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.
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Each of us has a certain player or an event that they can link with a certain point in time. In the 50’s it was Mantle and the New York Yankees the 60’s it may have been Sandy Koufax and the newly transplanted Dodgers and the 70’s it could have been Charlie Hustle and the Big Red Machine. For myself, the 1980’s is the first decade that I was a fan from beginning to end. The decade promised prospect after prospect that were going to have Hall of Fame careers. Some panned out while some others went up in flames. One name that stands out to me in my own head and is the first go to guy when I think about that decade is Dwight Gooden. He took the world by storm in the epicenter of the baseball universe in the Big Apple. A Pitcher who from day one showed flashes of greatness and made his way into main stream America during the middle of the decade. A career derailed by personal demons and bad choices, one is left only to ask what might really have been.
Fast forward thirty years later to today, a hot summer day in upstate New York. I heard about a local autograph appearance at a business by none other than Dwight Gooden, the baseball stud of the mid-80’s, a childhood dream come true, and the best part about this whole thing was it was a free appearance. My first thought was how awesome was this because we never get baseball appearances around here, the closest ones are usually two hours away. My second thought was which of my baseball books can I get signed. So, I loaded up the Wife, a few things to get signed and off we went to see Doc Gooden.
I honestly thought this was going to be a mob scene when we arrived, I mean, come on, its Doc Gooden in New York state. I did find it on the odd side that Doc would be making an appearance at a place that manufactures mobile trailer homes, but I figured if it was free it was for me. When we got there it was the exact opposite of what I expected. No long lines, no great Mets Nation turnout, no real fanfare for this baseball icon of the 80’s. What we got in return when we arrived was this….
Doc Gooden waiting patiently for people to arrive all by himself. Like I said no lines and nor rush to get the autographs and move on. To say I am shocked at the fan turnout and how this went is an understatement, I mean it wasn’t like this was Casey Candaele or a player of that caliber……..this was Doc!. Greeted with a smile and a handshake, Dwight Gooden was everything this 10 year old trapped in an old man’s body could have ever hoped for. Sometimes when you finally get the chance to meet one of your baseball heroes you come away disappointed, because they are not what you expect. Thankfully not this time, this was easily one of the top 3 experiences I ever had meeting a former player. There was also a local reporter there from a small town local newspaper asking Doc some easy questions and recording the interview on his phone. While waiting for our autographs he was answering the reporters questions. After he was done with the reporter Doc turns to my wife and asks, “how did I do with that interview, was it ok?” Holy crap, if my wife only had the realization of the magnitude of that question and who it came from. I know she goes to things like this to appease me, and its a good trade off for killing spiders around the house for her I guess.
I chose to take two of Doc’s books to get signed, DOC published in 2013 and Heat published in 1999.
While signing the books Doc asks me”so which one did you like better?” I told him I thought DOC felt more authentic and Heat felt like a quickie bio. He explained that “DOC is the true and accurate story and I took the time to give the actual story to the fans, Heat was just mostly crap“. So now we have it from the source as to where the truth lies. The books have conflicting stories in them so it is nice to hear which version of those stories are accurate.
These books are also takes of what could have been. A career and life derailed by Alcohol and Drugs, and all the bad things that come with that. Doc had multiple chances to overcome them and made the best he could of the opportunities at the time. He seems from other books I have read this year and by seeing him in person that he is on the right track to long term sobriety. He may have let his demons destroy his Hall of Fame possibilities and a good portion of his career, but it looks like he is not interested in letting them destroy his future. Check out both of these books, because it is very interesting to see the contrast between the two volumes.
On a personal note I would like to thank Doc Gooden. Thank you for not even being close to what I expected. For not being a bitter former star, who is still pissed his star faded. For not being another former Met with a chip on his shoulder because he was a New York Met. Thank you for not destroying my illusion of what I thought you would be like, if I met you when I was ten years old and you were in your prime. Thank you for being friendly with my wife, because not all former players are. Most importantly thank you for coming to some crap hole town in the middle of nowhere New York to meet your fans, at least one of us (me) really appreciated it. I may have been ten when you came along but I knew greatness when I saw it even then, and today just proved I was right about you all along. This has shown me how even the mightiest may fall, but they can still do it with grace and dignity while finding the strength to carry on.
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Every once in a while I wander out of my library on the blog and become just an everyday baseball fan. Content with enjoying the baseball world around me and taking in the sites, sounds and smells of the game I love. Tonight is one of those times there are no books involved with the post but still about the game I love.
Life is ever evolving and changing. Nothing stays the same for long and part of life is adapting those changes. Some changes are better than others, but this is easily one of the better ones that comes along. My wife and I are expecting our first little future big leaguer or ball girl in August, and yes he or she will be rooting for the Phillies………no exceptions to that rule!
We are very excited about this new chapter of our lives, honestly a little nervous and sometimes overwhelmed at the thought of it all. But on the bright side, people have been doing these for a long time, so how bad can we screw it up? We both decided we wanted to take a final vacation before our little Phanatic arrives and thought of all the usual spots, Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, but nothing was saying this is truly the last real vacation you will have for the next decade or two…………but then it hit us.
We could pull off the ultimate baseball vacation. Eight days, six MLB stadiums and one Minor League morning game, mostly because I want to say I went to a baseball game and ate an egg mcmuffin while watching it. We have an itinerary that is a little aggressive but I think we can pull this off, as long as the woman next to me who will be six months pregnant at the time keeps a sense of humor about this trip.
The plan is as follows:
Sat 5/21-Braves @ Phillies (Citizens Bank Park)
Sun 5/22-Rockies @ Pirates (PNC Field)
Mon 5/23-Indians @ White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field)
Tue 5/24-Off Day-Every team needs at least one
Wed 5/25-Phillies @ Tigers (Comerica Park)
Thur 5/26-Toledo Mud Hens-10:30 a.m. game (If you are going to a minor league game it just should be the Mud Hens. Maybe Klinger will be there)
Fri 5/27-Phillies @ Cubs (Wrigley Field)
Sat 5/28-Orioles @ Indians (Progressive Field)
This is as of right now our trip, hopefully it will be fun and memorable. Of course three Phillies games in one week was not by accident either. It is a lot of driving between cities, but nothing too over bearing I think. Now if anyone who is reading this has stuck with me this far, I thank you for hanging in here, but I need your help.
If anyone out there has any ideas of something we shouldn’t miss in these cities on this trip, drop me a line. If anyone has any ideas or lives in any of these towns and wants to meet the book blogging guy, let me know maybe we can meet up somewhere. If anyone knows anyone who works for any of these teams that we are visiting and help us add to this experience and wants to reach out to them for us it would also be appreciated.
I am going to do a daily blog on this trip to give everyone an update on each of the stadiums we are visiting. Perhaps by doing this we can inspire some other fans to take the same journey. Hey, if I can do this with a pregnant woman, you don’t have much of an excuse now do you. This is our farewell journey in this part of our lives, so before we open the door to the next chapter we figured one last hurrah was in order.
If anyone has any ideas please don’t hesitate to drop me a line and thanks for the help folks. Baseball is what brings us all together and hopefully makes our own worlds a little brighter.
Happy Reading……….or travelling
When you think of the Houston Astros in the 1970’s, one of the first names that comes to mind is J.R.Richard. Being a tall and lanky pitcher with a blazing fastball, he combined both of these attributes to scare the crap out of hitters throughout the National League. In an era in Houston before Nolan Ryan, Richard was the ace on the staff of the young up and coming group. With the signing of Nolan Ryan the Astros became a force to be reckoned within the league and the sky was the limit for everyone. Then one day the glass ceiling shattered and for one player life would never be the same.
I was really looking forward to this one. I was always a fan of J.R.’s growing up and remember him in the Astros uniforms of the late 70’s. I remember hearing of his stroke and trying to follow his comeback as best a fan who lived in Philadelphia in 1980 could. The translation of that last sentence means I could not follow it very well. So between the story line and Lew Freedman working on this book I expected a winner. I am happy to say I was not disappointed.
The book follows a back and forth format. Each chapter starts with an overview of what that chapter is going to cover, presumably in the words of Freeman. Then it shifts to Richard sharing his story. It is a good format that works very well for this book, instead of trying to make it all seem like J.R. doing all of the storytelling.
The book covers a great deal of topics in Richard’s life. It talks about his poor upbringing, his trek through the minors and then finally arriving in Houston to stay. The biggest part of this book is of course, talking about his unfortunate stroke and the devastating after effects it has had on his entire life. He shows you how his career was never able to be revived, how marriages failed, business dealings went bad and all the things that eventually led to him living on the streets of Houston.
One would think after all of this J.R. Richard would be extremely bitter, but I found just the opposite in this story. He has been lucky enough to find God and get his life back on track. He has through his faith been able to understand his past, and accept it for who it has helped him become. It really is a remarkable story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles in one’s life. He shows great character and is a better man than I ever could because of his outlook of his own life. If it was me that had to struggle through all of this, I don’t ever think I could have kept the positive outlook he was able to maintain.
There has not been a lot of things published on J.R. in the past, so this book really helps fans understand what truly went on in J.R. Richard’s life. All baseball fans should check this out it really is both an enjoyable and remarkable story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Happy Reading and Merry Christmas to all, may Santa be nice to your library this year.
Reading baseball books can sometimes be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you get the inside story of what really happened. On the other, you see that our baseball heroes are human too. For me growing up in Philly, Glenn Wilson was one of those heroes. I spent many summer days at the Vet watching Glenbo roaming the outfield. He also ties into one special childhood memory I have. It was early in the 1985 season and it was Tastykake team player card giveaway day. I remember sitting in the outfield stands watching Glenn play with grace. It took some convincing to get my Dad to go to the game, and my Grandfather came along as well. It was the only time the three of us ever went to a game together, and for no particular reason Glenn Wilson always stuck out in my mind from that day. For that reason alone, I was pretty exited to jump into this book.
When you are a kid you think your favorite players have to be good guys. How else could they be? I mean really you think they are awesome so why wouldn’t they be. But sometimes reality does not quite live up to expectations and that happens here. Glenn Wilson flat-out admits during his baseball career that he was somewhat of a jerk. He admits he might not have appreciated the talent he was given and felt he was owed something. That right off the bat has to be hard for anyone to admit, I know I couldn’t do it. So now that my childhood reality was shattered I jumped further into this book and found it to be very interesting.
Glenbo reviews his years of growing up and making it to the majors. He talks about some of his family and how they helped him along the way. He also talks about his time with the Tigers and his disappointment in being traded to the Phillies. Struggles in Philadelphia are talked about along with some other issues in other cities along his journey. He takes the time to be honest with the reader and not try to sugar coat any of his behavior. If he was a jerk about something he freely admitted it.
His struggles after leaving baseball was something I never heard about before, and to Glenn’s credit he is very honest with himself and the reader. As a reader I appreciate it when the player is honest with me. It adds loads of credibility to his story instead of just writing a book for a money grab. The bottom line of this story is that after baseball and some personal issues Glenn was a broken man. What happens next is something that I found most interesting.
Glenn turns to his faith and trusted in God and that faith helped him transform his life. I will not go in to great details here of the way God has helped Glenn transform his life and become a better person. You will have to read the book to get that story, but quite honestly it is a very remarkable story. I sometimes shy away from books that have a religious aspect to them, because they don’t always come off as genuine and that to me is the ultimate disrespect. That being said, this story is absolutely amazing and the effect it has had on Glenn Wilson’s life has been remarkable.
If you are a fan of Glenn Wilson’s this is a really good book and worth reading. He is brutally honest about his life and himself, on and off the field. This book is also a good read if you are having troubles in your own life, because it shows the strength you are able to find by turning to God.
Now if only someday I can get my Tastykake photo signed to complete my childhood dream!
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lucid Books