A few weeks ago we looked at a new batch of books recently published by McFarland. I touched on the obscure factor that some of their books tend to embrace and how they fill a niche spot in the baseball book market. Today we are going to look at a few more because honestly McFarland has a little something for every baseball fan.
McFarland is always willing to publish team history books. Looking at both the powerhouse teams that are part of the baseball fabric as well as those that time has essentially forgotten. The year 1910 was an interesting point for the two teams involved in this volume and shows how it laid the groundwork for a streak that lasts to this day.
The 1910 World Series brought us the end of one dynasty and the birth of another. The Chicago Cubs, coming off several very successful years and a win in the 1908 series were nearing the end of their reign. While Connie Mack’s Athletics were poised to start a championship run of their own. It was a fairly anti-climatic Series, but did offer an interesting historical note. For the first time in World Series history, game two to be precise, was the first time all nine starters recorded a hit in the same game. Its a neat little trivia factoid you can now impress all your friends with.
This is a timely book with the Cubs poised to possibly end their World Series drought and also it allows the reader to travel back in time to see an entirely different generation of the game. Fans of either of these teams or of this era, will not be disappointed in this one.
This one takes a look at the history of the Most Valuable player award in Baseball. It looks at the voting results and provides current statistical analysis to see what may have been different by todays standards.
It is an interesting view as at what may have been overlooked by voters in the past as well as what other factors may have played into the voting results. It also shows how race may have been an underlying issue on some of the ballots. The book is a good mix of history, commentary and statistical analysis. For fans of these types of “what did we miss books” this is another one you will really enjoy.
Finally, as the title says, Pud Galvin, not only the owner of an odd name was baseball’s first 300 game winner. Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965, 63 years after his death, his numerous records and 300+ wins still did not keep him from dying penniless. One of the first real superstars of the game he had some amazing accomplishments on the field and helped grow the credibility of the early game.
One of the other footnotes to Galvin’s story is he may have been the first user of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Major League Baseball. An advocate of using a monkey testosterone elixir, it seemed to enhance his on field performance. The difference from today to over 100 years ago is that everyone was on board with the use of the concoction. It shows a very different time in Baseball and quite honestly is a very interesting story for fans of the early eras of baseball.
You can check out these books and other great titles offered by this publisher at the following link:
Baseball stadiums are a funny business. In the last few years we have opened the remainder of the publicly funded monsters that are basically welfare projects for the mega rich owners. Convincing the fan base that it is a good idea to fund the building of these monsters through tax dollars, all in the name of civic pride. Everyone that has wanted a new stadium has gotten one in the last 25 years, we are even starting to see some of these stadiums become outdated and cries for replacements are starting. These stadiums are all one dimensional and other uses of these parks is very limited. It makes one look back and see how useful the last generation of stadiums truly were. Baseball, Football, Concerts, Monster Truck Rallies or almost anything you could imagine would happen there. In today’s game almost everyone has their individual dedicated to one type of event stadium. But what about that one glorious year when one stadium housed two Baseball teams and two Football teams. Rarely a day went by when something wasn’t going on. Today’s book looks at that one unique and busy year.
Shea Stadium was the lucky recipient of all this attention in 1975. The obvious home of the New York Mets, but also temporary home to the New York Yankees during the remodeling of Yankee Stadium. It also housed the New York Giants and the Jets while construction of the Meadowlands was wrapping up. It made for scheduling nightmares and helped create an atmosphere within Shea that was hard to beat.
Brett Topel’s new book takes a look at that busy season and gives a solid background on each of the teams that called Shea home. He shows the reader how each of the tenants agreements came to be with the city owned stadium and how the legalities of it all threw a few wrenches into the works.
Topel, through interviews with the men who were on the field in 1975 explain what the vibe was like that year. How the Yankees felt playing on enemy territory across town from their beloved stadium and having to call Shea home. It had to be a very interesting mind set for the players since the dimensions were so different between the two stadiums. It also shows how the transplant to Shea Stadium effected the Yankees fans and their attendance.
The book covers both the Baseball and Football teams that called Shea stadium home in 1975, but it is much more centered on the baseball side of the stadium activities. More than likely because in a given year with two teams calling Shea home you would have 162 baseball games that would be considered home games versus the 16 home games for Football on Sundays. It shows how utilitarian these multi purpose stadiums really were. They were treated like a jack of all trades, instead of todays specialized delicate little flowers that are sparingly used for only one activity. I find it amazing that these new sport palaces are starting to have a shorter life span than the older and more widely used multi purpose stadiums.
If you are a fan of New York sports you should check this one out. It shows a very unique situation in an interesting time period of sports league growth. A situation like this we will never see again and for good reason.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I always hate writing these kinds of posts. Perhaps it is realizing my own mortality in the end that makes them so difficult. Once again I am at the keyboard saying goodbye to another person that I considered a friend of the bookcase. Now friend can be an odd sort of term in its general meaning. I don’t mean friend in the sense that we hung out together, I mean friend in the sense that there was a mutual respect involved and correspondence between both parties. A compliment and a few tips on my writing from one of the greatest sportswriters of his time, automatically moves him to friend status. When this person gives you some decent advice, without asking to help me become better at my craft he automatically becomes more than an acquaintance. While pretty much no one would know me if they tripped over me on the street we all knew who Phil Pepe was.
Phil Pepe was one of the great sportswriters of his time. The author of many….many books that are a joy to read in their entirety and a man who never let his skill go to his head. In a business that has changed drastically over the last few decades he was the one who stood out of the crowd as one of the greats. A member of a dying breed that can never and for a multitude of business reasons will never been replaced.
There are a few authors out there that have written a lot of baseball books. No matter what they write I will read it, because honestly I want to see what their spin on that subject is. Phil Pepe was one of those authors and I was never disappointed. You could always tell his research was thorough and he had an underlying love of the game that I was always able to find in his writings. Of the first 50 baseball books I ever read at least ten were Phil Pepe’s books.
So I bid farewell to someone I have admired and respected for many years. A man who would go out of his way to say an encouraging word for a struggling blogger and an author who was always willing to sign the newest book of his I picked up for my collection. If I had known the last few books he signed for me two weeks ago would be the last, I would have never believed you.
Farewell and Thank You Phil. Writers like yourself are why I thought maybe I could do this blog to some degree and make it a modest success. You were an inspiration and didn’t even know it. The baseball writing world has lost a great one and may never recover.
Happy Reading with a heavy heart
Opening Day 2015. The day we have been waiting for has finally arrived. The countdowns are over, the grass is manicured and rosters are set. Some dreams have been realized, while others have been shattered. Throughout all of the waiting and activity, one thing is crystal clear, baseball is back!!!!!
Each new season brings with it possibilities of greatness, with each day of the season giving new entries to the history books. As fans you never know what is going to happen, but you always will have the chance of witnessing something special. Being a fan is the easy part, but what about the people who have to assemble these teams. Like the game itself that process has to adapt to changes. Some methods are tried and true, while others are gaining credibility as time goes on. Many methods are out there, and each has their merits, so it is up to each individual to decide which works the best for their needs. Maybe for some, these books will help.
I have talked on here before of the merits of the new ways of judging baseball talent. These books are just two more versions of the new way of thinking within sports. Quite honestly this is probably not Bill James greatest book, but it does give some insight into how the game is analyzed. He rambles into subjects other than sports. For hardcore baseball fans that might be a turn off, but if you are a Bill James fan you may be willing to overlook that.
Basic Ball takes its own unique approach to three major sports, baseball football and basketball. It offers new techniques for analyzing players and gives new formulas for evaluating talent. For fans of all three sports it gives a new look on the old games. It is sometimes refreshing to get a new look at the same thing you have been looking at for years. In this instance you can teach an old dog new tricks.
With the new baseball season upon us, fans can take a new approach to watching their old game, and these books will surely help.
You can get these books from the nice folks at Acta Sports and St Johann Press
1981 was somewhat of a transition year for America. Disco was dead, the Phillies were after 97 years, reigning World Series Champions and old school baseball was changing. The recent advent of free agency in the second half of the last decade was making wholesale changes to the way the old school owners conducted business. Those same changes were leading to the selling of teams and making dollar signs bounce around like super balls. Some of it was for the betterment of the game, but it was driving the old guard nuts. After a few years of tumultuous relations between the players union and MLB, the season became fractured due to a players strike that would never leave baseball the same.
The events of 1981 have always needed some clarification for me. I have never quite understood what the basis of the strike was other than money. Now, I am totally clear as to what the issues were and why the issues at hand were worth fighting for.
Jeff Katz has created to me essentially the bible of the 1981 season. He takes an in-depth look at the labor issues leading up to the 1981 players strike and what the players felt needed to improve. He discusses the issues both on and off the field in 1981 and how the strike effected everyone and everything. He also paints an overall picture of the state of relations between players and owners after the advent of free agency.
A large portion of this book obviously centers on the strike itself. Katz takes the reader on a journey of all the events that happened in negotiations and you get to see the key players and negotiators at work. The authors account is a painstaking journey through the legal avenues traveled within Major League Baseball. It gives insight to the strike and negotiations that I have never seen before. It helps clarify to the reader that the players were not just a bunch of money hungry thieves that were looking for a big score. They had legitimate complaints that needed to be addressed by the owners in the changing ways in which MLB now needed to function. The book also shows the owners side of the table and in the end, the were fumbling bunch of idiots that harmed their own cause in the end.
Jeff Katz has created a great book that is a very enjoyable read that moves along quickly. Even though a large portion of the book is off-field events, it keeps the reader’s interest and makes you not want to put it down. All baseball fans should enjoy this book. You can see how your favorite team and a few star players fared during the strike and at the negotiation table.
You can pick up this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press
I will admit, Bill Giles was never one of my favorite people. I am from the generation that grew up during Mr. Giles hands on, upper level management of my beloved Phillies. Except for one year after Giles’ ownership group purchased the team, the 80’s were not necessarily a great time to be a Phillies fan. His hands on management style and GM skills left a little bit to be desired for the Philadelphia faithful. I expected todays book to a biography on Bill Giles and his time in Philly, but got so much more………………
Bill Giles & Baseball
By John B. Lord 2014-Temple University Press
I did realize Bill Giles was a lifer in the baseball world, before I read this book. From his early beginnings, training under Gabe Paul with the Cincinnati Reds to his final destination as the Chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies. Giles has been an innovator, marketing wizard, peace maker, media genius and almost everything in between.
As stated above, I expected a normal everyday biography on Giles, instead I got a glimpse into the substantial impact he has had on the game. The author gives you some brief history of the game itself, then jumps in with both feet covering the economic challenges to the game during the 80’s and 90’s. You go through year by year exploring topics such as labor unrest, collusion, commissioner powers, media deals, revenue sharing, league restructuring and inter-league play. You learn how Bill Giles had a hand in fixing some of these issues as well as being the person who made some of the new ideas a reality.
John B. Lord does not forget to cover the positive impact he has had in Philadelphia. This was a good chapter for a Phillies fan because sometimes we tend to forget there are positives that exist with Giles ownership. You get an inside look at the building of Citizens Bank Park and all the hurdles that had to be cleared to make the project come to fruition. Finally you get a glimpse at what its like to assemble a championship caliber team in a city that loves winners.
The author did a great job showing the true value of Bill Giles. He has made valuable contributions to both Philadelphia and the overall structure of baseball. Being a cynical Phillies fan, I myself have probably overlooked some of the value of Mr. Giles. This book has changed my overall perception of him and has allowed me to look past the failings during the 80’s.
For baseball fans, this book is informative and well written and gives you a look at how the baseball establishment runs itself. I don’t think you get many opportunities to see how they function like this one. It also shows how important Bill Giles is to the game we see on the field today. There are many of his ideas out there on the field that we never would have known were his creations.
For Phillies fans maybe they should read it and see once and for all what Bill Giles is really about. Perhaps we have been a little tough on Ol’ Bill for too many years. This book has made me thing we are actually probably better off for having him here.
You can get this book from the friendly folks at Temple University Press