Life can be cruel and that’s a fact. It can offer us so much opportunity and promise and in one blink of an eye it can all be gone. We see it time and time again in baseball, but a lot of the time it is due to injury. When it is due to the loss of life, baseball as a game becomes unimportant and we learn how much we actually care about the people who play the game on a whole different level. Lyman Bostock is one case where we were left to ask what if. A career cut short due to his untimely murder, which was full of promise and unlimited potential. For me, Bostock’s story was always one that left me wondering about the details surrounding his untimely demise, but now we have a book to help us all fill in the blanks.
When you stop and take a look at Lyman Bostock’s career numbers, one has to admit this guy was the real deal. He was always in contention for batting titles, was always improving his game and based on the small career sampling size, if he had kept up that pace would easily have been a Hall of Famer. But we all know how his career was cut short and left us with that void in Lyman’s story. Today’s book looks at his life and career and shows the reader the story of the man and promise wasted.
Powell’s book takes a look at Bostock’s meager upbringing in California and how he worked his way up through the ranks of High School and College baseball, through the minor leagues and eventually to the Major Leagues. It shows a story of perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also shares the story of how Lyman Bostock’s father who in his own right was a Negro League star, was not much of an influence in his childhood or his rise to stardom.
The book looks at his first stop in the majors with Minnesota with the Twins and the bond he created with teammates and the lessons he learned from teammate Rod Carew on how to become a better hitter. It also shows the negative side of the relationship with Twins management that came to head with Lyman leaving town. It is a period of great growth for Bostock as a player and it showed how he was always looking for a way to improve his game by listening to teammates and heading their advice. You learn about Bostocks love of his family during this period and how whenever he had the chance he would seize the opportunity to spend time with them. It was this love of family that played into his untimely demise.
After signing with the Angels and not living up to the expectations, you learn what kind of fabric Lyman was really made of. After essentially flopping his first month with the team he gave his salary to charity. It was acts like this and his anonymous other charitable gestures that show what a cool guy he really was.
A very important aspect of this book, shows the reader all of the details leading up to Lymans final moments. The readers get all the details of the who, what, when, why and where of that fateful night. It filled in a lot of the blanks in the story for me and put to rest any doubts of what a stand up guy Lyman Bostock really was from beginning until the end.
Powell did a great job of sharingBostock’s story which I feel has been a very overlooked or forgotten subject. His time in both life and baseball were very short, but his impact was much greater beyond his years. Check this book out, I don’t think anyone who puts the effort into reading this will regret it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
I find it fascinating that there are people who have played this game and despite their momentous accomplishments on the field can to some degree remain in the shadows. Perhaps this is by design, but I find it hard to believe a player would want to avoid accolades. Maybe it is the player being a victim of circumstances in playing for a team in a small market or he is just being a bright spot on some very bad teams. Whatever the reasons may be one of the players that I felt may not have always gotten his due is Harmon Killebrew. Playing for first the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins and finally the Kansas City Royals, Killebrew never really spent any great amount of time in a large market. I think this plays into the premise for me that even though Killebrew earned his Hall of Fame status he never really got the notoriety he was due. Today’s book takes a look at the gentle giant that lurked behind Killer Killebrew.
From normal American upbringings in Idaho, Harmon Killebrew was like every other kid in the post World War II era. A local hero with respect for his elders there was nothing bad that could be said about young Harmon. This book follows the home town hero through his local rise to stardom and his trek to the big leagues. It has countless interviews with some of the folks that crossed paths with Harmon and not a single person had anything negative to say about the slugger. If they were friends in High School and have not seen him in 40 years everyone still considered him their friend.
Aschburner takes the reader through Killebrew’s journey, getting established in the majors and getting adjusted to his new locales. He gives the reader a glimpse of the persona behind the player and how it didn’t matter who you were, Harmon Killebrew seemed to treat everyone just the same. It shows the humble character of Harmon that was something that never changed his entire life.
I always find interesting in these books how a player deals with the downside of his own career. It is inevitable and something every player in every generation will have to face. Like everything else he did in life Harmon faces it with grace and dignity and moves to the next chapter of his life. The author shows the reader how life after baseball can be hard on any player, even the Superstars. Money and health are two key real life issues that effected the post playing days for this Hall of Famer. It was a good look at the humanity involved in Harmon Killebrew.
Steve Aschburner did a real nice job with this book. I honestly feel that after reading this book I have a better feel of who Harmon Killebrew the person was. We are all familiar with the Hall of Fame player, who unfortunately played in a city that may have hampered us to getting to see his personality off the field.
I would recommend this book for all baseball fans. It’s a nice, easy reading book and it offers the fact that you would be hard pressed to find anyone that anything bad to say about Harmon Killebrew.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Too much of a good thing is not healthy. But how does one know when they get to that point. It could be with food and drink, gambling, or countless other vices, usually you know when you have had enough. With baseball books how are we to know when the market has been saturated with a particular subject? Is it when the subject runs its course of popularity and what defines the point that subject transcends its own timeline? There are certain personalities out there that no matter how much time passes between their relevance to the game and current times, the books keep on coming. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and a handful of others come to mind as players with too many books about them out there. But today’s book to me is another biography on an above average player and manager that gets a ton of coverage no matter how many decades have passed.
Billy Martin is a guy who got more mileage out of his personality than almost anyone in baseball. People loved him and hated him, all at the same time, but you couldn’t deny his passion and skills. On and off the field he was a lightning rod for trouble and everywhere he went, some sort of altercation interrupted his career at that time. He has been the subject of many, many books and this new one tries to give the reader something different.
Bill Pennington has thrown his hat in the Billy Martin Ring with his new volume. Pennington has done thorough research and given the reader a comprehensive story of the life of the volatile player and skipper. From his early days in California to his career at various stops in the majors, the author has given you a good look at what made Billy tick. There were some minor details about Martin’s story that knowledgeable fans may question but overall it is a nice piece of work that readers will enjoy.
The bigger question I have is why do we need another Billy Martin biography? What has happened in recent years that has changed any opinions of Billy. In the almost 25 years since Martin’s death, nothing new has surfaced that would warrant another book. There have been several books on the market that have done this dance. I know of at least ten other biographies that have chronicled Martin’s life and there is a lot of overlap between those books already. So I am not sure why we needed another one. I understand the appeal of the Yankees and Martin’s personality, so that is really the only reason I can conceive as to why this book, at this point in time.
As I said above, Bill Pennington did a really nice job with this book, save for the few minor details he doesn’t have quite right. If you haven’t inundated yourself with Billy Martin biographies in the past, then you will really enjoy this book. If you are like me and read all the other versions available, then you may have trouble finding some new information to keep your attention. I don’t want to discourage readers from checking out this book, I just want them to keep in mind it is a lot of the same stories that have been visited many times before.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Have you ever been the fan of a superstar player, but never felt like you really connected with him. When we have players that we really like, on some level you feel some sort of connection with them. Whether it is admiration of their skills, or of the off field personality they have, you need something to hold on to and make that connection. Such is the case with Tony Oliva and myself. I always admired his career even though it was over before I could say the word baseball, I still thought he was a pretty great player. What was missing for me was some sort of wow factor though. In that vein is where my hopes were lying in todays book, that it would create some sort of better connection for me with Tony.
Tony Oliva could be considered the King of Minnesota. Playing a majority of his career with the Twins, he is respected and loved above almost all others. Being from outside Minnesota I have heard all the stories and highlights of his career. But for me there was never any feeling of connection with Oliva that I have with some other players that I had never seen. Perhaps it is Oliva’s low-key personality that didn’t get him the limelight of other Hall of Famers, or maybe it was the fact that he played in Minnesota and became a symbol of greatness for a team that is largely forgotten at times. So I was going into this book hoping for something that would improve my feelings toward Oliva.
Thom Henninger does a really nice job in this book at portraying the career of Tony Oliva, from his beginnings in Washington D.C. to the end of his career as an on field legend. The author shows the ups and downs of his storied career and some of the experiences that helped shape Oliva’s personality. The reader gets to see some personal tribulations that you would not see if you followed only his on field accomplishments. It is a very well-rounded biography that are the results of in-depth research and tireless fact checking.
The down side to this book for me is that I don’t feel I got any sort of new information on a personal level. When I read a biography I want to feel that I made a personal connection of some sort with the subject or could relate to the situation at hand. As I said above it is a well-rounded biography, but to me came off very dry on the personal level. It seems to be a very strict agenda of stick to the on-field activities and don’t reveal anything new about Tony Oliva, if it can be avoided. So for me after reading this the legend remained intact and nothing was gained for me as a fan. There is the old publishing saying – If the legend is more interesting than the facts…….print the legend.
Henninger’s writing style was enjoyable and moved along at a good pace. I am just unsure as to why we got nothing new. Perhaps it is the subject matter that keeps himself very guarded and won’t allow the world to see more, or maybe there really isn’t anymore to get. I as a fan may never know, but in the end I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to get a bigger piece of what is the Tony Oliva legend.
If you are a fan of Oliva then you should check it out. Maybe I am missing something hardcore Minnesota fans will only be able to find. Perhaps I expect too much out of a biography, but I really don’t get disappointed by a lot of them, so I am not 100% sold on the fact that I am to blame here.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Minnesota Press
I think there are many great injustices within the game of baseball. From plays on the field that get called incorrectly to the many talented people who fall into the cracks of history. There are too many baseball professionals that give their entire lives and every fiber of their beings to the game and in return do not receive the accolades they truly deserve. Managers sometimes are a bunch that gets forgotten if they do not reach the pinnacle of the game. Regardless of how they perform over their entire career, if they don’t win a World Series, they usually get forgotten when speaking of the greats. Todays book takes a look at one of those people who truly was a great manager and gets forgotten when the conversation turns to Baseballs Greatest Managers.
I must admit I was very excited about this book. Gene Mauch has for a long time topped my list of one of the best managers the game has had to offer during its history. Always one to be saddled with the task of building a winner from the ground up, he never shied from a task like that and rose to the challenge of laying the groundwork for winning teams.
Mel Procter has taken a look at Gene Mauch’s entire career in this book. From border line Major League player and star in the minors. You get to see the passion and fire that was a Gene Mauch trademark on the field. The reader sees what made Mauch tick and the drive that helped propel his small stature and guts into a hard-nosed player who earned the respect of teammates and fans alike. Being a fan of Mauch this is something that I was not very familiar with. There is plenty of documentation about his short stays in the Majors, but the Minor League stories were new ones to me, which helped paint a broader picture of his skills and his career.
Seizing the opportunity with the Phillies, the reader then journeys through his managerial career. It shows the methodical nature that Mauch tried to build winners and the inherent struggles associated with trying to build from within during that era. Gene’s next stops were Montreal, Minnesota and California, all of which saw varying degrees of improvement under Gene. You see how his personality of hard-nosed play and determination is transmitted to his players, so maybe winning is contagious after all. The only down side to the manager portion of the story is that I would have liked to see some more stories about the Twins and Angels. Those sections weren’t as long as the ones about Philly and Montreal, but when you have a career that spans this many decades you probably have to make some cuts somewhere.
Mel Proctor should be very proud of this book. He has given complete and honest coverage to a baseball personality that I think gets shafted sometimes. Just because he came within one pitch of actually making the World Series and was also the captain of the Titanic in Philadelphia in 1964 does not make him a bad manager. To the contrary I think Mauch was one of the more dedicated and smarter managers in the game during his era and was unfortunately the victim of some bad baseball timing. There are other managers in the Hall of Fame with multiple World Series trophies that are there partly due to the pinstripes they wore. I think man for man, Gene Mauch could outshine many of them.
Check out this book for yourself and give Gene Mauch the respect he deserves. After a life long dedication to the game, he deserves at least that much and honestly baseball fans will enjoy this one. This may be one of the few chances we as fans get to learn about the real Gene Mauch
You can get this book from the nice folks at Cardinal Publishing
You can always find a team that one year or another falls in the cracks of existence. It could be a bad season or a string of bad years that makes most of America forget or even care that the team is still playing. Perhaps it is even the locale or the personality of the team and ownership that makes it less appealing to the masses. Teams that have had these problems such as the Montreal Expos, Miami Marlins and even the Seattle Mariners at times have trouble sustaining success on the field when none of the fans really care. The Minnesota Twins are one team that I feel that gets lost in the shuffle of baseball. Be it a lack of success in recent years or geographical location, the Twins just seem to get no love from the rest of the country. It’s a good thing they have a rich history to celebrate and a die-hard fan base that will enjoy today’s book.
The Twins started their existence as the transplanted Washington Senators in 1961. Moving to a colder and more temperamental climate they set off to build a whole new tradition on and off the field. They have succeeded in building one of the most dedicated fan bases in the game and achieved some moderate success through the years on the field including a few World Series Championships.
Doug Grow takes fan’s of the Minnesota Twins on an entertaining ride through their existence. Year by year, you are walked through the history of the team, along with some pop-culture snippets going on at the same time as well. Published in 2010, this book only takes you through the opening of Target Field, so currently it is a little dated. Each year starting with the shift that bore the Minnesota Twins you get player insight, on and off field team drama, as well as fun facts about the team itself. If you are not a die-hard fan of the Twins or have not spent a lot of time learning their history it is very helpful.
These type of books that chronicle a franchises complete history allow general baseball fans to learn specific details of a team and form a connection. When you have fans forming a connection with a team, you in the end create a fan of that team. These books then become dual purpose, by being both a history book and also the ability to generate new fans for that team. Doug Grow did a very thorough and entertaining job with this book. It was hard to put down because it was so enjoyable. If you are a Minnesota Twins fan you probably have heard some of these stories before, but will more than likely enjoy them again. If the Twins are not that familiar to you, this book becomes a great learning experience and is entertaining at the same time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Minnesota Press
Every team has a history. Some teams have stayed in one place and followed the straight and narrow, while others have made stops along the way, some of those in three or four towns no less. Sometimes it is lack of fan support, the lure of a new stadium or for other owners its just the temptation that the grass is greener on the other side, that makes them up-root their teams. The Minnesota Twins, born out of the remains of the original Washington Senators, are one of those such teams and todays book takes a look at their rich history after moving out to the prairie.
The upper mid-west was a grand opportunity for the owner of the Minnesota Twins. There was not much in the way of professional sports representation for that area at the time, and Calvin Griffith saw a gold mine for the taking. Sometimes these moves go as expected and sometimes not, just ask Charlie Finley how Kansas City was. Regardless, Minnesota got a new baseball team for the 1961 season and the endless love affair between team and city has not missed a beat since.
Stew Thornley takes an in-depth look at the team from its humble beginnings in 1961, through a few World Series appearances and finally to their new home at Target Field. The author breaks down each decade of the teams existence and shows the highs and lows that came about. The book is a very quick read at only 123 pages, but it does not just touch on the main events. It encompasses the minor details that have made Twins baseball special to the people of Minnesota. Thornley also gives a nice overview of what baseball was in Minnesota prior to the Twins arrival on semi-pro levels. From Killebrew and Oliva to Molitor and Mauer, this book does a great job of covering the team history.
If you are a Twins fan or someone who is not in the Minnesota region but likes to learn about team history, you will really enjoy this book. It paints a solid team picture in a short span, and helps you understand why the fans of Minnesota are so proud of their hometown team.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The History Press
With the Hall of Fame voting coming up in a few weeks, everyone is wondering who will be next. Will it be a superstar who played on the biggest of stages every night? Or will it be someone from a small stage that had an incredible career. Only time will tell, but todays book takes a look at a player that worked day in and day out to perfect his craft on a smaller stage.
By: Rod Carew & Ira Berkow – 2010 University of Minnesota Press
Rod Carew was a sure-fire Hall of Famer, no one denies that. The only problem was, I don’t think he ever got the true recognition he deserved. Mainly due to the fact that he played some of his most productive years as a member of the Minnesota Twins. He never hit for massive power, but he still put up some incredible career numbers that punched his ticket for the Hall of Fame.
This book was first published in 1979 and was an incredible story. It was re-issued in 2010 to add the years covering the end of his career, life after baseball and his HOF induction. Carew is honest and forthright in this book, discussing his upbringing in Panama, his move to the United States, his baseball career and his marriage to white Jewish woman in the U.S.. Remember, this was during the time when interracial marriages were not accepted in our society, so you see the difficulties he had to overcome in regard to that issue. You get some insight into his career and life after baseball, but nothing earth shattering.
For the heights that tell-all player biographies have reached in the last few decades, this one is very tame. You get thorough information and what seems like honesty out of Carew but really nothing that makes you go wow I can’t believe that happened. That is always the feeling I have had about Rod Carew. A great and dedicated player that went about his business and was not interested in making waves or being a showman. Perhaps part of the book comes off this way because it was first published back in 1979. In all honesty I just think it is how Carew operates and Ira Berkow portrays the man and the player accurately. I still think as far as Hall of Famers go Carew is underrated but I don’t think anything will ever change that.
If you have any interest in Rod Carew or his baseball career this will be a very good read for you. For someone who does not seem to crave the limelight of his stardom you get a good look at the true man. Minnesota Twins and California Angels fans will also really enjoy the look at their hometown hero.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Minnesota Press
Happy Reading and a safe and Merry Christmas to all my friends that hang out in the bookcase with me
There are several teams within Major League Baseball that just get no respect. Sometimes the reason may be their own ineptitude, financial shortcomings or even as simple as being a group of unlikable guys. Teams that come to mind are the Miami Marlins, Washington Senators, Philadelphia and K.C. Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros just to name a few out there. They all have their place in history and it is not always negative. The loyal fan bases that these teams maintain always hold out that glimmer of hope for next year and the fortunes that may come their way. Todays book takes the time to celebrate one of those team that struggles to be respected.
Houston Astros-Deep in the Heart
By:Bill Brown & Mike Acosta-Bright Sky Press 2013
The Houston Astros were born out of National League expansion in 1962. Originally named the Colt 45’s, they started play with a bunch of over the hill and wet behind the ears players. They spent more than a decade languishing near the bottom of the standings before reaping the fruits of their labor and becoming perennial contenders for the fans of Houston. Unfortunately like most things in life, baseball standings come full circle and the Astros are rebuilding for the future once again.
Bill Brown and Mike Acosta have compiled a book that shows the pride the fans of the Astros have in their beloved team. They show that you don’t always have to meet prettiest girl at the dance to find true love. Like most teams that have a loyal following, the fans of Houston are proud of their team and its heritage no matter how they finish.
This book is really great. It has 11 different chapters and breaks the 50 plus years of Houston baseball into each. You learn about the stadiums the Astros have called home. You learn about a variety of different players and off field personnel that have worn Houston’s colors proudly. Finally you see the Astros high points on the field, most recently being the 2005 World Series. One part of this book I though was interesting is that is it gives a glimpse into the future of the Astros, it shows rising stars they are hoping will propel the team to new heights. I also found that I had no idea who has actually played for the Astros during their existence. The Houston portion of some players career’s may have been short, but there were some big time names that hung their hat in Houston for a bit.
The pictures in this book are of great quality. You get a chance to see some never before seen shots that make you feel like you were there. I for some reason wish I had the chance to see a game at the Astrodome, but never did. So I always like seeing old pictures of the eighth wonder of the world, and this book does not disappoint at all!
Astros fans will love this book. Fans of team history as well. Books like this always have a place in our bookcases. They allow fans to go back and relive the memories they have and add that special nostalgic magic to it. As we all know that nostalgic magic can make things seem better and more enjoyable than they really were, but sometimes we all need that in life. Also when you order this book it arrives with a bag of baseball candy and a bag of Cracker Jack in the box. What is more enjoyable or nostalgic in baseball than Cracker Jack????
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press
Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. It can take you back to a cherished memory, or a wretched heartbreak. The beautiful thing about nostalgia is it becomes whatever you want it to be. Sometimes it becomes greater than it really was. Today’s book does just that for me.
The 1991 World Series, more accurately Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is considered by many to be an all time classic. What Game 7 means to each fan is a totally different and personal thing. To me it takes me back to my college days sitting around watching the game with all my friends. I didn’t have a dog in that World Series fight but it created a cherished memory for me that night none the less. Tonight’s choice I think is now obvious…….
Down To The Last Pitch
By:Tim Wendel – 2014
I was very surprised by this book. What I expected and what I got were two totally different things. What I expected was a book that detailed every move made in every game which I got. I also expected analyzation of all the moves that were made and ones not made, which I got as well. And also I expected the awnswers to the questions of who, what, when, where, how and why two teams that were in last place the year before wound up in the World Series. Which of course I got as well.
But what I didn’t expect was showing the reader how this World Series and those specific seven games fit into the entire realm of baseball lore in 1991. You have to remember this was fresh off the Pete Rose Scandal (Yes I think he should be in the Hall of Fame), on the doorstep of skyrocketing player salaries and not so far down the road a MLBPA strike that would cancel the 1994 World Series. The author takes you through each of these things and shows you what other events transpired during that year (1991). Then he shows you if and why it had any effect on the game of baseball itself, the World Series and any ramifications that came from those said events.
Now keep in mind this book does get written Twenty plus years after the events happened. So it makes it easier to see how each event of that season may have intertwined and created the end results. At the given time I don’t think there were very many of us thinking…”Hey we are watching something really important here”. Unless you had a time machine and could see the significance this game would have, it was just another Game 7. While they don’t come along as often as we would like we still knew, in the end, someone was going to lose and someone crowned a champion.
Whether you are a fan of the Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves or just enjoy the World Series as an event, you will enjoy this book. The only problems with this book for me was the talk about the passing of Kirby Puckett. The game lost a great one with that guy. That seemed a little out-of-place because you find yourself enthralled in the story and almost upbeat comparing your memories of the game to the authors writings. The only other issue I had with it was it tended to bounce around to another subject at odd times. Midway through the chapter about Game 1, it bounced to a story about the author working at USA Today three years prior. It really had no link to that part of, or even the overall story. It just seemed there was a better way to make those transitions if that was something they wanted to keep in the storyline.
Overall Tim Wendel did a good job with this book. It brought back a lot of good memories for me of that Sunday night, many moons ago when I had less grey hair. It definitely takes you back to a day long gone by and almost makes you wish you were still there when they were …….down to the last pitch.
You can get this book from the nice folks at DaCapo Press http://www.dacapopress.com