Tagged: Philadelphia

Odds and Ends-Spring 2016


I figured with my extended time off to recuperate I would have plenty of time to write on my blog.  Boy was  I wrong, between needing to get up and walk around every ten minutes because I am stiffening up and the fact the the medicines keep knocking me out, I am having trouble finding the time to write, let alone read.  But, what it has done is given me the chance to look at some books that I would not always feel were the correct fit for an entire single post.  The book could be too short, it could be a coffee table book or it could be a book that doesn’t really target my audience.  These are in no way bad books, because honestly if they sucked, I wouldn’t waste the time putting them on here for everyone to look at them, but there is a format issue that doesn’t work well within my bookcase. So from time to time we do one of these multi book posts to clean up one of the shelves in the bookcase……and share some of these books to the world.  So here we go…..

Baseball’s No -Hit Wonders-More than a Century of Pitching’s Greatest Feats

By Dirk Lammars-2016

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Is it me, or do no hitters seem to happen more often today then they did say thirty of forty years ago?  Has the level of play in the league diminished that much that these have become commonplace?  Lammers takes the readers through the interesting history of the no hitter and how it has played out through the history of the game. He shows the pitchers and hitters involved, no hitters that were broken up after 26 outs and all the other odd and wacky things that happened in the past to those pitchers, both lucky and good enough to even flirt with a no-no.  If your interested in the who, what, when, where and why of no-hitters you will really enjoy what this book will bring to your table.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Unbridled Books

 

The 50 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Pirates History

By David Finoli-2016

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These types of books are always fun.  For the one and only reason that no two people will ever agree 100 percent as to who belongs at what spot on the list. I really don’t know what the criteria is by the authors to make it on to these types of lists, but they never seem to disappoint the reader.  They always include the Hall of Famers, team superstars as well as the hometown heroes. You would also have to think they target their specified teams fan base so they are always eager to please the homers.  I had done this type of book by another author on the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and I went back to pull it out to compare.  What I found is that more then half of the players they can agree on being in the book,, but differ on where they rank.  So bottom line is if you read one of these books about your team and find another one, check it out because it may give you a different spin on the players that may be more in line with your personal rankings as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield

 

The BUCS!-The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates

By John McCollister-2016

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Lets stay in Pittsburgh  for a second on this book.  The BUCS! takes a very brief look at the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  From its 19th century beginnings to its current day under field manager Clint Hurdle, this book takes an abbreviated, but fast paced look at the history in Pittsburgh.  If the Pirates are not your team and never have been in the past, this book is a great way to get a good albeit brief history from Kiner and Roberto to Bonds and McCutchen.  Its only roughly 200 pages, so even if you are familiar with Bucs history it would be a quick and easy refresher course.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press.

The Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies

By Bob Gordon-2016

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What would one of these posts be without a Phillies book?  This book, first released by Bob Gordon in 2005, compiles some of the greatest names in Phillies history and gives strong bios on each of those lucky enough to be a Phillie. It gives a great look at team history from an author that has some great ties to the team itself, through several other books he has written.  So why do you need to buy the reprint of a book released ten years ago?  It has been updated for deaths of the older players and it also has added a few Phillies superstars that became prominent in the last half of the last decade when the Phillies were on top of the world.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

The Grind-Inside Baseball’s Endless Season

By Barry Svrluga-2015

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Without question, Baseball has the most grueling schedule of all the professional leagues.  Almost stretching to nine months of the year when you factor in pre and post season, it would take some sort of toll on even the strongest of personalities.  Svrluga has taken a look at this relentless schedule and the effect it has on the personal lives of those involved and how it effects almost everyone involved with a team.  It looks at varying position players , the 26th man on most rosters, travelling secretaries, spouses, kids and clubhouse attendants.  It really is an interesting look behind the scenes of the game and what those involved are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the great game of baseball. You van get this book from the nice folks at Blue Rider Press

 

Diamond Madness-Classic Episodes of Rowdyism, Racism and Violence in Major League Baseball

By William A. Cook-2013

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William Cook’s Diamond Madness gives the reader a good look at the scary side of baseball.  When you get beyond all of the normal hero worship that comes as part of the normal territory with the game and when those things get really scary.  Fan obsessions, death threats, violence, racism, shootings and robberies are all just a part of what is shown to the readers of this book.  It is amazing how even though these are normal stories in the everyday world, they are so many times magnified just by playing baseball.  It also goes to show how much work the people behind the scenes in baseball put in to making sure nothing tarnishes the wholesomeness of the American Past-time.  I think if you check this out it will show some new perspectives to the average fan of what really goes on.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press.

 

Tales From the Atlanta Braves Dugout

By Cory McCartney-2016

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I will admit it………..I love this series!   You can get whatever team you wish at this point because it seems like almost every team is available now.  You can also use it as a history lesson to brush up on all the funny stories of a team that you are not very familiar with and get a good feel for what that teams history is all about.  If you grab the book of your favorite team it is a chance to regale in all the stories you have heard time and time again and like a favorite uncle at a holiday dinner, are glad to listen to over and over.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

 

I See the Crowd Roar-The Story of William “Dummy” Hoy

By Joseph Rotheli & Agnes Gaertner-2014

This book is intended for a younger audience but it does provide a very deep lesson for all fans.  William Hoy was hearing impaired and never heard a single fan cheer for him.  The book shows how Hoy overcame his disability and made the best if it as well as keeping up a positive attitude during the course of events.  The book also shows the positive impact had on the function of the game and how things like hand signals that were originally implemented for Hoy alone, have become mainstays of the game generations later.  It truly is an inspiring story that younger fans should be made aware of so they have a complete baseball education.  There is also a movie version of the book in the pipeline as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the lil-red-foundation.

 

Black Baseball, Black Business-Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar

By Roberta Newman & Joel Nathan Rosen-2014

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In baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems.  This book takes a look at how the integration of baseball, while a great thing on the civil rights front, created waves that destroyed black economies in the larger cities that were homes to Negro League Teams.  It is a really interesting look at the economies of the integration of baseball on those parties that were not in any way involved in the decision making process or the game of baseball itself.  It also shows how the innocents involved were essentially destroyed by the baseball powers that were at the time pushing it as a cause for greater good.

Happy Reading

Gregg

When Baseball Went White


Baseball as it exists today is the way many of have always known it our entire lives.  One of those things many of us have not experienced is racial segregation on the field,  just the best players the world has to offer playing the game we all love.   Events of the last 70 years or so have provided the opportunity for all races to play Major League Baseball and effectively end the color line within the game.  But the question has arisen as to where the segregation agreement came from.  Obviously it would be a problem in the South to have mixed races on the field, but in Northern cities it may have been a non-issue.  So when and why did this so called gentleman’s agreement come to be and for what reasoning?  Today’s book takes a look at the source of the agreement and its underlying purpose.

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By: Ryan Swanson-2014

Ryan Swanson takes a look at Reconstruction Era baseball right after the Civil War.  He looks at how the constructors of the game had the desire to make it appeal to the masses as a national game.  The thought was that it would help heal some of the wounds from the Civil War and attempt to make a nation whole again.  The author pays special attention to the cities of Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington D.C., because of the large amounts of African-American residents in each city.  The theory of the book would apply to the entire league but the residential make-up of the other cities were much different at the time.

The book offers some really intense research by its author to get 19th century baseball game information.  In the end it gives the reader the notion that the reasoning behind segregating the game was  to foster national appeal.  By segregating it they would have no backlash from the southern states and would be able to accelerate the acceptance by the masses of baseball being the national game.

Quite honestly I do not have enough knowledge of this era of baseball to give a positive or negative opinion on the authors findings.  So for that matter I am accepting them at face value.  Without this agreement in place it may have in turn stunted the growth of the game itself in the eyes of Americans.  But on the flip side of that coin is the fact that so many great players were denied the right to play Major League Baseball and toiled in the Negro Leagues for so long.  One could only imagine what the record books would look like today if there was an even playing field among the races from day one.

For myself, the book read a little dry, more like an encyclopedia instead of a story. It also would have been nice to see the effects this action would have had on a more in-depth basis, as opposed to just Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington D.C..

If you don’t have an deep interest in this era of baseball history, you may want to pass on this one.  It honestly is a little dry and you may have trouble finishing it.  If you have an interest in Reconstruction Era baseball, this will help fill in some of the missing pieces from a very influential era of the game.

You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

When Baseball Went White

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

A Father’s Day Reflection


For every baseball fan in the world, the journey starts somewhere.  Is it something you found on your own, was it something that just called your name or was it something someone else taught you the things you needed to know to become a good fan?  They say baseball brings families together and more often than not helps build a bond between fathers and sons.  So where did your journey begin?

For me, everything I know about baseball stems from my Dad.  I am a Phillies fan by birth, thanks to my Dad, I root for my hometown team, thanks to my Dad and I am not a fair weather, bandwagon fan, once again thanks to my Dad.  I was raised with the notion that good or bad they are your team, and you stick by them no matter what.

My Dad was raised in an era of Philadelphia baseball that consisted of two teams, the Phillies and the Athletics.  During his formative baseball years, neither team was very good but he stuck by his teams.  When Philadelphia became the victim of baseball re-location, my Dad’s allegiance was given solely to the Phillies.  From that point on in the mid 50’s the Phillies for the most part stunk.  Except for a glimmer of hope here and there, as a fan you didn’t have much to get excited about.  But as I was taught growing up, you stick by your team.

As I grew up, I was lucky enough to be one of the kids whose Dad took him to ball games.  He traveled a lot for his job, but there was always time when he was home to fit in a baseball game at Veterans Stadium.  It was there in Section 322 at the Vet that my education began.  I was taught the intricacies of the game, who was a good player, who stunk and the reason why a pitchers duel was more fun to watch then a slug fest.  It was an education that I didn’t realize I was getting at the time, but has proved useful thousands of times over in the days since.  I am not even sure he realized he was being a teacher at the time, it was more just a conversation between Father and Son.

Hot summer nights at the Vet have been replaced with Citizens Bank Park, adult duties like jobs, a wife, bills, distance and illness have gotten in the way, but we will always have the memories of the Vet and our first base line seats.   No matter what happens in life I realize you can never go back to your happiest place, but I can still push the buttons on those memories and re-play them whenever I want in my head.  I kept all my ticket stubs from those games when we went together and whenever I stumble across that envelope of stubs in my drawer, it brings a smile to my face.

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Me and my Dad at Citizens Bank Park vs. Arizona in 2013

So, since it is Father’s Day I want to say Thanks Dad.  You have made me the rabid Phillies fan that I am today.  It is because of you, I live and die with this team.  You taught me the integrity required to be a fan of a horrible team, and how not to give up even though they are 26 games below .500.  You also taught me the value of a good baseball book and the broader point that you can always learn something from reading.   It is these values that I hope to pass long to my kid someday, and hopefully I will teach them what they need to know about baseball and life, half as well as you taught me.

Veterans Stadium is long gone, but the legacy of me and my Dad at a baseball game on a hot summer night will live on with me forever.  Happy Fathers Day Dad, I love you and we should probably take in a Phillies game real soon.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Almost A Dynasty – The Rise and Fall of the 1980 Phillies


As a fan of a particular franchise I have to face it, for most of their history, their records have been underwhelming.  Also as a fan of my chosen team, I have come to expect mediocrity, and anything better than that I view as a gift.  If you haven’t figured it out, I am of course talking about my beloved Philadelphia Phillies.  They have had some incredible talent grace the field throughout their long and inglorious history.  Hall of Famers and Superstars line their history books, but they were never able to put together any long run of success.  Until 1980, when the finally won their first World Series after 97 years, they had nothing to show for their efforts.  Today’s book takes a look at that World Series team and its success, and what could have truly been.

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By: William C. Kashatus – 2008 University of Pennsylvania Press

The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies is a probably the most beloved team in all of Philadelphia sports history.  Despite their best efforts off the field to self destruct, the 1980 team was a success on the field and finally won a World Series.  After a run of Division Championships, and a string of losses in the NLCS, the Phillies finally figured it all out in 1980.

William Kashatus takes on a Phillies journey that shows the reader how it all came together.  He walks the reader through the years leading up to the Phillies move into the new and modern for the time Veterans Stadium.  You get all the details of what the team had waiting in the wings in the farm system, and see the progression that each of the players made in working their ways to Philadelphia.  It gives you a very strong background of what the Phillies had up and coming, and who they had planed to rely on as the building blocks of their Dynasty.

Starting in 1976, through 1978 the Phillies won the Eastern Division in the National League.  The only problem was they could never get past the NLCS each year to make it to the World Series.  With some new faces in the dugout, and a less than personable manager, you get to see how the Phils finally brought it together and got over that hump.  I really like that fact that this book did not sugar coat the teams rise to success.  The author gives you all the information, warts and all, that helped form the team and its management structure.

Another interesting fact about this book is the way it looks at the teams decline and ultimate demise after 1983.  After they won the World Series the team was sold to its new ownership group, who which yet again are going through a rebuilding phase.  It shows the initial ineptness of the new ownership group and the mistakes made along the way to build what the thought was a quality team.  Both player transactions and off field personnel moves are addressed and give an honest perspective of what a majority of the world would consider bone head moves.  If you consider the 1983 Phillies nicknamed the Wheez Kids, for all their over the hill players a fluke, you can see it was all down hill after 1980.

The ironic part of this book to me is its publishing date.  It was published in 2008 just as the new age Phillies embarked on their first World Series Championship year since 1980.  This era has been coined as the most successful in Phillies history.  With winning five Division Championships, two Pennants and a World Series Championship, people think this was the greatest time ever to be a Phillies fan.  The parallel between the two eras is remarkable and something I never noticed before.  The first era team had the same number of Divisions, Pennants and World Series wins during its run, as the newer era team.  It’s interesting how that happened, but not so surprising that the management group headed by Bill Giles, screwed up both eras.  Maybe Phillies fans are never meant to be part of a Dynasty after all.

Fans should really enjoy this book.  It has great detail and does not sugar coat the truth.  For Phillies fans it may be more salt in the wounds, but still an enjoyable read to take a look back at some success.

You can get this book at the nice folks at The University of Pennsylvania Press

http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Wild Pitches – Rumblings, Grumblings and Reflections in the Game I Love


Different point of views are very important in baseball.  If you have one hundred people see the same thing, you will get one hundred different takes on what just happened.  This is one of the things that makes the game so great.  Everyone gets to enjoy it on a personal level and make their own connection with the events as they unfold.  Certain writers help the fans understand what they see out on the field, and help them digest the events so that they get full comprehension of what just happened on the field.  Jayson Stark’s new book is one of those that helps fans understand what has just happened.

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Wild Pitches-By:Jayson Stark 2014 Triumph Books

Being from Philadelphia I am very familiar with Jayson Stark’s work.  From his days as a Phillies beat reporter to his current ESPN gig, I have enjoyed his work.  He always seems to have a good grasp on what the average fan is seeing and has a way to confirm to that person that they are right.  He talks to fans in his writings on a level they understand and never tries to prove how smart he is about baseball.  It almost feels that you are just sitting around talking to a friend when you read one of his columns.

Wild Pitches is no different in that talking to a friend feel.  It seems to be mostly a compilation of some of his previous articles of baseball events after the year 2000.  It covers all the big events in the league and some of the not so big ones, but does present a nice mix of teams to the reader.  Stark’s writings give you background on the events and then his take on the events and why he feels they are important.  They are always well thought out and presented to the reader in a way that is easy to understand and enjoy.  The only down side to this book was that the stories were not in chronological order.  The end result was the book jumped around a little bit, but most readers will get over that fact.

To me, and I say this without any bias, I always enjoy Stark’s writing.  I don’t have to stop and look up words after the fact, when I read his books.  Honestly I don’t like it when any writer prints something and gets cute with his word choice, because in the end the reader (me) feels like an idiot.  Sometimes in baseball a little bit of being down-to-earth goes a long way.  Baseball fans will really enjoy this book, because it covers all the teams not just the Phillies.  But on a side note, his Phillies piece in this book is exceptional, especially the chapter about Harry Kalas.  You can take the boy out of Philadelphia, but I don’t think they will ever be able to take the Philadelphia out of the boy.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books.

http://www.triumphbooks.com

Happy Reading

Gregg