No matter who you are, baseball starts with some sort of dream. It could be a dream to see a baseball game in person, meet your favorite player or be one of the chosen few who gets to play the game professionally. What if you are one of the chosen few who belong to a family where baseball would be considered the family business, quite honestly…..how cool would that be for any of us? Today’s book takes a look at one of the lucky ones that gets to call baseball their family business and the amazing experiences that it has afforded him and his family throughout their careers.
For my money, to be considered baseball royalty you do not have to be a Hall of Fame caliber player. I just think you have to have a genuine love for the game and put all your efforts into it. For those not familiar with the Campanis family, they have dedicated their lives to the game across three generations, making contributions both on and off the field.
Starting with Grandpa Al who dedicated his life to the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and New York, he contributed to building National League powerhouses that for decades were tough to beat. Second generation Jim Sr., had a respectable career on both the major league and minor league levels. With stops in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Pittsburgh during his playing days, he was able to witness many things that none of us will ever get to experience around baseball. Finally it brings us to Jim Jr. A hot prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, that quite possibly through no fault of his own, never got the real shot he deserved to make it to the Major Leagues.
Born Into Baseball takes a look at the journey of Jim Jr. From his upbringing experiencing the Major Leagues through his Father Jim and Grandfather Al’s careers, which ultimately led to him deciding this is what I want to do with my life. Jim takes us through his college experiences and how he learned to appreciate and play the game on a different level. Next he leads you through his time in the Minors. Sharing with the reader all of the friendships he made along the way as well as sharing the lighter side of being a Minor Leaguer. He also shows the reader what a player goes through when he realizes, by his own choice or someone else’s, that it is time to lay the dream to rest. It is a very interesting look at what goes through the mind of an aspiring player.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the Campanis history lesson. You learn about his grandfather Al who spent a lifetime with the Dodgers, representing them as they both deserved and expected. Only in the end, to watch his entire career collapse around him due to a few unfortunate comments on national television. It is a sad legacy to leave behind and hopefully as time goes by people will forgive the poor judgement of the comments and give Al the respect he earned throughout his lifetime. Jim also looks at his Dad, Jim Sr’s baseball career. It shows a level of dedication to the game and a desire to compete and reach a dream at almost any cost.
I always find it interesting the the players who never quite reach stardom always have the best insight to the game. Perhaps it is because they spent so much time honing their craft trying to improve. Or maybe it is because they were always behind someone a little better on the depth charts. Whatever the reason may be, Jim Campanis has a great outlook on how the game should be played and showed himself as a willing student throughout his entire career. What is contained in these pages proves you don’t need to be a Hall of Fame player to be a Hall of Fame person.
If you have an interest in getting a feel for what it is like to be on the other side of the baseball curtain, check this book out. It gives a real good look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues and how much you really have to sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
No matter who you are, if you are a baseball fan, you have opinions on how to make the game better. It could be ways to speed up the game, a way to play the game more effectively or even personnel decisions that would alter the complexion of your team. Regardless of what your ideas are, more than likely they will fall on deaf ears. Now if you are a baseball lifer like today’s author, you automatically gain some credence to your ideas just because of the experience and respect you have attained during your career.
Buck Martinez has been a solid baseball lifer. Spending a career as an on field back up Catcher, he had the opportunity to study the game during his three team stop in the major leagues. His final stop in Toronto seemed to provide him the best education and allow him to find as permanent a home as one can find in baseball. His post retirement career as both field manager and television analyst have continued his baseball education and allowed him to become one of the most respected minds in baseball.
This book has almost a Frankenstein feel to it. It really could have been several different stand alone books all by the same author, but here it is rolled all in to one product. The first part of the book that Buck gives the reader, is his childhood and playing career. You see his love of the game from his youth and how he worked himself hard to become a major leaguer. He was for most of his time in the major leagues a back up or fringe player which allowed him to study the game. All three teams, The Royals, Brewers and Blue Jays, were all fairly bad teams that were attempting to build a quality product on the field and Buck was part of the construction of all three. It was those three stops that Buck learned what it took to be a winner and how to build success.
After his playing days were over Buck found a home as an analyst for the Blue Jays and has made himself a vital part of the Jays TV crew and a respected voice from the booth. His analyst career was interrupted by a brief and not so successful stint as Blue Jays manager. It was a wrong place, wrong time career move, that if it was under a different set of circumstances, may have turned out much different.
The third part of this book conglomeration is Buck’s opinions of what works and does not work within today’s game. He cites examples of who he thinks is playing and respecting the game at the correct level. He also presents some ideas that he thinks would improve the game. He has some decent ideas that someone within the game and the powers that be, may want to stop and take a look at. They are not way out ideas and would help enhance the game as we know it today.
When you think of Buck Martinez you don’t think of a Hall of Fame player. While he had an average career, he has made himself a spectacular student of the game and makes educated and well thought out suggestions to improve the game. If you are looking for an educated view of the current game this may be a book you would want to check out. He presents his ideas in ways that would improve the game without disrupting its natural flow. The book showed a whole new side of Buck Martinez to me and allowed me to gain a whole new respect for him.
You can get this book from the nice folks at HarperCollins
There are certain moments in baseball history that transcend time. The team, the year and the location are of little consequence, but that moment stays fresh in everyone’s mind forever. For me, one of those moments is Carlton Fisk’s home run in Fenway Park during Game Six of the 1975 World Series. It is one of the most iconic moments in the history of the game, and possibly the one thing Carlton Fisk is most famous for. What else do we really know about Fisk though? Everyone is familiar with his playing career and the numbers he put up during his Hall of Fame career, but how much do we really know about his personality? Recently a book has been published that gives an inside look at the Hall of Fame slugger.
To me for some reason, Carlton Fisk is one of those Hall of Famers that hides in the shadows. When you think of the Hall of Fame he is not the first person that comes to mind. Perhaps it is because his lone World Series was in 1975, or maybe its his calm and steady demeanor that relegates him to the background. Whatever the reason may be, he is truly worthy of his place in Cooperstown and Doug Wilson has done a really nice job of walking the reader behind the curtain that is Carlton Fisk.
A man of great integrity that came from a strong New England upbringing, Fisk is portrayed as a pillar of character and personal strength. The author takes readers on a journey through Fisk’s growing up and forging the character that is a staple of his personality. You also get to see his debut in the majors and how he came to be a respected catcher and dedicated teammate. Obviously this book would not even be close to complete without getting the inside story on the World Series Home Run. It does a very nice job of showing the true story of Fisk’s time in Boston. It shows the behind the scenes struggles with team management that ultimately led to the home-grown slugger heading to Chicago.
His time in Chicago and life after baseball for Fisk is also covered very nicely here. It does show a complete picture of Fisk’s career. It also lends a personal side to the Catcher that is not something I have come across before. It was nice to see a book that focused on the person, instead of just the Home Run in 1975.
Doug Wilson always does a nice job with his books. They are not overly flashy, but are always well researched and the subjects are usually ones that are lacking in other coverage. His three other books that are out there do a nice job as well of covering their subject matter. In my opinion Doug Wilson is becoming one of the better baseball biographers of this era.
All baseball fans should check this one out. We are all familiar with the player and now its time to get to know the man behind the Catcher’s mask.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books
It would be a whole lot easier to figure out what hasn’t been said about Derek Jeter over the last twenty plus years. Countless books have been written, articles printed and in New York the television coverage was never scarce. Everyone has opinions of Jeter for better or worse, but it really is almost impossible to deny what he brought to the table day after day. If you take away the fact that he played for the New York Yankees, he still would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. With all that has been written about Derek Jeter, Danny Peary has taken a unique approach at looking at both the player on the field and the man behind the legend.
Not wanting to take the ordinary approach to celebrating Derek Jeter, Peary has assembled a compilation of his life and career in quotes. Tidbits from everyone around him or having some sort of contact with Jeter, it produces a very unique story that is weaved sentence by sentence. It gives a better result than that of a standard biography of the player, in the fact that in the end, you know so much more about the player and understand what makes him tick. You can always learn a lot about a person by what those around him feel about him.
The author has pulled quotes from friends, family, other players, managers, scouts, writers, coaches, teachers, celebrities, fans and critics. It wasn’t like he was trying to pull a select few people who would give the best quotes and allow him to paint a happy picture. He pulled from every source available and created a tapestry that shows the complete picture of Derek Jeter. The book is broken up into different chapter that lend a natural progression to Jeter’s life and career and help the reader follow a continuous timeline.
This is by-far the most unique approach I have come across on a book about a player. I am not sure you would call it a biography, but I don’t think it necessarily fits well in other categories. The approach is very refreshing and honestly enjoyable, because it allows the reader to see different information about a player that we all know so much about. I am not sure this approach would work for many other players. The New York media has brought so much information forth about Jeter that it has helped create the marketing machine that is Derek Jeter in our society.
Danny Peary has done a great job with this. It was unique and a much welcomed change in the player biography arena for me. I really enjoyed it and think those who are not fans of the New York Yankees will even enjoy it. The quotes keep it moving at a quick pace and present information about both the man and player without getting bogged down in cumbersome details.
Check out this book, I don’t think fans will be disappointed
Since I have been submerged in my book sorting project lately I have not had much time to post anything on here. I figured now would be a good time to show a little something for everyone. I am learning first-hand just how many variances are out there in the baseball book world. If you are even a casual fan that enjoys reading, you would be hard pressed not to find something that would appeal to you. Sometimes all you have to do is dig around and find your niche. These books tonight may not all be new but they were new to me at one time, if you will. So I felt they would be worthwhile to share, but fair warning this is a fairly long post. So without further delay…………
Willie Keeler of “hit them where they ain’t” fame was one of the great players of his time. There were many superstars of that era, but Keeler was always able to hold his own during his career. Not as much of a household name in this day and age, but he easily was still good enough to need his own book. Lyle Spatz has done a nice job of keeping this one interesting for the reader as well making sure you don’t get bogged down in details. It is a very comprehensive book without being burdened by statistics and in the end feeling cumbersome. You get a nice feel for a player from a long ago ended era. Willie Keeler from Roman & Littlefield Publishers
Terry Pluto has a love affair with the Cleveland Indians and it is always very evident in his writing. That is not a bad thing, but it is good to know beforehand that you will always be getting the “Homers” view of the team. Pluto and Hamilton walk you through the first few years of Jacobs Field in a time when the town was desperate for a winner. It really is a good feeling book that Indians fans will be glad they get to revisit. Glory Days in Tribe Town-Gray & Co. Publishers
I think with the advent of better government relations with Cuba, this will be the first of many baseball books on this topic. It takes an in-depth look at baseball in a time before Cuba was off-limits. How Cubans, Americans and other nationalities all came together and played within the league. It almost is what the current model of MLB is today. Numerous nations becoming one on the fields for a great pennant race. It is a very good look of an era long ago and if you have any interest in Cuban baseball history, this is the book for you. Havana Hardball-University Press of Florida
A true baseball pioneer in every sense of the word. Alexander Joy Cartwright is considered the father of the modern game and honestly someone I did not know all that much about. This book takes a serious look at his life and works and puts it in a modern-day perspective. The reader can really relate to the subject and gets a feel for what he envisioned. With all the controversy that surrounds the invention of baseball, this one will help clarify some things for some fans. Live All You Can-Columbia University Press
More entertainment than baseball, but we will include it here. It is a behind the scenes look at a baseball movie that became a cult classic. Maybe for some folks it’s the best of both worlds, baseball and movies? If you really like baseball movies this would be a great sneak peek for you to see what really went on during filming. The Making of Major League-Gray & Co. Publishers
I will be the first to admit that I am never usually drawn to fiction. But I did find this one interesting because of this seasons circumstances with the Chicago Cubs. They are the topic of this book and its all about the Cubs and Red Sox making it to the World Series. It’s a fun book that shows what great lengths die-hard fans are willing to go to get a winner. This book hits on a lot of human nature points and is pretty accurate in the human psyche analysis. The Cubs almost were there this year, but this book might help some of those fans make it through to he promise of next year. Killing the Curse-Publisher Page
Another team with high-hopes this postseason. This is the type of book that helps Bucs fans make it through the long, hard Pennsylvania winter as well. It walks the reader through team history and re-lives the highs and lows of seasons past. You may ask why do we want to remember the lows? Because that is what makes it so great when your team finally accomplishes something. Both players and fans have earned that win and get to celebrate it together. Pirates fans should definitely check this one out. Pirates Reader-University of Pittsburgh Press
This one has a ton of information for the reader in how the government treats sports leagues. At time it can be almost overwhelming. It does a nice job of giving the background and how its effect on future dealings with the leagues, but it is still a lot to comprehend. This is by far not light reading and at times seems text bookish, but if you can find the will to persevere and get through it, you will be much the wiser in doing so. Not a book for the faint of heart but still worth the effort. The Big Leagues Go to Washington-University of Illinois Press
This is a book of short stories that shows the reader how baseball really does take hold of us. It almost is like it becomes part of our souls and infiltrates multiple parts of our lives. Whether you love just one player, one team or the entire game itself, you will read this and be able to relate to almost all of these stories. This one has something for all fans regardless of age and makes you realize just how important the game really is to us. Dreaming .400-Summer Game Books
Another player autobiography by a Cleveland Indians favorite. Vizquel comes off as a likeable guy in this one. Nothing of great earth shattering substance included here, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. If you are not real familiar with Omar Vizquel this gives some nice insight to him beyond just a player. Cleveland Indians fans who were desperate for a winner before Omar, will surely enjoy this one.
Its obvious the Yankees have the greatest history in baseball. This book takes the opportunity to show fans of other teams one of those aspects that is so great. Freedman takes a look at some of the most iconic home runs in Yankee history and helps fans relive those great moments. From Babe Ruth to Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent, this one covers them all.
I wasn’t sure where to file this one. The author takes a look at the accepted truths within the history of the game and attempts to refute them. It basically makes you question everything we as a society accept about our game. It makes you wonder how much of it is true and will appeal to the conspiracy theorists in the bunch. You make the call on this one because I am still not sure.
This is another one that is hard to explain. The author shows the reader how sports effect every day life at all levels. It is one mans opinion of these things and how they effect his own life. He tells a bunch of his own stories in this book some of which he is the main character and some where he is not. It was a little hard for me to grab hold of this one and not put it down, it definitely wasn’t what I expected, but you be the judge on it.I wore Babe Ruth’s Hat-University of Illinois Press
I will be the first to admit, when I see a great player out on the field I don’t give much thought as to what it took to get him there. Obviously the player had to dedicate himself to the game, hone his skills and pay his dues in the minor leagues, but what about on the organization’s side of the ball. How much time was dedicated to looking at this player and assessing if he had the skills to be a major leaguer. How much time was dedicated to teaching this player the correct way to play the game and help him progress in his career. All these things we don’t think about, but then I have to ask the question, who are the people who help make these decisions and find the talent out in the world? Today’s book is one of those that showcases a man who has dedicated his life to finding these diamonds in the rough.
When I started this book I was not sure I was going to get anything of any substance. I was thinking what could a scout tell me that I would find interesting about Major League Baseball. I thought it was going to be tales about driving through cornfields and dust storms to find the next big prospect, for kids that usually didn’t pan out anyway. I am very happy to say, boy was I wrong!
Art Stewart has dedicated his life to finding the next great thing for the game of baseball. A career that included a stint for the New York Yankees, Art is best known for his great work helping build the Kansas City Royals basically from the ground up. The author tells us stories of efforts to build a farm system for the franchise that will reap benefits at the major league level for years to come. Stories of beating the bushes trying to find the next great one and tireless effort put in to each prospect to find the right fit for his team. Through hard work, a loving wife and a great owners in Kansas City it has allowed Art Stewart to excel in his field and have an illustrious career.
This book is very enjoyable because it allows you to see what really goes into scouting of players. The analysis and skill assessment that each player must be evaluated with and the pride that comes along with each players success is showcased for the reader. It really is more than just going to a game and waiting for the players to show something remarkable. There are always hidden talents out there waiting to be discovered. The Art of Scouting has really changed my perspective on how I view a scouts role within the game, and I now see what a vital part they are to any organization.
Any baseball fan should enjoy this book. It shows you what goes on behind the scenes of any organization and what a vital role they have within any team. The scouts are an under-appreciated group that should really get some more recognition for their contributions to the game.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Ascend Books
I find it fascinating that there are people who have played this game and despite their momentous accomplishments on the field can to some degree remain in the shadows. Perhaps this is by design, but I find it hard to believe a player would want to avoid accolades. Maybe it is the player being a victim of circumstances in playing for a team in a small market or he is just being a bright spot on some very bad teams. Whatever the reasons may be one of the players that I felt may not have always gotten his due is Harmon Killebrew. Playing for first the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins and finally the Kansas City Royals, Killebrew never really spent any great amount of time in a large market. I think this plays into the premise for me that even though Killebrew earned his Hall of Fame status he never really got the notoriety he was due. Today’s book takes a look at the gentle giant that lurked behind Killer Killebrew.
From normal American upbringings in Idaho, Harmon Killebrew was like every other kid in the post World War II era. A local hero with respect for his elders there was nothing bad that could be said about young Harmon. This book follows the home town hero through his local rise to stardom and his trek to the big leagues. It has countless interviews with some of the folks that crossed paths with Harmon and not a single person had anything negative to say about the slugger. If they were friends in High School and have not seen him in 40 years everyone still considered him their friend.
Aschburner takes the reader through Killebrew’s journey, getting established in the majors and getting adjusted to his new locales. He gives the reader a glimpse of the persona behind the player and how it didn’t matter who you were, Harmon Killebrew seemed to treat everyone just the same. It shows the humble character of Harmon that was something that never changed his entire life.
I always find interesting in these books how a player deals with the downside of his own career. It is inevitable and something every player in every generation will have to face. Like everything else he did in life Harmon faces it with grace and dignity and moves to the next chapter of his life. The author shows the reader how life after baseball can be hard on any player, even the Superstars. Money and health are two key real life issues that effected the post playing days for this Hall of Famer. It was a good look at the humanity involved in Harmon Killebrew.
Steve Aschburner did a real nice job with this book. I honestly feel that after reading this book I have a better feel of who Harmon Killebrew the person was. We are all familiar with the Hall of Fame player, who unfortunately played in a city that may have hampered us to getting to see his personality off the field.
I would recommend this book for all baseball fans. It’s a nice, easy reading book and it offers the fact that you would be hard pressed to find anyone that anything bad to say about Harmon Killebrew.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books