Tagged: mcfarland

Odds & Ends-Spring 2018 Edition


As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away.  I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out.  The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.

 

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Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books.  It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront.  I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader.  If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out.  You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

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Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said.  It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them.  Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan.  It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically.  For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out.  It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it.  You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

 

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There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past.  For my money, this one is the best of the bunch.  It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella.  It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused.  It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches.  He is telling it like he sees it at this point.  Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all.  If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet.  Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.

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If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book.  1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era.  It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained.  Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history.  For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened.  If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about.   For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.

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Where would the game be without the Sportswriters.  They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field.  Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about.  Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before.  You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.

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McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category.  Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print.  Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy.  Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.

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Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception.  Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again.  This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well.  It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times.  You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.

So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.

Happy Reading and Go Phillies!

Gregg


 

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McFarland-Never Ones to Shy Away from Obscurity


In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche.  Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game.  McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game.  The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would.  It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there.  They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.

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By: William A. Cook-2016

Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days.  Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career.  Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball.  He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB.  The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league.  He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.

Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed.  Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days.  The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making.  Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.

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I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book.  George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years.  He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team.  There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering.  This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.

It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze.  This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era.  This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.

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By:Jorge Iber-2016

Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish?  Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it.  Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young.  All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.

This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step.  Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career.  Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject.  Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books.  If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out.  70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.

Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Induction Day Round-Up


It’s the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 Induction day today.  The one day a year where that sleepy little hamlet in upstate New York looks like Times Square at 11:59 p.m. on New Years Eve.  As I watched the speeches of the new members today I took notice as the MLB Network panned around the field, of all the diverse people in attendance.  Family, former players, members of the Hall and of course, the people who honestly make this great game possible through their support, the fans.  Different people from different generations, backgrounds and paths in life all come together for one day and celebrate the greatness of our game.  On days like this you never know who is going to be in the crowd but you can be sure its an interesting mix of fans and baseball history.  For the reason of diversity and in honor of Induction day, we are going to look at a very diverse group of books that are currently available in the market and why you should check them out.

1-When the Braves Ruled the Diamond-14 Flags Over Atlanta

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By Dan Schlossberg-2016 Sports Publishing

Take some time to reminisce about the Atlanta Braves.  People can say that the Yankees were the team of the 90’s because of their championships, but honestly who was the one team that you was sure was going to be in post season play?  Yes, these Braves!  It is a fun look at what made these N.L. East destroying teams from Atlanta repeat year after year after year.  The only thing that stood in their way in one magical year or their run was my Phillies in 1993.  As with Schlossberg’s other books, this one is time well spent re-living the magical ride of the Atlanta Braves.

2-Tony C.-The Triumph and Tragedy of Tony Conigliaro

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By:David Cataneo-2016 Summer Game Books

This one is a new edition by a new publisher of the 1997 release under the same name.  While not a new book, it is a reminder of the tragedy that can plague our game.  A beloved hero in Boston whose career and life was cut tragically short.  A career full of promise and from most accounts a pretty interesting guy off the field as well, this book chronicles the story of Tony C.  and what he meant to the Fenway Faithful.  I read this when it first came out about 20 years ago and really enjoyed reading it through the fresh edition from Summer Game Books.  Another book that will easily get you through the remaining dog days of Summer.

3-A Life Lived-The Story of William “Bill” Blair

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By:William “Bill” Blair-2013 AuthorHouse Publishing

A very inspiring story of a former Negro League player and his life after baseball.  A short book that comes in under 90 pages but still tells the inspiring story of William ” Bill” Blair and how he spent his life after baseball giving back to his hometown community.  A great story of a man who never forgot where he came from and how baseball inspired him his whole life through.  A quick read, but well worth the time.

4-Last Train to Cooperstown

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By:Kevin Mitchell-2015 Black Rose Writing

Author Kevin Mitchell takes a look at the inadvertent but probably final class of Negro League inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.  The book offers thorough profiles on each of the chosen few and what their contributions to the game were.  He also offers a conclusion as to what may occur with others from the Negro Leagues in the future.  Its very good insight into this well deserved class of Negro Leaguers that made the hall in 2006.

5-Tales From the San Francisco Giants Dugout

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By: Nick Peters and Stuart Shea-2016 Sports Publishing

An updated and re-release of previous versions, this new issue adds some new stories and anecdotes about the Giants and their fans.  If you are a fan of this team you will not want to miss this book.  There also are the same books available for almost every other team out there, so check Sports Publishing’s website if you are looking for another team.  These books are always a good time for the reader.

6-The Tigers and Yankees in ’61

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By:Jim Sargent-2016 McFarland

Another magical year in baseball history is showcased in this one.  A hard fought pennant race, the chase to make history for teammates and a few star players who had career years.  The Yankees are getting near the end of their dominating years in this one but does show the reader what the American League landscape looked like during this era.  If you are a fan of this era and a fan of the types of books McFarland publishes as well, then this is a book you will not want to miss.

7-A Band of Misfits-Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants-Triumph Books

8-The Fightin’ Phillies-100 Years of Phillies Baseball-Triumph Books

I group these together because while the may be different, they have very strong similarities.  The both cover a specific team and give important anecdotes and stories about their histories.  Whether they are covering one specific season or a full century worth of that teams stories, they are entertaining for fans of the respective teams.  The only warning I give readers on these types of books is to go into them realizing these are the same stories you have probably heard 100 times over.  You will probably get no new stories out of these, but they are good for reminiscing about your favorite team.

9-Jackie Robinson-An Integrated Life

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By:J. Christopher Schultz-2016 Rowman & Littlefield

Another perspective on the groundbreaking life of Jackie Robinson.  We are all familiar with the story, but instead of taking it from a baseball point of view, it shows the results from a social impact perspective.  It puts a different spin on the whole Jackie Robinson story and adds new insights to the entire story.  Jackie Robinson’s admirable legacy is about so much more than just baseball, and this is only one of the many different angles.

10-Out of Left Field-Jews and Black Baseball

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By: Rebecca Alpert-2011 Oxford University Press

Another book that takes a look at the social impact a baseball team had on our world. This one takes a look at how a team made up of black Jews made a name for themselves in the Negro Leagues.  It shows how they were able to further the cause of the Negro Leagues and help promote social justices.  It was a bit of history I had no idea about and a very good learning experience for me.  If you have any sort of interest in the Negro Leagues then check this one out.

11-The Cardinals Way

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By:Howard Megdal-2016 Thomas Dunne Books

The Cardinals have come to be America’s team.  I am not really sure how that happened, but they have through their history churned out some great moments and players that will be remembered for decades to come.  By embracing that history and tradition as well as the new theories such as Moneyball, they have become a baseball powerhouse.  It shows how combining old and new methods of thinking can have positive outcomes.  I am thinking you will see more and more teams following this ideology in the future.

12-The Knuckleball Club

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By: Richard A. Johnson-2016 Rowman & Littlefield

An in depth look at the most confounding pitch ever to grace the game of baseball.  The who’s, whats and why’s of this quirky pitch are covered in this book.  It also shares the stories of the Pitchers and Catchers who shared the success of the weird and wild pitch.  This is the first book I have found that has shown how it fits into the fabric of the game, and is great knowledge for the average baseball fan.  Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

13-The Games That Changed Baseball-Milestones in Major League History

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By: John Robertson and Andy Saunders-2016 McFarland

This book takes a look at some very important games throughout history.  Dissecting what happened and what made them so important.  While I do not agree with 100 percent of their picks, all of them were well researched and presented.  Fans should check out this book and see if they agree with all of the authors picks.  It does introduce some games that would probably create some very spirited debates among fans and friends.

Finally, after we got through all of these books today, I wanted to say a word of thanks to everyone who reads my blog.  We have reached our second anniversary and have read a lot of books together up to this point.  I do the best I can since this is a hobby and not my job and try and turn out material as quickly as possible.  With the pending arrival of our first bundle of joy in the next few weeks, year #3 will be a challenge but I will still find a way to get some posts done.  I thank all of you who have sent me books and allowed me to read them and post reviews.  Also to the folks that read my posts because without you, there would be no reason to write them.  Finally if you have sent me a book recently and I have not posted it yet, don’t worry you are not forgotten.  I am a little behind for the reasons stated above but you will not be forgotten, please just be patient.  Thank you to all again and looking forward to year #3.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Toy Cannon – The Autobiography of Baseball’s Jimmy Wynn


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.

 

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By: Jimmy Wynn-2010

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

Toy Cannon-Jimmy Wynn

Happy Reading

Gregg

Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man


I will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books.  The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late.  One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.

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By:Jim McConnell – 2016

Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others.  Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it.  One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom.  Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus.  Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.

Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game.  Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether.  Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on.  Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.

Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life.  For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others.  His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about.  I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace.  His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.

Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game.  If you are a  fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well.  In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities.  This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Bobo Newsom-Baseball’s Traveling Man

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Swish Nicholson-Wartime Baseball’s Leading Slugger


With this week’s Hall of Fame vote finally announced, you get to see how many truly amazing players that played the game.  Every year we fight about the superstars and who deserves to be enshrined this year.  Beyond these greats are the people who are the backbone of the game.  The good and borderline great players who are not Hall worthy but still had really good careers.  There are also the people who had solid days on the field but were honestly nothing memorable otherwise.  For every Hall of Fame caliber player there are hundreds of other players that fell below them in the grand scheme of the game.  It is important that history does not forget these types of players.  Through their hard work and dedication they have helped forge the story of baseball.  Today’s book takes a look at one of those players that had a good career, that while not Hall worthy, still was good enough to be respected and admired by various generations.

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By:Robert A. Greenberg-2008

I went into this book only familiar with Swish Nicholson’s time with the Philadelphia Phillies.  A member of the beloved Whiz Kids, he was a name that Phillies fans were accustomed to hearing as one of the Philly greats.  It turns out before Bill ever stopped in my hometown, he had a really incredible career in the Windy City with the Cubs, but was hindered by the fact that his prime was during the height of World War II.  Being a wartime slugger discounted his achievements on the field because the rest of the world felt all the best players were off serving in the military.  This fact created the perception of Swish Nicholson’s career as not being as good as his numbers portrayed, because the competition was not up to its normal MLB standard.

This book makes a very solid attempt at showing Nicholson’s career in the correct light it deserves.  It gives a lot of background on his personal life and growing up in the early 20th century.  The book gives the reader a real feel of what Bill Nicholson was like off the field, as well as what kind of exceptional player he was on it.  This book also shows life after baseball and with older players, I find it interesting to see their transition back into regular life.  It is so different than what modern players have to go through.  It has to be very hard to go from being a star on the field to a regular guy working 9 to 5 and punching a clock.

Book like this are important in that they keep the memories of players whom may not have been Hall of Fame worthy alive in the minds of baseball fans.  Books like this bring the past back to life and show readers various eras of the game they have only heard of through stories of older generations.  Fans should check out Swish Nicholson, it is one of those books that is both entertaining and educational for everyone.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

“Swish” Nicholson

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost


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.

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By:Lew Freedman – 2009

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

Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix

Happy Reading

Gregg