As I sit here and recover from surgery, I remember this is the week that my wife and I were going to be crisscrossing the country catching our baseball games at various stadiums. It is somewhat depressing thinking about what could have been, but it is on the back burner for next year and hopefully without any unforeseen issues. The time off recovering has forced me to read more and allowed me to catch up on some of my posts. I have been able to look at some varying topics as of late and found a very interesting, off the beaten path topic for today’s book.
Inventing Baseball Heroes takes a look at how the media picks a certain player and uses their skills to fulfill a certain agenda. That agenda is creating hero worship for certain players within the game. This book centers on the early twentieth century and shows how the media helped make certain baseball players household names.
The book is looking at a different time in the world of media. The two main forms at that time were Newspapers and Radio. Through the use if these mediums the writers were able to promote their agendas in making certain players seem larger than life. Their exploits on the field were magnetized to an audience that was looking for new heroes.
The down side to the public looking for heroes was the fact that it allowed journalists of that period to blur the line between fact and fiction. Call it creative license if you want, but it leads me back to the old saying of never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. With reporting being what it was during that time period, you really have to wonder how much of what we accept as truth now is actually accurate.
Throughout the history of baseball and more precisely through each generation, you can see players who were regarded as both the clear and concise hero and one who was the clear and concise villain. These players are easily identifiable, and in more current times during the steroid era, some players have been on both sides of that line, again blurring the definition of hero and villain
Amber Roessner does a very nice job of looking at the actions of the media during the formative years of baseball as we all know it. It makes you wonder how much of what we accept as historical fact in the game is actually generated from the imagination of the media. It is something that one can clearly see continuing throughout the history of the game as the generations have passed on.
If you have any interest in the early media coverage of the game you should check this book out. It shows how our game was shaped in the eyes of our society. It also shows to some extent how we as an American society look to our heroes for guidance on how to act in our world.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Louisiana State University Press
I have of late, spent a lot of time looking at books that go back over a century in baseball history. Sometimes the books I have on hand steer the blog more than I ever do. When you go back this far in history, it is a daunting task to try and answer some question. Record keeping was not even close to the standards that it is today, and the game as a whole created some questionable outcomes. So I am not really sure how an author would even try and research something from this era and feel confident in the outcomes. As a baseball community I think we have accepted as accurate what is in the record books but it is still open to some questions no matter who it is. Rick Huhn has in the past written books from this era and has done an admirable job with the, so with today’s book I am expecting more of the same.
For those not familiar with this story, auto magnate Hugh Chalmers offered a new Chalmers automobile to the winner of the 1910 batting championship. By today’s standards a car is no big deal but by 1910 standards, cars were new fangled contraptions that were not commonplace. So for the players involved this was a big deal.
The long in the short of it is that the race came down between Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie and Detroit’s Ty Cobb. There was also some controversy about record keeping for both players at the time. In the end, American League President Ban Johnson made the final decision and awarded the car to Ty Cobb. Still surrounded in controversy to this day no one is sure who really one, but Cobb got the car.
Rick Huhn does a really good job of relaying to the reader the course of events of 1910. Individual game details, scoring decisions and events all paint a vivid picture for the reader. He also details the aftermath of Ban Johnson’s decision and court depositions that show the mess that baseball was in during that time period. It also gives the reader a real good idea of how fixed baseball was during that time period and how it could have been human error, judgement calls or just plains and simple, the fix was in for the car’s winner that caused this giant mess.
The passage of 100 years clouds some of the details, but the author does a nice job throughout the whole book giving the reader what is to believed to be the complete story. It is something that we prior to this book did not have great clarification on. This book does that job very well and hopefully can lay to rest the true events of the 1910 season.
If you have an interest in this era check this book out. It is another book that gives a good feel of what really was going on in baseball during this era. It also is another book that clarifies some of the Ty Cobb myths. That is not its main intention, but it is a good side effect. You just need to be a fan of baseball history to enjoy this one, it slows down a little bit at the mid point in the book, when it gets bogged down in the court proceedings. But once you are through that it picks back up and completes its mission.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Some teams leave an indelible mark on the history of baseball. Everyone likes remembering the greats such as the 60 Pittsburgh Pirates, 76 New York Yankees, 69 New York Mets, 68 Detroit Tigers and my personal favorite, the 80 Philadelphia Phillies, are just a few of the teams that make the grade. Even beyond these there a few teams that stand higher above all the rest as the most memorable teams. The 1986 New York Mets are in a class all by themselves. A team of rough and ragged players that worked their way into the hearts of New Yorkers, and turned the baseball establishment on its ear for one glorious season. Erik Sherman has written a new book that takes a look at some of the key players from that team and where their lives have gone both in and out of baseball.
Being that 2016 is the 30th anniversary of their championship season, and the fact that the Mets surprisingly made it to the World Series last year I expected a large selection of Mets themed books this year. The ones I have found so far all have varying themes. The 1986 season as a whole is looked at by some, reliving Bill Buckner’s nightmare is approached by others, but this is the first one I have come across that looks at the individual players.
Erik Sherman dedicates a chapter to each of several key players he has interviewed from the 1986 New York Mets. They discuss their contributions to the team and the instances of how they came about becoming a member of the Mets. Sherman does in depth interviews with each of the players and you get a nice feel of what they think were the most important qualities of that team. The players all make clear that they were proud to be a part of that team and some even show some disappointment that the Mets have not reached out after their playing days and done a better job of preserving team heritage.
One of the most important things I found in these interviews was that none of the players that had issues, on or off the field during this era, shied away from their indiscretions. Everyone manned up and admitted their faults. Perhaps that is just a product of growing older, but it was still refreshing to see former professional athletes admit to their mistakes.
You may not be a Mets fan but you have to give this team their due, honestly they were an interesting team to watch. The circumstances that surrounded the team at times and the way they won the World Series are a better script then Hollywood would have been able to produce. So put your team affiliation away and check this book out. Erik Sherman does a great job with his book. He asks honest and clear questions in his interviews and doesn’t pull any punches with the guys. I have enjoyed Erik Sherman’s other work and have reviewed his books about Mookie Wilson, Steve Blass and Glenn Burke in the past with positive results from all.
Take this walk down memory lane with the New York Mets of the past. You will find it is time well spent and probably like I did, find it hard to believe this was 30 years ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkely Books
Baseball likes to portray itself as the upholder of all that is right with the game. The keeper of standards and arrow straight morals, and they want to remain steadfast in that regard through all time. The most recent example of the high moral standard within Major League Baseball has been Pete Rose. For the integrity of the game they think they should keep old Pete on the outside looking in to atone for his sins. This has not been a new approach for Major League Baseball. For about the past 100 years or so in an effort to clean up the game and install some confidence with the general public they decided to clean house. It all started with the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series, but what about all the other problem children in the game before the Black Sox? Today’s book takes a look at one of the larger than life problem athletes in the game at the time, who oh by the way was one of the best players in baseball history.
This book is a re-issue of the volume originally released in 2004. Hal Chase was one of the darlings of the diamond during his playing career. A man who was friendly with gamblers and gangsters, regularly bet on games and was not a stranger to throwing a game or two. One big thing to take note of is that Hal Chase was the scape-goat for bigger names than his who’s hands were much dirtier when the crap hit the fan. You always hear about Shoeless Joe taking the fall for gambling but not so much about Hal Chase.
This book takes a very good luck at Chase’s life and gives the reader a real good feel of what baseball was really like at that time. It shows in great detail that most if not all of the games had some shadow of not being on the level and that so many peoples hands were dirty it is not even funny.The book also does not miss the opportunity to showcase Hal Chase’s on the field skills. Easily one of the best players to swing a bat and grab a glove up to that point. Rated by Babe Ruth as one of the all-time greatest players, that is some serious praise to live up to.
This is a great book to get a real good feel of what baseball was like during this era. It leaves no stone un-turned in showing the reader what Chase was really like and gives an honest look at what Ragtime baseball was all about.
Fans of this era will love this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Ragtime era take the time to check it out because it is a great history lesson. Finally, if you want to get another view of crooked baseball, other than the Black Sox scandal, this paints a pretty good picture of what was going on at that time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
If you look at baseball history as a whole, it encompasses a large amount of time. Thousands of people and events are all part of the greater story for thousands of reasons. Some of those events get lost to the passage of time, and rightly so. Just because an event happened does not mean it had any significance to the history of the game itself, it was just the action within the game. Some events have been suppressed from the history books, for selfish reasons by those involved. Today’s book takes a look at one of those events and how they helped shape the game as it now known.
Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book. He takes a look at the 1890 Players League that was formed as a rival league to the existing National League. It offered better salaries and player shares of ownership to play in the league. This was in contrast to the business dealings of the National league already in existence. It also allowed the Players League to outdraw the Nationals by the end of the season. It is a valuable history lesson and shows the power the players have always had and what ownership would like to keep quiet.
This is truly one of the earliest player labor organization movements in the history of the game. They organized, had some backers and on most fronts were a success. While their success was for only one year, it shows the powers that the players held and what obstacles they could overcome if they worked together. In the end it was the fact that National League owners inflated their attendance numbers and cooked their books to the point that it made the Players League look inept. In the end that was the main downfall of the Players League.
After this failure the Owners held the upper hand for generations and the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association almost 75 years later was the first real inroad the players made toward leveling the field with Ownership. This is where it would have been a benefit to former players to be students of the game. If they realized they held the power and had banned together sooner, they could have realized better pay and individual rights sooner than they had. This whole theory could have changed the way free agency came about and would have revolutionized the entire game sooner.
If you have any interest in the labor side of baseball, or rival league history this book would be a good choice for you. Yes it happened over a century ago, but it definitely is something that could have changed the direction labor relations took over the past 115 years. This is one of those history lessons ownership to this day would like to under cover. Because even today some of these principles could be used to the players benefit.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best. It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed. When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era. In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans. But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964? I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.
For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide. I was familiar with his writing from his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good. He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.
Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes. From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers. It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II. It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era. Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.
Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days. His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees. On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about. Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person. Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life. To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.
For my money, Joe Niese did a great job with this book. He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with. He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by. Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.
I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this. It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality. Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time. This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese
Throughout baseball history there are some amazing stories. Stories that if you tried to have someone from Hollywood write it, the general public would never believe it was true. The down side to these stories is unless the are juicy and so far out of this world against the odds, they sometimes get lost to the annals of baseball history. One such story is the one involving Fred Hutchinson and the Reds of 1964. When one talks about 1964 the big story out of the National League is the collapse of the Philadelphia Phillies and how the St. Louis Cardinals when the dust settled were the National League champions. The third sister at the dance that year was the Cincinnati Reds and as the last day unfolded they were right there trying to win the pennant as well. In the end the Reds came up short but the fascinating underlying story of that team was that their manager was fighting terminal cancer the entire season. Hutchinson’s work for most of the year along with fill-in skipper Dick Sisler, got the Reds within one step of the World Series. While today’s book is not a new release, in my opinion it is an often overlooked story in baseball history that from time to time needs to be brought back to the forefront.
Doug Wilson for me is one of those writers that could write a phone book in such a way that I would find it interesting. His other works that I have been exposed to Brooks about Brooks Robinson and The Bird about Mark Fidrych are both top notch biographies and were reviewed on this site in previous posts. This book predates both of the other two books I mentioned above but I expected nothing but the same quality book from Wilson on this one. I am glad to report that I was not disappointed.
Doug Wilson starts out the book by giving a nice background on Fred Hutchinson. His personal background, his playing career, time spent managing in Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis showing how his baseball personality was shaped along the way. The book also shows us how the first few years Hutchinson spent shaping the Reds into contenders including an unexpected trip to the 1961 World Series. It also shows how he handled up and coming superstars such as Pete Rose and how he helped mold them into winners as well.
Obviously the biggest part of the book is spent discussing the 1964 season and how right before it Hutchinson was diagnosed with his terminal cancer. In December 1963 Hutchinson was diagnosed with his illness and from the start the prognosis was not good. 1964 from the start for the Cincinnati Reds was dedicated to the fight for the life of Fred Hutchinson and both he and his Reds fought a valiant fight from day one of the season. Unfortunately Fred Hutchinson’s health did not allow him to make it through the season and he was replaced by Dick Sisler. The Cinicnnati Reds fell a bit short on winning the N.L. Pennant for Hutch and subsequently he passed away a few weeks later.
It is a very compelling story from beginning to end and if it happened in todays world the outcome for Fred Hutchinson may have been very different as well as the media coverage given to his story. Disney would have grabbed on to it and made a movie out of it, Major League Baseball would have had an official business partner for it and we would have been inundated with lots of things regarding Hutch’s situation from Joe Buck each week on the national telecast. It is a perfect example as to how the business aspect of the game has changed and how they can and will use anything they find marketable.
Getting back to the book, Doug Wilson did a great job of sharing the story of Fred Hutchinson. It is a story that will eventually get lost to the annals of time, but nonetheless should be remembered. If this story was based in New York or Los Angeles I think the media play on it would have been much more, but Cincinnati was propbably just not flashy enough for the powers that be. Wilson gave the reader a real good look at the subject and while being a sad subject , turns it into an enjoyable experience for the reader. I would obviously recommend it to Reds fans, but all readers should check it out for the valuable history lesson contained within.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
There are certain seasons that stand out from others. Perhaps it is a historical event that happened during that particular year, a team that overcame great odds or even a year of monumental changes that may be hard to recognize without the use of hind sight. 1972 is one of those years that on the surface while it was happening, the participants really were not living it going this is something great we are doing here. It was a year that was plop in the middle of the time when the players union was starting to be a formidable force within the game, as well as a noticeable change in society’s values. Time where authority was being challenged, inflation was starting to run rampant and in the public’s eyes baseball would start moving from just a game to a business. Today’s book takes a look at the one pivotal year within this decade of change and shows some of the signs that people may have missed that the game was changing.
1972 offered some interesting things to baseball fans. Rosters were jammed full of future Hall of Famers, some at the beginnings of their careers and sadly other at the end, but when the bell would ring, still able to bring it. It was the first year the Player Union made enough noise to institute a strike and cost MLB owners some games, showing that Marvin Miller was not going to go away quietly as they had hoped. Salaries were on the move up and players were going from needing to have extra income in the off-season(second job) to living comfortably all year on their baseball earnings. On the field the most amazing thing happened was that the Oakland A’s run by the miserly Charlie Finley won the first of their three straight World Series titles. But at the time nobody realized what they were about to witness. Facing the straight laced Cincinnati Reds led by Pete Rose they knocked off their first title and showed the baseball world that the guys with their long hair and mustaches had finally arrived.
Ed Gruver’s new book takes the reader through the changing times in baseball during the 1972 season. Looking back on that year from our comfy couches in 2016, the big headlines that year was the 1972 World Series between the A’s and the Reds. Essentially a clash between old school baseball and new world values. On the field it was all old school baseball but off the field the Oakland A’s were a sight glass into the changing norms of society. Clothing, attitude and rules were all up for debate as far as the rowdy A’s were concerned.
The author also does a great job at covering at the different teams that made a splash during the 1972 season. The Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St Louis Cardinals all had seasons to remember on the field and some individuals made headlines as well. Willie Mays made triumphant return to the New York by joining the Mets, Hank Aaron was making headlines almost every day in his chase of Babe Ruth’s career home run mark and Dick Allen was singlehandedly saving the Chicago White Sox franchise on the way to winning the American League MVP trophy. It gives the reader a good look of what was going on around baseball beyond just the World Series participants. It shows the up and downs of other teams that before the decade was out would create their own histories.
This book gives you a great feel of what being part of 1972 was all about and how to some degree it was the changing of the guard within baseball. Old school baseball thinking versus new school societal ways created some tumultuous times and 1972 was the tipping point. I always enjoy these books that pick a single year and dissect all the important events. We have seen this type of book in Dan Epstein’s book about the 1976 season, Stars & Strikes and TimWendel’s Summer of ’68. Those books like this one, segregate that one season and look at the effects that it may have had on other seasons down the line. These are great tools for fans who were not able to be there the first time around, but want to know the ins and outs of that season and what made it so special.
This book is published by the University of Nebraska press and the last book I recently did by them was in my opinion not up to their normal editing standards from a factual standpoint. I am glad to say this book has raised the bar back up to their normal standards for the most part, but did have one easily verifiable mistake that drove me crazy, and as a Phillies fan it made me even crazier. The book states that Dick Allen was the first black player ever on the Phillies when he debuted in 1963. That would be three years after the last team integrated in Major League Baseball. For the Phillies the first player of color was John Kennedy in 1957. Other than that there was nothing substantial in the error department.
If you are a fan of this era you should enjoy it. It does start out a little slow and does offer a bit too much game play by play in spots but the product as a whole reads well. You get a new appreciation for 1972, because this year is an integral part of a larger era and sometimes gets overlooked when examined as part of the greater time frame.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
There are injustices throughout the history of baseball that people have tried to remedy with varying degrees of success. Integration was a major injustice on several levels that has been addressed within baseball. While it has not been conquered on all levels, at least on the playing field it went as planned. We are all familiar with the story of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey integrating the National League and being racial pioneers within the game. But what about the first player on the American League side? Today’s book takes a look at what transpired for the second racial pioneer in the game Larry Doby, and why he never got the respect, attention or praise that Jackie Robinson received only a few weeks prior.
For me it is easy to understand why Larry Doby is not given as many pioneering accolades as Jackie Robinson, he was #2. Yes he was the first in The American League, but was second under the umbrella that was Major League Baseball at the time. No matter what the sport, being number two is never any good. People only care about the first at whatever it is, so that was a major reason as to why Doby never got as much press at the time. He also was in Cleveland instead of being in New York, a city with three teams which was just coming into its own golden era in the late 1940’s. That factor alone is a big reason why many players got the coverage from the media that they did. Doby could have been in Boise, Idaho and people could not have cared any less than they did when he was in Cleveland. Also his relationship with owner Bill Veeck could have hindered press coverage of his career because of the disdain the other owners and the old boys network had for old sport shirt Bill. These are just some of my ideas that I have had for a while and the book tries to prove some of these, but unfortunately does not make the grade.
Author Douglas Branson is a self proclaimed Larry Doby fan. Finding both Doby and baseball at an early age he always felt that Doby had been slighted by the baseball gods and the media. For various reasons I stated above he seems to want to try and prove these points through his research and other peoples writings. He like to quote a lot of others peoples books in trying to make his case on the above points. That method to me just felt lazy in the research of the book. He also quotes earlier pages in the same book you are currently reading, which at times was driving me nuts. It disrupted the flow of the book and was repetitive as well.
Factually, this book had several flaws as well. I am not sure if it an editing fault in which the person doing it did not have a strong baseball knowledge, or if the editors felt the author’s facts were correct due to his vast self proclaimed baseball knowledge. Either way there are several factual errors within the book. Names, places and events were all part of the problem. There were so many errors it was embarrassing. So many, that even the outside back cover where other authors tell you how great the book you are reading is, contained errors. Usually from this publisher we see fewer errors and this book really surprised me on that front.
As hard as I tried I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about this Larry Doby volume. I really wanted this to be a good biography, since so few exist. If you are one of those people that have to read any new book that contains anything about Larry Doby or the Cleveland Indians, then no matter what my final synopsis is you will still check it out. But in all honestly, save your money on this, it is so riddled with errors and factual mistakes that it brings into question the entire body of work.
I think there has always been a shortage of Larry Doby material on the market, but this is not the direction it needs to take. We need a quality Doby biography that is factually correct, and gives the man the respect he has deserved for decades.
If you still want to take a look at this one you can get it from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press