I asked this question on another post recently and received a litany of great answers. I am well aware that there really is no criteria to who gets a book, but each of us has their own criteria of what really merits a book. I for one am not here to pass along my thoughts on the subject because each of us has different views and it becomes a personal choice more than anything else. I found two books recently that come from two ends of the spectrum on the field, but give the reader a very similar product in the end.
Ralph Mauriello and Ron Fairly have several things in common. Most notably they are both Dodgers Alumni, and I have noticed the feeling of once a Dodger, always a Dodger. But their careers took very different paths throughout the years. While Mauriello had a short stint with the Major League team, he spent the majority of his playing years toiling in the minors, while Fairly put a couple of decades at the big league level with a few different stops around the league. Now with such different playing careers and reaching different levels of success you would thing the end resulting books of their lives would be wildly different. I am glad to say that could not be further from the truth.
Now that is not to say that both books are mirror images, but there are certain important qualities that shine through. They both share their life and career experiences for the reader which helps give a well-rounded view of what they offered on the field. This comes in especially helpful those readers that may not have been around during their playing days, it paints a picture in your mind of what baseball was like for each author as they made their way along their unique journey. Both books also illustrate what great men both players were, the humility they had, both on and off the field and the honor it was for both of them to be part of the game they loved. Family is also an important factor in both men’s lives and it is showcased very clearly in both books. Finally, both books show what life is like after you are off the field. While both men have taken very different paths in life you can see the underlying love of the game and the immense pride they both had to be on that field.
When I asked the who deserves a book question previously I thought I had a better handle on the answer . Today I realize if you have a story to tell, no matter what their contribution to the game was, it’s a story worth telling. It’s up to the readers to decide which stories that they want to read and what they find worthy of their time. If it is a 20 year veteran or a cup of coffe player, they still have a lot to offer the readers. For my money these both books make the cut.
If you like the Dodgers and the early years of California baseball, along with a spattering of stories about celebrities and baseball royalty then these books would be for you. They both tell great stories throughout flow very nicely and you get two different views of the Once a Dodger Always a Dodger tag.
You can get these great books at the following links:
As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away. I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out. The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.
Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books. It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront. I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader. If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out. You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said. It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them. Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan. It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically. For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out. It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it. You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.
There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past. For my money, this one is the best of the bunch. It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella. It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused. It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches. He is telling it like he sees it at this point. Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all. If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet. Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.
If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book. 1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era. It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained. Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history. For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened. If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about. For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous. You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.
Where would the game be without the Sportswriters. They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field. Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about. Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before. You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.
McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category. Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print. Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy. Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.
Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception. Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again. This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well. It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times. You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.
So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.
Happy Reading and Go Phillies!
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.
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
Happy Reading Gregg
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
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
Baseball as it exists today is the way many of have always known it our entire lives. One of those things many of us have not experienced is racial segregation on the field, just the best players the world has to offer playing the game we all love. Events of the last 70 years or so have provided the opportunity for all races to play Major League Baseball and effectively end the color line within the game. But the question has arisen as to where the segregation agreement came from. Obviously it would be a problem in the South to have mixed races on the field, but in Northern cities it may have been a non-issue. So when and why did this so called gentleman’s agreement come to be and for what reasoning? Today’s book takes a look at the source of the agreement and its underlying purpose.
Ryan Swanson takes a look at Reconstruction Era baseball right after the Civil War. He looks at how the constructors of the game had the desire to make it appeal to the masses as a national game. The thought was that it would help heal some of the wounds from the Civil War and attempt to make a nation whole again. The author pays special attention to the cities of Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington D.C., because of the large amounts of African-American residents in each city. The theory of the book would apply to the entire league but the residential make-up of the other cities were much different at the time.
The book offers some really intense research by its author to get 19th century baseball game information. In the end it gives the reader the notion that the reasoning behind segregating the game was to foster national appeal. By segregating it they would have no backlash from the southern states and would be able to accelerate the acceptance by the masses of baseball being the national game.
Quite honestly I do not have enough knowledge of this era of baseball to give a positive or negative opinion on the authors findings. So for that matter I am accepting them at face value. Without this agreement in place it may have in turn stunted the growth of the game itself in the eyes of Americans. But on the flip side of that coin is the fact that so many great players were denied the right to play Major League Baseball and toiled in the Negro Leagues for so long. One could only imagine what the record books would look like today if there was an even playing field among the races from day one.
For myself, the book read a little dry, more like an encyclopedia instead of a story. It also would have been nice to see the effects this action would have had on a more in-depth basis, as opposed to just Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington D.C..
If you don’t have an deep interest in this era of baseball history, you may want to pass on this one. It honestly is a little dry and you may have trouble finishing it. If you have an interest in Reconstruction Era baseball, this will help fill in some of the missing pieces from a very influential era of the game.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
When one thinks about the Yankees the two most significant names that pop into peoples minds are usually Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. They were easily the biggest icons of their respective generations. Passing the Yankee torch from one hero to another required an overlap year and according to legend, a little bit of hostility and animosity among them. Today’s book attempts to set the record straight to the masses regarding the two massive ego’s in New York.
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle could not have come from different upbringings. One from the big California city and the other from the sticks of Oklahoma. They were two immensely different personalities, with daunting expectations under the microscope of New York city. Regardless of their pasts they were destined to have the pennant hopes of the Yankees pinned to them for decades. Good or bad these were the two men that became the faces of the New York Yankees.
After all that has been written about Mantle and DiMaggio, one would think we have explored all the deep dark secrets that both men had. I would think we would have a great perspective on their personalities and the events that transpired in both of their lives. So what makes this one different from all the other books out there? This book tries to in theory, explain the relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in the transition year of 1951 while they were teammates. There are lots of rumors out there about hatred and animosity between the two but not all of those rumors had legs to stand on, so this book had a clear purpose.
Tony Castro does at least weave a good story in this book. He gives the reader some background on both players lives and how they fit in the big Yankee picture. Also, he talks about some interactions between both of the stars during the 1951 season. Nothing that seems out of the ordinary between a fading star and a rookie on the rise. They were both at different stages of their careers and did not travel within the same circles, which did not seem out of the ordinary, at least to me. He also attempts to portray the seedier sides of both people, their personal relationships and how they led their lives, but still did not delve to far into the interactions between the two players.
In the end for me this book came up a little short of the target. It rehashed some points that were covered in other books and did little do dissect the interactions and relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in 1951. It covered a lot of points that were not related to what the book was supposed to be addressing in regards to each player. This book for me had great possibilities to dispel some myths and give the reader the real story of the two. In the end it glanced over those vital points and felt more like the author was looking for some dirt or gossip to throw on the memories of both.
Check the book out, maybe you will think I am wrong in my review, but in the end I was disappointed in this one.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press