Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. If not used correctly it can skew the memories of people, times and places of bygone eras. It can make one think and long for something that in hindsight we believe was much better than it really was. Since Baseball has been around for almost a century and a half, there are many eras that none of use were able to witness first hand. We rely on history books, the research of many and documentation to see what really happened. The Deadball era is one that many people have a fondness for and like to learn about it as much as they can. I recently found a book that allows those Deadball era lovers to get some inside stories of what the game was really like during that time, without succumbing to all that messy nostalgia.
Tales From the Deadball Era allows readers to do some time traveling if you will. It takes them back to when violence, segregation and gambling were some of the nicer things happening at the baseball games. A time when fields were in disrepair, equipment was unsophisticated and quite honestly the final product was somewhat of a mess. It was nothing like the showcase we get to witness on a daily basis today.
Halfon introduces us to some of the major events of the era. Showing us these highlights along with some of the great personalities ever to play the game, he gives the reader a very complete picture of what was going on during this era. He also shows some of the more lighthearted moments that infiltrated the game during that period. Many of these things you would not even dream of as being part of the game today. The book also shows how necessity is the mother of invention. Things we normally accept as part of the game had to come from somewhere, and this book shows us those things we should all be thankful for.
If you fancy yourself a novice baseball historian this book is a good book for you. It gives the reader a nice feel for this time period and will leave you wanting to find out more information about the Deadball era and its personalities. If you fancy yourself a novice historian on the John Thorn level then you may want to stay away from this one. If you are at that level you more than likely wont get any new information from this book. Honestly most fans will enjoy reading this book and spending the time traveling back to these decades long ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Potomac Books
There are players in the history of baseball that transcend all of time. No matter how much time passes they are in conversations and debates almost on a daily basis. Names like Mantle, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Rose are all names that will forever be talked about and for the most part held in high regard. Regardless of their transgressions on and off the field they are still beloved by many. There are others that the exact opposite is true of. One such person is Ty Cobb. More than a few books have been written about The Georgia Peach and his exploits and honestly up until now most have not been complimentary. There was a new book published this year that attempts to change how we feel about Ty Cobb.
Charles Leerhsen took on a pretty big task in trying to change Ty Cobb’s image. It seems we as baseball fans and as a society were pretty set in our opinions of Cobb. We accepted the facts that he was a cut throat player willing to win at any cost. We also accepted the fact that he was a raging racist during his life. Basically we all were comfortable accepting the fact that he was an all around SOB. Through other books that were written, most of these facts were able to be backed up by stories and first hand accounts, and even though we now know a few may have been fabrications, we were all pretty set in our opinions. But what if we are wrong?
The author, through newspaper articles, interviews and some of Cobb’s own writings has tried to get to the real man behind the image. He does an in-depth look at the personality and the behavior of the man set in his own era. He attempts to dispel rumors, expose certain truths as fraud and show the gentler, kinder side of ole’ Ty.
This book gets its point across very eloquently and does pose some very interesting questions for the reader. Perhaps the biggest question I had at the end of this is were we wrong? I don’t know for sure honestly, but it definitely has raised some serious questions in my mind. Cobb’s grandson Herschel wrote a book about Ty last year and that to me started the ball rolling in my mind that maybe we have the story a little skewed. I finished the book and still in my own mind have no definitive answers on Ty Cobb, but I have opened up to the possibility that the accepted story may not at the very least be accurate.
I recommend this book to any and all baseball fans because if nothing else it will start to make you wonder. It is written very well and moves along nicely. It is not a mindless biography and it forces the reader to contemplate whether they still accept the opinions we have previously accepted as fact. Maybe someone will also help me figure out what I think about the whole subject, because I am still not sure.
Sometimes you come across a player that has a lot of book presence in the market. Billy Martin is one that comes to mind as well as most of the other Yankee stars like Mantle and DiMaggio. Then there are others that have the market presence but still languish in the shadows. They may have played for a team in a smaller market or be from an era that is not as popular as some others. Honus Wagner is one of those players that has had several biographies written about him. So how do fans decide which ones are worth their time and which ones they should avoid at any cost? They stop by the bookcase of course and I give them my thoughts………
Honus Wagner was the National League superstar of his era. He was the nicer, friendlier version of his American League counterpart Ty Cobb. Playing in Pittsburgh probably diminished his popularity to some degree, but he still produced on the field and became one of the brightest stars in the game. You would think it would be easy to write about a career of this caliber but this book proves that it may be harder than one thinks.
Honus Wagner, A Biography disappointed me. I was hoping for a book that would give me a good feel for the player and the personality contained within. What I found was a book that was very big on game detail. Within those details it made it cumbersome to get through the book, because you were never sure where it was headed. Me being the reader, also had trouble with keeping track of who the author was talking about at that particular time. Was it Wagner or one of his teammates? It just was missing some sort of structure in the writing that really left me at times, confused.
The author’s research and work involved in fact-finding is the one bright spot of the book. It really came across that they tried to find every fact they could about Honus Wagner that was out there. The big problem was that the presentation of all those facts was missing some structure and in the end, not good in my opinion. I also didn’t get any good information regarding Honus Wagner. I had wanted to learn more about him on a personal level and had high hopes that this book would deliver. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I have read other books on Wagner in the past and reviewed some of them on here as well, and this sadly fails in comparison to the others.
Pirates fans might enjoy this book, just for the fact that it is a local boy makes good story. Other fans not so much and I recommend you gravitate towards some of the other Honus Wagner biographies that are out there on the market. If you still are interested in this one though, you can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pittsburgh Press.
I have said it before and like a broken record I will say it again, knowledge is power for baseball fans. No matter who your team is, you need a strong knowledge of their history. That way you can have intelligent conversations or even arguments with other fans about who was the best on your team. Every fan needs some ammunition in these fights and this book may help you win your battles.
For Pirates fans this could prove to be invaluable. It answers for you the who, what, when, where and why of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It covers players, managers, general managers, the post season and some of the best era’s of Buccos history. It is a great source of team statistics as well as covering the All-Stars that called Pittsburgh home. The most controversial thing this book may produce is a list of the 10 best Pittsburgh Pirates. This list alone can give Pirates fans something to chew on for hours, days even weeks. The debate quite honestly may never come to an end, because with a history as rich as the Pirates, how can you only pick ten?
We live in the world where statistics are at our fingertips with the internet and certain baseball sites. I find it very comforting, being a guy who likes books, to be able to grab a book off the shelf and find exactly what I need right in front of my eyes printed in black and white. Even in the electronic world these team encyclopedia’s warrant a place on every fans bookshelf. Plus you never know when the power may be out for a few hours and you will need to have some information at your fingertips.
Pirates fans will really enjoy this, because it gives them a wealth of information in an easy to find format. It is both entertaining and educational and can help make anyone a stronger fan of the Pirates.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
It’s the day after the 2015 All-Star Game and MLB has released the Franchise Four for each of the teams. Depending on your personal feelings you may agree or disagree with the results, but honestly how do you even measure such things? Anytime one compiles a list of the Greatest of anything, how much of it is really objective and how much of it is emotionally based. I know my Franchise Four votes all had some sort of emotional tie to them. So where does this fit in with Baseball books? There are hundreds of books out there that compile some sort of all-time greatest list. So how do you know when you are getting an objective view, instead of what that particular author thinks? I think I have found two that are good sources for the fans.
Both of the above books were written by Lew Freedman and released in 2015. If that name sounds familiar to veteran baseball readers, it is because Freeman has penned dozens of books about baseball in the past and these are two of his latest. Freedman is a veteran sportswriter that likes to delve into the obscure and often forgotten names of the game. Here he has compiled lists of the 50 greatest players to wear the respective team uniforms. I have read a few of Freedman’s works in the past and always found the books to be educational and historically honest. I expected no different from these titles.
I will start with the Pirates book. They have been in Pittsburgh for a very long time and had some very big names call the steel city home. So I thought it was going to be hard to limit the pick to just the 50 greatest. Some of the names were easy picks such as, Clemente, Stargell, Kiner, Wagner and Traynor. But then there were a few others that at first glance made me ask why, names such as Hebner, Giles, Kendall, Bonilla and Thomas. Each chapter in the book ranging from 3-8 pages is dedicated to each player. You get a career bio, personal bio and why that player was special to his team. Even though the chapters are brief it does give you just enough information to see why that player was a vital cog in the machine. It gives a nice quick, detailed and informative overview of some of the greatest names to ever wear the uniform.
The Tigers book follows the exact same format and allows the reader to see who has stopped in the Motor City throughout their storied history. Cobb, Kaline, Gehringer, Greenberg and Kell were all easy picks for this list for me. But names like Steve Kemp and Pat Mullin made me scratch my head and ask why. The value in these books is that the name might surprise you, but the facts help back up the pick. So there is knowledge to be gained for the reader if you are not very familiar with each specific team history.
These type of books also have another feature, beyond just being able to read them. If you ask 100 people to compile this list, you will get 100 different replies. If you and your friends enjoy talking about the history of the game, these books become both great conversation starters and reference guides. The format of the book being each player is his own chapter makes finding facts about that particular player a breeze. These books will be a valuable asset in a fans library if ever some fact checking needed to be done to win a bet.
Each of Lew Freedman’s books I have read in the past have all met a very high standard and these two new ones are no exception. Fans of the specific teams will love them and have the knowledge to agree or disagree with the picks in the books. If your knowledge of the specific team is not very strong these books are still valuable to the reader. It will allow you to strengthen your knowledge of some of the greats and not so greats in the game’s history, as well as decide whom you really think are the 50 greatest players of that team. In the end you may not agree with all 50 of the picks but it definitely gets you to start thinking.
You can get these books from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing Group
I don’t normally like to do two books in the same review, but I felt this case was different. These two books are both new releases by the same author and the subject matter is related, so I figured it would be safe to do them together. Ronald T. Waldo has just released two Pittsburgh Pirates books that are from an era that sometimes gets forgotten. In our current world of everything, right now, it is important to remember our history. In baseball much of that history is incredible but some of it gets forgotten due to the passage of time. The people involved in those eras pass on and we lose some of the first hand memories. Thanks to Ronald’s books Pirates fans can now delve deep into their past.
Lets start with Honus Wagner and His Pittsburgh Pirates. I was expecting another basic biography about Honus Wagner. The like of which we have seen before, bu this was different. It was more of an anecdotal storytelling of Honus Wagner. It was giving you the details about the man himself, not just the on field personality. Enjoying life’s simple pleasures is not something you normally read in a baseball biography, but this one has it and it is a nice change of pace. You also see Wagner’s interactions with other players around the league and his feelings towards baseball in general.
This book is a nice change of pace from the normal everyday baseball biography in the fact that it gives you views of the player himself. It shows the human side of Honus Wagner that many of us could never before relate to. Being he played so long ago, that human aspect gets lost to time. Through Ronald Waldo’s hard work and research, he is able to make Honus Wagner come alive for new generations of baseball fans.
Waldo’s second book the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates brings alive a team that I feel is also getting lost to the passage of time.
When you think about great baseball teams the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates do not, at least for me, immediately come to mind. 1902 being the middle year of a three-year pennant run is widely considered the best of those three teams. Again through Waldo’s exhaustive research you get great detail about a team that I think would be very hard to come up with information on. Outside of Pittsburgh, I think you would be hard pressed to find many people who are well educated on this team.
This book shows the politics of baseball at the turn of the 20th century along with details of how the Pirates fortunes had changed for the better. It also gives a nice review of how the entire season progressed for the Pirates and how they overcame players jumping to the rival American League. It is a great glimpse into the past when baseball operated nothing like what we accept as the norm today.
These types of books have to be very hard to write since you are dealing with things that happened over 100 years ago. Ronald T. Waldo should be commended on his dedication to his subject and the effort he has put in to both of these books. It is authors like this that help keep the grand history of the game alive over a century later.
You can get both these books from the nice folks at McFarland