I am a big fan of anniversaries and nostalgia in baseball. Its good to remember where we came from and what has been accomplished, so a remembrance is always a welcome sight in my eyes. This year we knew it was coming, the 30th anniversary of the 86 World Series. It seems to be a bigger deal this year than the 25th anniversary was, but I always thought the 25th was celebrated more than the 30th, so I’m confused. Be my confusion what it is, we have chosen to go all out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of the most thrilling World Series’ on record. With this anniversary there have been a slew of new books coming out celebrating the World Series champs, but today’s books take a look at both teams and gives balanced comparisons of them.
If you are not familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), you have no idea what you are missing. They are the folks who do tireless research and find us more information about our sport than we all ever thought possible. They research complete teams and individual players, and do a stellar job at both. New for this years 30th Anniversary, they have produced two different but connected books that remind fans that the series was about more than just Bill Buckner.
Both of the books follow the same format, so as I am describing them it pertains to both volumes. The authors look at each man on that respective teams roster for the 1986 season. Giving in depth bios, analysis of the season performance and interesting facts about the players. They follow the same format for the Manager, General Manager, Coaching Staff and Announcers. So if this is not your home town team you get a real good feel of their complete personnel package.
Next they look at key team performances throughout the year and take note of several key games that helped the team gain momentum and what made them work as a cohesive unit. Next you see analysis of the Championship Series and the World Series. Finally, it asks a few honest questions about the way the teams were constructed and the important numbers that stick out for each team.
Quite honestly, this is your typical SABR book and is in line with what we have all come to expect from them. It is well researched and you feel very comfortable in the fact that you can take all information at face value and accept as that. Mainly this is because of the tireless efforts and dedication of the SABR staff and the quality work that every one of them puts forth on SABR projects. Each one of these folks that worked on these books should be commended because they have created another quality product.
Baseball fans should check this out because there is always something new fans can learn from these types of SABR books, plus it’s always fun to remember Bill Buckner.
You can get these books from the nice folks at SABR.
There are teams out there that have through their history had iconic players. When you think of the Yankees, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle always pop to mind. For the Red Sox, Ted Williams is the man. What if you are a team that does not have a century long history in the game and has had limited success on the field. The Tampa Rays come to mind with having no one that has been a stand out player and really have had limited success. The Astros and the Mets both entered the league together and have taken different paths. The journey of the Mets has generated a bunch of post-season births, coupled with a few World Series championships and a roster of iconic players. The Astros on the other hand have had limited success and a handful of post season appearances. With their past performance it is surprising how many great players the Houston Astros have had during their time in the league. One name that immediately pops to mind is the iconic Jimmy Wynn. Essentially being there from the beginning when they were still the Colt 45’s, Wynn’s performance on the field and his down to earth nature easily made him a force to be reckoned with on the field and a fan favorite off of it. While today’s book is not a new release, I wanted to share it because it really is an enjoyable tale.
In today’s terms Jimmy Wynn was a stud. Being the player on the top of the Houston power heap, Wynn was able to give the Astros someone to build a team around during their formative years in the league. Unfortunately for both parties they were never able to reach the ultimate goal of a visit to the World Series during their time together.
This is not like reading a regular book, it is more like sitting on the porch with your friend and listening to his stories. Wynn walks the reader through his childhood in Cincinnati and his dreams of one day being a big league baseball player. You get a nice look at the Wynn family values and how those ideals helped produce a fine person in Jimmy Wynn. Next you see the minor league struggles that brought Wynn from the hometown Reds farm system to the fields of Houston.
A good portion of this book is rightly so about his time with the Astros. He his most widely known for his accomplishments on the field there and where he spent the biggest bulk of his career, so it is only natural it takes up so much space in the book. Jimmy tells the reader about events both on and off the field that have helped him both learn and grow as a person, as well as the mistakes he has made along the way that effected his life. Finally the book takes us through stops with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. It is a career well traveled and a lot of accomplishments that any player would be proud of.
The most surprising thing is that Jimmy Wynn admits his flaws and his mistakes he has made over the years. Most baseball players would not take the time to admit these things at all, let alone do it in their autobiography. It really shows the depth of character he has and what a genuine person he really is.
The book is a great read for all baseball fans. It shows the real side of a baseball star and how they are human just like the rest of us and have their own faults. It also shows how a player of this caliber can admit his faults and shows there is no shame in asking forgiveness from those you have wronged. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed..
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Throughout its history baseball has seen many changes. From the way its played, the playing facilities, player and management relations as well as fan appreciation have all been subject to these changes. For me now in my fifth decade of being a baseball fan it is hard to imagine what it was like nearly a century ago on the diamond. So it always a learning experience for me to find a book about a player from that era and see how many changes have occurred over time. Todays book takes a look at one of those players from yesteryear that really does not get all the accolades he truly deserves.
I will admit I was not very familiar with Smoky Joe Wood until recently. I had read his interviews in other books, most recently Roger Angell’s Late Innings, but I never took the time to check out what his career was all about. What changed is I found out Wood is buried in the next town over from me, Shohola, Pa. Now that may not be a big deal to most, but when you realize I live in the mountains of Pennsylvania and baseball is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind around here, for a lonely baseball fan it becomes a big deal.
Gerald Wood takes the reader on a historical journey through Wood’s career. Looking at really good numbers and career events that make a strong case for considering Wood for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It draws comparisons to some of the game’s greats of that era and in my humble opinion Smoky Joe really can hold his own amongst the big name stars.
When you read about other players of this era they can sometimes come off stiff and dry. This book is a good representation of Wood’s personality and he comes off as a pretty interesting man who led a fascinating life. A book like this is more than a history lesson for fans of this era of baseball, it also brings to the forefront one of the personalities of the game that should not be forgotten.
When this book came out it received numerous awards and acclaim. It was all well deserved and I found it very hard to put this book down. It really gave a great feel of the times and brought forth a personality that is not as common or even main stream any longer. Smoky Joe’s legacy lives on in this book and really should be looked at by the Veterans committee members who are discussing his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame this year.
Those baseball fans who haven’t done so already should check this one out. It is more than a learning experience, it is a journey through a very interesting life backed by a strong and engaging personality.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
In continuation of the Hall of Fame induction week posts, I thought we would take a look at another Hall of Fame member. Someone who had a distinguished career and excelled to the top of the game, making an indelible mark for future generations to admire. This person is also someone that I feel gets forgotten in the shuffle of baseball history and his achievements get lost with the passage of time. George Sisler is not a name that immediately pops into a fans mind when they think of the Hall of Fame. He was one of those baseball lifers that worked hard and gave his life to the game he loved. Fans do get the chance to learn about a baseball great in this book I just finished reading
This is not a new book by any stretch of the imagination, having now been around for more than a decade. The importance of this book is obvious to me though, in the fact is that it pays tribute to a Hall of Fame career and the quality of character that was George Sisler. Playing mostly for the Browns, then bouncing around at the end of his career, it is important that fans remember who George Sisler was and the level he achieved on the field, and eventually his enshrinement in Cooperstown in 1939.
Rick Huhn walks readers through the story of George Sisler. Covering his own the field triumphs along with personal moments off the field. You see the lives of his two young sons (Dick and Dave) who go on to become Major League Baseball players as well and a third son (George Jr.) who had an off field career in baseball as well. If you dig further into Sisler’s playing career you see he actually did produce some pretty astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time.
Books like this one are a great learning tools for fans through the generations so that important players don’t get forgotten. In a world where there are twelve Billy Martin biographies and even more about the New York Yankees, it is nice to see a book about a player like this one. It reminds fans of a simpler time from where the game evolved and the people who sacrificed and produced to help write the game’s history.
RIck Huhn did a very nice job with this book. At the time of its release, Sisler had passed more than 30 years prior and had not been on the field as a player in almost 75 years. So it had to be hard to find living friends and people around that witnessed George Sisler first hand. Huhn’s in-depth research shines through and creates an enjoyable product for fans to both learn from and entertain. True baseball fans that enjoy the game’s history and like to be educated while they read will really enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Missouri Press
I thought in the spirit of Independence day we could take a look at how baseball books can play into that. Now this is not a post about the patriotic side of baseball and how it coincides with America, but how it allows one to be independent, no matter what interests them within the sport. There are tons of options out there that allow the reader to follow any avenue they choose, some are related and others are not but they still have that common theme of baseball. So what is out there for us readers?
Biographies are a fun way for readers to learn all about their favorite players. Whether it is first hand by the player himself or a true biography, you get great stories and once in a while some new information is discovered in the author’s research. You most times come away with a more favorable impression of the player, but there are instances that you think what a jerk he was. So it sometimes is better to stay away from your favorite player if you are not prepared for a bad impression. McFarland publishes biographies of some of the most obscure players and often overlooked subjects. The authors they work with are often SABR members and often provide an excellent finished product like the Evers biography shown above. McFarland books are most times and enjoyable history lesson for the reader.
Are you more dedicated to an entire team as opposed to an individual player? Well then these types of books may be for you. Yankee Stadium Memories compiles the thoughts of 26 of the best writing professionals who spent time working in old Yankee Stadium. What this book gives you is an inside look into the building and what went on behind the scenes that the average fan would not see. To some degree I think all writers have some sort of underlying fan allegiance to their team. So this book gives those people the chance to express those sentiments without taking a hit to their professional credibility. Sports Publishing creates this book that allows the fan to get the feel of being there, even if you never were. It re-creates events that many of the readers never witnessed and will never happen again. These book are a great deal of fun for team devotees and casual fans as well.
Maybe, you are more of a quirky superstitious number person or something of the sort. Do you wonder why every player on your team that ever had the number 8, never became anything. Or do you lay awake at night trying to remember every player on your team that ever wore number 34? Well Sports Publishing again has this series that looks at the each teams roster in this series from 0-99. It shows the fun stories and highlights surrounding these individual numbers. It also shows how some numbers may be cursed and no matter what that number should be retired. It’s another fun look at team history that all fans should enjoy.
Are you more of a history buff, but don’t want the stiff side of baseball. This book gives you brief history lesson of the game while keeping it entertaining. It gives some great player bio’s along with keeping the facts fun and interesting. I never have come across a book in my life that is a history book but still fun. It asks questions about how certain things have happened in baseballs past along with what might have been if certain aspects changed. It really makes the reader think and Acta Sports did a nice job with this one that fans will enjoy.
Are you more of a minor league fan? This one would be for you. It shows what life was like in the minor leagues in the 1950’s in the Southwest. Major league baseball had not quite made it past St. Louis yet so minor league baseball had a stronghold on these small towns. The author paints a very vivid picture of a bygone era, that should never be forgotten. These small towns and teams are what modern baseball is built upon. It is always important to remember where you came from.
Are you more of a casual fan that only pays attention when your team makes it to the World Series. Clerisy Press has the book just for you then. The Comeback Kids gives fans a chance to re-live the magical 2010 season where they defied the odds and made the post season. None of the so-called experts gave the Reds a fighting chance for any success that year. But sticking to their guns they pulled off the impossible. Clerisy Press always does a nice job on the Cincinnati Reds. They are locally vested in the Cincinnati community and their pride in these books shine through. Reds fans should make sure they check out their catalog beyond just this book on the Reds, because they are truly something to behold.
Baseball is full of quirky little tricks and gimmicks. The Hidden Ball Trick takes a look at the history of this dying art form. It has been successful a few hundred times in the history of the game, but more often it’s not. It truly is an art-form to get this trick to work in today’s modern game, but it is a fun look at how it can be conducted. Rowman & Littlefield made a fun book with this one and fans should check it out
They always say records were made to be broken, but is that really true. Certain records probably won’t be broken after all because of the changing nature of the game. James Baehler and Sports Publishing take a look at those records and see whether or not the possibility is there for them to be broken. I agree with some and not others ones, but it is a good book to fuel some debates with your buddies.
Finally, you always hear about the little things that help make great teams. Chemistry and other unspoken dynamics that help pull 25 players together to make a winner. Intangiball looks at all these dynamics together and explores how they work together to help make teams better over the course of a season. It really makes you think about what has to come together to create a winning team on the field.
So as you can see there are lots of choices for readers under the baseball umbrella. Each one is really an independent avenue for which the reader can explore fun facts and theories. I always say knowledge is power and having all these different types of books that fall under the subject of baseball helps promote reading among the fans. Everyone should take some times to explore some of the above sites because you will find tons of other great baseball books available by the same publishers.
I always find it fascinating to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the field. I wonder if fans of other teams are as miserable as I am as a Phillies fan. I wonder if they have the same excitement when their team finally finds success, and its interesting to see how those fans react. These reasons explain why I enjoy team books so much. Especially those books that focus on a certain year in the team’s history, even if it wasn’t a succesful year. Todays book takes a look at one of those succesful team that had an incredible year.
The Milwaukee Braves were short-lived. Playing in Milwaukee from 1953-1965 after their transplant from Boston, it almost seemed those 12 years were just a rest stop on their way to Atlanta. But the Braves had one magical season in 1957 that stands out in the fans mind to this day. No matter who your team is, you would want a season like this to remember.
SABR member Gregory Wolf and his group of editors have written a great book that celebrates that magical season. They take you on a journey through the team roster. In great detail they look at all the strengths and weaknesses that each player had and what contributions they made to the team. This book covers every last person on the roster that season, not just the superstars. From opening day to the World Series end, you get everyone. It makes you go wow, I never realized that guy was on this team. It also reviews all the highs that the season contained for the fans and their journey to the World Series.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was how the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. It put some of the pieces in their proper place so you understood the entire story of the move out of Beantown. Books written by SABR members never fail to amaze me. They always give me some sort of information that I always was curious about but could never find the back story on it.
If you are a Milwaukee Braves fan this book will not disappoint. It gives amazing amounts of details about that historical season, that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Fans of great teams and special seasons will also enjoy this book, because it was something really special to be a part of. As always, SABR writers do not disappoint.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The Society for American Baseball Research
I have never once made it a secret that my favorite team is the Philadelphia Phillies. Through 130 years of existence, they have manged to win two World Championships and amassed over 10,000 losses. While it is not always easy to be a Phillies fan, my dedication has gone unchallenged for almost 40 years and still going strong. It is due to my team allegiance that when any books come out about my team, I have to check them out. In those 130 years of history there are bound to be some real heartbreaking years in there. For Phillies fans 1964 stands out as the all-time worst, and can generate profanity from old ladies and nuns without much effort. That brings us to todays book, an in-depth look at that bitter 1964 season.
The Year of the Blue Snow – The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
By Mel Marmer and Bill Nowlin – 2013 Society for American Baseball Research
Books written by the members of SABR have always been thorough and highly detailed. They are the results of long hours of painstaking research that have given fans great historical reports with unparalleled accuracy. The Year of the Blue Snow is no exception to SABR’s great book catalog. Marmer and Nowlin have created a great chronicle of the horrible season that all but destroyed Phillies fans.
The authors break the season down and more importantly dissect the roster. They look at the highlights and lowlights that occurred during the 1964 season. Those occurrences were then put into perspective of how they fit into the season as a whole. It gave a nice look at what actually happened to the team, how it effected them, and how it contributed to the final result, the season ending choke.
Another aspect of this book I found very enjoyable was that it took a look at the complete roster. It did not just a look at the original season opening day roster as other books have done. It is everybody who wore a uniform that year, opening day, in season trades, minor league call ups, coaching staff and waiver claims. The biographies of each player expand beyond 1964. You get a glimpse of each players road to the majors, complete major league career, of course 1964 and post Phillies career as well as their life after baseball. These are very complete biographies of the players and of the quality I have come to expect from SABR books.
If you have any interest in the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, this is a great book to take a look at. I have read and reviewed several of the books produced on this season, but this one is easily the most comprehensive. Its scope covers everything and gives an accurate and extensively detailed picture that is chock full of information for the fans.
You can get this book by contacting the nice folks at the Society for American Baseball Research