a gut feeling he will make the Hall regardless of past sins. That being said this book attempts to sum up all of the Roger Clemens events throughout his career and after. It is a one stop shop if you will for Clemens fans and sums everything up as neatly as it can, as opposed to other books that take one aspect of the proceedings and focus on it. If you are a Clemens fan or of the PED era, check this one from McFarland out.
That sums up this years Hall review and hopefully going forward I will be here more often, but until then…..Happy Reading!
I am sure no one has missed me on here, but I should probably give a brief explanation of my MIA status. Between a new job, moving back to Philadelphia and figuring out this whole Fatherhood thing, baseball books have become the victim of circumstances. Now that we are settled in our new place and the very large former Ron Kaplan book collection has been moved, I can hopefully focus on some more books, but if anyone has any ideas how to get an eight month old to sleep through the night, I would love to hear from you. I figured I would start back with a book that was highly anticipated by myself and did not disappoint.
I was familiar with Dickson’s previous work on his Bill Veeck book and really enjoyed that one, so I expected more of the same with this. Leo Durocher was one of those figures in baseball history that was either loved or hated, somewhere in the middle was not an option. To date, there have been a few books about Durocher, but none recently so it was a subject worth revisiting.
Paul Dickson takes a hard look at both Durocher’s playing and managing career. Not really much of a player numbers-wise, he had the small guy attitude that was appreciated by many a manager. This book looks at his trouble with Babe Ruth and the hard-nosed play that forged his cocky reputation. It is very thorough look at an often overlooked part of Leo’s resume.
Durocher’s real strength was his managing obviously. With varying degrees of success at all of his stops in the big leagues, you see how his hard-nosed playing attitude spills over into his managing. The reader also sees how Leo becomes the victim of a changing game. How more success early in his career does not carry over in the latter years. The game changed along with player attitudes, but old Leo stuck to his guns. It translated into some rough times for the long time manager, but those stops still put the finishing touches on an impressive career.
The one aspect of this book I found most interesting was the details of his private life. From associations with known gamblers, to his friendships with the Hollywood types, it leads to a very interesting life. Of course, the four wives add some zing to that private life also. It is an interesting aspect of Leo that we know some details about, but this sheds a whole new light on the subject.
Overall, this book is tirelessly researched and prepared well. It gets a little stat heavy at times, but the overall content of the book makes up for that lone aspect I did not like. If you have any interest in Durocher, or are a fan of this era of the game, check this one out. At 300+ pages it is a lot of reading but is for sure, time well spent.
Check it out, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.
No matter the subject of a baseball biography, there is some sort of story to be told. Some of these stories are better than others and coincide with the skill level of that particular player. Then there are stories like today’s book that come from an average player that did not put up Hall of Fame numbers, but has a Hall of Fame caliber story to tell baseball fans. A journey that took him all over North America John D’Acquisto’s new book takes a hard and honest look at his life and career and the paths it has led him down. This honest look at his own life opens up a whole new side of John that fans can appreciate.
Fastball John starts the readers on the journey of his life and shows his family roots in San Diego and his journey to become a big league pitcher. Next you learn first hand what it is like to be a first round draft pick with high expectations in a major league setting. Stops with major league teams and a few more stints in the minors are covered as well.
John D’Acquisto shows the readers the ins and outs of what being a baseball player is really like. You see the friendships, the expectations of management, contract disputes and health scares that make up a players life. What I found really interesting is how personal relationships are intertwined within this story. It gives a very intimate touch to a career that is usually unable to sustain those types of relationships. One other factor the the authors were able to incorporate into the story was how the music of the time was able to become part of the moment and permanently ingrained in the memories.
For my money the most interesting part of this story is also one of the saddest. John D’Acquisto’s life after baseball was one of accusations, falsehoods and betrayal that in the end led to some serious jail time. John eloquently tells his side of the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and his time behind bars. The sequence of events that led up to this are almost unbelievable and in the end, when you hear all the details wonder how someone could survive something of this magnitude. For what it’s worth, I believe D’Acquisto’s side of the story, it unfortunately seems to be him trusting the wrong people at the time and the justice system wanting to make an example of someone with a famous name.
Honestly, we have all read the books written by the Superstars and sometimes pass on the stories of a lower tier player. This is one of those times you need to make the effort to read the story of that player. It is a gripping story that shows the genuine side of a Major League Baseball player. He has had good times and some really bad times, but in the end Johnny D. comes across as a pretty cool guy. Loved by the fans of the San Francisco and San Diego, he has paid his dues on both sides of the fence and moved on to well earned greener pastures in his life. Take the time to read this book and you will be able to see their is still some good left in people and read a very enjoyable baseball book at the same time.
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