No matter who you are, baseball starts with some sort of dream. It could be a dream to see a baseball game in person, meet your favorite player or be one of the chosen few who gets to play the game professionally. What if you are one of the chosen few who belong to a family where baseball would be considered the family business, quite honestly…..how cool would that be for any of us? Today’s book takes a look at one of the lucky ones that gets to call baseball their family business and the amazing experiences that it has afforded him and his family throughout their careers.
For my money, to be considered baseball royalty you do not have to be a Hall of Fame caliber player. I just think you have to have a genuine love for the game and put all your efforts into it. For those not familiar with the Campanis family, they have dedicated their lives to the game across three generations, making contributions both on and off the field.
Starting with Grandpa Al who dedicated his life to the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and New York, he contributed to building National League powerhouses that for decades were tough to beat. Second generation Jim Sr., had a respectable career on both the major league and minor league levels. With stops in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Pittsburgh during his playing days, he was able to witness many things that none of us will ever get to experience around baseball. Finally it brings us to Jim Jr. A hot prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, that quite possibly through no fault of his own, never got the real shot he deserved to make it to the Major Leagues.
Born Into Baseball takes a look at the journey of Jim Jr. From his upbringing experiencing the Major Leagues through his Father Jim and Grandfather Al’s careers, which ultimately led to him deciding this is what I want to do with my life. Jim takes us through his college experiences and how he learned to appreciate and play the game on a different level. Next he leads you through his time in the Minors. Sharing with the reader all of the friendships he made along the way as well as sharing the lighter side of being a Minor Leaguer. He also shows the reader what a player goes through when he realizes, by his own choice or someone else’s, that it is time to lay the dream to rest. It is a very interesting look at what goes through the mind of an aspiring player.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the Campanis history lesson. You learn about his grandfather Al who spent a lifetime with the Dodgers, representing them as they both deserved and expected. Only in the end, to watch his entire career collapse around him due to a few unfortunate comments on national television. It is a sad legacy to leave behind and hopefully as time goes by people will forgive the poor judgement of the comments and give Al the respect he earned throughout his lifetime. Jim also looks at his Dad, Jim Sr’s baseball career. It shows a level of dedication to the game and a desire to compete and reach a dream at almost any cost.
I always find it interesting the the players who never quite reach stardom always have the best insight to the game. Perhaps it is because they spent so much time honing their craft trying to improve. Or maybe it is because they were always behind someone a little better on the depth charts. Whatever the reason may be, Jim Campanis has a great outlook on how the game should be played and showed himself as a willing student throughout his entire career. What is contained in these pages proves you don’t need to be a Hall of Fame player to be a Hall of Fame person.
If you have an interest in getting a feel for what it is like to be on the other side of the baseball curtain, check this book out. It gives a real good look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues and how much you really have to sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying? A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market. These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.
I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous. What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader? I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.
What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s. It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.
In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence. From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues. One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball. The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side. One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man. You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.
Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball. After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next. Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology. You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told, I couldn’t put it down. It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.
You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book. It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it. As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I have said before history is a an important part of the game of baseball. No matter what level of baseball that you are a fan of, you need to know the facts. With the surge in the popularity of Minor League Baseball you get to see the future of the game. While witnessing that future you should also remember those that never made it past that level to become the future. Minor league history has not always gotten the coverage it has deserved but now there is a new book that allows you to get a look at one of the leagues on a day by day basis.
The Texas League Baseball Almanac
By:David King & Tom Kayser – 2014 The History Press
The Texas League Baseball Almanac is a neat little tool for fans of the league. It gives you a year-long day by day breakdown of the exciting moments that happened in the league. Memorable games, record-breaking events on the field and player triumphs have all been recorded. It allows you to take a walk through the years of the league and see the great moments that have happened. For many fans it would be a great history lesson and allow them to connect with some of those players they may not of ever heard of before. Where else will you be able to find out when Jo-Jo Jackson was ejected from the game before the line-ups were even exchanged?
These books are important because it gives some history in print to a forgotten era. There was a time when the local minor league was the only game in town. Before MLB expansion west of St.Louis, some of these leagues were more popular than the Majors. Unfortunately, records have not always been kept as meticulously as they could have been so this book helps fill in some of the holes that may have been missed. The Negro Leagues had the same record keeping problems and most of those records are gone forever, so its nice to have a book like this to cement some of the information. Fans of the league will enjoy this book because it’s a nice look at some of the events that might not have necessarily brought headlines. It’s easy for everyone to remember the big things that happen, but its the little things that happen on a daily basis and the people involved, that tell the whole story.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The History Press
There was a point in time in the United States, that you could throw a stone and hit some sort of baseball team. Prior to the late 1950’s Major League Baseball was fairly regional, with no team calling anywhere west of St. Louis home. That led to the opportunity for small towns and larger forgotten towns to have their own brand of baseball outside of the Big Leagues. Unfortunately relocation of existing teams westward generated by the Dodgers move to Los Angeles, and the ensuing expansion in both leagues killed some of the small time baseball in those towns. Lucky for all of us, at least one of those towns history before big time baseball arrived has been preserved in print.
Houston Baseball-The Early Years 1861-1961
By:Mike Vance/SABR-2014 Bright Sky Press
Prior to 1962 Houston never had a Major League team. The Colt 45’s were the first time Houston got invited to dance with the big boys. For the century prior to 1962, Houston was not forgotten by the baseball gods. They had the opportunity to see their fair share of talent pass through town and entertain the locals. From amateur ball, to the negro leagues and even minor league baseball, Houston was a big time player in the history of the game.
Editor Mike Vance and the Larry Dierker chapter of SABR have created a very informative and entertaining book. It takes an in-depth look at what transpired in Houston during the 100 years prior to the arrival of the Houston Colt 45’s. It covers everything from the very early years of organized baseball in the city to the transition to major league baseball.
The contributors to the book have made sure that every facet of Houston baseball gets covered. Ballparks through the years are covered in the book. Seeing drawings of the makeshift fields to formal stadiums you see how the game grew and progressed in the city. They also show some of the Major Leaguers that made stops in the early careers in Houston on their way to stardom. Each of the various minor league teams that called Houston home are also remembered in this book. Owners, semi pro leagues as well as the Negro Leagues in the Houston area are not forgotten either.
The research in this book has been painstakingly done and it shows. They went above and beyond in creating a really comprehensive book that showcases Houston’s history within the game. Students of the history of the game really should take a look at this book, because almost everyone is guaranteed to learn something from it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bright Sky Press
When I had the thought of doing a book review blog, I figured I would stick to just doing autobiographies. I knew there were tons of those types of books out there to pick from. What I didn’t realize was that there was books on so many different facets of the history of the game. I have been pleasantly surprised at some of the books I have found, and it has allowed me to become a history student again. Todays book added some new information to my ever-growing knowledge base.
Baseball’s Peerless Semipros
Thomas Barthel-2009 St. Johann Press
I will admit before I got this book I had never heard of the Bushwicks. Happily though, through my learning process I found a very interesting story. A bunch of semi-pros, former major leaguers and negro-leaguers formed a high quality team that most competitors found, was hard to beat. Through the process of winning they also produced a form of civic pride that most residents of Brooklyn found more appealing than the professional teams of the day.
Max Rosner who was a Jewish immigrant was the owner of the Bushwicks. Through his hard work and promotion he built a local empire. He basically created one of, if not the biggest draw of the first half of the twentieth century participating in baseball. That is no small feat if you consider he was competing against the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants in the same city.
I always find it interesting that you can see where something considered an innovation back in the day was derived from. Rosner was the brainchild behind the idea of night baseball under the lights. His idea sprang forth a full five years before the Cincinnati Reds decided to give it a try. It is small innovations like that which are now part of the everyday norm in baseball.
Barthel gives you a year by year look at the Bushwicks and the triumphs and struggles they encountered along the way. One of the big things they had an issue with was finding qualified competition. The team existed in almost a no-mans land if you will. They were not major league quality but still too good to be considered amateurs. It almost looks as if they were a quality minor league team in an era before minor league baseball existed.
You really get a glimpse in to the inner workings of a baseball team before MLB ruled the world. They may not have been the big apples within the Big Apple but they were still a pretty impressive team. Books like this I always enjoy because they are definitely off of the mainstream that baseball fans normally read and talk about. History buffs will really enjoy this and each fan should take the time to read and learn something new.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Johann Press.