I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog. That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late. I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not. But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at. Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books. While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis. Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception. These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.
From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered. Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.
Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published. How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t. McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market. For baseball readers this should be an item of importance. I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.
I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care. They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.
You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game. It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.
Baseball is all about families. It brings them together as fans of a team, it can also tear them apart as fans of opposite teams. Regardless of those facts it is still about family. Baseball is also known for the families within the game. The Boone’s, the Bragan’s, the DiMaggio’s and the Griffey’s are just a few of the families that have played the game. One of the games more prominent families has been the Boyer’s. Most people think of just three brothers that were a part of the game. But in reality that is just scratching the surface and today’s book takes a look at the entire talented family.
If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. I am a sucker for a good Lew Freedman book. I enjoy his writing style and think he has a knack for writing about under-appreciated subjects. The Boyer’s are no different. For the amount of skill that came out of one family they are not covered as much as one might think. Most coverage is of the most successful player of the bunch Ken, but their family story has a lot to offer.
In reality the Boyer’s offered the world seven baseball players. Each one possessed skill sets to varying degrees but due to injuries, some careers may have been cut short. How many of us even knew about Lynn or Ron Boyer being related to the famous Boyer brothers. I know I sure didn’t so this book was a real eye opener for me.
Lew Freedman walks the reader through the Boyer’s western Missouri upbringing and how they functioned as a family unit. You see each of the brothers nurture their craft and become successful in their chosen game. While some baseball careers may not have worked out as expected, you still get to see how they helped each other grow and in their own ways pushed each other to be better. Its interesting to see how the brothers enriched each others lives and inadvertently made each other better players.
Freedman has another winner in a sometimes overlooked subject. The Boyer story is an interesting and important part of what makes the game of baseball so great. All fans should check this out, it is a really nice story that shows how intertwined both baseball and the family unit actually are.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
When you think of the Houston Astros in the 1970’s, one of the first names that comes to mind is J.R.Richard. Being a tall and lanky pitcher with a blazing fastball, he combined both of these attributes to scare the crap out of hitters throughout the National League. In an era in Houston before Nolan Ryan, Richard was the ace on the staff of the young up and coming group. With the signing of Nolan Ryan the Astros became a force to be reckoned within the league and the sky was the limit for everyone. Then one day the glass ceiling shattered and for one player life would never be the same.
I was really looking forward to this one. I was always a fan of J.R.’s growing up and remember him in the Astros uniforms of the late 70’s. I remember hearing of his stroke and trying to follow his comeback as best a fan who lived in Philadelphia in 1980 could. The translation of that last sentence means I could not follow it very well. So between the story line and Lew Freedman working on this book I expected a winner. I am happy to say I was not disappointed.
The book follows a back and forth format. Each chapter starts with an overview of what that chapter is going to cover, presumably in the words of Freeman. Then it shifts to Richard sharing his story. It is a good format that works very well for this book, instead of trying to make it all seem like J.R. doing all of the storytelling.
The book covers a great deal of topics in Richard’s life. It talks about his poor upbringing, his trek through the minors and then finally arriving in Houston to stay. The biggest part of this book is of course, talking about his unfortunate stroke and the devastating after effects it has had on his entire life. He shows you how his career was never able to be revived, how marriages failed, business dealings went bad and all the things that eventually led to him living on the streets of Houston.
One would think after all of this J.R. Richard would be extremely bitter, but I found just the opposite in this story. He has been lucky enough to find God and get his life back on track. He has through his faith been able to understand his past, and accept it for who it has helped him become. It really is a remarkable story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles in one’s life. He shows great character and is a better man than I ever could because of his outlook of his own life. If it was me that had to struggle through all of this, I don’t ever think I could have kept the positive outlook he was able to maintain.
There has not been a lot of things published on J.R. in the past, so this book really helps fans understand what truly went on in J.R. Richard’s life. All baseball fans should check this out it really is both an enjoyable and remarkable story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Happy Reading and Merry Christmas to all, may Santa be nice to your library this year.
When you look back over the history of the game of baseball, there are certain things that may never happen again. The game changes with every generation and certain things will just never be allowed to happen again. I don’t think anyone will break Cal Ripken Jr’s consecutive game streak. I know no pitcher will ever win 30 games again, mostly due to the five man rotation and of course Harvey Haddix’s 12 inning Perfect Game will never be topped either. The feat itself as it stands is next to impossible, and the way pitchers are used today, none starter will ever get to the 12th inning in a game. Today’s book takes a great look at why that game was so special.
I have said it before when doing other books that I really like Lew Freedman’s work. I have read several in the past and really enjoyed them, so that is one of the reasons why I chose to take a look at this one. One of the other reasons is I always liked Harvey Haddix. He was a durable pitcher that quietly went about his business without much fanfare. He reminds me a lot of Bobby Shantz in the fact that they just went about their routine and you almost forgot they were on the team until they entered a game.
Freedman’s book walks the reader through this 12 inning masterpiece inning by inning. It is a back and forth format between each inning and the team itself. You get game details and some stories about his teammates, but more importantly it fills in a lot of the blanks about this game.
Played on a day that rain was a threat all day in Milwaukee, in an era where not every game was televised, there are a few questions about the details of this game that I always had. Unless you had a radio recording of this you were out of luck. Haddix was under the weather all day and through shear inner strength he pulled it together and pitched one of the greatest games of all-time………..that resulted in a loss.
In the end Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings and lost in the 13th. In the end he was more mad that he got the game loss instead of losing the perfect game. In a night that no one saw the game on television and less than twenty thousand showed up, hundreds of thousands of people will remember exactly what happened because they were there or saw it on TV. This game and its details followed Harvey until his untimely death in 1994.
This book is worth picking up, because it really explains all the details. Its something that is eventually going get lost to the passage of time, so it is good that Freedman got the story on record before everyone forgets who Harvey Haddix was and why for one night he really was perfect.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
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
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