Most things in life are at the perspective of the person doing it. Baseball offers many things that could be relative to the person witnessing the action, and you could have 100 people and get 100 different perspectives. Today’s books offer essentially the same type of biography but the readers give two totally different outcomes from their authors.
Richard Elliott offers his biography of Clem Labine from a personal perspective. Theirs was essentially a life long friendship that grew from hero worship as a child when Clem was still an active player, to a relationship as a trusted colleague when Clem was an instrumental member of the author’s family business. It is an interesting transition between player and fan and adds a unique twist to the story. It is not often you come across a story like this where the former player becomes almost a member of the family.
This book is very sentimental and has every right to be. It is stories about the many interactions between player and young fan and how they formed an unlikely friendship. The book also allows the reader to see the fondness Elliott has for Labine still to this day, and the emotion of the author comes through strongly. If you are looking for an in-depth bio on Labine’s career, then this one comes in a little light, but in all truth it is an enjoyable story on a personal level that really carries its own weight and worth the read.
The next book also attempts to do the same. Tom Molito was a die hard Mickey Mantle fan growing up and as he aged his business dealings allowed him to get close to Mantle on a personal level. This one has the same hero adulation that the Clem Labine book does, but it also is from the perspective of a businessman. It shows the struggle between childhood memories and hero worship, and the dark realities of an alcoholic and former hero you are trying to work with.
It gives a very interesting look into the life of Mickey Mantle during his final years and the daily struggles Mickey had with his own demons and those that his handlers had in up keeping his public persona. The author has done a great job of being honest with the struggles he had dealing with the childhood memories and the stark truth that stared him in the face. Fortunately for the author, there was some good memories that came from his dealings with The Mick, so all was not lost.
Both of these books offer good things for the reader. Labine’s book I believe was intended to be just what it was, a tribute to a dear friend and since Labine’s death it may have been a way to write the final chapter on their friendship. The Mickey Mantle book on the other hand offers a direct look at the bleak reality of what Mickey Mantle really was near the end of his life. I don’t think it was in any way intended to be a smear book and the authors tone throughout the book solidifies my opinion on that. It is just one book had an easier subject to work with than the other.
Check out both books, because they are both short easy reads and give unique perspectives on both subjects. Labine is a hard subject to find books on and this is one of the few I have found available. Also, when was the last time you read a new and different story about Mickey Mantle, for most of us I bet it has been awhile.
We have seen in the last few posts how certain publishers focus on baseball fans and really provide a great selection for them. As we head into the pending long, hard winter, I figured it is always a good idea to showcase a few more publishers that take care of the fans and get us to our awaited destination, the first pitch of Spring. Sports publishing has long been a staple of baseball book publishers and offers a diverse catalog for fans. They offer multiple sports, but for me it’s all baseball or bust. Historical, team related, biographical, new release or not, there always is something that fans can find that will appeal to everyone.
While this is not a new release, it still is a great look at the most vital position on the field, the Pitcher. By going through the entire history of baseball, Westcott gives the reader some of the most memorable feats performed by Pitchers. Heroes of the game such as Waddell, Chesbro, Cy Young and Mathewson through modern day greats like Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Maddux and Randy Johnson all get their due. It is a nice mix of various pitching accomplishments that have help build the history of the game. 51 chapters covering one position is a lot of memorable feats for the reader, and also introduces them to some not so mainstream stories. Check this book out if you want to expand your knowledge of the game’s history and see the value that the Pitcher has added to our great game.
Lets face it, the Home Run is one of the coolest aspects of the game. It can change the entire momentum of a game, series or even a season. There is a reason we keep so many Home Run records and why we still are arguing who is the real Home Run King. There are easily more than 101 home runs that one can call to mind but this is one of those books that narrows it to a certain number. The one thing the reader has to remember is that they will not always agree with the 101 that were picked. So it offers some debate material for you and your friends to discuss over a few beers, but in the end, everyone’s list will be different. The authors give a nice sampling of Homers and it allows the readers to re-live some of the greatest moments in the game’s history. But in the end, someone, somewhere is going to disagree with at least 1/3 of the picks. So keep an open mind going into this one.
There was a post in a Facebook group this week asking about this series of books. It is a very interesting series that puts a unique spin on your favorite team. The Pittsburgh Pirates book above is the latest in the series and offers you the worst players to wear certain uniform numbers, statistics and history base off the numbers as well as first home runs by certain numbers. There are so many various things they offer related to the numbers that it is almost impossible not to enjoy these books. If you are a fan of a certain team you will enjoy this series immensely. Check out Sports Publishing’s web site for their other team offerings.
We are all familiar with the Black Sox scandal of 1919 so no need to rehash it here. I tend to shy away from the Joe Jackson books at this point because I am not really sure if I am going to get anything new from reading another one. Well I am glad to say Hornbaker has given me a more complete picture of Joe Jackson than I ever had before. He looks at his time prior to joining the Chicago White Sox and his career blossoming career in Cleveland. It paints a much broader picture of the center focal point of the Black Sox scandal and an further understanding of the real Joe Jackson. No matter what side of the scandal you sit on, this book is worth taking a look at. It provides some new perspectives of all events of Jackson’s career and life.
I wonder honestly if Ty Cobb gets more coverage now than he did while he was alive. He also is a very tough market to write a book during the last few years. Hornbaker’s book is another in a long line of recent Cobb themed books and like his Joe Jackson book provides a different perspective on the Hall of Famer. As always it is up to the reader to decide what is fact and what is legend, but the author does an admirable job at presenting alternative truths about Cobb. It is worth the time to read but in the end, the reader has to make the decision which one of the Cobb books presents the most truth. After all the books, both fact and fiction, that have addressed Cobb, it is going to be hard for readers to ever figure out what Cobb’s true story actually is.
Finally, we take a look at one of my hometown favorites. This book covers more than just baseball and usually I don’t touch these book on here,(see my disclaimer above), but hey……….it’s Philly! It takes a thorough look at Philadelphia and the Championships we have been lucky enough to celebrate through the years. Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey are covered as well as showing the transition from a town built on Dynasties to a town laden in a Championship drought for so many years. It events like these that helped shaped me as the sports fan I am today. It also shows that the Philly fans may not be as bad as we are always portrayed.
Take the time to check the books out on Sports Publishing’s website. They have these and many other great baseball books that are sure to please everyone.
Some baseball books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors. These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents. I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent. Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up. I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages. Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.
When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix. The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays. Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.
Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture. It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century. He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.
Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league. Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras. Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had. He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years. Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.
I always enjoy books of the lesser known players. As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books. I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult. There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.
If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago. If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
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
Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information. The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike. Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.
Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team. A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways, Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game. Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers. Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.
Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it. Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal. It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.
What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved. We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more. For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal. Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now, Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.
Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal. We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago. We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events. Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago. So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended? For that I am not so sure. But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own. I myself like this book on its own, because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?
If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
In my opinion, the arena of Baseball books is in no way an exact science. There is no rhyme or reason as to what person an author chooses to write about, or which players decide I want to write my own book. It leaves readers with endless choices and multiple avenues to pursue their favorite subjects. With all of these choices, readers may get led down a road that they will regret in the end. As I have always said, nobody wants to waste time on a bad book. I wonder which side of the fence today’s book falls into?
Carl Scheib is not a household name like Pete Rose or Babe Ruth, but he did have a professional career playing for both the Philadelphia Athletics and St Louis Cardinals. Not being Cy Young reincarnated on the mound led me to believe that this book was going to focus more on his personality and less on his lack of pitching prowess. Well……. I was wrong.
Wonder Boy is very heavy in game by game details of Carl Scheib’s professional career. When I say heavy I mean HEAVY! After the first few chapters that give you the standard background on the player, family friends, schooling home life etc., it jumps right into his career. Each chapter tends to cover a full season showing the highlights and lowlights of that year for Scheib. It also tries to mix in a bit of personal information about Carl in each year but seemed forced and unnatural.
Books about a player from Connie Mack’s A’s, let alone near the end of his regime do not seem like popular subjects. Probably because the team at that point was operated on such a shoe string budget that the quality of players was not that good. Which then led to no one really taking an interest in most of the players on a personal level. It is a double edged sword for the Athletics players in Philadelphia during this era.
If you really, really want to find out information on Carl Scheib this is your only resource right now. It does offer some personal insight into the man and the player and gives the reader some stories about a man who will eventually be forgotten to time because he played for one of those horrible Connie Mack teams. Unfortunately for my taste, this book relies to much on game day play by play to fill its pages.
As always, I leave it to you the reader to check it out and see if you agree with me or not, you can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press
It’s the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 Induction day today. The one day a year where that sleepy little hamlet in upstate New York looks like Times Square at 11:59 p.m. on New Years Eve. As I watched the speeches of the new members today I took notice as the MLB Network panned around the field, of all the diverse people in attendance. Family, former players, members of the Hall and of course, the people who honestly make this great game possible through their support, the fans. Different people from different generations, backgrounds and paths in life all come together for one day and celebrate the greatness of our game. On days like this you never know who is going to be in the crowd but you can be sure its an interesting mix of fans and baseball history. For the reason of diversity and in honor of Induction day, we are going to look at a very diverse group of books that are currently available in the market and why you should check them out.
1-When the Braves Ruled the Diamond-14 Flags Over Atlanta
Take some time to reminisce about the Atlanta Braves. People can say that the Yankees were the team of the 90’s because of their championships, but honestly who was the one team that you was sure was going to be in post season play? Yes, these Braves! It is a fun look at what made these N.L. East destroying teams from Atlanta repeat year after year after year. The only thing that stood in their way in one magical year or their run was my Phillies in 1993. As with Schlossberg’s other books, this one is time well spent re-living the magical ride of the Atlanta Braves.
2-Tony C.-The Triumph and Tragedy of Tony Conigliaro
This one is a new edition by a new publisher of the 1997 release under the same name. While not a new book, it is a reminder of the tragedy that can plague our game. A beloved hero in Boston whose career and life was cut tragically short. A career full of promise and from most accounts a pretty interesting guy off the field as well, this book chronicles the story of Tony C. and what he meant to the Fenway Faithful. I read this when it first came out about 20 years ago and really enjoyed reading it through the fresh edition from Summer Game Books. Another book that will easily get you through the remaining dog days of Summer.
3-A Life Lived-The Story of William “Bill” Blair
A very inspiring story of a former Negro League player and his life after baseball. A short book that comes in under 90 pages but still tells the inspiring story of William ” Bill” Blair and how he spent his life after baseball giving back to his hometown community. A great story of a man who never forgot where he came from and how baseball inspired him his whole life through. A quick read, but well worth the time.
4-Last Train to Cooperstown
Author Kevin Mitchell takes a look at the inadvertent but probably final class of Negro League inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The book offers thorough profiles on each of the chosen few and what their contributions to the game were. He also offers a conclusion as to what may occur with others from the Negro Leagues in the future. Its very good insight into this well deserved class of Negro Leaguers that made the hall in 2006.
5-Tales From the San Francisco Giants Dugout
An updated and re-release of previous versions, this new issue adds some new stories and anecdotes about the Giants and their fans. If you are a fan of this team you will not want to miss this book. There also are the same books available for almost every other team out there, so check Sports Publishing’s website if you are looking for another team. These books are always a good time for the reader.
6-The Tigers and Yankees in ’61
Another magical year in baseball history is showcased in this one. A hard fought pennant race, the chase to make history for teammates and a few star players who had career years. The Yankees are getting near the end of their dominating years in this one but does show the reader what the American League landscape looked like during this era. If you are a fan of this era and a fan of the types of books McFarland publishes as well, then this is a book you will not want to miss.
7-A Band of Misfits-Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants-Triumph Books
8-The Fightin’ Phillies-100 Years of Phillies Baseball-Triumph Books
I group these together because while the may be different, they have very strong similarities. The both cover a specific team and give important anecdotes and stories about their histories. Whether they are covering one specific season or a full century worth of that teams stories, they are entertaining for fans of the respective teams. The only warning I give readers on these types of books is to go into them realizing these are the same stories you have probably heard 100 times over. You will probably get no new stories out of these, but they are good for reminiscing about your favorite team.
9-Jackie Robinson-An Integrated Life
Another perspective on the groundbreaking life of Jackie Robinson. We are all familiar with the story, but instead of taking it from a baseball point of view, it shows the results from a social impact perspective. It puts a different spin on the whole Jackie Robinson story and adds new insights to the entire story. Jackie Robinson’s admirable legacy is about so much more than just baseball, and this is only one of the many different angles.
10-Out of Left Field-Jews and Black Baseball
Another book that takes a look at the social impact a baseball team had on our world. This one takes a look at how a team made up of black Jews made a name for themselves in the Negro Leagues. It shows how they were able to further the cause of the Negro Leagues and help promote social justices. It was a bit of history I had no idea about and a very good learning experience for me. If you have any sort of interest in the Negro Leagues then check this one out.
11-The Cardinals Way
The Cardinals have come to be America’s team. I am not really sure how that happened, but they have through their history churned out some great moments and players that will be remembered for decades to come. By embracing that history and tradition as well as the new theories such as Moneyball, they have become a baseball powerhouse. It shows how combining old and new methods of thinking can have positive outcomes. I am thinking you will see more and more teams following this ideology in the future.
12-The Knuckleball Club
An in depth look at the most confounding pitch ever to grace the game of baseball. The who’s, whats and why’s of this quirky pitch are covered in this book. It also shares the stories of the Pitchers and Catchers who shared the success of the weird and wild pitch. This is the first book I have found that has shown how it fits into the fabric of the game, and is great knowledge for the average baseball fan. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
13-The Games That Changed Baseball-Milestones in Major League History
This book takes a look at some very important games throughout history. Dissecting what happened and what made them so important. While I do not agree with 100 percent of their picks, all of them were well researched and presented. Fans should check out this book and see if they agree with all of the authors picks. It does introduce some games that would probably create some very spirited debates among fans and friends.
Finally, after we got through all of these books today, I wanted to say a word of thanks to everyone who reads my blog. We have reached our second anniversary and have read a lot of books together up to this point. I do the best I can since this is a hobby and not my job and try and turn out material as quickly as possible. With the pending arrival of our first bundle of joy in the next few weeks, year #3 will be a challenge but I will still find a way to get some posts done. I thank all of you who have sent me books and allowed me to read them and post reviews. Also to the folks that read my posts because without you, there would be no reason to write them. Finally if you have sent me a book recently and I have not posted it yet, don’t worry you are not forgotten. I am a little behind for the reasons stated above but you will not be forgotten, please just be patient. Thank you to all again and looking forward to year #3.
I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
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.