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
It’s the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 Induction day today. The one day a year where that sleepy little hamlet in upstate New York looks like Times Square at 11:59 p.m. on New Years Eve. As I watched the speeches of the new members today I took notice as the MLB Network panned around the field, of all the diverse people in attendance. Family, former players, members of the Hall and of course, the people who honestly make this great game possible through their support, the fans. Different people from different generations, backgrounds and paths in life all come together for one day and celebrate the greatness of our game. On days like this you never know who is going to be in the crowd but you can be sure its an interesting mix of fans and baseball history. For the reason of diversity and in honor of Induction day, we are going to look at a very diverse group of books that are currently available in the market and why you should check them out.
1-When the Braves Ruled the Diamond-14 Flags Over Atlanta
Take some time to reminisce about the Atlanta Braves. People can say that the Yankees were the team of the 90’s because of their championships, but honestly who was the one team that you was sure was going to be in post season play? Yes, these Braves! It is a fun look at what made these N.L. East destroying teams from Atlanta repeat year after year after year. The only thing that stood in their way in one magical year or their run was my Phillies in 1993. As with Schlossberg’s other books, this one is time well spent re-living the magical ride of the Atlanta Braves.
2-Tony C.-The Triumph and Tragedy of Tony Conigliaro
This one is a new edition by a new publisher of the 1997 release under the same name. While not a new book, it is a reminder of the tragedy that can plague our game. A beloved hero in Boston whose career and life was cut tragically short. A career full of promise and from most accounts a pretty interesting guy off the field as well, this book chronicles the story of Tony C. and what he meant to the Fenway Faithful. I read this when it first came out about 20 years ago and really enjoyed reading it through the fresh edition from Summer Game Books. Another book that will easily get you through the remaining dog days of Summer.
3-A Life Lived-The Story of William “Bill” Blair
A very inspiring story of a former Negro League player and his life after baseball. A short book that comes in under 90 pages but still tells the inspiring story of William ” Bill” Blair and how he spent his life after baseball giving back to his hometown community. A great story of a man who never forgot where he came from and how baseball inspired him his whole life through. A quick read, but well worth the time.
4-Last Train to Cooperstown
Author Kevin Mitchell takes a look at the inadvertent but probably final class of Negro League inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. The book offers thorough profiles on each of the chosen few and what their contributions to the game were. He also offers a conclusion as to what may occur with others from the Negro Leagues in the future. Its very good insight into this well deserved class of Negro Leaguers that made the hall in 2006.
5-Tales From the San Francisco Giants Dugout
An updated and re-release of previous versions, this new issue adds some new stories and anecdotes about the Giants and their fans. If you are a fan of this team you will not want to miss this book. There also are the same books available for almost every other team out there, so check Sports Publishing’s website if you are looking for another team. These books are always a good time for the reader.
6-The Tigers and Yankees in ’61
Another magical year in baseball history is showcased in this one. A hard fought pennant race, the chase to make history for teammates and a few star players who had career years. The Yankees are getting near the end of their dominating years in this one but does show the reader what the American League landscape looked like during this era. If you are a fan of this era and a fan of the types of books McFarland publishes as well, then this is a book you will not want to miss.
7-A Band of Misfits-Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants-Triumph Books
8-The Fightin’ Phillies-100 Years of Phillies Baseball-Triumph Books
I group these together because while the may be different, they have very strong similarities. The both cover a specific team and give important anecdotes and stories about their histories. Whether they are covering one specific season or a full century worth of that teams stories, they are entertaining for fans of the respective teams. The only warning I give readers on these types of books is to go into them realizing these are the same stories you have probably heard 100 times over. You will probably get no new stories out of these, but they are good for reminiscing about your favorite team.
9-Jackie Robinson-An Integrated Life
Another perspective on the groundbreaking life of Jackie Robinson. We are all familiar with the story, but instead of taking it from a baseball point of view, it shows the results from a social impact perspective. It puts a different spin on the whole Jackie Robinson story and adds new insights to the entire story. Jackie Robinson’s admirable legacy is about so much more than just baseball, and this is only one of the many different angles.
10-Out of Left Field-Jews and Black Baseball
Another book that takes a look at the social impact a baseball team had on our world. This one takes a look at how a team made up of black Jews made a name for themselves in the Negro Leagues. It shows how they were able to further the cause of the Negro Leagues and help promote social justices. It was a bit of history I had no idea about and a very good learning experience for me. If you have any sort of interest in the Negro Leagues then check this one out.
11-The Cardinals Way
The Cardinals have come to be America’s team. I am not really sure how that happened, but they have through their history churned out some great moments and players that will be remembered for decades to come. By embracing that history and tradition as well as the new theories such as Moneyball, they have become a baseball powerhouse. It shows how combining old and new methods of thinking can have positive outcomes. I am thinking you will see more and more teams following this ideology in the future.
12-The Knuckleball Club
An in depth look at the most confounding pitch ever to grace the game of baseball. The who’s, whats and why’s of this quirky pitch are covered in this book. It also shares the stories of the Pitchers and Catchers who shared the success of the weird and wild pitch. This is the first book I have found that has shown how it fits into the fabric of the game, and is great knowledge for the average baseball fan. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
13-The Games That Changed Baseball-Milestones in Major League History
This book takes a look at some very important games throughout history. Dissecting what happened and what made them so important. While I do not agree with 100 percent of their picks, all of them were well researched and presented. Fans should check out this book and see if they agree with all of the authors picks. It does introduce some games that would probably create some very spirited debates among fans and friends.
Finally, after we got through all of these books today, I wanted to say a word of thanks to everyone who reads my blog. We have reached our second anniversary and have read a lot of books together up to this point. I do the best I can since this is a hobby and not my job and try and turn out material as quickly as possible. With the pending arrival of our first bundle of joy in the next few weeks, year #3 will be a challenge but I will still find a way to get some posts done. I thank all of you who have sent me books and allowed me to read them and post reviews. Also to the folks that read my posts because without you, there would be no reason to write them. Finally if you have sent me a book recently and I have not posted it yet, don’t worry you are not forgotten. I am a little behind for the reasons stated above but you will not be forgotten, please just be patient. Thank you to all again and looking forward to year #3.
I figured with my extended time off to recuperate I would have plenty of time to write on my blog. Boy was I wrong, between needing to get up and walk around every ten minutes because I am stiffening up and the fact the the medicines keep knocking me out, I am having trouble finding the time to write, let alone read. But, what it has done is given me the chance to look at some books that I would not always feel were the correct fit for an entire single post. The book could be too short, it could be a coffee table book or it could be a book that doesn’t really target my audience. These are in no way bad books, because honestly if they sucked, I wouldn’t waste the time putting them on here for everyone to look at them, but there is a format issue that doesn’t work well within my bookcase. So from time to time we do one of these multi book posts to clean up one of the shelves in the bookcase……and share some of these books to the world. So here we go…..
Baseball’s No -Hit Wonders-More than a Century of Pitching’s Greatest Feats
By Dirk Lammars-2016
Is it me, or do no hitters seem to happen more often today then they did say thirty of forty years ago? Has the level of play in the league diminished that much that these have become commonplace? Lammers takes the readers through the interesting history of the no hitter and how it has played out through the history of the game. He shows the pitchers and hitters involved, no hitters that were broken up after 26 outs and all the other odd and wacky things that happened in the past to those pitchers, both lucky and good enough to even flirt with a no-no. If your interested in the who, what, when, where and why of no-hitters you will really enjoy what this book will bring to your table. You can get this book from the nice folks at Unbridled Books
The 50 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Pirates History
By David Finoli-2016
These types of books are always fun. For the one and only reason that no two people will ever agree 100 percent as to who belongs at what spot on the list. I really don’t know what the criteria is by the authors to make it on to these types of lists, but they never seem to disappoint the reader. They always include the Hall of Famers, team superstars as well as the hometown heroes. You would also have to think they target their specified teams fan base so they are always eager to please the homers. I had done this type of book by another author on the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and I went back to pull it out to compare. What I found is that more then half of the players they can agree on being in the book,, but differ on where they rank. So bottom line is if you read one of these books about your team and find another one, check it out because it may give you a different spin on the players that may be more in line with your personal rankings as well. You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
The BUCS!-The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates
By John McCollister-2016
Lets stay in Pittsburgh for a second on this book. The BUCS! takes a very brief look at the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. From its 19th century beginnings to its current day under field manager Clint Hurdle, this book takes an abbreviated, but fast paced look at the history in Pittsburgh. If the Pirates are not your team and never have been in the past, this book is a great way to get a good albeit brief history from Kiner and Roberto to Bonds and McCutchen. Its only roughly 200 pages, so even if you are familiar with Bucs history it would be a quick and easy refresher course. You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press.
The Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies
By Bob Gordon-2016
What would one of these posts be without a Phillies book? This book, first released by Bob Gordon in 2005, compiles some of the greatest names in Phillies history and gives strong bios on each of those lucky enough to be a Phillie. It gives a great look at team history from an author that has some great ties to the team itself, through several other books he has written. So why do you need to buy the reprint of a book released ten years ago? It has been updated for deaths of the older players and it also has added a few Phillies superstars that became prominent in the last half of the last decade when the Phillies were on top of the world. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
The Grind-Inside Baseball’s Endless Season
By Barry Svrluga-2015
Without question, Baseball has the most grueling schedule of all the professional leagues. Almost stretching to nine months of the year when you factor in pre and post season, it would take some sort of toll on even the strongest of personalities. Svrluga has taken a look at this relentless schedule and the effect it has on the personal lives of those involved and how it effects almost everyone involved with a team. It looks at varying position players , the 26th man on most rosters, travelling secretaries, spouses, kids and clubhouse attendants. It really is an interesting look behind the scenes of the game and what those involved are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the great game of baseball. You van get this book from the nice folks at Blue Rider Press
Diamond Madness-Classic Episodes of Rowdyism, Racism and Violence in Major League Baseball
By William A. Cook-2013
William Cook’s Diamond Madness gives the reader a good look at the scary side of baseball. When you get beyond all of the normal hero worship that comes as part of the normal territory with the game and when those things get really scary. Fan obsessions, death threats, violence, racism, shootings and robberies are all just a part of what is shown to the readers of this book. It is amazing how even though these are normal stories in the everyday world, they are so many times magnified just by playing baseball. It also goes to show how much work the people behind the scenes in baseball put in to making sure nothing tarnishes the wholesomeness of the American Past-time. I think if you check this out it will show some new perspectives to the average fan of what really goes on. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press.
Tales From the Atlanta Braves Dugout
By Cory McCartney-2016
I will admit it………..I love this series! You can get whatever team you wish at this point because it seems like almost every team is available now. You can also use it as a history lesson to brush up on all the funny stories of a team that you are not very familiar with and get a good feel for what that teams history is all about. If you grab the book of your favorite team it is a chance to regale in all the stories you have heard time and time again and like a favorite uncle at a holiday dinner, are glad to listen to over and over. You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
I See the Crowd Roar-The Story of William “Dummy” Hoy
By Joseph Rotheli & Agnes Gaertner-2014
This book is intended for a younger audience but it does provide a very deep lesson for all fans. William Hoy was hearing impaired and never heard a single fan cheer for him. The book shows how Hoy overcame his disability and made the best if it as well as keeping up a positive attitude during the course of events. The book also shows the positive impact had on the function of the game and how things like hand signals that were originally implemented for Hoy alone, have become mainstays of the game generations later. It truly is an inspiring story that younger fans should be made aware of so they have a complete baseball education. There is also a movie version of the book in the pipeline as well. You can get this book from the nice folks at the lil-red-foundation.
Black Baseball, Black Business-Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar
By Roberta Newman & Joel Nathan Rosen-2014
In baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems. This book takes a look at how the integration of baseball, while a great thing on the civil rights front, created waves that destroyed black economies in the larger cities that were homes to Negro League Teams. It is a really interesting look at the economies of the integration of baseball on those parties that were not in any way involved in the decision making process or the game of baseball itself. It also shows how the innocents involved were essentially destroyed by the baseball powers that were at the time pushing it as a cause for greater good.
Owners are an interesting lot in Major League Baseball. Some are from the old school and don’t really care about the fortunes of the company, they just want to own a team. Some are in it for the profit aspect, while others ownership groups are part of a corporate conglomeration. I have always found the individual owners the most intriguing. Some of the best off-field personalities within baseball have come from ownership. Walter O’Malley, George Steinbrenner, Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley are just a few of the greats that have come from that group. Baseball has always been considered a good-old boys club but there have been a few exceptions to that rule. Today’s book takes a look at those exceptions and the great contributions the lady owners have made to the game of baseball.
William A. Cook has taken some of the most influential names in female ownership within baseball and created in-depth biographies of each one. Owners such as Effa Manley, Joan Payson, Jean Yawkey, Marge Schott, Joan Kroc and Grace Comisky to name a few. Each woman came into ownership through a unique set of circumstances. Some were by design and some were by accident, but nevertheless it shows how each overcame the obstacles inherent to being a minority and owning a baseball team.
This author does a great job of showing the state of each respective team when the owner took over, the coming to power and the final results the team achieved under their ownership. Finally the author tells us how each team was disposed of. It really shows a complete picture of what the ownership by each of the lady moguls accomplished during their tenure and where they have missed their mark.
I have seen individual biographies on some of the women mentioned in this book, but really did enjoy the format of covering several of them in one book. 20-30 pages was plenty to cover each one of the owners and gave a thorough picture as to what each ownership group achieved. Obviously you would be able to complete a stand alone biography on any of the owners covered but this is a very nice resource to get your feet wet with a group of female owners.
Fans who have an interest in the off-field history of the game really will enjoy this. It is a glimpse behind the curtain of stuffy team ownership and shows some of the driving personalities throughout history. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press
There are certain players that have incredible careers, but somehow fall into the background. Perhaps they are overshadowed by a more popular teammate, or their personalities are the type that naturally keep them out of the limelight. When you think of the Chicago Cubs, most people automatically think of Ernie Banks. Mr.Cub as he was affectionately known, basically owned Chicago. He could do no wrong as far as Cubs fans are concerned and every teammate of that era was subject to living in Ernie’s shadow. The subject of todays book is one of those teammates that had a Hall of Fame career that was just as good as Mr. Cubs, but is not always at the forefront of the conversation when you talk about the stars of Wrigley.
From his roots in the Negro Leagues to his final destination in Cooperstown, Billy Williams had a very nice career. He crossed paths with some of the games immortals as well as etching his own name among them. If Williams had played for almost any other team in baseball during his era except maybe the Yankees, he would have been the toast of that town. He played almost his entire career behind Ernie Banks who had Chicago wrapped around his finger, so Billy sometimes becomes an afterthought. That fact alone is hard to comprehend because he put up career numbers that easily gained him acceptance to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Billy Williams book is a nice light reader that walks you through his career. From his early start in the Negro Leagues as well as the Minor Leagues you see the personal and professional obstacles he had to overcome to reach his goal. Many of the struggles were socially accepted at the time but were still a lot for any individual to handle. He also shows the reader the steps needed to make it and stay in the majors for any young player at that time wanting to be a Cub.
A majority of the book is obviously spent covering his time as a Chicago Cub. While the team had trouble finding any sort of success on the field, it still comes across as a great time to be a Cub player or fan during a great era of baseball. The book also covers his brief stay with the Oakland A’s and the bizarre dealings with Charlie Finley. Finally it finishes up with his induction to Cooperstown and his life with his family after baseball.
If you are looking for sordid behind the scenes details of the life of a baseball player, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for nice, light and easy reading about a sometimes forgotten but nonetheless loved superstar of the Chicago Cubs, then you should take a look at this one. I learned a few things about Billy Williams on both the personal and professional level in this one and in the end think better of him as both a player and a man. All baseball fans will enjoy this book, even those outside of the Windy City.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
The Negro Leagues offer an amazing amount of history to the Baseball fan. They offer a history in length that rivals Major League Baseball, as well as offering up some incredible players. Unfortunately due to poor record keeping and the social failings of our country, much of that history has been lost to time. Now there is a book that helps unearth some more of the Negro League history, and fill in some of those up until now missing pieces.
I will admit I screwed up on this one. Michael Lomax wrote a book prior to this one that covered the earlier years of the Negro Leagues and should probably be read prior to this one, if only for continuity sake. I have yet to get a hold of it but will at some point.
Michael Lomax has undertaken a pretty large and significant task of trying to piece the Negro League history back together during this era. As has been noted before, their record keeping was not the greatest and the social ills that were present in our country at the time contributed to the lack of interest in keeping good records. He has done a very nice job of showing the ins and outs of the league and the important players of the game both on and off the field.
The author shows how the league went from just an independent league that barely survived, to a structured powerhouse that held an important place in Negro society. Its ascension within society, in a way mirrored that of Major League Baseball. Because of society’s rules, it always had to operate as organization lurking in the shadows and was forever barely on the fringe of legitimacy and financial solvency.
Students of the game and especially of the Negro Leagues will find this book very informative and helpful. It provides great detail and probably some information that we may have not known before. My one recommendation would be to read Lomax’s history books in order. That way you maintain continuity throughout the entire history of the leagues.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Syracuse University Press.
The thing I have really enjoyed about having my own blog is I can read whatever books I feel like and have a purpose for reading them. I have forced myself to get out of my normal comfort zone of baseball autobiographies and look at all the other types of baseball books out there. Today’s book is one of those instances where I get out of my comfort zone and jump deep in to the history of the game that is often forgotten.
Sol White’s Official Base Ball Guide
By Sol White/Gary Ashwill-2014 Summer Game Books
I will be the first to admit my knowledge of the Negro Leagues is weak at best. The information out there on its formative years is somewhat limited Quite honestly the league records were more word of mouth than official statistics. But thankfully due to Sol White’s foresight over 100 years ago, some of the information has been saved for generations to come. There have been a few reprints of this book throughout the decades but Summer Game Books has put a new spin on this classic.
With an introduction by baseball historian Gary Ashwill you take a journey into the almost forgotten history of the early Negro Leagues. Sol White wrote this book with the idea of preserving the history of the league and showcasing its stars. It gives detailed information of the people and teams that made up the early years of the league. From players to owners it gives some in-depth information on a very important time in the formation of the league.
The book contains statistics and advertisements of the time that were included in the initial publication of the guide as well. The thing I found most interesting was that there are only four verified copies of the original publishing of the guide known to exist. You would think that something with the importance of this book and its initial publishing, would have fared the passing years in greater numbers.
If you are trying to learn about the early years of the league this book is a great source of information. You can see what it was really like for an upstart league trying to make a go of it in a time when segregation was the norm. Baseball history buffs will really enjoy getting a glimpse in to this time period and seeing how things have really changed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books