In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
Each of us has a certain player or an event that they can link with a certain point in time. In the 50’s it was Mantle and the New York Yankees the 60’s it may have been Sandy Koufax and the newly transplanted Dodgers and the 70’s it could have been Charlie Hustle and the Big Red Machine. For myself, the 1980’s is the first decade that I was a fan from beginning to end. The decade promised prospect after prospect that were going to have Hall of Fame careers. Some panned out while some others went up in flames. One name that stands out to me in my own head and is the first go to guy when I think about that decade is Dwight Gooden. He took the world by storm in the epicenter of the baseball universe in the Big Apple. A Pitcher who from day one showed flashes of greatness and made his way into main stream America during the middle of the decade. A career derailed by personal demons and bad choices, one is left only to ask what might really have been.
Fast forward thirty years later to today, a hot summer day in upstate New York. I heard about a local autograph appearance at a business by none other than Dwight Gooden, the baseball stud of the mid-80’s, a childhood dream come true, and the best part about this whole thing was it was a free appearance. My first thought was how awesome was this because we never get baseball appearances around here, the closest ones are usually two hours away. My second thought was which of my baseball books can I get signed. So, I loaded up the Wife, a few things to get signed and off we went to see Doc Gooden.
I honestly thought this was going to be a mob scene when we arrived, I mean, come on, its Doc Gooden in New York state. I did find it on the odd side that Doc would be making an appearance at a place that manufactures mobile trailer homes, but I figured if it was free it was for me. When we got there it was the exact opposite of what I expected. No long lines, no great Mets Nation turnout, no real fanfare for this baseball icon of the 80’s. What we got in return when we arrived was this….
Doc Gooden waiting patiently for people to arrive all by himself. Like I said no lines and nor rush to get the autographs and move on. To say I am shocked at the fan turnout and how this went is an understatement, I mean it wasn’t like this was Casey Candaele or a player of that caliber……..this was Doc!. Greeted with a smile and a handshake, Dwight Gooden was everything this 10 year old trapped in an old man’s body could have ever hoped for. Sometimes when you finally get the chance to meet one of your baseball heroes you come away disappointed, because they are not what you expect. Thankfully not this time, this was easily one of the top 3 experiences I ever had meeting a former player. There was also a local reporter there from a small town local newspaper asking Doc some easy questions and recording the interview on his phone. While waiting for our autographs he was answering the reporters questions. After he was done with the reporter Doc turns to my wife and asks, “how did I do with that interview, was it ok?” Holy crap, if my wife only had the realization of the magnitude of that question and who it came from. I know she goes to things like this to appease me, and its a good trade off for killing spiders around the house for her I guess.
I chose to take two of Doc’s books to get signed, DOC published in 2013 and Heat published in 1999.
While signing the books Doc asks me”so which one did you like better?” I told him I thought DOC felt more authentic and Heat felt like a quickie bio. He explained that “DOC is the true and accurate story and I took the time to give the actual story to the fans, Heat was just mostly crap“. So now we have it from the source as to where the truth lies. The books have conflicting stories in them so it is nice to hear which version of those stories are accurate.
These books are also takes of what could have been. A career and life derailed by Alcohol and Drugs, and all the bad things that come with that. Doc had multiple chances to overcome them and made the best he could of the opportunities at the time. He seems from other books I have read this year and by seeing him in person that he is on the right track to long term sobriety. He may have let his demons destroy his Hall of Fame possibilities and a good portion of his career, but it looks like he is not interested in letting them destroy his future. Check out both of these books, because it is very interesting to see the contrast between the two volumes.
On a personal note I would like to thank Doc Gooden. Thank you for not even being close to what I expected. For not being a bitter former star, who is still pissed his star faded. For not being another former Met with a chip on his shoulder because he was a New York Met. Thank you for not destroying my illusion of what I thought you would be like, if I met you when I was ten years old and you were in your prime. Thank you for being friendly with my wife, because not all former players are. Most importantly thank you for coming to some crap hole town in the middle of nowhere New York to meet your fans, at least one of us (me) really appreciated it. I may have been ten when you came along but I knew greatness when I saw it even then, and today just proved I was right about you all along. This has shown me how even the mightiest may fall, but they can still do it with grace and dignity while finding the strength to carry on.
Some teams leave an indelible mark on the history of baseball. Everyone likes remembering the greats such as the 60 Pittsburgh Pirates, 76 New York Yankees, 69 New York Mets, 68 Detroit Tigers and my personal favorite, the 80 Philadelphia Phillies, are just a few of the teams that make the grade. Even beyond these there a few teams that stand higher above all the rest as the most memorable teams. The 1986 New York Mets are in a class all by themselves. A team of rough and ragged players that worked their way into the hearts of New Yorkers, and turned the baseball establishment on its ear for one glorious season. Erik Sherman has written a new book that takes a look at some of the key players from that team and where their lives have gone both in and out of baseball.
Being that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of their championship season, and the fact that the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series last year I expected a large selection of Mets themed books this year. The ones I have found so far all have varying themes. The 1986 season as a whole is looked at by some, reliving Bill Buckner’s nightmare is approached by others, but this is the first one I have come across that looks at the individual players.
Erik Sherman dedicates a chapter to each of several key players he has interviewed from the 1986 New York Mets. They discuss their contributions to the team and the instances of how they came about becoming a member of the Mets. Sherman does in depth interviews with each of the players and you get a nice feel of what they think were the most important qualities of that team. The players all make clear that they were proud to be a part of that team and some even show some disappointment that the Mets have not reached out after their playing days and done a better job of preserving team heritage.
One of the most important things I found in these interviews was that none of the players that had issues, on or off the field during this era, shied away from their indiscretions. Everyone manned up and admitted their faults. Perhaps that is just a product of growing older, but it was still refreshing to see former professional athletes admit to their mistakes.
You may not be a Mets fan but you have to give this team their due, honestly they were an interesting team to watch. The circumstances that surrounded the team at times and the way they won the World Series are a better script then Hollywood would have been able to produce. So put your team affiliation away and check this book out. Erik Sherman does a great job with his book. He asks honest and clear questions in his interviews and doesn’t pull any punches with the guys. I have enjoyed Erik Sherman’s other work and have reviewed his books about Mookie Wilson, Steve Blass and Glenn Burke in the past with positive results from all.
Take this walk down memory lane with the New York Mets of the past. You will find it is time well spent and probably like I did, find it hard to believe this was 30 years ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkely Books
It is a very sad fact that no matter how good a player is or was, they sometimes get forgotten in baseball history. Flashier, louder and more savvy players come along and steal the spotlight while these great players just go about their business playing the game. This also extends to other arenas like the Hall of Fame, because some players get forgotten by the voters in Cooperstown as well. Baseball publishing is another area where so many of the stories that should be told, if for no other reason than preservation of the game’s history, usually are not. Ken Boyer is one of those players that had an incredible career, but truly never got any of the written credit he deserved. Boyer recently shared a book about himself and his siblings and a few books aimed at the juvenile set were published during his career, but up until now he has never gotten the book he really deserved. Kevin McCann has published the book that baseball fans have been wanting and waiting for about Ken Boyer.
Ken Boyer was a staple of St. Louis Cardinals baseball for a long time. Receiver of numerous accolades during his career, he was the type of baseball player parents were glad that their kids looked up to. For some reason throughout time, Boyer never got the recognition he deserved form historians. Perhaps it was his low key demeanor and how he went about his business or some other unknown reason, but it really is a shame the world has not recognized his talents.
Kevin McCann has produced a real gem with this book. He takes a look at Boyer’s early life and how his early life struggles helped forge the strong personality that his was. He also takes a look at Boyer’s climb up the baseball ladder. Experiences in the Minor Leagues all added to the personality that eventually shone through in St. Louis.
McCann also takes the reader on a journey along with Ken Boyer through his impressive time manning Third Base for the Cardinals. World Series triumphs, All-Star Games and an MVP award just to keep it interesting were all bestowed upon Boyer while manning the hot corner. Next he takes you through the winding down portion of his career with stops with the Mets, White Sox and Dodgers. But the journey doesn’t stop there with Boyer. The author shows us the steps Boyer took to remain in baseball. By starting at the bottom and working his way back up again, he was able to take over the managerial reigns of the Cardinals for a while with limited success before his untimely death in 1982.
Finally McCann makes a solid case for Boyer’s inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly if you can make a solid case to have Ron Santo in the Hall at this point then Ken Boyer is a no-brainer for induction. For some reason baseball has overlooked Boyer’s career and has shown to some degree the flaws with the Hall of Fame voting system.
McCann has written a great book with this one. The writing style flows smoothly, moves fast and makes the reader feel like they were actually there. It is a great story that I for one am glad is finally being told on the level it deserves. The book is very hard to put down once you get started.
Baseball fans should check this one regardless of team allegiance. It is a player that should be given the historical respect he deserves and hopefully this book takes an important step forward in gaining recognition for the legacy Ken Boyer left behind.
You can get this book from the nice folks at BrayBree Publishing
There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career. Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city. Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential. Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally. There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels. Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.
Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen? He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject. The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself. It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story. This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.
Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors. He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia. The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen. On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way. Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery. Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.
The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path. While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on. The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies. You see the change in the city’s mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand. You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes. To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions. This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s. The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level. It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes. I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.
This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career. There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times. All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame. If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction. He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game. Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.
Baseball fans should not miss this book. It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press
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