It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
We have seen in the last few posts how certain publishers focus on baseball fans and really provide a great selection for them. As we head into the pending long, hard winter, I figured it is always a good idea to showcase a few more publishers that take care of the fans and get us to our awaited destination, the first pitch of Spring. Sports publishing has long been a staple of baseball book publishers and offers a diverse catalog for fans. They offer multiple sports, but for me it’s all baseball or bust. Historical, team related, biographical, new release or not, there always is something that fans can find that will appeal to everyone.
While this is not a new release, it still is a great look at the most vital position on the field, the Pitcher. By going through the entire history of baseball, Westcott gives the reader some of the most memorable feats performed by Pitchers. Heroes of the game such as Waddell, Chesbro, Cy Young and Mathewson through modern day greats like Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Maddux and Randy Johnson all get their due. It is a nice mix of various pitching accomplishments that have help build the history of the game. 51 chapters covering one position is a lot of memorable feats for the reader, and also introduces them to some not so mainstream stories. Check this book out if you want to expand your knowledge of the game’s history and see the value that the Pitcher has added to our great game.
Lets face it, the Home Run is one of the coolest aspects of the game. It can change the entire momentum of a game, series or even a season. There is a reason we keep so many Home Run records and why we still are arguing who is the real Home Run King. There are easily more than 101 home runs that one can call to mind but this is one of those books that narrows it to a certain number. The one thing the reader has to remember is that they will not always agree with the 101 that were picked. So it offers some debate material for you and your friends to discuss over a few beers, but in the end, everyone’s list will be different. The authors give a nice sampling of Homers and it allows the readers to re-live some of the greatest moments in the game’s history. But in the end, someone, somewhere is going to disagree with at least 1/3 of the picks. So keep an open mind going into this one.
There was a post in a Facebook group this week asking about this series of books. It is a very interesting series that puts a unique spin on your favorite team. The Pittsburgh Pirates book above is the latest in the series and offers you the worst players to wear certain uniform numbers, statistics and history base off the numbers as well as first home runs by certain numbers. There are so many various things they offer related to the numbers that it is almost impossible not to enjoy these books. If you are a fan of a certain team you will enjoy this series immensely. Check out Sports Publishing’s web site for their other team offerings.
We are all familiar with the Black Sox scandal of 1919 so no need to rehash it here. I tend to shy away from the Joe Jackson books at this point because I am not really sure if I am going to get anything new from reading another one. Well I am glad to say Hornbaker has given me a more complete picture of Joe Jackson than I ever had before. He looks at his time prior to joining the Chicago White Sox and his career blossoming career in Cleveland. It paints a much broader picture of the center focal point of the Black Sox scandal and an further understanding of the real Joe Jackson. No matter what side of the scandal you sit on, this book is worth taking a look at. It provides some new perspectives of all events of Jackson’s career and life.
I wonder honestly if Ty Cobb gets more coverage now than he did while he was alive. He also is a very tough market to write a book during the last few years. Hornbaker’s book is another in a long line of recent Cobb themed books and like his Joe Jackson book provides a different perspective on the Hall of Famer. As always it is up to the reader to decide what is fact and what is legend, but the author does an admirable job at presenting alternative truths about Cobb. It is worth the time to read but in the end, the reader has to make the decision which one of the Cobb books presents the most truth. After all the books, both fact and fiction, that have addressed Cobb, it is going to be hard for readers to ever figure out what Cobb’s true story actually is.
Finally, we take a look at one of my hometown favorites. This book covers more than just baseball and usually I don’t touch these book on here,(see my disclaimer above), but hey……….it’s Philly! It takes a thorough look at Philadelphia and the Championships we have been lucky enough to celebrate through the years. Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey are covered as well as showing the transition from a town built on Dynasties to a town laden in a Championship drought for so many years. It events like these that helped shaped me as the sports fan I am today. It also shows that the Philly fans may not be as bad as we are always portrayed.
Take the time to check the books out on Sports Publishing’s website. They have these and many other great baseball books that are sure to please everyone.
It’s really no secret that I like baseball books. Up until recently I spent all my waking moments reading them while not working. The key part of that last sentence is “up until recently”. Something has gotten in the way of my reading and writing time and significantly made me cut down on my posts. Now I am realistic in the fact that probably no one other than a few publishers have noticed that I have not written much in the past two months and I realize there is not a single person out there thinking “Gosh, I miss Gregg’s amazing baseball book posts”. But this being a project I enjoy doing, I figured I would offer some explanation of whats going on. If you have followed this site over the last year, you have read about the forthcoming life changes, surgery and a trip that in the end was aborted for numerous reasons. Several weeks back the biggest life change arrived and since that very moment nothing has been the same in any way, shape or form.
This little munchkin is the reason for all the mayhem. She arrived on August 18th (yes, I was reading Fastball John waiting for the delivery) and has disrupted our flow of life in so many wonderful ways. She has cut into my reading time and destroyed anything resembling a good nights sleep, but my Wife Brina and I are loving it in so many amazing ways.
I have been working on her baseball book collection a few months before she arrived and thanks to Facebook friend Debby Brown, she received her first official Phillies book today. So her book collection is starting to come along very nicely. She doesn’t know it yet but she is a Phillies fan. Good or bad, that’s how this house rolls. We have had lots of early morning feedings with the baseball game replaying on the TV in the dark and that manicured green grass gets her attention every time. So I think we will have no problem raising another fan.
So how does this all tie into baseball books? Well, I am glad you asked that very important question. I have several review copies waiting for me on my desk, and to all, I just ask that you be patient. I will not forget anyone, it may just take me longer than I had hoped to get some books done. I did not realize how life changing, in a great way mind you, this addition to our family was really going to be. Because quite honestly every time I try and read, this is the look I get……………
……….so it does slow me down a bit. But I promise everyone who sent me a book, your time will come. For those of you that have enjoyed this blog over the last two years I appreciate the support and look forward to many more books together. Its my love of baseball books that brought me to do this blog and I have been lucky enough to make some great new friends along the way as well.
I have about 30 books on tap to get us through the Winter together, and hopefully Aubrey allows me a little more time to get them read. Either that, or she learns how to read sooner rather than later so she can help me out on the reviews.
Wish me luck in figuring out parenthood. The only thing I know for sure is she can not date until at least age 35! Everything other than that is a work in progress ;).
Gregg………and Aubrey too!
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 books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors. These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents. I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent. Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up. I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages. Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.
When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix. The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays. Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.
Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture. It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century. He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.
Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league. Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras. Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had. He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years. Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.
I always enjoy books of the lesser known players. As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books. I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult. There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.
If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago. If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information. The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike. Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.
Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team. A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways, Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game. Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers. Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.
Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it. Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal. It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.
What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved. We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more. For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal. Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now, Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.
Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal. We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago. We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events. Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago. So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended? For that I am not so sure. But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own. I myself like this book on its own, because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?
If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
In my opinion, the arena of Baseball books is in no way an exact science. There is no rhyme or reason as to what person an author chooses to write about, or which players decide I want to write my own book. It leaves readers with endless choices and multiple avenues to pursue their favorite subjects. With all of these choices, readers may get led down a road that they will regret in the end. As I have always said, nobody wants to waste time on a bad book. I wonder which side of the fence today’s book falls into?
Carl Scheib is not a household name like Pete Rose or Babe Ruth, but he did have a professional career playing for both the Philadelphia Athletics and St Louis Cardinals. Not being Cy Young reincarnated on the mound led me to believe that this book was going to focus more on his personality and less on his lack of pitching prowess. Well……. I was wrong.
Wonder Boy is very heavy in game by game details of Carl Scheib’s professional career. When I say heavy I mean HEAVY! After the first few chapters that give you the standard background on the player, family friends, schooling home life etc., it jumps right into his career. Each chapter tends to cover a full season showing the highlights and lowlights of that year for Scheib. It also tries to mix in a bit of personal information about Carl in each year but seemed forced and unnatural.
Books about a player from Connie Mack’s A’s, let alone near the end of his regime do not seem like popular subjects. Probably because the team at that point was operated on such a shoe string budget that the quality of players was not that good. Which then led to no one really taking an interest in most of the players on a personal level. It is a double edged sword for the Athletics players in Philadelphia during this era.
If you really, really want to find out information on Carl Scheib this is your only resource right now. It does offer some personal insight into the man and the player and gives the reader some stories about a man who will eventually be forgotten to time because he played for one of those horrible Connie Mack teams. Unfortunately for my taste, this book relies to much on game day play by play to fill its pages.
As always, I leave it to you the reader to check it out and see if you agree with me or not, you can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press
I am all about giving respect where respect is due. As always, anniversaries are a great way to show respect. Baseball has never been one to shy away from commemorating something either big or small, or both. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the last Mets World Series winner and the events marking that this year have been coming at fans both fast and furiously. The book arena has been no exception to these celebrations, and while we have covered several of these in previous posts, I think I have the last two out there this year that I am going to do. It is amazing how much time and money has been spent this year for this one and done World Series winner, but for me, it is time and I am ready to put this subject to bed. So without further ado, here are the final two books.
Originally released in 1995 One Pitch Away takes a unique look at all the post-season teams in 1986. You get perspectives from several key members who played for one of the four teams, which is a nice change, because most of these books about 1986 only cover the World Series teams. You get a real good feel as to what was going through the heads of those involved during this amazing post-season.
I first read this when it was released in 1995. My initial reaction then was the same as it is now. It gives great insight into the games from the players themselves and Sowell’s work comes through strong. The interviews seem well prepared for by both parties and is time well spent reading about the fab-four of the 1986 post-season.
If you are a fan of any of the teams involved check out this book, I don’t think you will be disappointed. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books. One Pitch Away
The next book brings us to current times with the 2015 Mets. By winning the division last year the Mets re-captured the hearts of the New York faithful in the Big Apple. After a decade and a half or so of the Yankees being the toast of New York, it was nice to see the love spread around town.
Greg Prince who runs his own New York Mets blog, also has written about the Mets several times before. He has an intense love for his team and it shows in his writing. He takes a thorough look at the colorful cast of characters the Mets were able to put together for their improbable run in 2015. If you are a fan of the Mets it is a fun reflection on an improbable year. It is for sure a good read, but will probably be more enjoyable in 10 or 15 years when time has passed and the limelight has faded on this particular team. This is another book that is time well spent reading today, but as it ages will become even more valuable to certain fans. You can get this from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.
I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball. Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes. This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series. It seems to be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused. Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record. With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.
If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing. They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible. They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both. New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.
Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes. The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season. Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players. They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers. So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.
Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit. Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series. Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.
Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them. It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects. Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.
Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.
You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.
Baseball is a game that offers something for everyone. It caters to varying tastes and personalities, while offering satisfaction for everyone who enjoys the game. Each person wants to experience the game on their own terms and get whatever level of enjoyment that satisfies them personally, and that is perfectly alright with the baseball gods. Tim Kurkjian has spent his professional life following baseball and has once again given us more reasons to love the game we all enjoy.
I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies offers a unique look at various aspects of the game of baseball. From sounds and rules to superstitions and various quirks, this book gives the reader a glimpse behind the curtain of the mental part of the game itself off the field. It is not something you find often in a baseball book authored by a game reporter.
Under no circumstances is this book to be considered heavy lifting in the literary realm. It is a light and breezy book that moves the reader through the anecdotes quickly. Some of the stories you may recognize as having been mentioned in other books, but they still fit nicely within the confines of this book. If you are looking for a strong literary masterpiece you came to the wrong place with this one, but it really does lend it self to an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon of reading. I mean really where else would we find out why Pete Rose left federal prison and went right to a batting cage.
I tend to shy away from books like this because I don’t always trust what I am getting from certain other authors. With Tim Kurkjian I always get what I expect from his books. His enthusiasm and love of the game always shine through and make the stories enjoyable and add some extra credence to them as well.
Like I said above, there is no heavy lifting with this one. And quite honestly, as many books as I read in a year, a book like this is welcome sight. It reminds the reader of the fun and quirky side of the game as opposed to the big business and on high stress persona it portrays so often. It also gives the mind a break while allowing me to still stay in the baseball realm.
Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed. It is honestly a couple hours well spent with your favorite sport.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St. Martins Press