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.
I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
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
The history of baseball has so many nooks and crannies that it is almost impossible as a fan to say you have heard everything. Some of the history is well documented and some is taken from legend or word of mouth. No matter what its historical format, baseball allows for almost everyday to be a learning experience. Today’s book is one of those that puts a unique and interesting spin on some well-known and some of the more obscure baseball personalities that were an integral part of the game’s history.
Now I am in no way an artsy guy. Never a big fan of the creative arts and not a big fan of comic books growing up for whatever reasons that may be. So when they guy who admits all that, says to you this book is something very unique an enjoyable, you may want to pay attention.
Gary Cieradkowski is hard to pin down. Is he an artist or a writer? He created both parts of this book and did a very good job with each. He has brought to life through his artwork, faces of the past. He has done both the famous and obscure from the annals of baseball history. Creating both artwork and a baseball card set that puts faces to some of the names you may never have heard of, actually seen a picture of or been exposed to up until now. Showing the stars in their pre-fame lives, you get to see a glimpse of Sandy Koufax in Coney Island garb and Walter Johnson on an Anaheim baseball card. It also brings to light the stories of those that lurked in the shadows of Major League Baseball. Semi-pros, Negro Leagues, Barnstormers, Journeymen, Rouges, Odd Balls and players from the Amateur and International leagues all have stories to contribute to this book.
Not to be overlooked by his great artwork, is the quality stories Cieradowski offers the readers about all these unique and varied personalities. His writing is both entertaining and informative and a few of them leave the reader wanting to go further and research more about certain players. It is a great tool for a fans knowledge base.
This book is a fun and entertaining read and should not be overlooked. It is not your average baseball compilation book in the fact that it is not packed full of stars. It gives the lesser known players their due and appreciates their impact and contributions to the history of the game. Check this book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed, because quite honestly there is something for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Touchstone
Each of us has a certain player or an event that they can link with a certain point in time. In the 50’s it was Mantle and the New York Yankees the 60’s it may have been Sandy Koufax and the newly transplanted Dodgers and the 70’s it could have been Charlie Hustle and the Big Red Machine. For myself, the 1980’s is the first decade that I was a fan from beginning to end. The decade promised prospect after prospect that were going to have Hall of Fame careers. Some panned out while some others went up in flames. One name that stands out to me in my own head and is the first go to guy when I think about that decade is Dwight Gooden. He took the world by storm in the epicenter of the baseball universe in the Big Apple. A Pitcher who from day one showed flashes of greatness and made his way into main stream America during the middle of the decade. A career derailed by personal demons and bad choices, one is left only to ask what might really have been.
Fast forward thirty years later to today, a hot summer day in upstate New York. I heard about a local autograph appearance at a business by none other than Dwight Gooden, the baseball stud of the mid-80’s, a childhood dream come true, and the best part about this whole thing was it was a free appearance. My first thought was how awesome was this because we never get baseball appearances around here, the closest ones are usually two hours away. My second thought was which of my baseball books can I get signed. So, I loaded up the Wife, a few things to get signed and off we went to see Doc Gooden.
I honestly thought this was going to be a mob scene when we arrived, I mean, come on, its Doc Gooden in New York state. I did find it on the odd side that Doc would be making an appearance at a place that manufactures mobile trailer homes, but I figured if it was free it was for me. When we got there it was the exact opposite of what I expected. No long lines, no great Mets Nation turnout, no real fanfare for this baseball icon of the 80’s. What we got in return when we arrived was this….
Doc Gooden waiting patiently for people to arrive all by himself. Like I said no lines and nor rush to get the autographs and move on. To say I am shocked at the fan turnout and how this went is an understatement, I mean it wasn’t like this was Casey Candaele or a player of that caliber……..this was Doc!. Greeted with a smile and a handshake, Dwight Gooden was everything this 10 year old trapped in an old man’s body could have ever hoped for. Sometimes when you finally get the chance to meet one of your baseball heroes you come away disappointed, because they are not what you expect. Thankfully not this time, this was easily one of the top 3 experiences I ever had meeting a former player. There was also a local reporter there from a small town local newspaper asking Doc some easy questions and recording the interview on his phone. While waiting for our autographs he was answering the reporters questions. After he was done with the reporter Doc turns to my wife and asks, “how did I do with that interview, was it ok?” Holy crap, if my wife only had the realization of the magnitude of that question and who it came from. I know she goes to things like this to appease me, and its a good trade off for killing spiders around the house for her I guess.
I chose to take two of Doc’s books to get signed, DOC published in 2013 and Heat published in 1999.
While signing the books Doc asks me”so which one did you like better?” I told him I thought DOC felt more authentic and Heat felt like a quickie bio. He explained that “DOC is the true and accurate story and I took the time to give the actual story to the fans, Heat was just mostly crap“. So now we have it from the source as to where the truth lies. The books have conflicting stories in them so it is nice to hear which version of those stories are accurate.
These books are also takes of what could have been. A career and life derailed by Alcohol and Drugs, and all the bad things that come with that. Doc had multiple chances to overcome them and made the best he could of the opportunities at the time. He seems from other books I have read this year and by seeing him in person that he is on the right track to long term sobriety. He may have let his demons destroy his Hall of Fame possibilities and a good portion of his career, but it looks like he is not interested in letting them destroy his future. Check out both of these books, because it is very interesting to see the contrast between the two volumes.
On a personal note I would like to thank Doc Gooden. Thank you for not even being close to what I expected. For not being a bitter former star, who is still pissed his star faded. For not being another former Met with a chip on his shoulder because he was a New York Met. Thank you for not destroying my illusion of what I thought you would be like, if I met you when I was ten years old and you were in your prime. Thank you for being friendly with my wife, because not all former players are. Most importantly thank you for coming to some crap hole town in the middle of nowhere New York to meet your fans, at least one of us (me) really appreciated it. I may have been ten when you came along but I knew greatness when I saw it even then, and today just proved I was right about you all along. This has shown me how even the mightiest may fall, but they can still do it with grace and dignity while finding the strength to carry on.