I am all about giving respect where respect is due. As always, anniversaries are a great way to show respect. Baseball has never been one to shy away from commemorating something either big or small, or both. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the last Mets World Series winner and the events marking that this year have been coming at fans both fast and furiously. The book arena has been no exception to these celebrations, and while we have covered several of these in previous posts, I think I have the last two out there this year that I am going to do. It is amazing how much time and money has been spent this year for this one and done World Series winner, but for me, it is time and I am ready to put this subject to bed. So without further ado, here are the final two books.
Originally released in 1995 One Pitch Away takes a unique look at all the post-season teams in 1986. You get perspectives from several key members who played for one of the four teams, which is a nice change, because most of these books about 1986 only cover the World Series teams. You get a real good feel as to what was going through the heads of those involved during this amazing post-season.
I first read this when it was released in 1995. My initial reaction then was the same as it is now. It gives great insight into the games from the players themselves and Sowell’s work comes through strong. The interviews seem well prepared for by both parties and is time well spent reading about the fab-four of the 1986 post-season.
If you are a fan of any of the teams involved check out this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books. One Pitch Away
The next book brings us to current times with the 2015 Mets. By winning the division last year the Mets re-captured the hearts of the New York faithful in the Big Apple. After a decade and a half or so of the Yankees being the toast of New York, it was nice to see the love spread around town.
Greg Prince who runs his own New York Mets blog, also has written about the Mets several times before. He has an intense love for his team and it shows in his writing. He takes a thorough look at the colorful cast of characters the Mets were able to put together for their improbable run in 2015. If you are a fan of the Mets it is a fun reflection on an improbable year. It is for sure a good read, but will probably be more enjoyable in 10 or 15 years when time has passed and the limelight has faded on this particular team. This is another book that is time well spent reading today, but as it ages will become even more valuable to certain fans. You can get this from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
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.
Baseball is a game that offers something for everyone. It caters to varying tastes and personalities, while offering satisfaction for everyone who enjoys the game. Each person wants to experience the game on their own terms and get whatever level of enjoyment that satisfies them personally, and that is perfectly alright with the baseball gods. Tim Kurkjian has spent his professional life following baseball and has once again given us more reasons to love the game we all enjoy.
I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies offers a unique look at various aspects of the game of baseball. From sounds and rules to superstitions and various quirks, this book gives the reader a glimpse behind the curtain of the mental part of the game itself off the field. It is not something you find often in a baseball book authored by a game reporter.
Under no circumstances is this book to be considered heavy lifting in the literary realm. It is a light and breezy book that moves the reader through the anecdotes quickly. Some of the stories you may recognize as having been mentioned in other books, but they still fit nicely within the confines of this book. If you are looking for a strong literary masterpiece you came to the wrong place with this one, but it really does lend it self to an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon of reading. I mean really where else would we find out why Pete Rose left federal prison and went right to a batting cage.
I tend to shy away from books like this because I don’t always trust what I am getting from certain other authors. With Tim Kurkjian I always get what I expect from his books. His enthusiasm and love of the game always shine through and make the stories enjoyable and add some extra credence to them as well.
Like I said above, there is no heavy lifting with this one. And quite honestly, as many books as I read in a year, a book like this is welcome sight. It reminds the reader of the fun and quirky side of the game as opposed to the big business and on high stress persona it portrays so often. It also gives the mind a break while allowing me to still stay in the baseball realm.
Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed. It is honestly a couple hours well spent with your favorite sport.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press
If there is one thing I have learned in the new stadium craze over the last 25 years, it is that baseball and politics do not always mix. The involved parties are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as to what is warranted and who should pay for what. The same problems arise, weather it is replacing an existing stadium or creating an expansion franchise. It all comes down to how the details are handled as to what success comes from all the hard work. Today’s book takes a look at all the struggles one city went through to get a team but still wound up on the losing end of the deal.
Becoming Big League takes a look at the city of Seattle and their efforts to land a Major League franchise in the 1960’s. It shows how some infighting and disagreements over the future of the city led to delays and confusion. It also shows how the local ownership group of the Seattle Pilots were flying by the seat of their pants in all aspects of the business.
From the feel the book gives you their was a group of people, along with the powers at Major League Baseball who really wanted to see the Pilots come to Seattle and succeed. They felt it was a great location that would help baseball thrive in the northwest area of the country and be a nice accent to the teams already placed in California. In theory the Pilots were a great idea, they just met too many off the field problems to thrive.
Local government infighting along with stadium construction issues and owners who financially flew by the seat of their pants while conducting business all doomed the Pilots in Seattle. Even almost a decade after the Pilots were gone and the Mariners arrived for round two of baseball in Seattle, many of the same problems still existed. The only plus side at that point was that Seattle had at least learned the minimum required of them to keep their baseball franchise. More recently Seattle has had the same problems luring the NBA to Seattle almost 50 years later.
Bill Mullins has created a great two part book. One is the baseball study that chronicles baseball coming to the Northwest. From the inception of the Pilots and agreements with Major League Baseball, to the moving of the franchise to Milwaukee and the birth of the Brewers. Secondly this book is a great urban study of local politics. Seattle wanted to keep its small time charm and quaintness, but still attract big money players. It shows how Seattle citizenship was split down the middle as to which path they wanted their city to follow.
If you have an interest in the Seattle Pilots their is lots of great information in here about the team and their short operations. There are some things i here that you don’t always easily come across when researching the Pilots. If you have an interest in local politics and how Seattle of the past functioned, you should give this book a look as well. It shows how some cities have trouble growing when they need to.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Washington Press
With this week’s Hall of Fame vote finally announced, you get to see how many truly amazing players that played the game. Every year we fight about the superstars and who deserves to be enshrined this year. Beyond these greats are the people who are the backbone of the game. The good and borderline great players who are not Hall worthy but still had really good careers. There are also the people who had solid days on the field but were honestly nothing memorable otherwise. For every Hall of Fame caliber player there are hundreds of other players that fell below them in the grand scheme of the game. It is important that history does not forget these types of players. Through their hard work and dedication they have helped forge the story of baseball. Today’s book takes a look at one of those players that had a good career, that while not Hall worthy, still was good enough to be respected and admired by various generations.
I went into this book only familiar with Swish Nicholson’s time with the Philadelphia Phillies. A member of the beloved Whiz Kids, he was a name that Phillies fans were accustomed to hearing as one of the Philly greats. It turns out before Bill ever stopped in my hometown, he had a really incredible career in the Windy City with the Cubs, but was hindered by the fact that his prime was during the height of World War II. Being a wartime slugger discounted his achievements on the field because the rest of the world felt all the best players were off serving in the military. This fact created the perception of Swish Nicholson’s career as not being as good as his numbers portrayed, because the competition was not up to its normal MLB standard.
This book makes a very solid attempt at showing Nicholson’s career in the correct light it deserves. It gives a lot of background on his personal life and growing up in the early 20th century. The book gives the reader a real feel of what Bill Nicholson was like off the field, as well as what kind of exceptional player he was on it. This book also shows life after baseball and with older players, I find it interesting to see their transition back into regular life. It is so different than what modern players have to go through. It has to be very hard to go from being a star on the field to a regular guy working 9 to 5 and punching a clock.
Book like this are important in that they keep the memories of players whom may not have been Hall of Fame worthy alive in the minds of baseball fans. Books like this bring the past back to life and show readers various eras of the game they have only heard of through stories of older generations. Fans should check out Swish Nicholson, it is one of those books that is both entertaining and educational for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Well, the holidays are officially over. The decorations are away and we are all well on our way to breaking our new years resolutions. It is currently 4 degrees outside of my house and I am patiently awaiting spring training. During this time my wife and I wonder where would we like to go on any trips this year and if we are going to make it to any Phillies games. The latter part of that planning, the Phillies games, leads me to wonder if we could plan a couple trips and see some other stadiums as well. Usually I get overruled on the other cities but we at least make it to the Phils. Today’s book is about one man’s journey and his trek to visit all 30 of the MLB stadiums.
I will be honest, a trip like this is my ultimate dream. Checking out each stadium and every team that calls each one home. This will be my retirement plan, just no one can tell my wife yet. So for now, I have to live vicariously through Tobey Shiverick.
Shiverick brings us along his 18 flight, five month, 34,000 mile baseball journey. He walks us through his experience at each stadium and gives us the highs or lows that he feels each has to offer. He gives the reader the general vibe of the stadium and that of the teams fans. I can only attest to Philadelphia, but he did have a pretty good read on Citizens Bank Park after only one game.
For a true baseball fan this would be the ultimate experience. For fans from the same generation as the author, you also get the added bonus of being able to compare the stadiums of yesteryear to the modern palaces of today. From Ebbets Field, to Dodger Stadium, The Polo Grounds to the palace in San Fran and of course, Yankee Stadium vs. that new one they built across the street.
Even fans of my generation would be able to do the some comparison to a lesser degree. We would be able to do Shea Stadium to Citi Field, Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park and Three Rivers to PNC Park. None of those generate heart palpitations in the spectrum of great stadiums, but does help foster some nostalgia nonetheless.
This book may be geared more to the older crowd versus the younger fan, mostly because the older generations would be able to afford this type of journey. The expense has to be enormous between stops in 30 cities, hotel rooms, travels and meals. The average fan would have a hard time being able to pony up the cash to pull this one off. Also the print in this book is a little bigger than a lot of books I come across, so I am assuming they are expecting an older crowd reading the book. Quite honestly, I read so many books that I appreciated the larger print for a change.
Fans should check this out. Even if you are not able to do a 30 park tour, this book would be able to help you pick even one new park to check out. It has endless value for fans in getting a feel for those parks they have never been to.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
Every town that has sports fans has that one character. One person that spends their whole career in that town as a journalist, announcer or sometimes both. Fans relate to those types of people and after a certain amount of time consider them part of the family. A strong sports town like Cleveland has one of those types of people. Dan Coughlin has spent his life weaving himself into part of the fabric of Cleveland sports. Now he has a new book out re-living some of his greatest memories.
Coughlin, as mentioned above has spent his entire career and life for that matter in the Cleveland area. He has endeared himself to fans and become a part of the Ohio sports family. During his career he has covered more than just baseball as does this book, but I figured that he has also been such a mainstay in Cleveland baseball that his book should be acknowledged.
This is the third in Coughlin’s series of books where he looks back on the highlights of a career spent in Cleveland. He re-lives some of the great stories and characters that he crossed paths with through the decades. If you are from Cleveland or have spent any time in the area taking in the sports scene, you will really enjoy these stories.
Now for those of us who have never lived in Cleveland or witnessed Dan Coughlin’s work first hand, this book still has some appeal. You may not identify with Coughlin on as strong a level as Cleveland fans but you will still be able to enjoy the history contained in these stories. It gives outsiders an inside pass to what Cleveland sports has to offer behind the scenes. It also offers a history lesson about Cleveland sports that may be difficult to obtain on any other level except for a lifer at the heart of the action.
As I mentioned above, it does cover sports other than baseball. On the other hand it does offer a fun look at Cleveland sports and allows the reader to engage in the sports history of a new city. Readers should check it out, because there is is some funny stories contained in here as well as some detailed history.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Gray & Co Publishers
Sometimes just being in the right place at the right time can change everything. Some people are just lucky that way. No matter what your chosen path in life, luck always plays a part. Which brings us to today’s book……
Big Red – By: Ken Griffey
Triumph Books 2014
Ken Griffey had a distinguished career in Major League Baseball. Playing for the Yankees, Braves, Mariners and most importantly as a member of The Big Red Machine. Griffey set off from his small town Pennsylvania upbringing and made a great career for himself. Along the way Griffey had brushes with history such as the Marshall University Thundering Herd. Through extenuating circumstances he missed the plane that killed 37 members of Marshall’s team when it crashed.
Griffey went on to be a key cog in the Big Red Machine of the Reds and has lots of stories to tell about that team. From the Hall of Fame caliber players and their manager to even having some thoughts on Pete Rose. After the Reds he moved to the Yankees and you get some quick stories about George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. Quickly, you move to the Braves after escaping the Bronx Zoo, as well as a second stop with the Reds. Finally you move on to the Mariners and you get the insight of more history in the making and his proudest moments in the game.
Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. became teammates on the Mariners and the pride that Ken Sr. was overwhelming. You get some warm and fuzzy feelings from the Father in describing the sons skills and accomplishments. Ken Griffey Sr. was never someone I ever considered warm and fuzzy, but this book shines a new light on him as to how strong a bond he had with Ken Jr.
The personal side of this book shows the bond, especially between father and son, is very strong. It puts a unique perspective on the book, in the fact that you are learning more about Ken Griffey the person. You are not getting the career description like so many of these autobiographies. It is more like a story of the people around him and how they have influenced his life and career.
This is a nice, easy read that all fans should enjoy. I went into this book with Ken Sr. not being my most favored player of the era. Big Red has made me change that view somewhat. It has shown Ken Sr. the person, in a whole new positive light for me.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books