I am sure no one has missed me on here, but I should probably give a brief explanation of my MIA status. Between a new job, moving back to Philadelphia and figuring out this whole Fatherhood thing, baseball books have become the victim of circumstances. Now that we are settled in our new place and the very large former Ron Kaplan book collection has been moved, I can hopefully focus on some more books, but if anyone has any ideas how to get an eight month old to sleep through the night, I would love to hear from you. I figured I would start back with a book that was highly anticipated by myself and did not disappoint.
I was familiar with Dickson’s previous work on his Bill Veeck book and really enjoyed that one, so I expected more of the same with this. Leo Durocher was one of those figures in baseball history that was either loved or hated, somewhere in the middle was not an option. To date, there have been a few books about Durocher, but none recently so it was a subject worth revisiting.
Paul Dickson takes a hard look at both Durocher’s playing and managing career. Not really much of a player numbers-wise, he had the small guy attitude that was appreciated by many a manager. This book looks at his trouble with Babe Ruth and the hard-nosed play that forged his cocky reputation. It is very thorough look at an often overlooked part of Leo’s resume.
Durocher’s real strength was his managing obviously. With varying degrees of success at all of his stops in the big leagues, you see how his hard-nosed playing attitude spills over into his managing. The reader also sees how Leo becomes the victim of a changing game. How more success early in his career does not carry over in the latter years. The game changed along with player attitudes, but old Leo stuck to his guns. It translated into some rough times for the long time manager, but those stops still put the finishing touches on an impressive career.
The one aspect of this book I found most interesting was the details of his private life. From associations with known gamblers, to his friendships with the Hollywood types, it leads to a very interesting life. Of course, the four wives add some zing to that private life also. It is an interesting aspect of Leo that we know some details about, but this sheds a whole new light on the subject.
Overall, this book is tirelessly researched and prepared well. It gets a little stat heavy at times, but the overall content of the book makes up for that lone aspect I did not like. If you have any interest in Durocher, or are a fan of this era of the game, check this one out. At 300+ pages it is a lot of reading but is for sure, time well spent.
Check it out, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.
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
If you look at baseball history as a whole, it encompasses a large amount of time. Thousands of people and events are all part of the greater story for thousands of reasons. Some of those events get lost to the passage of time, and rightly so. Just because an event happened does not mean it had any significance to the history of the game itself, it was just the action within the game. Some events have been suppressed from the history books, for selfish reasons by those involved. Today’s book takes a look at one of those events and how they helped shape the game as it now known.
Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book. He takes a look at the 1890 Players League that was formed as a rival league to the existing National League. It offered better salaries and player shares of ownership to play in the league. This was in contrast to the business dealings of the National league already in existence. It also allowed the Players League to outdraw the Nationals by the end of the season. It is a valuable history lesson and shows the power the players have always had and what ownership would like to keep quiet.
This is truly one of the earliest player labor organization movements in the history of the game. They organized, had some backers and on most fronts were a success. While their success was for only one year, it shows the powers that the players held and what obstacles they could overcome if they worked together. In the end it was the fact that National League owners inflated their attendance numbers and cooked their books to the point that it made the Players League look inept. In the end that was the main downfall of the Players League.
After this failure the Owners held the upper hand for generations and the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association almost 75 years later was the first real inroad the players made toward leveling the field with Ownership. This is where it would have been a benefit to former players to be students of the game. If they realized they held the power and had banned together sooner, they could have realized better pay and individual rights sooner than they had. This whole theory could have changed the way free agency came about and would have revolutionized the entire game sooner.
If you have any interest in the labor side of baseball, or rival league history this book would be a good choice for you. Yes it happened over a century ago, but it definitely is something that could have changed the direction labor relations took over the past 115 years. This is one of those history lessons ownership to this day would like to under cover. Because even today some of these principles could be used to the players benefit.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
It is a very sad fact that no matter how good a player is or was, they sometimes get forgotten in baseball history. Flashier, louder and more savvy players come along and steal the spotlight while these great players just go about their business playing the game. This also extends to other arenas like the Hall of Fame, because some players get forgotten by the voters in Cooperstown as well. Baseball publishing is another area where so many of the stories that should be told, if for no other reason than preservation of the game’s history, usually are not. Ken Boyer is one of those players that had an incredible career, but truly never got any of the written credit he deserved. Boyer recently shared a book about himself and his siblings and a few books aimed at the juvenile set were published during his career, but up until now he has never gotten the book he really deserved. Kevin McCann has published the book that baseball fans have been wanting and waiting for about Ken Boyer.
Ken Boyer was a staple of St. Louis Cardinals baseball for a long time. Receiver of numerous accolades during his career, he was the type of baseball player parents were glad that their kids looked up to. For some reason throughout time, Boyer never got the recognition he deserved form historians. Perhaps it was his low key demeanor and how he went about his business or some other unknown reason, but it really is a shame the world has not recognized his talents.
Kevin McCann has produced a real gem with this book. He takes a look at Boyer’s early life and how his early life struggles helped forge the strong personality that his was. He also takes a look at Boyer’s climb up the baseball ladder. Experiences in the Minor Leagues all added to the personality that eventually shone through in St. Louis.
McCann also takes the reader on a journey along with Ken Boyer through his impressive time manning Third Base for the Cardinals. World Series triumphs, All-Star Games and an MVP award just to keep it interesting were all bestowed upon Boyer while manning the hot corner. Next he takes you through the winding down portion of his career with stops with the Mets, White Sox and Dodgers. But the journey doesn’t stop there with Boyer. The author shows us the steps Boyer took to remain in baseball. By starting at the bottom and working his way back up again, he was able to take over the managerial reigns of the Cardinals for a while with limited success before his untimely death in 1982.
Finally McCann makes a solid case for Boyer’s inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly if you can make a solid case to have Ron Santo in the Hall at this point then Ken Boyer is a no-brainer for induction. For some reason baseball has overlooked Boyer’s career and has shown to some degree the flaws with the Hall of Fame voting system.
McCann has written a great book with this one. The writing style flows smoothly, moves fast and makes the reader feel like they were actually there. It is a great story that I for one am glad is finally being told on the level it deserves. The book is very hard to put down once you get started.
Baseball fans should check this one regardless of team allegiance. It is a player that should be given the historical respect he deserves and hopefully this book takes an important step forward in gaining recognition for the legacy Ken Boyer left behind.
You can get this book from the nice folks at BrayBree Publishing
One thing I really enjoy about this blog is I never know who I am going to talk to, get the chance to meet or what I might have the opportunity to obtain. One of those such people who I had the absolute pleasure to meet yesterday was the one and only Ron Kaplan. For those of you not familiar with Ron (and I say shame on you if you are into baseball books and don’t know who he is) he is the man behind Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf as well as an accomplished baseball author. One fact that may not have been as well know is that Ron was the man with an insanely large amount of acquired baseball books taking residence in his home, which led to this weekends meeting.
Ron decided it was time to clean house and get some of the boxes out the door and reduce some of his clutter. He worked tirelessly to find them a good home where they would be appreciated, because he and I both feel there is something inherently wrong with just throwing books in the garbage. The term one man’s trash is another man’s treasure applies here to some degree. Through his generosity he agreed to dispose of a large chunk of the book collection to me. It was Christmas in October on a quiet suburban New Jersey street if you will for this baseball fan.
I would guess roughly 800 books changed hands in this meeting, and with smiles on both our parts we ended the meeting, each of us very happy. The generosity of this to me was overwhelming to me and to Ron I send a heartfelt Thank You. I find it cool how baseball books can bring two strangers together and give them common link to build friendship upon.
To my wife Brina, if she does not leave me over bringing home 800 books to our house…….then I thank her too.
She was a real trooper after a late night Saturday in getting up bright and early for our trek to New Jersey. Without a complaint all day she helped greatly in loading and unloading of the truck and even had a few complimentary things to say about my blog…….yes, I was surprised too!
If you ever get a chance check out Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf using the link above. As far as baseball book sites out there go, there is Ron Kaplan’s…….and then there is the rest of us. He would in my opinion almost be the Godfather of Baseball Book Blogging. Again Ron, I thank you, the boxes of books are all settled in their new home waiting to be unleashed. If you ever feel the need to unleash more of your baseball books on the world, remember I am only a phone call away. Next time we will definitely take you up on the offer of the cup of coffee.
As baseball fans we should remember we are the keepers of the game, and if there is something we can do to help our fellow baseball book fans enjoy their time more, we should pay it forward. I know that’s what I am going to be doing with some of my books (new and old ones) in the next few months.
Much to most of baseballs surprise, it is the first week of September and the New York Mets have a tight grip on first place in the National League East. Mets fans will understand if the rest of the world says talk to us in a month when all the dust has settled and see where you are. Baseball is a game that you never count your chickens before they hatch. The Mets have been down this road during their history and it has not always been the best of outcomes for them. Now there is a book that helps Mets fans relive the highs, lows and spectacular events that make them proud to be called fans of the Metropolitans.
Some years it is harder to be a fan of the Mets than it is in others. From collapses, bad free agent signings, financial scandals and that pesky Bobby Bonilla contract that they are paying on until sometime during the 26th century, it can be tough to be faithful. Mets fans have proven their loyalty to their team and are being rewarded handsomely for it this year. Their team history has not always been the greatest either, from their inaugural 120-loss season to a few World Championships in-between, they still have a rich history that is worth celebrating.
John Snyder has written a fun book for New York Mets fans. It covers the entire team history from 1962 through 2010. It covers every facet of the team you could imagine, and breaks each year into segments. Team rosters, statistical leaders, final standings, attendance and a nice little one sentence synopsis that sums up the teams entire season. Next it presents in chronological order any of the important things that happened on or off the field that year that pertained to the Mets. Finally at the end of each chapter it relays an anecdote that pertains to that individual season. If you are trying to brush up on your team history, this book is really a fun way to approach it.
Mets fans obviously will enjoy this book. You can re-live memories or even learn about some years you may have been on sabbatical from your favorite team. Yes, that last sentence happens to most fans at one point or another. Fans of other teams who are not crazy about the Mets could use this book as a learning tool to gain some insight on team history. Also the author has published other team journals of this type, so your team may be represented by one of those volumes.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
Mention the name of Lenny Dykstra to any Mets or Phillies fan and more than likely the response will be positive. Lenny of course, being the spark plug that drove both of those teams to the postseason during his career. Mention Dykstra’s name anywhere else in the world and you will get a markedly different response. Todays book tells us the inside details of why you get such a negative response to Dykstra.
Nailed!-The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra
By:Chris Frankie – 2013 Running Press
On the field Dykstra who was affectionately called “Nails” was a hero to many. His ambitious style of play, and his small stature made him look like an overachiever that every little leaguer could aspire to be like. He found success with both teams he played for in the Major Leagues and the media ate up his goofy personality. In reality what you saw with Dykstra was not necessarily what you got.
After his playing days were over Dykstra started a successful chain of car washes in his native California and tasted success for the first time off of the field. His eventual car-wash empire made him lots of money ($55 Million to be exact) and afforded him the opportunity to dabble in the stock market. After having some success in the market, Dykstra made some new connections in the financial world and that’s when things really started to fall apart. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the rise of Lenny in the stock market world because it will defeat the purpose of you reading the book yourself. Lets just say Dykstra took full advantage of his status as a former ballplayer in New York to make the connections he needed to succeed in the financial field.
Lenny Dykstra for several years left in his wake, broken relationships, bad checks, debts, phony business plans and multiple borderline scams. One would almost wonder was he running a Ponzi scheme in his own mind. Almost anyone willing to invest in Lenny’s businesses, whether it was employees, vendors or investors, got screwed. The underlying theme throughout this book was it didn’t matter who he screwed. Lenny would find someone else to do what he needed and in the end screw them out of some money too. If you bought into his ideas he felt you were loyal but in the end screwed over everyone who worked for him and berated them all at one time or another. Lenny’s final fall from grace came in the form of a prison sentence as we all know. The one time con-man had finally run out of luck.
Chris Frankie is a former Dykstra employee who worked on Lenny’s magazine, The Player’s Club. He like everyone else got screwed out of a ton of money by Dykstra in the form of back pay. He stuck it out longer than some of the other employees and got screwed out of more money than I would ever be willing to risk , but we all have to make are own choices. When I read Frankie was a former employee, I thought he probably had some sort of axe to grind with Lenny. But in the end he still shows some sort of adulation or loyalty to this guy so I don’t think this was any sort of retribution.
This is a really well written book that shows a former stars calculated rise to the top and fall from grace. Anyone who had any shred of admiration for Dykstra should read it to get the real story. Being a Phillies fan I still had some shred of admiration for Dykstra but after reading this book it is all but gone now.
Outside of the book pages and in the real world I feel compelled to share this story. After his recent release from prison Lenny made an appearance at a local diner outside of Philly on the sports talk radio show. I asked my parents if they would go get me an autograph and since it was at a diner I figured they would be glad to do it, and I was not disappointed. After they went I asked my Mom how was their trip to the diner and my mother who usually has something nice to say about every one said this and I quote this exactly……”He looked like an old miserable toad”. Not sure exactly what that meant but my take on it was Lenny had seen better days. So to me after reading this book, and of course getting my Mom’s opinion, Lenny’s fall from grace is complete. I guess on the bright side for him he has nowhere to go but up.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the Running Press
They have been called everything from the Loveable Losers to the Amazing Mets. During their franchise history they have seen the highest of highs, the lowest depths of despair and just about everything in between. Love them or hate them the New York Mets have made the last 50 years pretty interesting. Today’s book takes a look at the first year of those Loveable Losers……
Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?
By: Jimmy Breslin 1963-Ivan R. Dee Publishing
Everyone who is any kind of baseball fan knows the saga of the New York Mets. An expansion team that started play in 1962 as part of the National League expansion. The entered the league the same year as Houston’s Colt 45’s, but garnered a much more dedicated fan base than their Houston counterparts. More than likely the Mets were so popular despite their horrible record, because fans were happy to have a National League presence in the city of New York again. Five years after the exodus of the Giants and Dodgers to greener pastures in California, New Yorker’s finally had a hometown team to root for besides the Yankees.
First published in 1963, I was not sure what exactly I would find with this book. I was assuming it would be about the growing pains and woes of a first year expansion team as part of the biggest media circus in the world. The reality of this book was that you saw those pains, but you also learned about what the Mets now meant to New York.
Fans of the both the Giants and Dodgers seemed to have an inferiority complex when it came to the Yankee fans. After the two teams left New York, these fans were at a loss as to their allegiance. What the Mets brought back to New York fans who pulled for the Dodgers and Giants, was something to root for.
Regardless of their record the author has shown how the Mets were a boost to the morale of the New York fans. How they were embraced both as a team, players individually and how there was now hope in the city, outside of the Bronx. Essentially the book shows how the Mets filled a void for the fans and no matter how good or bad they played, the fans loved them back.
Due to its age, some of the book is very dated. I also got the feeling while reading this book that the original intention may have been to promote the Mets. There was minimal description of the actual play of the Mets and more explanation of why the Mets were good for New York. There also was an overall sentiment throughout the book, that even though the Mets stink, we have hope for success in the future. That essentially is what made me think a promotional piece for the marketing department.
When all is said and done over 50 years later it is a fairly enjoyable book. It gives you a glimpse of the mindset of New York in the early 60’s, as well as their hopes looking towards the future of their new toy, The Mets. Mets fans will enjoy this book, as will general history buffs. I am not sure how much mass appeal this will have to fans outside of the east coast though, because old New York baseball is more than a lifetime ago for them.
You can get this book from Ivan R. Dee Publishing