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
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
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
I have said in the past there are certain personalities that transcend the game itself. Usually they are players that fall into this category, mainly because of their own field exposure. There are always exceptions to that rule and easily Connie Mack is one of them. The Grand Old Man of Baseball is one of the patriarchs of the game and through all time is a name that will be known to all. A person who had an entirely different contribution to the game as Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, but still a name that is just as recognizable as many of the games greats. Norman L. Macht has recently completed his third installment of his Connie Mack trilogy and it completes in print the life of one of baseballs true pioneers.
Obviously I read a lot of books, but no series of books I have ever come across has made me go WOW!, like this one has. The first volume of this set was published in 2007 with subsequent volumes in 2012 and 2015 respectively. All three book take a look at a specific portion of Connie Mack’s life and the events that helped shape his life and career. These books show how he forged his personality and the steps he had taken to amass his baseball empire. Each book also shows the baseball dealings he conducted on a daily basis, how he constructed teams and eventually dismantled teams to pay the teams bills. Various financial struggles are addressed throughout the years, power struggles within team ownership and family infighting that eventually led to the final downfall and removal of the Athletics from Philadelphia.
Norman L. Macht has dedicated a good portion of his life to this project. Starting in 1985 the research he did was in depth and led him essentially to every location Connie Mack ever stepped foot. He spoke to as many people who were friends, colleagues or family of Connie Mack and got the inside scoop on what the man was really like. The amount of time and research that was dedicated to this project is just mind blowing to me. I can’t imagine dedicating three decades to one subject and then being able to narrow it down to only 2,000 pages of details for a publisher. Usually, most publishers would shy away from a multi volume biography anyway.
For me growing up in Philadelphia there were always a lot of stories floating around. From just having the local ties and being a fixture in the city itself to the part that my Grandfather put a roof on his house in the late 40’s, Connie Mack for me was always an intriguing figure. This book dispels a lot of the myth’s that I had accepted as fact about Mack. Through the stories you hear growing up in Philadelphia, many of them you just accept as fact and don’t dedicate the time to looking for the truth. He truly was one of the games great owners and we will never see another one like him. In reality how many owners have a rival team name their stadium after your team leaves town, as the Phillies did out of respect for Mack. The respect that people had for him was astounding, so much so that as of my last conversation with Bobby Shantz about a year or so ago, he still referrs to him as Mr. Mack, over 60 years after his death.
Baseball fans should really check these books out. They are a vast wealth of knowledge for the fans of a very popular subject of the game that has not had many books dedicated to him. Norman L. Macht should be commended, and rightly so, on a great job writing these three books and completing his 30 year journey to show fans the real Cornelius McGillicuddy.
You can get these books from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
It is hard to deny that the Athletics baseball team have a pretty incredible history. Having called three separate cities home over the course of their existence, they have reached the pinnacle of the game several times over, along with finding the depths of despair. Some people think of the A’s as three separate teams at each of their locations, but now you can get a book that covers them as one entity.
David M. Jordan has taken on the task of covering the entire history of the Athletics franchise. Each location the A’s have called home are covered in this book. It is easier to find a book that covers one location, but it is I think, harder to find one book to cover their full history. Jordan covers the history in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland with great detail. He shows the mainstay personalities that helped create their storied history in each city. He also covers the championships that have come their way throughout the years.
Books like this are usually for the hard-core fans of that team and this one is no exception. It gives a lot of detail of certain memorable seasons and glances over the not so memorable ones. They have a long history that is very hard to cover in a single book, especially when you are trying to cover the time from Connie Mack to Charlie Finley and then on to Billy Ball. Nonetheless, David M. Jordan does a thorough job and gives the reader a real feel for this teams history. If you are not very familiar with the A’s complete history, this gives you a good taste of what you have been missing.
If you are a hard-core fan, this is a good book for you. The reader gets some obscure facts that those type of fans will appreciate. I think if you are a casual fan and looking for a light easy read, this may not be for you. This book gives a detailed history lesson of the A’s that is hard to beat. No matter what city that you were a fan of the A’s in, it is worth checking out.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing