Well, I will admit it, I am a lousy Blogger. Time management is not my strength when it comes to blogging, but nonetheless I have returned to try to catch up on some books. What better time than now, it being Hall of Fame induction weekend, to catch up on some HOF books so without further comment, lets dive right in.
Released earlier this year to conveniently coincide with his induction this year, this book takes a hard look at both Raines’ life and career in his own words. It comes across as an honest and open account of his own life. He admits many of his mistakes along the way and how he has tried to make amends to those he hurt. It also opened my eyes to some of the numbers Raines put up in some of his seasons. To me he always blended into the scenery of the N.L. East and always looked good but never seemed as good as he turned out to be. If you have an interest in the Montreal Expos, or like Tim Raines, you will really enjoy this book from Triumph Publishing. I for one am glad that he finally got his due, Congrats Tim!
Last summers inductee Mike Piazza got his own book this year as well. The book does cover his whole career but really shows the reader why he is in Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap. It shows the love between Mets fans and Piazza and why he meant so much to them even though he played for other teams. Greg Prince always brings his A-Game to his books and this is no exception, Mets fans, Piazza fans and even those in Philadelphia will enjoy the story of this local kid who made good. You can get this one from Sports Publishing.
Kaplan’s new book brings an interesting look at a single season of Hank’s storied career. It’s easily one of the strongest years of his career and it shows the trials and tribulations hank endured while chasing the Babe’s single season home run record. I think this is a rather hard subject to try to unearth so many years later but Kaplan does an admirable job at it and if you have an interest in this period of baseball or the social problems that came along with being Jewish you will enjoy this book. It also proves that Jackie Robinson was not the only one enduring slurs on the field during that era. This is another one you can get from Sports Publishing.
This is someone who should be already in the hall, but keeps getting overlooked. This book is very unique in that it contains tons of pictures. It shows great images of Allen throughout his entire life and the text that accompanies it with in the book is top-notch. Its different from any other Dick Allen book on the market so it is worth checking out if you like Dick Allen. You can grab this one from Schiffer Publishing.
I think Alan Trammell will someday be up on that stage getting his plaque in Cooperstown, but until that time all his fans have is this lone book. Trammell is an often overlooked subject but I have never been able to figure out why. This is the only book I have ever been able to find on him, but it is thorough and well written and gives his fans a chance to relive his one day Hall of Fame career. Sometime all you need is one book, as long as it is good, so for Trammell fans and Tigers fans of this era this is your book. You can pick this one up from McFarland Publishing
Finally, Clemens is an often covered subject and one day I have a gut feeling he will make the Hall regardless of past sins. That being said this book attempts to sum up all of the Roger Clemens events throughout his career and after. It is a one stop shop if you will for Clemens fans and sums everything up as neatly as it can, as opposed to other books that take one aspect of the proceedings and focus on it. If you are a Clemens fan or of the PED era, check this one from McFarland out.
That sums up this years Hall review and hopefully going forward I will be here more often, but until then…..Happy Reading!
In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche. Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game. McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game. The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would. It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there. They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.
Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days. Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career. Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball. He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB. The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league. He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.
Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed. Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days. The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making. Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.
I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book. George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years. He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team. There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering. This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.
It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze. This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era. This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.
Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish? Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it. Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young. All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.
This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step. Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career. Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject. Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books. If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out. 70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.
Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.
Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality. It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades. The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement. Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game. 1973 was no different. The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter. So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not. Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.
In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it. Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure. From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.
The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers. Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.
The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above. Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point. You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine. Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash. So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973. The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.
I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season. There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.
By far this is not a bad book. It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well. Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73. He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.
Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard. I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
Even though baseball players are constantly in the public eye, it does not mean you always get one hundred percent of the details. Almost every players image until recently was a product of their teams media relations department. They would work tirelessly to keep certain issues and events out of the public eye. In the advent of our instant media society some of the demons escape long before anyone on the team knows anything about them. Such is the tale of todays book. Oil Can Boyd was a rising star but you never knew about all of the demons lurking inside his soul.
Dennis Boyd was a superstar not long into his career. With a nickname like Oil Can, he was bound to be a fan favorite in Boston. Underneath the smiling surface were demons that were gnawing away at the star pitcher and made his life difficult at the very least. Being under the sports microscope that Boston is probably didn’t help Boyd’s problems and the end results were more than likely etched in stone long before anyone realized.
A product of the deep south, Dennis Boyd was a youngster when racism was rampant. Events that occurred during his upbringing did a lot of damage in shaping the man he became. You can see that many of these events effected the way he approached his own life and how he dealt with people, thus the outcomes that occurred during his career. These same feelings towards the world around him also show how it led him into a life of drugs that damaged his career and relationships with those close to him.
By far Dennis Boyd does not come out of this book looking like a villan or a victim. He comes across as an honest caring man who just wants to be accepted for who he is. Unfortunately, it is one of those circumstances in life that his surroundings have effected him so deeply that he used the only outlets he felt were available. The book is his honest account of what he feels life has dealt him, and it seems he is not holding anything back. After reading this book I think I have a better understanding of what makes Oil Can tick, and it seems he is a half decent guy that just had some bad breaks. My personal view of him has improved through reading this book and I don’t think he is really the head case that the media had made him out to be.
Red Sox and Expos fans will love this book, just because of the team connection. I think fans in general may like it as well because the book is very honest. It does not pull any punches and Dennis Boyd becomes a better stronger man as the book progresses. Even if you hated Oil Can it might be worth checking out because you perception of him may change by the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
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
The Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions are complete. The old members have all stopped by Cooperstown and waved to the fans, welcoming this years class of immortals. The old stories have been swapped, photos have been taken and another year has come and gone of happy times in Cooperstown, Now we look forward to the debates and arguments that will ensue regarding the next class to be enshrined. One of the more interesting personalities that was part of this years class, is Pedro Martinez. Pedro came out with a new autobiography this year and it has brought varying degrees of response from the masses, so I figured I should check it out for my blog.
My first reaction when I heard the release date of this book was, how ironic it was coming out in his Hall of Fame year. I guess good marketing strategies never sleep. Pedro had always been a source of controversy to some degree during his career. Early in his career he picked up the label of head hunter, mainly due to his pitching inside and making sure the batter knew who owned the plate. For the record I have no problem with that, it is a part of the game that has disappeared through the last few decades and probably something that should find a way to return. Pedro also had a well-remembered battle with Don Zimmer one time that might have made some highlight films on a few stations. But on the field it was hard to deny Pedro was an incredible competitor, No matter where he played you could always see his skill and desire, but now this book gives you the personal side of Pedro.
If you listen to interviews with Pedro, he his a big fan of himself and in this book, he has no reservations in telling you why. From his on field play, to those people around him Pedro is a guy that demands respect from people and it seems he is not one to shy away from the limelight. The book starts from his growing up in the Dominican Republic and how he had struggled as a child to be taken seriously as a baseball player. His brother Ramon, signed by the Dodgers, was Pedro’s ticket to getting a serious look from a big league team. Pedro walks you through his progression from dim prospect, to major leaguer, to superstar and introduces you to all the people he met in between. He has a very long memory of those who did him wrong and makes sure you know who they are in this book.
I had read some reviews of this book before I read it, just to see what I was getting myself into. Many other folks said that Pedro liked to remind the reader how great he really was. I am not disagreeing that point in any way with this book, but I don’t think it is Pedro being a conceited jerk. I think it more his immense pride coming through. He has very strong family roots and pride in his accomplishments. Also, the points he makes in the book about respect and his troubles along the way with getting any respect, it to me came off as a man with a strong pride. Now I say all this never being a huge Pedro fan when he was playing. The only regular first hand account of his playing days I had, where when he played half a season in 2009 for my Phillies. Even at the end of his career you could see his determination, pride out on the field and his ability to lead by example. So maybe Pedro isn’t as big of a jerk as some of the other book reviews have made him out to be.
Baseball fans should check this out for themselves. Maybe I am right or maybe everyone else is, but it’s you job as the reader to make that determination, I am just one guy’s opinion, who found after reading this, a new-found respect for Pedro Martinez. No for his on the field playing, but for the person he is.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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
Canada has always in my opinion, been an overlooked area when we read about baseball. I realize it really only came into play in the last 45 years or so, but I never thought it got the attention it deserved. In reality over the last 50 years it has created two strong teams, introduced Canadian fans to the game and to some degree cut into the Hockey monopoly in Canada. With talk of the Rays possibly packing up and moving to Montreal, I thought now would be a good time to see what books are available for the teams north of the border.
The Expos in Their Prime 1977-84
By Alain Usereau – McFarland & Co. 2013
To me it feels like the Expos didn’t exist. Maybe its a matter of nobody remembers that they were even there or that nobody wants to remember. But whatever the case may be they did exist at one point. During that existence they had a span of years where they were always at the top of the standings fighting for the division crown. The years from 1977-84 were really the defining years of the franchise. They had a steady parade of Hall of Famers on the roster but could never quite get over the hump to glory. When you have names like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and countless other stars like Rusty Staub, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, you would think they would be able to pull it off a few times during those years.
Obviously they did not, but Alain Usereau has taken a deep, hard look at the Expos during their glory years. You get some behind the scenes look at the way the team operated on and off the field, both as a group and individually. You see the mind-set of the front office and why they made some of the moves they did during those years. The reader also gets a look at what the team meant to the fans of Montreal. This book proved to me that Montreal is still today, a viable option for a MLB team as the fans would support it there. Perhaps it was the poor product on the field in the final years of the Expos that contributed to poor fan support. It seems that in Montreal if you build it, they will come……if it’s a decent product.
This book gives a lot of insight to an often forgotten team with limited success. It’s overall a good book, that most baseball fans should enjoy. I only mention this next thing because it is a pet-peeve of mine. It would have benefitted from a little better copy editing because their were to many grammatical errors for my liking in a finished book. But as I said its a good book that most fans will enjoy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland & Co Publishing, http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com
Lets look at the other side of the coin in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. Since their inception they have had good fan support and produced some serious thrills for their fans. A few division titles, and oh yeah, two World Series Championships, which make for a happy fan base. While the Blue Jays had their growing pains in the beginning, they seemed to stumble upon a better plan for on-field success that the Expos could never quite attain. But what happens in Toronto when the team and the fans have huge expectations and it blows up in their faces?
Great Expectations, The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season
By Shi Davidi and John Lott – 2013 ECW Press
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was supposed to be the Toronto Blue Jays year. Much like the Chicago Cubs have done this off-season, the Blue Jays blew up the roster and started over. The looked at weaknesses at every position and went out and brought in some of the best names in the game to fix their problems. On paper the Blue Jays looked like the team to beat and at the start of the 2013 season other teams noticed. But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the 2013 was a flat-out train wreck. Injuries, career declines and pretty much the fact that anything that could go wrong……did go wrong, the Blue Jays had a dismal year.
Davidi and Lott take the reader on a journey through the 2013 season. They look at the blockbuster trades that were made in the off-season, free agent signings, spring training and of course the season. They give a nice look at the operations side of the Toronto front office and how the fans had embraced the new hope in Toronto. It also shows the mindset of the GM and what management felt they were accomplishing by assembling this team on the field. The book gives a detailed look at how the season in Toronto, and in the end the fans turned on the team and the front office. It is a great look at how the Blue Jays and its fan base operate and feed off of each other.
The 2014 season was a little better than 2013, and probably the residue of this 2013 team will achieve the initial success they expected eventually. But I think much like the Expos, the Blue Jays are often an afterthought to fans outside of Toronto. But it is nice to see that books are coming forth that show the Canadian pride in their teams and most of the time they are just as good if not better than the other teams out there. Just because most of the country is hockey crazy does not mean that they have forgotten how to love baseball.