In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
No matter the subject of a baseball biography, there is some sort of story to be told. Some of these stories are better than others and coincide with the skill level of that particular player. Then there are stories like today’s book that come from an average player that did not put up Hall of Fame numbers, but has a Hall of Fame caliber story to tell baseball fans. A journey that took him all over North America John D’Acquisto’s new book takes a hard and honest look at his life and career and the paths it has led him down. This honest look at his own life opens up a whole new side of John that fans can appreciate.
Fastball John starts the readers on the journey of his life and shows his family roots in San Diego and his journey to become a big league pitcher. Next you learn first hand what it is like to be a first round draft pick with high expectations in a major league setting. Stops with major league teams and a few more stints in the minors are covered as well.
John D’Acquisto shows the readers the ins and outs of what being a baseball player is really like. You see the friendships, the expectations of management, contract disputes and health scares that make up a players life. What I found really interesting is how personal relationships are intertwined within this story. It gives a very intimate touch to a career that is usually unable to sustain those types of relationships. One other factor the the authors were able to incorporate into the story was how the music of the time was able to become part of the moment and permanently ingrained in the memories.
For my money the most interesting part of this story is also one of the saddest. John D’Acquisto’s life after baseball was one of accusations, falsehoods and betrayal that in the end led to some serious jail time. John eloquently tells his side of the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and his time behind bars. The sequence of events that led up to this are almost unbelievable and in the end, when you hear all the details wonder how someone could survive something of this magnitude. For what it’s worth, I believe D’Acquisto’s side of the story, it unfortunately seems to be him trusting the wrong people at the time and the justice system wanting to make an example of someone with a famous name.
Honestly, we have all read the books written by the Superstars and sometimes pass on the stories of a lower tier player. This is one of those times you need to make the effort to read the story of that player. It is a gripping story that shows the genuine side of a Major League Baseball player. He has had good times and some really bad times, but in the end Johnny D. comes across as a pretty cool guy. Loved by the fans of the San Francisco and San Diego, he has paid his dues on both sides of the fence and moved on to well earned greener pastures in his life. Take the time to read this book and you will be able to see their is still some good left in people and read a very enjoyable baseball book at the same time.
Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
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
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 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.