Like it or not, wherever your favorite team plays is an integral part of the game experience. From unique dimensions, playing surfaces and the elements, these things can all add or detract from the overall experience. With the birth of so many new venues over the last 25 years, the fan experience has been dramatically improved. For the most part the previous generation of stadiums lacked ingenuity or any sort of bling and at the bare minimum left something to be desired for the fans. The only fun part of them was the nicknames that were bestowed to several of them such as concrete doughnut and my personal favorite…..the Toilet. There was one stadium that stood out among all of these circular disappointments and stood above all the rest, The Houston Astrodome. Its amenities were well ahead of the times and served the fans of Houston well for several decades. Now there is a book that celebrates the creation of the iconic stadium and shows all the work that went into building the eighth wonder of the world.
I have always looked at the Astrodome as a baseball stadium. Never giving much thought to the other uses for this multi-purpose marvel. First, this book takes a look at the political wrangling that it took for the city of Houston to procure a Major League team as well as some of the promises it was required to make as part of that deal. It shows the tireless efforts of several key figures in Houston and the many failed previous efforts of the town. It paints a vivid picture of how much time and effort goes in to just getting a promise of a team.
The book also goes into great detail about the political obstacles the new stadium faced in Houston as well as all the engineering hurdles that had to be cleared to create something of this magnitude. It goes into great depth to explain how the stadium was physically built to withstand the elements and how it has been able to withstand the test of time. The authors also show the readers all of the unique attributes that were built into the stadium and you can see how forward thinking those involved with its construction truly were.
The book also addresses the many uses the Astrodome had. From concerts, rodeos, football and countless other uses, it really lent itself to being a jack of all trades. Like all stadiums of this era, it was a living, breathing and evolving building and changed with the needs of the times. Finally, it does take a harsh look at the aging of the dome and how it fell victim of the current times. In the end, the once grand palace of baseball became just another decrepit old stadium. A stadium that no one is sure what to do with and probably at some point, like all the one time greats, will meet its demise.
The book is very comprehensive and shows those not living in Texas what the Astrodome was truly about. It also gives a nice glimpse at Texas politics and how that works as well as the way the people of Houston have helped change their self image with the help of the dome.
While this is not a baseball only book, it still has a large chunk of Colt 45’s/Astros information. If you have interest in old stadiums this book covers it from its beginnings to its possible near end. It has lots of information readers will find informative and entertaining, If like me, you were never lucky enough to visit the Astrodome, this book will surely make you wish you had.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
There are certain seasons that stand out from others. Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight. 1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here. It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values. Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business. Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.
1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans. Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it. It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped. Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings. On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles. But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness. Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.
Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season. Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds. Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values. On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society. Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.
The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season. The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well. Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets, Hank Aaron was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy. It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants. It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.
This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball. Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point. I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events. We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68. Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line. These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.
This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint. I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier. The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball. For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957. Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.
If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it. It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well. You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Choosing the best of the best can really ignite some serious debates. Who belongs, who doesn’t, who should be eligible and who should not even be there always makes for good conversations among friends. The Baseball Hall of Fame, which is nestled in that sleepy little town in upstate New York, is the mecca of baseball junkies. You can walk among some of the greatest artifacts throughout the history of the game as well as visiting the memorials to all the games brightest stars. If you are not lucky enough to be located within a reasonable distance of the Hall like I am (2 hours), then you may not be able to get there as often as you would like or even at all for that matter. I found a book, if you are one of the unlucky few that may never get there that will help you experience some of the magical aura that is The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has really published a first-rate book with this one. The quality of the book alone is incredible. From the paper stock, to the printing this is a really nice book. Quality of the book is something I really never comment on, but this one is really that good.
The Hall has compiled all its members, including managers, executives and umpires and given the reader in-depth overviews of every single person. Each player section is broken down by position into its own chapter and then sorted by induction year. It has dedicated two pages to each personality and gives a nice biography of their career as well as a brief snippet of that persons unique personality. It is a nice feature for each person that you don’t always get in these types of books, because it is usually more focused on the career numbers. Each person’s Hall of Fame plaque also heads their individual page so you are able to read exactly what is hanging on the wall in Cooperstown.
The other nice feature is a several page essay at the beginning of each chapter. A player from that chapter has written about his own experiences during his career that led him to The Hall of Fame. It is something you don’t normally see in a Hall of Fame coffee table book and adds a real human touch to this book. I think the Hall of Fame sometimes lacks a human touch when speaking about its members, so this brings it back to a very personal and fan friendly level.
This book covers all the players that were enshrined as of the publication date. The only down side to these types of books is that they are not accurate for very long. Once the next July rolls around someone is missing. But honestly this book is done so well it should belong in every fan’s library. You may be familiar with some of the names, but there are others that are a real learning experience for fans young and old.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little Brown and Company
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