Some baseball books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors. These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents. I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent. Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up. I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages. Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.
When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix. The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays. Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.
Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture. It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century. He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.
Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league. Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras. Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had. He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years. Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.
I always enjoy books of the lesser known players. As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books. I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult. There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.
If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago. If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
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
Jackie Robinson’s legacy is well known, so there is no need for me to lay it out there for everyone. Perhaps he has had the single greatest social impact on the game during his life and after it as well. Regardless of his legacy, Jackie Robinson has had a serious amount of articles and books written about him. Danny Peary has put together a book that is a compilation of Jackie Robinson quotes. It introduces a new and interesting way to see the profound impact Robinson made on the game.
Danny Peary’s book follows a unique path as far as a book goes. The format falls in line with his other book Derek Jeter In Quotes. Both of the books paint an interesting picture of their subjects. The Jackie Robinson volume draws from books, player and manager interviews, newspaper articles, historians and some quotes from Jackie himself. It allows the author to show a more intimate portrait of Robinson that a simple one dimension biography is unable to display.
Danny Peary’s books are always enjoyable to read and this one is no exception. The other books he has collaborated on are thoroughly researched and the subjects are accurately portrayed to the reader. This book is no exception to his past works and the new format he has with the quotes make it a very enjoyable read. You get both a feel for Robinson as well as the person making the quote. So in essence you are getting more than one perspective in this format.
I said it about the Derek Jeter In Quotes book and it carries true on the Jackie Robinson volume as well, this is a welcome change from the standard baseball player autobiography. Quite honestly when you read several different books in a year, you embrace a change and really enjoy something out of the ordinary. Fans should check this out because I can almost guarantee if you think you know everything about Jackie Robinson, you don’t. This book will surely give you some new information to add to your Jackie Robinson arsenal. Check it out I do not think you will be disappointed.
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career. Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city. Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential. Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally. There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels. Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.
Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen? He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject. The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself. It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story. This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.
Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors. He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia. The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen. On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way. Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery. Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.
The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path. While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on. The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies. You see the change in the city’s mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand. You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes. To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions. This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s. The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level. It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes. I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.
This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career. There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times. All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame. If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction. He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game. Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.
Baseball fans should not miss this book. It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press
I am a born and raised product of Philadelphia. I am loyal to my teams, much of it to a fault and live and die by what they accomplish. In my lifetime my Phillies have won two World Series Championships, five pennants and twelve division titles. For some teams that may be impressive considering it covers over four decades, but not for the Phillies. They have been around for almost 135 years and have had limited success. Even when they capture the brass ring they somehow find a way to screw it up. Today’s book takes a look at how the Phillies are intertwined with the city of Philadelphia’s self image and how they have helped shape each others destinies.
Let me start out by saying, we Philadelphia sports fans are nowhere near as bad as our reputation states. Yes we are passionate, yes we are dedicated and yes we expect 110% effort from our players. We hate to see other stadiums where the game is an afterthought, people only go there for the social status attached to it and leave by the 7th inning to beat traffic. We are not the baby hating, nun tripping, puppy kicking hate mongers the world has made us out to be. We are just very, very dedicated, I mean seriously we only beat up Santa Claus that one time.
Mitchell Nathanson has written a book that take a look at the 1977 Phillies NLCS series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That series contained a sequence of events that Phillies fans to this day refer to as Black Friday(Game 3). Basically, it was the game that shifted the entire series momentum to the Dodgers and they never looked back. My journey as a Phillies fan started the next day after Black Friday when my Dad took me to Game 4 for my very first in person game at Veterans Stadium at the ripe old age of four.
Nathanson does a very nice job of reviewing the series but what I found more interesting about this book is how shows the parallel between the city’s baseball teams and its self worth. It chronicles both the Athletics and their time in town as well as the Phillies. Quite honestly when Philly had two teams the Phillies were the red headed step child of the town. Only after the A’s departure did the city start to identify with the hapless Phillies.
The book does do a very nice job of covering the events of the 1977 NLCS as they unfolded. The downside is that portion of the story is no more than 30% of the entire book. It has more written about activities in Philadelphia and the history of the city. If you are not from Philadelphia or do not have some sort of interest in city politics you may have a bit of trouble getting through this. Overall it does a very nice job of sharing the story of Philadelphia, but if you are looking for a true baseball story it may not have enough game information to hold your interest.
Readers should check it out so that they can get a better idea of why the Phillies fans are the way we are, and may God have mercy on our Philly sports fan souls.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Time marches on, it is inevitable. No matter what you are applying a time analogy to, it is unstoppable. In baseball, a sometimes overwhelming characteristic is nostalgia. The players were better, the teams were better, the game on the field was better, the hot dogs were better, even some teams that existed were better just because they existed. The Dodgers have been gone from Brooklyn for almost 60 years, but to some degree they still live on. Ebbets Field is long gone and the last remaining Dodgers are starting to pass away, but the Bums of Brooklyn are still alive in the minds of many fans. Todays book takes a look at how the Brooklyn Dodgers were more than just a team that played in a New York neighborhood.
The Dodgers were loved by the fans of Brooklyn, possibly more than any other team in all of baseball. They were a pillar of their community and woven so deeply into it that they were almost considered part of the family by the local residents. It is not hard to understand why all these years later they are still the most popular subject pertaining to Brooklyn.
David Krell has put together a nice new book that looks at the importance of the Dodgers in Brooklyn and beyond. He starts with giving some background history about the team and its ownership. Starting from the teams birth, you see how they came to call Brooklyn home, and eventually became the tenants of Ebbets Field. You walk through the teams storied history and eventual rise through the National League. You see historical moments that happen in Brooklyn and how the team became a part of the communal fabric. The author shows the reader the financial struggles, management challenges and ownership fights that all helped shape the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The part of this book that not many other books have gone as far at looking in-depth at, is the struggles of the real world that helped shape the Dodgers fortunes. Deaths of owners, financial struggles and drastic shifts in the desires of our society have all had a hand in shaping the Brooklyn Dodgers. I have seen other books touch on these subjects, but this one goes a little further in-depth in that analysis. Essentially it is the changes after World War II in our society that effected the Dodgers the most. It wasn’t just O’Malley’s desire for a new stadium that removed the Dodgers from Brooklyn. This book walks the readers through a series of cultural events that paved the way for their exodus to Los Angeles.
There are many books out there chronicling the Dodgers existence and each has its own merits. This one as well has its own merits, but it does give the reader a little different angle at which to view the Dodgers time in Brooklyn. Baseball fans and history buffs should check this one out, you will really enjoy it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing
Sometimes even the best of us get fooled. While we try our hardest to know what we are getting ourselves into, sometimes the old bait and switch applies. I try to have a general idea as to what I am going to read before I start a new book, but it once in a great while will be the exact opposite. You can usually tell from the cover notes what a book is about, but then other times you are really not sure. Today’s book is one that I feel was not quite what it was supposed to be.
This book was about the life of the Major League Pitcher Hank Aguirre. A durable pitcher for his time, he put up some respectable numbers but nothing Hall of Fame worthy. He also spent a great portion of his life after baseball dedicated to making the community around him a better place. These are all very nice sentiments for a local hero but unfortunately for someone looking for a baseball book this one would be considered a swing and a miss.
The book does briefly touch on Hank’s baseball career in the majors as well as his upbringing in the Hispanic community. It focuses largely on Hank’s post baseball career as a businessman and humanitarian. It shows how he was instrumental in bringing decent jobs to the Hispanic community in Detroit during a period of economic death. The details are great from a business standpoint and show the human side of this former baseball player. You get a sense of great compassion for his employees and great civic pride Hank was known for.
If you’re looking for a good Baseball book this may not be the one for you. It is light on the details of Hank’s career and very heavy on his involvement in the business and Hispanic community. Over all it is a good book, it just misses the mark on being an actual baseball book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press
It’s that time of year where the playoffs are in full swing and the World Series is right around the corner. With the events over the next few weeks looming it is a time to write another chapter in the history books as well as reflecting on past seasons. The World Series has always been a source of great memories, as well as a few not so great moments. Some of those not so great moments have helped shape the game we all know today. The biggest one that has a World Series tie-in is the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It is an event that shook baseball to its core and todays book takes a hard look at what really happened almost 100 years ago.
The 1919 White Sox were approached by gamblers to throw the World Series. Just about every baseball fan is familiar with the story, but its lasting effects have been felt throughout the game for almost a century. This particular series brought gambling to the forefront in baseball and essentially destroyed almost all of the credibility the game had with the general public. It also made the scape goat of the series Shoeless Joe Jackson a household name for generations to come.
Charles Fountain takes a new and refreshing approach to the Black Sox scandal. The author removes the Hollywood glamorization of the Black Sox scandal and gives the reader the actual facts about what happened. He looks at the events from players, management and the gamblers aspects and paints a vivid picture for the readers of actual events. The details are so good in this book the reader can almost get the feeling they are a fly on the wall when all of this takes place. It does clarify some of the details that may have gotten blurred through the passage of time.
There are other books out there that take a look at the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Some do a good job and some take poetic license if you will and blur the details. Thankfully, this one falls into the prior category and is one of the better books on the market. It forces the reader to look at the details objectively and to form some of their own opinions. The one interesting aspect is that you can see where the events helped transform todays game into what it is. You can see how leagues changed and the end result was the American League we now know.
For fans who fancy themselves novice historians of the game, this book will be eye-opening and enjoyable. Pete Rose might even want to take a look at this one because he can see all the events that led up to the rules that banished him from baseball. It’s nice to see a book with fresh perspective almost a full century after the fact.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Oxford University Press