No matter the subject of a baseball biography, there is some sort of story to be told. Some of these stories are better than others and coincide with the skill level of that particular player. Then there are stories like today’s book that come from an average player that did not put up Hall of Fame numbers, but has a Hall of Fame caliber story to tell baseball fans. A journey that took him all over North America John D’Acquisto’s new book takes a hard and honest look at his life and career and the paths it has led him down. This honest look at his own life opens up a whole new side of John that fans can appreciate.
Fastball John starts the readers on the journey of his life and shows his family roots in San Diego and his journey to become a big league pitcher. Next you learn first hand what it is like to be a first round draft pick with high expectations in a major league setting. Stops with major league teams and a few more stints in the minors are covered as well.
John D’Acquisto shows the readers the ins and outs of what being a baseball player is really like. You see the friendships, the expectations of management, contract disputes and health scares that make up a players life. What I found really interesting is how personal relationships are intertwined within this story. It gives a very intimate touch to a career that is usually unable to sustain those types of relationships. One other factor the the authors were able to incorporate into the story was how the music of the time was able to become part of the moment and permanently ingrained in the memories.
For my money the most interesting part of this story is also one of the saddest. John D’Acquisto’s life after baseball was one of accusations, falsehoods and betrayal that in the end led to some serious jail time. John eloquently tells his side of the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and his time behind bars. The sequence of events that led up to this are almost unbelievable and in the end, when you hear all the details wonder how someone could survive something of this magnitude. For what it’s worth, I believe D’Acquisto’s side of the story, it unfortunately seems to be him trusting the wrong people at the time and the justice system wanting to make an example of someone with a famous name.
Honestly, we have all read the books written by the Superstars and sometimes pass on the stories of a lower tier player. This is one of those times you need to make the effort to read the story of that player. It is a gripping story that shows the genuine side of a Major League Baseball player. He has had good times and some really bad times, but in the end Johnny D. comes across as a pretty cool guy. Loved by the fans of the San Francisco and San Diego, he has paid his dues on both sides of the fence and moved on to well earned greener pastures in his life. Take the time to read this book and you will be able to see their is still some good left in people and read a very enjoyable baseball book at the same time.
This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I always hate writing these kinds of posts. Perhaps it is realizing my own mortality in the end that makes them so difficult. Once again I am at the keyboard saying goodbye to another person that I considered a friend of the bookcase. Now friend can be an odd sort of term in its general meaning. I don’t mean friend in the sense that we hung out together, I mean friend in the sense that there was a mutual respect involved and correspondence between both parties. A compliment and a few tips on my writing from one of the greatest sportswriters of his time, automatically moves him to friend status. When this person gives you some decent advice, without asking to help me become better at my craft he automatically becomes more than an acquaintance. While pretty much no one would know me if they tripped over me on the street we all knew who Phil Pepe was.
Phil Pepe was one of the great sportswriters of his time. The author of many….many books that are a joy to read in their entirety and a man who never let his skill go to his head. In a business that has changed drastically over the last few decades he was the one who stood out of the crowd as one of the greats. A member of a dying breed that can never and for a multitude of business reasons will never been replaced.
There are a few authors out there that have written a lot of baseball books. No matter what they write I will read it, because honestly I want to see what their spin on that subject is. Phil Pepe was one of those authors and I was never disappointed. You could always tell his research was thorough and he had an underlying love of the game that I was always able to find in his writings. Of the first 50 baseball books I ever read at least ten were Phil Pepe’s books.
So I bid farewell to someone I have admired and respected for many years. A man who would go out of his way to say an encouraging word for a struggling blogger and an author who was always willing to sign the newest book of his I picked up for my collection. If I had known the last few books he signed for me two weeks ago would be the last, I would have never believed you.
Farewell and Thank You Phil. Writers like yourself are why I thought maybe I could do this blog to some degree and make it a modest success. You were an inspiration and didn’t even know it. The baseball writing world has lost a great one and may never recover.
Happy Reading with a heavy heart
Baseball is in the midst of a Golden Age. It is hard to deny they are raking on unprecedented money, getting tremendous amounts of exposure and attracting new fans from all around the world. Now the man at the head of this renaissance of Major League Baseball for over two decades was Bud Selig. He was heralded as breathing new life into baseball and being the innovator of many things new to the game. But what was it really like behind the scenes? The fans and the general public only get the positive spin on situations. Jon Pessah has written a new book that takes fans behind the scenes and shows us how the process was manipulated.
I have always thought there was more to the Bud Selig story than met the eye. From his ownership of the Milwaukee Brewers, to the power play that he made to become the Commissioner, Avoiding Pete Rose to the legacy he left when retiring. When he was talking, it always felt like you were not getting the whole story. His ownership of the Brewers was never something dreams were made of it. Run on a shoestring budget, they always had roster and financial issues and always were considered the bottom feeders of the league.
Jon Pessah gives the reader a very thorough look at the journey that is Bud Selig. From used car salesman to his journey to become the king of baseball, you get it all. You see all the backroom deals and double crosses that made up the reign of Bud. You see his true personality shine through in the business dealings and how no real friendship was actually safe when it involved Selig. This book puts a real face on the personality of Selig in all of his business dealings, not just the positive spin that was created for the general public.
The other aspect of this book which I find interesting is Selig’s relationship and dealings with George Steinbrenner, who was basically the only man in the game almost as powerful as Selig. The book shows a lot of business dealings that the Yankees conducted and how they both meshed and contradicted Major League Baseball’s desires. It does give a nice glimpse of he internal strife that exists within baseball even to this day. Overall it was a good example of a team that at times worked against the machine. The only down side to that approach is that it becomes too Yankees heavy instead of staying on course with the Major League Baseball story, but overall it still works within the book.
Baseball fans should check this one out because it really raises the curtain on the reign of Bud Selig. He is not the shiny penny everyone always portrayed him as, and it shows what the Commissioner truly was like to deal with. This book will not in any way tarnish Selig’s legacy but at least now we all know the truth about the man from Milwaukee.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little, Brown & Co.
Baseball books can provide valuable history lessons. Even if they are of the biography genre, they can still give valuable lessons to the reader about a multitude of things. It has always been said that baseball mimics society and in the case of todays book that may ring true. It shows how society has changed and become more tolerant and accepting. Baseball may be slow to change at times but in this case, they have finally caught up with society.
Glenn Burke was the first openly gay athlete in Major League Baseball. While that alone is trailblazing, in the end he suffered the wrath of the game and became black-balled. He had a very short career in the majors playing for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 70’s. For his brief career he put up decent numbers and probably had he not been openly gay would have had a longer career. When you are the first person who does anything different in baseball it seems that you have a much more difficult time being accepted than the next person. Just ask Jackie Robinson, being a trend setter is hard work.
Glenn Burke suffered the wrath of the baseball hierarchy and essentially lost his career for it. Even though some of his teammates knew about his sexual orientation and didn’t care, the baseball establishment was not embracing it. Glenn eventually died of AIDS in 1995 and this book was his way of getting his story out before his untimely death. It is a very good book that shows the struggles and humiliation Glenn had to endure just to be himself and play the game he loved. It shows some of the intolerant practices that existed during his time in the jock world of Major League Baseball.
More importantly this book allows the reader to see how both the game and society has evolved in the twenty years since its initial publication. MLB has now added the Ambassador of Inclusion position in Billy Bean so that these issues don’t happen again. This book also shows how society’s views have evolved in regards to homosexuality and it is not as big of an issue as it once was. It shows that everyone has a place within our society and while it may not happen as fast as some people would like it has made some progress. One thing I found interesting between the original publication of this book and the re-issued edition is that they used the same cover photo, but the Dodgers logos had been removed his uniform. It just struck me as odd that after all this time they would remove them.
Glenn Burke is pretty much at this point a footnote in baseball history but this book does give you a nice glimpse of both the player and the man. Perhaps if he was somewhere else on a less profile team than the Dodgers, his career may have lasted longer but honestly who knows. After all he went through you get no signs of bitterness from Glenn for his outcome in life. He was proud of who he was and who he loved, and hoped in the end he would be remembered as a good person and what more can any of us ask for in life.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkeley Publishing Group
When you are #2 at something it has to be difficult. Everyone always remembers who the first to do something was, but sometimes the importance when you are second is diminished. In baseball, when you come in second in anything, it isn’t a good thing. Being Jackie Robinson day in Major League Baseball, I figured we should take a look at the man who was the second person to integrate baseball. He was the first in the American League, but second overall, so we should not forget him on this momentous day.
Larry Doby was the first player to integrate the American League in 1947 with the Cleveland Indians. He arrived roughly 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson integrated the National League with the Dodgers. The racial climate being what it was at that time, the challenges Doby faced were no different from the struggles of Robinson. Intolerance, segregation and violence were just some of the challenges both men faced at that time. Each man handled themselves with dignity and were assets to both of their teams on and off the field. Unfortunately when you are the #2 guy, you don’t always get the same praise that the #1 guy gets.
Such is the case with Larry Doby. There are tons of biographies about Jackie Robinson and his efforts, but Doby seems to be a neglected subject. There are a few biographies out there on Doby, but today’s book takes a look at the struggles he faced with the Indians. Honestly between Robinson and Doby it was two different men in two different cities but the same old problems. Both were pioneers in their own right but again its #1 versus #2, and in the end #2 lives in the shadow of #1.
This book takes a nice look at Doby’s career and what he accomplished on and off the field. Larry Doby may not have been as outspoken on matters as Jackie Robinson, or even Satchel Paige for that matter, but he did leave an undeniable mark on the game for all of time. Doby was a quiet man and that probably plays into the fact that his legacy gets run over by Robinson’s. It’s time as fans we take the time to give Larry Doby his due and learn as much as we can about his great career.
Fans should pick up this book and enjoy a little history lesson. The pioneers of baseball endured incredible pain to become part of the game, and that struggle did not begin and end with just Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
You can pick up this book from the nice folks at Praeger Publishers
The Negro Leagues offer an amazing amount of history to the Baseball fan. They offer a history in length that rivals Major League Baseball, as well as offering up some incredible players. Unfortunately due to poor record keeping and the social failings of our country, much of that history has been lost to time. Now there is a book that helps unearth some more of the Negro League history, and fill in some of those up until now missing pieces.
I will admit I screwed up on this one. Michael Lomax wrote a book prior to this one that covered the earlier years of the Negro Leagues and should probably be read prior to this one, if only for continuity sake. I have yet to get a hold of it but will at some point.
Michael Lomax has undertaken a pretty large and significant task of trying to piece the Negro League history back together during this era. As has been noted before, their record keeping was not the greatest and the social ills that were present in our country at the time contributed to the lack of interest in keeping good records. He has done a very nice job of showing the ins and outs of the league and the important players of the game both on and off the field.
The author shows how the league went from just an independent league that barely survived, to a structured powerhouse that held an important place in Negro society. Its ascension within society, in a way mirrored that of Major League Baseball. Because of society’s rules, it always had to operate as organization lurking in the shadows and was forever barely on the fringe of legitimacy and financial solvency.
Students of the game and especially of the Negro Leagues will find this book very informative and helpful. It provides great detail and probably some information that we may have not known before. My one recommendation would be to read Lomax’s history books in order. That way you maintain continuity throughout the entire history of the leagues.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Syracuse University Press.
Most, if not all baseball fans know who Curt Flood is. For those fans that have been living under a rock for the past 45 years or so I can gladly explain who Curt Flood is. Curt Flood is the man who upset the Major League Baseball owners apple cart. Curt was traded from the Saint Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Long and the short of the story is Curt did not want to go to Philadelphia. Hey, nobody wanted to be traded to the Phillies in 1969, but Curt’s reasons ran deeper. He felt that no man should be treated like a piece of property and should be free to choose where he played. Thus set off a fire storm that still has ramifications in today’s game.
Curt Flood challenged to the very core the owners power structure. The reserve clause allowed them to “own” their players as long as they wished, and pay them whatever amounts they felt like. It was the basis of which the entire player/owner structure operated. Essentially with the backing of the newly born players union and some of the other players Curt took on the system. In the end it was basically career suicide for Curt Flood as his skills eroded during the time he was on the shelf while his court proceedings went on. Also it gave other owners a bad taste for Curt and he may have been for the most part unofficially black-listed from Major League Baseball.
Robert Goldman takes a look at the legal aspect of the Curt Flood case and the legal maneuvers that transpired on both parts. It is very detailed and painstakingly analyzes the events of the case. If you are not familiar with the in-depth details of the suit, this would be a good book to take the time to read that explains all the events in an easy to use format. It shows what actually transpired and cracked the door open to free agency within baseball for future generations.
Books on this subject lead me to another question. It has been the good part of 50 years since this landmark case occurred. When is the point we have learned as much as we can about the subject matter? Curt Flood, Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller have all passed on, and most of the supporting cast members as well. At what point do we not have any one left to get any more information first hand from? At what point are we just getting hearsay and opinions from people who were not directly involved in the main story?
I think we may be getting to that point with Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball as well. Its unfortunate with the passing of time we lose those with first hand knowledge, but when do we get to the point where we say we have learned or analyzed everything we can on this matter? I don’t know when that time or place is, I am merely asking the question because I don’t know the answer either.
Students of the game should enjoy this book, it gives a thorough look at landmark case that changed the game forever.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University Press of Kansas
Whatever your chosen avenue of reading is, there are always books that are considered classics. Almost all baseball books do not fall into the category of great examples of classic American literature. Once in a great while you will find some baseball books that baseball fans will consider a must read. Ball Four and Veeck as in Wreck are two that come to mind for me that every fan should read. I am sure if you ask 100 different fans you will get 100 different answers as well. Nonetheless, there are some books that every fan should read, if for nothing more than the historical value they provide to the reader. Today’s book is one of those.
Originally published in 1976, Negro Baseball……Before Integration is a great history lesson. In the generation before the internet brought the world to our fingertips, this book brought us back to a long ago time and told us how it really was.
Written basically in a first person account, Effa Manley walks you through what transpired during the life of the entire league. It shows the ups and downs and the monumental moments that occurred throughout the league. You also got an idea of what the leagues overall general health was like and the way the league ultimately folded after the integration of Major League Baseball. It truly gives a first hand account of the league and what ultimately transpired.
This book is an important one in each fans library. It is a good account of what transpired in America in a totally different era, but is something that should never be lost to the ages. I have always said knowledge is power, and as fans it is our duty to learn as much as we can about the game. With that knowledge, it allows fans to keep the by-gone eras alive and well for future generations.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St Johann Press
Certain places around Major League Baseball have been around since the birth of the league. Due to that fact, the history of those particular cities is deep. Thousands of people have been a part of the ran and file of that team, and helped create some amazing memories for their fans. The Cincinnati Reds have pretty much been around since day one, and contributed some defining moments to the game of baseball. Today’s book takes a look at some of those incredible moments in Reds team history.
When you have been in existence since 1869, where do you even start to define your greatest moments? Just by the sheer number of years you have been around you have more possible moments than everybody else. When you think about it the Cincinnati Reds have been around since almost the end of the Civil War. They are approaching 150 years in the league and are still on a daily basis making memories.
Greg Rhodes has compiled a book that was a monumental undertaking in my opinion. There are so many great moments over that near century and a half, that it has to be hard to narrow it down to just one book. The author breaks the book down into twenty year chapters. The initial chapter of the book covers the early years, 1866-1879 and then works in twenty year increments after that. Every section covers the who, what, when and why questions that have arisen in Reds history. It reviews the personalities that have graced the Reds, as well as major achievements on the field on both an individual and team level. It gives a good perspective of what the Reds have accomplished throughout their history.
If you are not Cincinnati Reds fan, or from that area, this book gives a good look at team history and player accomplishments. Many team books out on the market focus on one genre, and let some events or people fall through the cracks. This books make sure that the people and events that helped shape the team are not forgotten. You see names like Bucky Walters, Hugh Kritz and Clyde Shoun. While not Hall of Famers outside of Cincinnati, they have made big contributions to the team’s legacy. This book gives them their due and makes sure they don’t get lost in the passage of time.
I think books like these are important to fans. They are a nicely presented history lesson for the reader, and it makes sure that the people who contributed to the teams history are never forgotten. For other fans it may prove the Reds actually did exist before the birth of the Big Red Machine.
All fans that enjoy reading about history should read this book. It is very thorough in its team history from the beginning of the team, to its published date of 2007. It is presented so well, you won’t even realize you are learning something.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press