Tagged: Oakland A’s

Who Deserves a Book?


It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time.  Which players really deserve a book?  What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question?  To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered.  Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell.  It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time.  With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from.  For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before.  Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.

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If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away.  That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys.  It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes.   Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed.  He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.

Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball.  You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling.  You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade.  Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher.  It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.

Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level.  Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade.  While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.

One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field.  He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment.  How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more.  Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this.  It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.

If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out.  It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to.  It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways.  So I ask again……….Who deserves a book?  Many more people than you would originally think.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing

Insight Pitch

Happy Reading Gregg

 

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Hairs vs. Squares…and the Tumultuous Summer of ’72


There are certain seasons that stand out from others.  Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight.  1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here.  It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values.  Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business.  Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.

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By:Ed Gruver-2016

1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans.  Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it.  It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped.  Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings.  On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles.  But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness.  Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.

Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season.  Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds.  Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values.  On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society.  Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.

The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season.   The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well.  Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets,  Hank Aaron  was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy.  It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants.  It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.

This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball.  Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point.   I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events.  We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68.  Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line.  These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.

This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint.  I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier.  The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball.  For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957.  Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.

If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it.  It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well.  You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.

You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

Hairs vs. Squares

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Finley Ball-How Two Outsiders Changed the Game Forever


Some members of off field personnel throughout the history of the game have left an indelible mark.  Whether it was their contributions to the game, their foresight or just their personality, they are hard people to forget.  These same people receive one of two legacies from the game of baseball.  They get the type of treatment after they die that they gave to Bill Veeck.  They really didn’t approve of his efforts while a member of the baseball establishment, but after he died he became an innovator.  The baseball establishment also had another whipping boy during this same era.  A man who was years ahead of his time and whose ideas and strategies would leave a lasting impression on the game.  During his time as a member of the owners club, he was ridiculed and mocked by his peers and honestly the passage of time and his death have not done much to change his legacy.  The name Charlie Finley is one that almost all baseball fans are familiar with, and one that several books have been written about.  Now, there is a book that gives the reader an inside look at the genius that was Charlie, along with the help of his right hand man Carl, and how together they built the dynasty that was the Oakland A’s.

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By: Nancy Finley-2016

Nancy Finley gives the reader a unique perspective of the Finley operations.  She is the daughter of Carl and the niece of Charlie who essentially grew up around the A’s during the dynasty years.  She gives the reader a nice background on how Charlie obtained the team along with a great history of the team during the Kansas City years.  She shows how Finley was willing to invest in his team and stadium, out of his own pocket, and was always willing to put on a show for his fans.  Without being a spoiler, he really wanted to give back to the fans and promote his product and his innovations really left a lasting impression on the game of baseball.

Next up Nancy shows you how the move to Oakland really came to fruition.  That move and Charlie’s willingness to build a winner from within, finally allowed the team to win a few world championships and become a full fledged dynasty.  Finally you see the change in baseball that was the ultimate demise of the Finley empire in Oakland and what forced him to reluctantly sell the team.

What I find the most interesting aspect of the book is the inside details the author is able to give the reader.  She is able to give great details on the day to day operations with shoe string staffs and how her dad Carl, was the number one trusted employee of Charles Finley.  Through their combined efforts they were able to build a baseball empire the like of which may never be seen again in the history of baseball.

This book gives us a great inside look of both the baseball operations and the people involved with the A’s during this era.  It also to me, gives a more personal portrait of Charlie Finley that we have never seen before.  It portrays him in a much kinder light than others I have ever seen before, and I think that portrayal is much more credible since it is from someone with first hand knowledge of the family.

This book is a fun trip through the Finley era.  I recommend if you have any interest in this era of baseball, to give this one a look.  It sheds some new, inside information on the Finley dynasty and how two outsiders really changed the game, and also what really became of Charlie O., the A’s beloved mascot.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Regnery History

Finley Ball

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

A Book That Most of Us Have Been Waiting For


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.

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By: Mitchell Nathanson-2016

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

God Almighty Hisself

Happy Reading

Gregg

Connie Mack-A Life Well Chronicled


I have said in the past there are certain personalities that transcend the game itself. Usually they are players that fall into this category, mainly because of their own field exposure.  There are always exceptions to that rule and easily Connie Mack is one of them. The Grand Old Man of Baseball is one of the patriarchs of the game and through all time is a name that will be known to all.  A person who had an entirely different contribution to the game as Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, but still a name that is just as recognizable as many of the games greats.  Norman L. Macht has recently completed his third installment of his Connie Mack trilogy and it completes in print the life of one of baseballs true pioneers.

 

Obviously I read a lot of books, but no series of books I have ever come across has made me go WOW!, like this one has.  The first volume of this set was published in 2007 with subsequent volumes in 2012 and 2015 respectively.  All three book take a look at a specific portion of Connie Mack’s life and the events that helped shape his life and career.  These books show how he forged his personality and the steps he had taken to amass his baseball empire.  Each book also shows the baseball dealings he conducted on a daily basis, how he constructed teams and eventually dismantled teams to pay the teams bills.  Various financial struggles are addressed throughout the years, power struggles within team ownership and family infighting that eventually led to the final downfall and removal of the Athletics from Philadelphia.

Norman L. Macht has dedicated a good portion of his life to this project.  Starting in 1985 the research he did was in depth and led him essentially to every location Connie Mack ever stepped foot.  He spoke to as many people who were friends, colleagues or family of Connie Mack and got the inside scoop on what the man was really like.  The amount of time and research that was dedicated to this project is just mind blowing to me.  I can’t imagine dedicating three decades to one subject and then being able to narrow it down to only 2,000 pages of details for a publisher.  Usually, most publishers would shy away from a multi volume biography anyway.

For me growing up in Philadelphia there were always a lot of stories floating around.  From just having the local ties and being a fixture in the city itself to the part that my Grandfather put a roof on his house in the late 40’s, Connie Mack for me was always an intriguing figure.  This book dispels a lot of the myth’s that I had accepted as fact about Mack.  Through the stories you hear growing up in Philadelphia, many of them you just accept as fact and don’t dedicate the time to looking for the truth.  He truly was one of the games great owners and we will never see another one like him.  In reality how many owners have a rival team name their stadium after your team leaves town, as the Phillies did out of respect for Mack.  The respect that people had for him was astounding, so much so that as of my last conversation with Bobby Shantz about a year or so ago, he still referrs to him as Mr. Mack, over 60 years after his death.

Baseball fans should really check these books out.  They are a vast wealth of knowledge for the fans of a very popular subject of the game that has not had many books dedicated to him.  Norman L. Macht should be commended, and rightly so, on a great job writing these three  books and completing his 30 year journey to show fans the real Cornelius McGillicuddy.

You can get these books from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

Connie Mack

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Swinging ’73-Baseball’s Wildest Season


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.

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By:Matthew Silverman-2013

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

Swinging ’73

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

It Has to Start Somewhere!!!!!!


Baseball is a game full of firsts.  First pitch, first game, first out, first inning……the list is endless.  But for us baseball book geeks (a badge I wear with honor by the way), that list of firsts also includes our first baseball book.  For some people it starts in childhood when you get that first juvenile baseball book under your belt.  For others its in adulthood after you settle down and figure out who you are.  Then for the rest of us, its starts when you are 12 years old and stumble upon a book that you may not have been the target audience.

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There has never been a shortage of biographies out there about Reggie Jackson.  This one from 1984  I hold in higher esteem than all the others, mostly because it was my first.  My first baseball book was a shear accident.  My Dad, who I owe most of my fan dedication and knowledge to, bought me this book.  From his Thursday night supermarket trip in 1985 he plucked it from the bargain bin at Pathmark and brought it home for me.  Thus sending me on a literary journey lasting over 30 years so far.

I always liked Reggie Jackson because he was somewhat of a local hero.  He grew up in the town five minutes away from the one I grew up in.  He went to the local high school and at that time was the one superstar who came from our own backyard.  So right off the bat the appeal was there about the book of our local guy made good.

Now this book has been out for over thirty years, is probably tame by today’s standards and more biographies about Reggie have come out in the subsequent decades.   But for me, after countless other books, this book is the one.  For all of my time on earth, this book about Reggie, this tattered copy especially, will hold a special place in my heart forever.  It is the book that made me realize how many cool baseball books were out there. I may not have been the target audience of this book, but it did open my eyes to what baseball was really like.   This book led me to baseball classics, such as Dynasty and Bums by Peter Golenbock.  To books about Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Musial, Maris, DiMaggio and hundreds of others. Taking me to places in my own head, which for some was the only way imaginable to get there, allowing me to learn about the people and places that made baseball great.

I realize a lot of people say Ball Four was the book that brought them into the baseball world, and that it is the epitome of the baseball book.  For my money I will stick with my copy of Reggie.  Everybody has that one special baseball book they love for whatever reason they so chose.  For me its not that popular tell-all baseball book by Jim Bouton that everyone loves to some degree.  It is yet another tired rendition of how great Reggie Jackson was or is, depending on how you look at it and there is no other book out there I am willing to give it up for.

So take some time and pull out that old copy of the book that started it all for you.  Spend some time with that old worn out friend and re-live what made baseball books so appealing to you, because you will never forget your first.

Happy Reading

Gregg