I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
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
If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
I will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books. The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late. One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.
Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others. Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it. One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom. Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus. Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.
Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game. Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether. Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on. Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.
Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life. For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others. His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about. I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace. His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.
Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game. If you are a fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well. In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities. This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
It always starts somewhere. No matter who your team is, their history begins at a specific point in time. Now for the first few years they may not be very good, but eventually there is a point when they get better. You can see a point where the team improves and success is imminent. Now for some teams success is fleeting, while for others the highs ride along for several years. For the New York Yankees they have had decades of success. With a few speed bumps along the way and a bad era or two, they really have been the most successful franchise in baseball history. This streak of great teams had to start somewhere and there had to be a certain person responsible for building that winner, now there is a book that shows when the Yankees started to take over the game of baseball.
I have never hidden the fact that I am not a New York Yankees fan. But even I have to admit as a baseball fan that they have such a rich history, it is hard not to admire it. Once playing second fiddle in New York City to the Giants, the Yankees found the right combination of ownership, management and players that helped propel them into the stratosphere of sports.
Steinberg and Spatz walk the reader through the partnership between Miller Huggins and Jacob Ruppert. More than just an owner and employee relationship, they worked together to build the foundation of a team destined for glory. They found unprecedented success and took over as the number one team in New York. The most important thing to take away from this book is that it was not Babe Ruth that turned around the Yankees, it was these two Hall of Famers.
This book is a great walk through an entirely different era of baseball. Completely 180 degrees different from what we are used to as fans of the sport today. Society may have changed as well as the financial structure of the game, but the end result has never changed. To win championships and maintain success have always been the underlying theme to the game. The Yankees certainly have done that through the years and this book shows the reader exactly when those events occurred that started this ball rolling down the hill.
The authors did very thorough research on this book and it shines through. They kept the story moving at a good pace which made it very hard to put down at times. With so many books out there about the Yankees, this one portrays a different era in baseball and also shows that the New York Yankees existed before George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson came to town.
This book should appeal to more than just Yankees fans. It shows a different time in both the world and baseball and is a very good history lesson to readers. It shows the steps that needed to be taken to build a winner and sustain that success. I really think if you put the time into this one, you will not be disappointed.
You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
When one thinks of under rated players lots of guys come to mind. When that happens, which it seems to a lot, perhaps they get overlooked for earned accolades such as the Hall of Fame. Luckily for some of those players they get the credit they deserved, while others just get forgotten. Orlando Cepeda was always a player I thought was overlooked. For what ever the reasons may be he always seemed to be forgotten in the conversations about the greats of the game. It seems since his induction to the Hall of Fame that he has finally gotten the accolades he deserves. Today’s book takes a look at that overlooked Hall of Fame career.
By far this is not a new release, but Cepeda seems to be a neglected subject in the book market. There are only a handful of Orlando Cepeda books out there but this one stands tall among the others. As always, Bruce Markusen does not disappoint.
Markusen’s book takes a very in-depth look at both Cepeda’s childhood and career development along with his MLB career. From his upbringing in Puerto Rico and growing up in the shadow of his father who was a former semi-pro player to becoming a star in his own right in his homeland, you see the environment that helped shape the man. You also get to see the immense pride that Cepeda has within himself and his country.
You next see the struggles Orlando overcomes in reaching the major leagues. At the time he came up, there were still residual effects of segregation effecting the Latino players, so you see how Cepeda was able to overcome these obstacles as well. From the start with the Giants in 1958, through the end with the Royals in 1974, Markusen takes us on Orlando’s journey through playing time, injuries, trades, the post season and winter ball. It shows a very complete picture of Orlando’s career. It also shows the reader some of the labels he was saddled with throughout the league that were not always positive. Injuries proved troublesome for him that got him the label of lazy and others along that line. These types of things helped keep Orlando Cepeda under rated as well.
Finally the author looks at Cepeda’s life after baseball. It briefly talks about his time in prison and how it effected his life. The one positive that has come out of his prison time is that it seems to have changed Orlando for the positive and he has in the end turned his life around for the better. It was also this jail time that probably led to him not getting in the Hall of Fame for as long as he did.
Markusen’s book tells a very good story about Cepeda and his life. The only problem I have with it is that it is only 126 pages. I would have liked to see it talk a little more about life after baseball with some more pages. Even though it is short, it is still a very good book that paints a good picture for the readers.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Arte Publico Press
It’s funny how a baseball book can scratch the surface but never quite get all the way through. With biographies that seems to be especially true. For reasons unknown, perhaps shame, emotional reasons, or whatever some guys just never will give up the whole story. As writers and interviewees they have every right to do so, but in the end, it always leaves questions in the reader’s mind. Baseball players play an intricate part in the fans life. You spend 8 plus months following a player each year. Stats, stories, news and dramatic plays all find their way into our daily lives. So its only natural to want to know as much about your favorite players as possible. Unfortunately even after they publish a book you may not get all your answers. For me today’s book left me with some unanswered questions.
I have always felt the George Scott was underrated. Possibly because of some of the teams he played on and being overshadowed by his own teammates. Maybe it was the fact he had the same type of relationship with the media that Dick Allen had, and that effected his popularity. Regardless of the reason I never felt Boomer got his due. Due to that fact, you never really felt you knew or understood George Scott as well as some of the other players on the team. Ron Anderson has finally given the world a book that helps people understand and appreciate George Scott. The author did some serious homework with this book. Compiling interviews with Scott himself and countless friends, family and even some enemies, he has been able to portray a side of the man we never saw on the field.
From Scott’s beyond poor upbringing in segregated and violent Mississippi, his struggles to reach the major leagues and make it with the Boston Red Sox, you see a portrait of what made the man. Events that helped guide his life and molded his personality. You see daily struggles that he had to over come just because of the color of his skin and how those struggles effected him all of his days. You also see confrontations that were a result of all of these issues.
When you think of great sluggers, George Scott does not jump into a lot of people’s minds. He did have a very solid 14 year career and put up some pretty healthy numbers. This book does give some insight into the man, his career and events that unfolded before and during baseball that both helped and hurt him. The only part I would have liked to see is more about his life after baseball, off-seasons and more on a personal level. It did not lack in giving George the credit he deserved in any way. He finally got his due, it just felt like some part of the complete story of Boomer’s life may have been omitted. Perhaps by accident or by design, but in the end I still felt a little void.
Baseball fans of all teams will enjoy this one. You get a chance to relive a career that most times gets forgotten.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland Publishing
With all things in life, with success comes notoriety. In baseball the teams are already world-famous but when they are successful, they become overwhelmingly famous. In our culture when a team finally wins a World Series after a serious drought, the market becomes saturated with pieces of the team. The Boston Red Sox have been no stranger to that cultural phenomena over the past decade. Winning three World Series in the last ten years has certainly given new legs to books about the Red Sox. Everyone and their mother has created books about the team that finally broke the curse and given it their own special flair. Today’s book looks at one of the more recent offerings of Red Sox insight.
It is hard as a fan not to get discouraged when something that generally appeals to us like books, becomes overly saturated with the same topic. Most recently, in 2014, it was the retirement of Derek Jeter. How many books and mementos are now out on the market waiting for collectors and fans to snatch them up. The same thing has happened with the Boston Red Sox. With ending their World Series drought and finally breaking the Curse of the Bambino, tons of books were published. It created a whole new market that generated piles of books that are essentially on the same subject. Mainly ones about Red Sox history, the World Series and of course Fenway Park.
Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime have created a book that stands above the crowd in Red Sox history books. They take each World Series appearance and break it down into its own chapter. Each appearance gives the reader a game by game recap of that years World Series and all the events that transpired on the field. Another neat thing each chapter gives you is it separates a few of the players from each of the World Series team and gives a brief biography on the player and recaps how that year played out for that individual out on the field. It gives you a very thorough look at each of the World Series appearances and shows you how the game has changed through the years.
By far I am not saying the recent rash of Red Sox books are crap. It just seems excessive that the publishing world has set out to capitalize so heavily on the success of the Sox. There are several great books about the Red Sox and Fenway Park out there. Fortunately I have been lucky enough to come across a few of those in the past, and shared them here on the Bookcase and I am happy to say that this book has earned membership into the group as well.
Red Sox fans obviously will really enjoy it as well as history fans. It is full of great information about the Red Sox from the last 100+ years, and shows a very complete picture of the teams post-season history.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing
When any team has success after a substantial period of time, it is inevitable that everyone and their mother will write a book about it. Everybody feels that they have their own slant on the project, and will bring something new to the reader. In all reality what the reader gets is the same product wrapped up in a different package. Today’s book offers a unique look at a subject that has been saturated with books over the last ten years.
Miracle at Fenway-The Inside Story of the Boston Red Sox 2004 Championship Season
By: Saul Wisnia-2014 St Martins Press
I will admit, when I first looked at this book I thought oh great another BoSox won the World Series book. I wondered what could possibly be left that has not already been analyzed to death about that season. Well guess what…….I was wrong! Someone has finally done the research and put the effort forth to give the reader a complete picture of that magical year for Sox fans.
Saul Wisnia has taken the time to show the reader how the Red Sox assembled a World Series Champion. He shows what it was like to be a Red Sox Fan prior to the new era of ownership and sustained winning in Boston. You get the full feel of complacency that had overtaken the Yawkey Trust and made it time for a new ownership group to take over. That move alone changed decades of thinking in Boston and made for a new way of life for the Fenway faithful.
The book takes you through the ownership change, front office changes, on field changes and the at the time, unpopular moves that created the champion caliber team. So many people and events are covered here that is hard to believe a majority of the book covers only two seasons. If you are not a Boston Red Sox fan you will actually learn about moves that were inconsequential at the time, but made all the difference to building the team that won it all. If you are a BoSox fan, then you already know some of these same moves and appreciate them for the full effect they had on the field.
Saul Wisnia knocks this book out of the park. He really has put together a great story in reliving that magical year in Boston. It is both well written and fast-moving and becomes hard to put down. The amazing part to me, is that it was published ten years after the championship year. It actually does give a new perspective to that season that no one else was able to capture. To me this may be the best book on this subject on the market. All baseball fans need to take a look at this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at St Martins Press
Sportscasters and reporters become part of the game. No matter what city you are in you can always find one that appeals to any fans style. In each city around the country there are dozens of these guys enhancing the fans experience. Bob Ryan has spent his career in Boston assessing various sports and relaying his interpretation of the games to his fans.
Scribe – My Life in Sports
By: Bob Ryan – 2014 Bloomsbury
Bob Ryan like most writers is opinionated. He works on a daily basis to his thoughts, feelings and interpretations to the masses in hopes of finding agreement. It has to be a tough job being in this line of work. Between deadlines, traveling and the stirring of the masses, it eventually has to become a grind.
Ryan’s new book has it all covered. From his upbringing in Trenton NJ, to his time with the Boston Globe. He covers it all, from his childhood seeing the greats of various sports playing the field and covering one on one, some of the greats of the game professionally. The book almost reads like one of Ryan’s columns. Its opinionated and fast-moving throughout.
While its appeal may only be regionally, it still is an interesting read. It keeps you interested throughout and if you are not familiar with his work, you will be by the time you finish this book. That is important for the readers outside of Bob Ryan’s coverage area. You will get an honest feel as to what his work is really like and gain an appreciation for it. The book is very heavy in Boston coverage as you would expect since has spent a majority of his life there. The opinions are strong and the writing is good, so fans should enjoy it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Bloomsbury Publishing