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
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