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.
No matter who you are, baseball starts with some sort of dream. It could be a dream to see a baseball game in person, meet your favorite player or be one of the chosen few who gets to play the game professionally. What if you are one of the chosen few who belong to a family where baseball would be considered the family business, quite honestly…..how cool would that be for any of us? Today’s book takes a look at one of the lucky ones that gets to call baseball their family business and the amazing experiences that it has afforded him and his family throughout their careers.
For my money, to be considered baseball royalty you do not have to be a Hall of Fame caliber player. I just think you have to have a genuine love for the game and put all your efforts into it. For those not familiar with the Campanis family, they have dedicated their lives to the game across three generations, making contributions both on and off the field.
Starting with Grandpa Al who dedicated his life to the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and New York, he contributed to building National League powerhouses that for decades were tough to beat. Second generation Jim Sr., had a respectable career on both the major league and minor league levels. With stops in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Pittsburgh during his playing days, he was able to witness many things that none of us will ever get to experience around baseball. Finally it brings us to Jim Jr. A hot prospect in the Seattle Mariners system, that quite possibly through no fault of his own, never got the real shot he deserved to make it to the Major Leagues.
Born Into Baseball takes a look at the journey of Jim Jr. From his upbringing experiencing the Major Leagues through his Father Jim and Grandfather Al’s careers, which ultimately led to him deciding this is what I want to do with my life. Jim takes us through his college experiences and how he learned to appreciate and play the game on a different level. Next he leads you through his time in the Minors. Sharing with the reader all of the friendships he made along the way as well as sharing the lighter side of being a Minor Leaguer. He also shows the reader what a player goes through when he realizes, by his own choice or someone else’s, that it is time to lay the dream to rest. It is a very interesting look at what goes through the mind of an aspiring player.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the Campanis history lesson. You learn about his grandfather Al who spent a lifetime with the Dodgers, representing them as they both deserved and expected. Only in the end, to watch his entire career collapse around him due to a few unfortunate comments on national television. It is a sad legacy to leave behind and hopefully as time goes by people will forgive the poor judgement of the comments and give Al the respect he earned throughout his lifetime. Jim also looks at his Dad, Jim Sr’s baseball career. It shows a level of dedication to the game and a desire to compete and reach a dream at almost any cost.
I always find it interesting the the players who never quite reach stardom always have the best insight to the game. Perhaps it is because they spent so much time honing their craft trying to improve. Or maybe it is because they were always behind someone a little better on the depth charts. Whatever the reason may be, Jim Campanis has a great outlook on how the game should be played and showed himself as a willing student throughout his entire career. What is contained in these pages proves you don’t need to be a Hall of Fame player to be a Hall of Fame person.
If you have an interest in getting a feel for what it is like to be on the other side of the baseball curtain, check this book out. It gives a real good look at what it takes to make it to the big leagues and how much you really have to sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books
I hate to admit it, but I always enjoy a good book about the Yankees. The Phillies fan in me has a hard time justifying spending the money on purchasing one, much less enjoying a book about the evil empire. In the past there have been many avenues taken to relay the stories about the fabled team from the Bronx, but as of late it seems we keep taking the same walk around the same block. I would like to say today’s book would take us on a different tour, but I am sad to say we have been down this road many times.
Andrew O’Toole has taken the reader on an adventure with the New York Yankees during a time of transition. A time when the one of the teams greatest stars was fading and its next one was on the rise. It shows a time when the Yankees were full of uncertainty but about to embark on a sustained period of success that may never be rivaled. Say what you will about the Yankees, they have a history that is hard to top.
The book shows what the 1951 season was like for the New York Yankees. Di Maggio’s last season in pinstripes was not one of his greatest, but he earned the respect he demanded from the masses and his teammates and finished out the season and his career like only Joe DiMaggio could. Waiting in the wings was Mickey Mantle the young mid westerner who was on his way to fame and stardom and did not even realize what was awaiting him. Its a tale of two outsiders that came to New York and took a bite out of the big apple.
The downside to New York Yankees books is the fact that no matter what the subject matter is, it gets beat to death. We have several different authors attack the very same subject and for the most part attain the same results in the end. If I stop and take a look at my personal library, there are an insane number of books about Mickey Mantle and Joe Di Maggio. It makes it hard to figure out what is the real truth on either of them.
As far as the 1951 season goes we have seen a few books from different authors. While they attempt to each provide their own spin on the events of that year, unfortunately, it is impossible to. This is in no way a reflection on this book’s author, it is just the reality that this book falls into a very crowded playing field. It reminds me of the old politician saying that we may be saying the same thing, but you haven’t heard me say it yet.
While each of these books offers essentially the same thing, each writer has a different style that may appeal to different readers. So choose wisely, or if you are familiar with that authors previous work and enjoyed it, stick with that version. I was hoping we could get to the point where some authors would find something different and give us some new revelations, but I think that ship may have finally sailed.
If this book is one that might capture your interest on the 1951 season, you can get it from the nice folks at Triumph Books.
If there is one thing I have learned in the new stadium craze over the last 25 years, it is that baseball and politics do not always mix. The involved parties are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as to what is warranted and who should pay for what. The same problems arise, weather it is replacing an existing stadium or creating an expansion franchise. It all comes down to how the details are handled as to what success comes from all the hard work. Today’s book takes a look at all the struggles one city went through to get a team but still wound up on the losing end of the deal.
Becoming Big League takes a look at the city of Seattle and their efforts to land a Major League franchise in the 1960’s. It shows how some infighting and disagreements over the future of the city led to delays and confusion. It also shows how the local ownership group of the Seattle Pilots were flying by the seat of their pants in all aspects of the business.
From the feel the book gives you their was a group of people, along with the powers at Major League Baseball who really wanted to see the Pilots come to Seattle and succeed. They felt it was a great location that would help baseball thrive in the northwest area of the country and be a nice accent to the teams already placed in California. In theory the Pilots were a great idea, they just met too many off the field problems to thrive.
Local government infighting along with stadium construction issues and owners who financially flew by the seat of their pants while conducting business all doomed the Pilots in Seattle. Even almost a decade after the Pilots were gone and the Mariners arrived for round two of baseball in Seattle, many of the same problems still existed. The only plus side at that point was that Seattle had at least learned the minimum required of them to keep their baseball franchise. More recently Seattle has had the same problems luring the NBA to Seattle almost 50 years later.
Bill Mullins has created a great two part book. One is the baseball study that chronicles baseball coming to the Northwest. From the inception of the Pilots and agreements with Major League Baseball, to the moving of the franchise to Milwaukee and the birth of the Brewers. Secondly this book is a great urban study of local politics. Seattle wanted to keep its small time charm and quaintness, but still attract big money players. It shows how Seattle citizenship was split down the middle as to which path they wanted their city to follow.
If you have an interest in the Seattle Pilots their is lots of great information in here about the team and their short operations. There are some things i here that you don’t always easily come across when researching the Pilots. If you have an interest in local politics and how Seattle of the past functioned, you should give this book a look as well. It shows how some cities have trouble growing when they need to.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Washington Press
Baseball stadiums are a funny business. In the last few years we have opened the remainder of the publicly funded monsters that are basically welfare projects for the mega rich owners. Convincing the fan base that it is a good idea to fund the building of these monsters through tax dollars, all in the name of civic pride. Everyone that has wanted a new stadium has gotten one in the last 25 years, we are even starting to see some of these stadiums become outdated and cries for replacements are starting. These stadiums are all one dimensional and other uses of these parks is very limited. It makes one look back and see how useful the last generation of stadiums truly were. Baseball, Football, Concerts, Monster Truck Rallies or almost anything you could imagine would happen there. In today’s game almost everyone has their individual dedicated to one type of event stadium. But what about that one glorious year when one stadium housed two Baseball teams and two Football teams. Rarely a day went by when something wasn’t going on. Today’s book looks at that one unique and busy year.
Shea Stadium was the lucky recipient of all this attention in 1975. The obvious home of the New York Mets, but also temporary home to the New York Yankees during the remodeling of Yankee Stadium. It also housed the New York Giants and the Jets while construction of the Meadowlands was wrapping up. It made for scheduling nightmares and helped create an atmosphere within Shea that was hard to beat.
Brett Topel’s new book takes a look at that busy season and gives a solid background on each of the teams that called Shea home. He shows the reader how each of the tenants agreements came to be with the city owned stadium and how the legalities of it all threw a few wrenches into the works.
Topel, through interviews with the men who were on the field in 1975 explain what the vibe was like that year. How the Yankees felt playing on enemy territory across town from their beloved stadium and having to call Shea home. It had to be a very interesting mind set for the players since the dimensions were so different between the two stadiums. It also shows how the transplant to Shea Stadium effected the Yankees fans and their attendance.
The book covers both the Baseball and Football teams that called Shea stadium home in 1975, but it is much more centered on the baseball side of the stadium activities. More than likely because in a given year with two teams calling Shea home you would have 162 baseball games that would be considered home games versus the 16 home games for Football on Sundays. It shows how utilitarian these multi purpose stadiums really were. They were treated like a jack of all trades, instead of todays specialized delicate little flowers that are sparingly used for only one activity. I find it amazing that these new sport palaces are starting to have a shorter life span than the older and more widely used multi purpose stadiums.
If you are a fan of New York sports you should check this one out. It shows a very unique situation in an interesting time period of sports league growth. A situation like this we will never see again and for good reason.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
With it being the thirtieth anniversary of the 1986 Mets, I figured we would be seeing more than a fair share of Mets related books. It is inevitable that some are going to be really good and some are going to be repetitious and unnecessary. I mean how many ways would authors be able to spin the Mets and their championship year. While so far this year there has been heavy saturation in the market of the 1986 Mets I am glad to say today’s book is one of the good ones out there.
When I first saw this one from Matthew Silverman I was a little hesitant. I reviewed his previous work Swinging ’73 and was a little disappointed. In the end I am glad I gave this one a chance because it was a great history lesson for a non-Mets fan.
Silverman walks the reader through a brief Mets history, from their inception in 1962, through their rough patch in the early 80’s. He shows the ups and downs of the franchise during that period and also shows how the wheels were set in motion for their winning of the World Series in 1986. He looks at player drafts and personnel moves that helped shaped a solid nucleus for the Mets. Finally some free agent acquisitions put the icing on the cake for the Mets to become a powerhouse in the National League East.
Next the author guides the reader through the 1986 season and shows events that transpired both hurting and helping the Mets as the season progressed. The post-season is then showcased for the reader to see how destiny played some sort of role in getting the Mets the World Series trophy when all the dust settled. It shows how hungry the Mets and their fan base truly were for a winner in Queens and how beloved the team had become in New York.
The final section of the book looks at the decline of the Mets and how they never repeated their championship. It is a very interesting look at what demons haunted the team and how in the end a lot of these personal demons were the demise of the Mets. You expect injuries to be a problem with a team, but some of those issues that plagued this team were unforeseeable.
Matthew Silverman has done a nice job with this book. It shows the complete story of what the 1986 New York Mets were all about. The book does not just show the team at the top of its game. He shows the reader the complete bell curve of the team and why certain movements on that curve happened when they did. Silverman has a very tough road ahead of him in the fact that he has so much competition this year in the field of New York Mets books. He did a great job of keeping the reader entertained and the story moving along at a good pace. He covered a lot of ground in this book and none if it felt like it was being glossed over. If you are a fan of Mets baseball you should check this one out, because it paints a very complete picture of the team.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
No matter who you are, if you are a baseball fan, you have opinions on how to make the game better. It could be ways to speed up the game, a way to play the game more effectively or even personnel decisions that would alter the complexion of your team. Regardless of what your ideas are, more than likely they will fall on deaf ears. Now if you are a baseball lifer like today’s author, you automatically gain some credence to your ideas just because of the experience and respect you have attained during your career.
Buck Martinez has been a solid baseball lifer. Spending a career as an on field back up Catcher, he had the opportunity to study the game during his three team stop in the major leagues. His final stop in Toronto seemed to provide him the best education and allow him to find as permanent a home as one can find in baseball. His post retirement career as both field manager and television analyst have continued his baseball education and allowed him to become one of the most respected minds in baseball.
This book has almost a Frankenstein feel to it. It really could have been several different stand alone books all by the same author, but here it is rolled all in to one product. The first part of the book that Buck gives the reader, is his childhood and playing career. You see his love of the game from his youth and how he worked himself hard to become a major leaguer. He was for most of his time in the major leagues a back up or fringe player which allowed him to study the game. All three teams, The Royals, Brewers and Blue Jays, were all fairly bad teams that were attempting to build a quality product on the field and Buck was part of the construction of all three. It was those three stops that Buck learned what it took to be a winner and how to build success.
After his playing days were over Buck found a home as an analyst for the Blue Jays and has made himself a vital part of the Jays TV crew and a respected voice from the booth. His analyst career was interrupted by a brief and not so successful stint as Blue Jays manager. It was a wrong place, wrong time career move, that if it was under a different set of circumstances, may have turned out much different.
The third part of this book conglomeration is Buck’s opinions of what works and does not work within today’s game. He cites examples of who he thinks is playing and respecting the game at the correct level. He also presents some ideas that he thinks would improve the game. He has some decent ideas that someone within the game and the powers that be, may want to stop and take a look at. They are not way out ideas and would help enhance the game as we know it today.
When you think of Buck Martinez you don’t think of a Hall of Fame player. While he had an average career, he has made himself a spectacular student of the game and makes educated and well thought out suggestions to improve the game. If you are looking for an educated view of the current game this may be a book you would want to check out. He presents his ideas in ways that would improve the game without disrupting its natural flow. The book showed a whole new side of Buck Martinez to me and allowed me to gain a whole new respect for him.
You can get this book from the nice folks at HarperCollins