In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
The history of baseball has so many nooks and crannies that it is almost impossible as a fan to say you have heard everything. Some of the history is well documented and some is taken from legend or word of mouth. No matter what its historical format, baseball allows for almost everyday to be a learning experience. Today’s book is one of those that puts a unique and interesting spin on some well-known and some of the more obscure baseball personalities that were an integral part of the game’s history.
Now I am in no way an artsy guy. Never a big fan of the creative arts and not a big fan of comic books growing up for whatever reasons that may be. So when they guy who admits all that, says to you this book is something very unique an enjoyable, you may want to pay attention.
Gary Cieradkowski is hard to pin down. Is he an artist or a writer? He created both parts of this book and did a very good job with each. He has brought to life through his artwork, faces of the past. He has done both the famous and obscure from the annals of baseball history. Creating both artwork and a baseball card set that puts faces to some of the names you may never have heard of, actually seen a picture of or been exposed to up until now. Showing the stars in their pre-fame lives, you get to see a glimpse of Sandy Koufax in Coney Island garb and Walter Johnson on an Anaheim baseball card. It also brings to light the stories of those that lurked in the shadows of Major League Baseball. Semi-pros, Negro Leagues, Barnstormers, Journeymen, Rouges, Odd Balls and players from the Amateur and International leagues all have stories to contribute to this book.
Not to be overlooked by his great artwork, is the quality stories Cieradowski offers the readers about all these unique and varied personalities. His writing is both entertaining and informative and a few of them leave the reader wanting to go further and research more about certain players. It is a great tool for a fans knowledge base.
This book is a fun and entertaining read and should not be overlooked. It is not your average baseball compilation book in the fact that it is not packed full of stars. It gives the lesser known players their due and appreciates their impact and contributions to the history of the game. Check this book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed, because quite honestly there is something for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Touchstone
As I sit here and recover from surgery, I remember this is the week that my wife and I were going to be crisscrossing the country catching our baseball games at various stadiums. It is somewhat depressing thinking about what could have been, but it is on the back burner for next year and hopefully without any unforeseen issues. The time off recovering has forced me to read more and allowed me to catch up on some of my posts. I have been able to look at some varying topics as of late and found a very interesting, off the beaten path topic for today’s book.
Inventing Baseball Heroes takes a look at how the media picks a certain player and uses their skills to fulfill a certain agenda. That agenda is creating hero worship for certain players within the game. This book centers on the early twentieth century and shows how the media helped make certain baseball players household names.
The book is looking at a different time in the world of media. The two main forms at that time were Newspapers and Radio. Through the use if these mediums the writers were able to promote their agendas in making certain players seem larger than life. Their exploits on the field were magnetized to an audience that was looking for new heroes.
The down side to the public looking for heroes was the fact that it allowed journalists of that period to blur the line between fact and fiction. Call it creative license if you want, but it leads me back to the old saying of never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. With reporting being what it was during that time period, you really have to wonder how much of what we accept as truth now is actually accurate.
Throughout the history of baseball and more precisely through each generation, you can see players who were regarded as both the clear and concise hero and one who was the clear and concise villain. These players are easily identifiable, and in more current times during the steroid era, some players have been on both sides of that line, again blurring the definition of hero and villain
Amber Roessner does a very nice job of looking at the actions of the media during the formative years of baseball as we all know it. It makes you wonder how much of what we accept as historical fact in the game is actually generated from the imagination of the media. It is something that one can clearly see continuing throughout the history of the game as the generations have passed on.
If you have any interest in the early media coverage of the game you should check this book out. It shows how our game was shaped in the eyes of our society. It also shows to some extent how we as an American society look to our heroes for guidance on how to act in our world.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Louisiana State University Press
Baseball likes to portray itself as the upholder of all that is right with the game. The keeper of standards and arrow straight morals, and they want to remain steadfast in that regard through all time. The most recent example of the high moral standard within Major League Baseball has been Pete Rose. For the integrity of the game they think they should keep old Pete on the outside looking in to atone for his sins. This has not been a new approach for Major League Baseball. For about the past 100 years or so in an effort to clean up the game and install some confidence with the general public they decided to clean house. It all started with the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series, but what about all the other problem children in the game before the Black Sox? Today’s book takes a look at one of the larger than life problem athletes in the game at the time, who oh by the way was one of the best players in baseball history.
This book is a re-issue of the volume originally released in 2004. Hal Chase was one of the darlings of the diamond during his playing career. A man who was friendly with gamblers and gangsters, regularly bet on games and was not a stranger to throwing a game or two. One big thing to take note of is that Hal Chase was the scape-goat for bigger names than his who’s hands were much dirtier when the crap hit the fan. You always hear about Shoeless Joe taking the fall for gambling but not so much about Hal Chase.
This book takes a very good luck at Chase’s life and gives the reader a real good feel of what baseball was really like at that time. It shows in great detail that most if not all of the games had some shadow of not being on the level and that so many peoples hands were dirty it is not even funny.The book also does not miss the opportunity to showcase Hal Chase’s on the field skills. Easily one of the best players to swing a bat and grab a glove up to that point. Rated by Babe Ruth as one of the all-time greatest players, that is some serious praise to live up to.
This is a great book to get a real good feel of what baseball was like during this era. It leaves no stone un-turned in showing the reader what Chase was really like and gives an honest look at what Ragtime baseball was all about.
Fans of this era will love this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Ragtime era take the time to check it out because it is a great history lesson. Finally, if you want to get another view of crooked baseball, other than the Black Sox scandal, this paints a pretty good picture of what was going on at that time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best. It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed. When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era. In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans. But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964? I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.
For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide. I was familiar with his writing from his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good. He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.
Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes. From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers. It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II. It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era. Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.
Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days. His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees. On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about. Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person. Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life. To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.
For my money, Joe Niese did a great job with this book. He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with. He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by. Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.
I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this. It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality. Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time. This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese
When one thinks about the Yankees the two most significant names that pop into peoples minds are usually Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. They were easily the biggest icons of their respective generations. Passing the Yankee torch from one hero to another required an overlap year and according to legend, a little bit of hostility and animosity among them. Today’s book attempts to set the record straight to the masses regarding the two massive ego’s in New York.
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle could not have come from different upbringings. One from the big California city and the other from the sticks of Oklahoma. They were two immensely different personalities, with daunting expectations under the microscope of New York city. Regardless of their pasts they were destined to have the pennant hopes of the Yankees pinned to them for decades. Good or bad these were the two men that became the faces of the New York Yankees.
After all that has been written about Mantle and DiMaggio, one would think we have explored all the deep dark secrets that both men had. I would think we would have a great perspective on their personalities and the events that transpired in both of their lives. So what makes this one different from all the other books out there? This book tries to in theory, explain the relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in the transition year of 1951 while they were teammates. There are lots of rumors out there about hatred and animosity between the two but not all of those rumors had legs to stand on, so this book had a clear purpose.
Tony Castro does at least weave a good story in this book. He gives the reader some background on both players lives and how they fit in the big Yankee picture. Also, he talks about some interactions between both of the stars during the 1951 season. Nothing that seems out of the ordinary between a fading star and a rookie on the rise. They were both at different stages of their careers and did not travel within the same circles, which did not seem out of the ordinary, at least to me. He also attempts to portray the seedier sides of both people, their personal relationships and how they led their lives, but still did not delve to far into the interactions between the two players.
In the end for me this book came up a little short of the target. It rehashed some points that were covered in other books and did little do dissect the interactions and relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in 1951. It covered a lot of points that were not related to what the book was supposed to be addressing in regards to each player. This book for me had great possibilities to dispel some myths and give the reader the real story of the two. In the end it glanced over those vital points and felt more like the author was looking for some dirt or gossip to throw on the memories of both.
Check the book out, maybe you will think I am wrong in my review, but in the end I was disappointed in this one.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. If not used correctly it can skew the memories of people, times and places of bygone eras. It can make one think and long for something that in hindsight we believe was much better than it really was. Since Baseball has been around for almost a century and a half, there are many eras that none of use were able to witness first hand. We rely on history books, the research of many and documentation to see what really happened. The Deadball era is one that many people have a fondness for and like to learn about it as much as they can. I recently found a book that allows those Deadball era lovers to get some inside stories of what the game was really like during that time, without succumbing to all that messy nostalgia.
Tales From the Deadball Era allows readers to do some time traveling if you will. It takes them back to when violence, segregation and gambling were some of the nicer things happening at the baseball games. A time when fields were in disrepair, equipment was unsophisticated and quite honestly the final product was somewhat of a mess. It was nothing like the showcase we get to witness on a daily basis today.
Halfon introduces us to some of the major events of the era. Showing us these highlights along with some of the great personalities ever to play the game, he gives the reader a very complete picture of what was going on during this era. He also shows some of the more lighthearted moments that infiltrated the game during that period. Many of these things you would not even dream of as being part of the game today. The book also shows how necessity is the mother of invention. Things we normally accept as part of the game had to come from somewhere, and this book shows us those things we should all be thankful for.
If you fancy yourself a novice baseball historian this book is a good book for you. It gives the reader a nice feel for this time period and will leave you wanting to find out more information about the Deadball era and its personalities. If you fancy yourself a novice historian on the John Thorn level then you may want to stay away from this one. If you are at that level you more than likely wont get any new information from this book. Honestly most fans will enjoy reading this book and spending the time traveling back to these decades long ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Potomac Books
Its that time of year where baseball’s winter meetings are upon us. The one week a year where the business side of baseball comes to the forefront. Players are traded, free agents get signed and the Rule 5 draft occurs. For some fans it is an early Christmas present when your team signs that key free agent, while for others it might be the time you say goodbye to one of your favorite players. For the people that work these meetings it is just another day of business as usual. Fans sometimes get so engrossed in their team they may forget at the end of the day that baseball is still a business. For the people who are involved it is their job. A job many of us envy, but still a job nonetheless. Now there is a book that walks us through the business side of baseball and shows how the more things change, they somehow stay the same.
In Pursuit of Pennants takes an in depth look at the business of baseball, almost a history of the business side of you will. It looks at franchises over the last 100 years, showing the reader the dealings and hard business decisions that had to be made to produce winners. The book looks at how the teams were assembled and what worked and did not work. What key moves were made to help teams lay the groundwork for success, what moves should have been made to sustain the success or which moves proved to be just plain foolish.
The book also shows how teams heavily rely on their off-field personnel to help them build winners. The chain of command goes well beyond just the General Managers. All aspects of the front office play a part in the success of the team. It shows how everyone must believe in the team philosophy to be able to have it work at any level. It also shows that the same principles employed in the Moneyball theory have always been around. It may not have been the same ways to measure productivity or forecast any outcomes, but there were still theories that they adhered to that evolved as the game changed. The bottom line for all teams is to produce a winner.
Like other Armour and Levitt books, this book may not be for everyone. It is part history book, part reference book and part narrative. If you are looking for a nice easy flowing story that rolls through the book, this is not it. If you are looking for detailed information on the business side of baseball and a very thorough history lesson then this is your book. The authors have done a great job of explaining a not so glorious subject to the readers. The topic to some may be the equivalent of watching paint dry, but for those who stick with the book, you will be greatly rewarded in the end. You will walk away with a better understanding of how teams function off the field and understand the mindset needed to build a winner.
Baseball fans across the board that dedicate the time to reading this book will enjoy it. It honestly does start of a little slow but does pick up the pace enough to keep your interest through the rest of the book, so overall you wont be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press