It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time. Which players really deserve a book? What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question? To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered. Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell. It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time. With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from. For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before. Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.
If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away. That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys. It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes. Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed. He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.
Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball. You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling. You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade. Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher. It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.
Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level. Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade. While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.
One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field. He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment. How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more. Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this. It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.
If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out. It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to. It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways. So I ask again……….Who deserves a book? Many more people than you would originally think.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
Happy Reading Gregg
If there is one thing I have learned in the new stadium craze over the last 25 years, it is that baseball and politics do not always mix. The involved parties are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as to what is warranted and who should pay for what. The same problems arise, weather it is replacing an existing stadium or creating an expansion franchise. It all comes down to how the details are handled as to what success comes from all the hard work. Today’s book takes a look at all the struggles one city went through to get a team but still wound up on the losing end of the deal.
Becoming Big League takes a look at the city of Seattle and their efforts to land a Major League franchise in the 1960’s. It shows how some infighting and disagreements over the future of the city led to delays and confusion. It also shows how the local ownership group of the Seattle Pilots were flying by the seat of their pants in all aspects of the business.
From the feel the book gives you their was a group of people, along with the powers at Major League Baseball who really wanted to see the Pilots come to Seattle and succeed. They felt it was a great location that would help baseball thrive in the northwest area of the country and be a nice accent to the teams already placed in California. In theory the Pilots were a great idea, they just met too many off the field problems to thrive.
Local government infighting along with stadium construction issues and owners who financially flew by the seat of their pants while conducting business all doomed the Pilots in Seattle. Even almost a decade after the Pilots were gone and the Mariners arrived for round two of baseball in Seattle, many of the same problems still existed. The only plus side at that point was that Seattle had at least learned the minimum required of them to keep their baseball franchise. More recently Seattle has had the same problems luring the NBA to Seattle almost 50 years later.
Bill Mullins has created a great two part book. One is the baseball study that chronicles baseball coming to the Northwest. From the inception of the Pilots and agreements with Major League Baseball, to the moving of the franchise to Milwaukee and the birth of the Brewers. Secondly this book is a great urban study of local politics. Seattle wanted to keep its small time charm and quaintness, but still attract big money players. It shows how Seattle citizenship was split down the middle as to which path they wanted their city to follow.
If you have an interest in the Seattle Pilots their is lots of great information in here about the team and their short operations. There are some things i here that you don’t always easily come across when researching the Pilots. If you have an interest in local politics and how Seattle of the past functioned, you should give this book a look as well. It shows how some cities have trouble growing when they need to.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Washington Press
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
As you go through life, even if you don’t want to admit it, luck plays a big part. As the old saying goes I would rather be lucky than good any day of the week. For some people timing and opportunity is everything. It allows them to reach beyond their God-given talents and cross paths with the people who possess incredible talent and skills. Such is the case with today’s book, proving that timing is everything.
Ask any baseball fan who their personal Hall of Fame members are and I bet you would be hard pressed to find Charlie O’Brien’s name on any of those rosters. A journeyman catcher that spent 15 years in the Major Leagues that included eight various stops around the league. Charlie was a part-time player at best appearing in 800 games over those 15 years, that averages out to about 53 games played per year, and a career .221 batting average. Now these stats are nothing to be ashamed of because Charlie got to play the game we all love for a decade and a half at the highest level. What makes his story most interesting is the pitchers Charlie was able to work with during his 15 years on the field. Charlie O’Brien was able to say that he was the catcher to no less than 13 Cy Young Award winners during his career, which is the premise for his new book.
Charlie along with co-author Doug Wedge walk the reader through the his experiences working with these pitchers. Showing how each pitcher liked to work on the mound and how Charlie would adapt to each of their styles and how he helped to motivate each one in troubled times on the field. From his start in 1985, to the end of his career, he was able to work with essentially four decades worth of various Cy Young Award winners. It is a great story of perseverance and even though it may not be a Hall of Fame career, you still can have a pretty cool experience.
Unfortunately there were some down sides to this story. You get a lot of on field stories but not too much about Charlie himself. I always like to get the personal side of a player in an autobiography. Secondly, the entire book is based around the Cy Young premise. Which is all well and good, but Charlie never played with any of these pitchers when the were winning the award, it was always before or after the fact. So basically, it is a star crossing with a Cy Young winner, but never at the right time. That being the fact, it makes the premise of the book a little bit of a stretch, but honestly it is a good tie in to grab readers.
This is in no way a bad book. It is well written and tells a very entertaining story about what it was like to work with some players that we don’t often find much written about. Charlie O’Brien should be very proud of his work on the field with these Cy Young pitchers and even though his personal statistics may not reflect the great standards of the game, his own career as well. Baseball fans should pick this up, if you can get past the lack of continuity with the Cy Young premise, you should really enjoy it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Texas A&M University Press