I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog. That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late. I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not. But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at. Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books. While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis. Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception. These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.
From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered. Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.
Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published. How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t. McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market. For baseball readers this should be an item of importance. I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.
I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care. They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.
You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game. It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.
Every once in a while in baseball we lose a team. Good or bad, there are lots of reasons why this usually happens. Most recently over a decade ago, the Montreal Expos disappeared from the baseball landscape and some folks are rightfully so, still up in arms about it. The longer a team is gone, the more time marches on and the more that team inevitably slips from memory. I have witnessed this first hand in my area with the Philadelphia Athletics Historical society. The people who saw them play first hand aged and passed on and the memories and interest faded despite folks best efforts.
The St Louis Browns have been gone for over 60 years now and probably most of the people who had seen them first hand have passed on at this point. So more than likely, other than the hard-core baseball fans, people don’t have as much of an interest in the team or its history. Today I have a book that does a very nice job of introducing a new wave of fans to a team of yesteryear and hopefully help keep their legacy alive.
The St. Louis Browns were in a tough spot. Fighting for fans loyalty in a baseball crazy town with the Cardinals was no easy task. In the end we all know how it worked out, the left St Louis and pitched their new tent in Baltimore with a brand new name. They were not always the door mats of baseball as some would have you believe. There were plenty of good times in the early years, but in the end the battle with the Cardinals for supremacy just became too much.
This book is a great look into those wonder years in St Louis. It takes an in-depth look at the teams roots, its early success and its fights for league supremacy. It is a great learning tool for those that are not familiar with their history or the people who wore the uniform through the years.
The Browns were more than just Bill Veeck and his ahead of the curve promotions. More than just an aging ballpark, more than tiny batters and all those things everyone is familiar with. For the new generation of baseball fans this is huge opportunity to learn about a team that has fallen from the landscape but never from the fabric of the game. If we as the generations of fans, post Browns baseball do not take the time to learn about them now, then we risk losing them to the passage of time. This has happened to other teams throughout history and I would for one be very sad to see this happen to the Browns and their storied past.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Reedy Press
Well, I will admit it, I am a lousy Blogger. Time management is not my strength when it comes to blogging, but nonetheless I have returned to try to catch up on some books. What better time than now, it being Hall of Fame induction weekend, to catch up on some HOF books so without further comment, lets dive right in.
Released earlier this year to conveniently coincide with his induction this year, this book takes a hard look at both Raines’ life and career in his own words. It comes across as an honest and open account of his own life. He admits many of his mistakes along the way and how he has tried to make amends to those he hurt. It also opened my eyes to some of the numbers Raines put up in some of his seasons. To me he always blended into the scenery of the N.L. East and always looked good but never seemed as good as he turned out to be. If you have an interest in the Montreal Expos, or like Tim Raines, you will really enjoy this book from Triumph Publishing. I for one am glad that he finally got his due, Congrats Tim!
Last summers inductee Mike Piazza got his own book this year as well. The book does cover his whole career but really shows the reader why he is in Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap. It shows the love between Mets fans and Piazza and why he meant so much to them even though he played for other teams. Greg Prince always brings his A-Game to his books and this is no exception, Mets fans, Piazza fans and even those in Philadelphia will enjoy the story of this local kid who made good. You can get this one from Sports Publishing.
Kaplan’s new book brings an interesting look at a single season of Hank’s storied career. It’s easily one of the strongest years of his career and it shows the trials and tribulations hank endured while chasing the Babe’s single season home run record. I think this is a rather hard subject to try to unearth so many years later but Kaplan does an admirable job at it and if you have an interest in this period of baseball or the social problems that came along with being Jewish you will enjoy this book. It also proves that Jackie Robinson was not the only one enduring slurs on the field during that era. This is another one you can get from Sports Publishing.
This is someone who should be already in the hall, but keeps getting overlooked. This book is very unique in that it contains tons of pictures. It shows great images of Allen throughout his entire life and the text that accompanies it with in the book is top-notch. Its different from any other Dick Allen book on the market so it is worth checking out if you like Dick Allen. You can grab this one from Schiffer Publishing.
I think Alan Trammell will someday be up on that stage getting his plaque in Cooperstown, but until that time all his fans have is this lone book. Trammell is an often overlooked subject but I have never been able to figure out why. This is the only book I have ever been able to find on him, but it is thorough and well written and gives his fans a chance to relive his one day Hall of Fame career. Sometime all you need is one book, as long as it is good, so for Trammell fans and Tigers fans of this era this is your book. You can pick this one up from McFarland Publishing
Finally, Clemens is an often covered subject and one day I have a gut feeling he will make the Hall regardless of past sins. That being said this book attempts to sum up all of the Roger Clemens events throughout his career and after. It is a one stop shop if you will for Clemens fans and sums everything up as neatly as it can, as opposed to other books that take one aspect of the proceedings and focus on it. If you are a Clemens fan or of the PED era, check this one from McFarland out.
That sums up this years Hall review and hopefully going forward I will be here more often, but until then…..Happy Reading!
This weekend will be a momentous occasion for my fairly new little family. We have decided to take my Daughter Aubrey to her first Phillies game this Sunday. Now for some families this might not be a big deal, I mean come on she will never have any recollection of this game except for any pictures that get taken, but for us this is a big deal. It is the start of hopefully a life long love of going to the ballpark, smelling the grass and taking in the sights and sounds. It is also a milestone in our return to the Philly area because this is one of the things we missed doing the most. So I decided it was a good time to check out today’s book, because no better time than now to make it a full Philadelphia Phillies weekend.
William Kashatus is no stranger to authoring books about the Phillies. His previous book showcases a great era in team history and has been featured on here previously. I thought this books’ timing was a little odd since it is the 24th anniversary of the team……..not the 25th and there was no real notable events surrounding team members other than Curt Shilling still can’t shut his mouth. But I can once again Kashatus has thrown this avid Phillies fan another walk back through time to revisit the glory days of a team whose successes at that time were few and far between.
This team was a bunch of freaks and cast offs from other teams to put it nicely. Assembled as an attempt to right a sinking ship in Philadelphia, they endeared themselves through rugged play and in the end easily became one of the most beloved teams in the history of the Phillies. This book takes a look at these personalities and shows what they were like both on and off the field. Pulling no punches, it brings up the question of who was using PED’s on that team, but this book does show once again that unfortunately we as fans may never get a definitive answer on the subject.
The book also highlights some of the more monumental events of that magical season and the effect it had on the city of brotherly love. As a first hand witness of this team and its effect on the city, the author does a great job of portraying the team, its players, its attitude and general overall demeanor. They were a bunch of guys that everyone in the city wanted to hang out at the bar with. For no other team would fans sit through a twi-night double header that stated at 5:30 p.m., endured multiple rain delays and ended at 4:41 a.m.. It is still my most favorite game that I have ever been to, one reason being once the bars closed at 2 a.m. everyone was coming to the ballpark. There were more people there at 4 a.m. then when the game started. All because everyone loved these guys.
If you were not able to witness the team first hand, this book gives fans a great feel of what they were all about. Almost 25 years later Macho Row holds a special place in fan’s hearts. They may be a little older now, but it hasn’t slowed any of them down, they still get in fist fights amongst themselves when the make appearances in the area and quite honestly the true Phillies fans don’t expect any less from most of them.
All baseball fans should check this out because it is a vivid contrast against the super teams of today’s baseball. The were a bottom feeding, scrapper team that made it to the top on strictly grit and determination. Make the effort to check this one out from the University of Nebraska Press, it is definitely worth the time.
It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
It’s really no secret that I like baseball books. Up until recently I spent all my waking moments reading them while not working. The key part of that last sentence is “up until recently”. Something has gotten in the way of my reading and writing time and significantly made me cut down on my posts. Now I am realistic in the fact that probably no one other than a few publishers have noticed that I have not written much in the past two months and I realize there is not a single person out there thinking “Gosh, I miss Gregg’s amazing baseball book posts”. But this being a project I enjoy doing, I figured I would offer some explanation of whats going on. If you have followed this site over the last year, you have read about the forthcoming life changes, surgery and a trip that in the end was aborted for numerous reasons. Several weeks back the biggest life change arrived and since that very moment nothing has been the same in any way, shape or form.
This little munchkin is the reason for all the mayhem. She arrived on August 18th (yes, I was reading Fastball John waiting for the delivery) and has disrupted our flow of life in so many wonderful ways. She has cut into my reading time and destroyed anything resembling a good nights sleep, but my Wife Brina and I are loving it in so many amazing ways.
I have been working on her baseball book collection a few months before she arrived and thanks to Facebook friend Debby Brown, she received her first official Phillies book today. So her book collection is starting to come along very nicely. She doesn’t know it yet but she is a Phillies fan. Good or bad, that’s how this house rolls. We have had lots of early morning feedings with the baseball game replaying on the TV in the dark and that manicured green grass gets her attention every time. So I think we will have no problem raising another fan.
So how does this all tie into baseball books? Well, I am glad you asked that very important question. I have several review copies waiting for me on my desk, and to all, I just ask that you be patient. I will not forget anyone, it may just take me longer than I had hoped to get some books done. I did not realize how life changing, in a great way mind you, this addition to our family was really going to be. Because quite honestly every time I try and read, this is the look I get……………
……….so it does slow me down a bit. But I promise everyone who sent me a book, your time will come. For those of you that have enjoyed this blog over the last two years I appreciate the support and look forward to many more books together. Its my love of baseball books that brought me to do this blog and I have been lucky enough to make some great new friends along the way as well.
I have about 30 books on tap to get us through the Winter together, and hopefully Aubrey allows me a little more time to get them read. Either that, or she learns how to read sooner rather than later so she can help me out on the reviews.
Wish me luck in figuring out parenthood. The only thing I know for sure is she can not date until at least age 35! Everything other than that is a work in progress ;).
Gregg………and Aubrey too!
Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press