Well, it’s that time of year again. Opportunity abounds for all, the realization of a life long dream may be in the offing and as it is always said, hope springs eternal. The new baseball season offers hope to every baseball fan that this is finally going to be their year and their hopes of a championship will be realized. For those involved in the game, players are hoping to get their big break while others are hoping to hang one for just one more year. If you take a good hard look at a baseball team, all of these hopes and dreams of just about everyone lay in the hands of just one person, the General Manager. A position of amazing power, it is also one of great sacrifice and fortitude to attain it and one that comes with some unfair criticism at times. Today’s book takes a look at arguably one of the modern eras greatest GM’s and what it took to reach the pinnacle.
Ned Colletti can easily be described as a baseball lifer. Landing stints for the Cubs, Giants and finally the Dodgers, he got to contribute to three of the most storied franchises in the history of the game. Now his new book shows what it took to reach his goals as both a person and a professional General Manager.
Ned walks us through his childhood and its a compelling story about an average American kid. Next he shows us how barely making ends meet he gets his job with the Chicago Cubs and his professional journey truly begins. It shows the reader how with great sacrifice and perseverance great things can be accomplished. Next we stop with Colletti in San Francisco and see how the building blocks of a transformation were laid. Finally we travel to the Dodgers and see what its like dealing with a meddling mess of an owner while trying to build a contender. His professional story is a fascinating one and his accolades well-earned, but its his personal story that also resonates throughout this book.
You get to see the personal side of a highly respected General Manager and quite honestly we don’t always see that in these books. His anecdotes may be about baseball, but you get a good feel of his personality when he is telling these stories. I enjoy books like this that I walk away getting the sense that the subject seems like a pretty decent guy in real life. The Baseball books afford us to get closer details and some inside information about events that take place, but not always closer to the people involved.
If you have an interest in getting to know a real guy and the inner workings of the front office then this is a book you should check out. It will be time well spent to get a new perspective on the inner workings of the game and a glimpse at someone who comes off as a pretty decent guy as well.
You can get this book from the nice folks at G.P. Putnum & Sons
Life can be cruel and that’s a fact. It can offer us so much opportunity and promise and in one blink of an eye it can all be gone. We see it time and time again in baseball, but a lot of the time it is due to injury. When it is due to the loss of life, baseball as a game becomes unimportant and we learn how much we actually care about the people who play the game on a whole different level. Lyman Bostock is one case where we were left to ask what if. A career cut short due to his untimely murder, which was full of promise and unlimited potential. For me, Bostock’s story was always one that left me wondering about the details surrounding his untimely demise, but now we have a book to help us all fill in the blanks.
When you stop and take a look at Lyman Bostock’s career numbers, one has to admit this guy was the real deal. He was always in contention for batting titles, was always improving his game and based on the small career sampling size, if he had kept up that pace would easily have been a Hall of Famer. But we all know how his career was cut short and left us with that void in Lyman’s story. Today’s book looks at his life and career and shows the reader the story of the man and promise wasted.
Powell’s book takes a look at Bostock’s meager upbringing in California and how he worked his way up through the ranks of High School and College baseball, through the minor leagues and eventually to the Major Leagues. It shows a story of perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also shares the story of how Lyman Bostock’s father who in his own right was a Negro League star, was not much of an influence in his childhood or his rise to stardom.
The book looks at his first stop in the majors with Minnesota with the Twins and the bond he created with teammates and the lessons he learned from teammate Rod Carew on how to become a better hitter. It also shows the negative side of the relationship with Twins management that came to head with Lyman leaving town. It is a period of great growth for Bostock as a player and it showed how he was always looking for a way to improve his game by listening to teammates and heading their advice. You learn about Bostocks love of his family during this period and how whenever he had the chance he would seize the opportunity to spend time with them. It was this love of family that played into his untimely demise.
After signing with the Angels and not living up to the expectations, you learn what kind of fabric Lyman was really made of. After essentially flopping his first month with the team he gave his salary to charity. It was acts like this and his anonymous other charitable gestures that show what a cool guy he really was.
A very important aspect of this book, shows the reader all of the details leading up to Lymans final moments. The readers get all the details of the who, what, when, why and where of that fateful night. It filled in a lot of the blanks in the story for me and put to rest any doubts of what a stand up guy Lyman Bostock really was from beginning until the end.
Powell did a great job of sharingBostock’s story which I feel has been a very overlooked or forgotten subject. His time in both life and baseball were very short, but his impact was much greater beyond his years. Check this book out, I don’t think anyone who puts the effort into reading this will regret it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
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.
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 one thinks about the Yankees the two most significant names that pop into peoples minds are usually Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. They were easily the biggest icons of their respective generations. Passing the Yankee torch from one hero to another required an overlap year and according to legend, a little bit of hostility and animosity among them. Today’s book attempts to set the record straight to the masses regarding the two massive ego’s in New York.
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle could not have come from different upbringings. One from the big California city and the other from the sticks of Oklahoma. They were two immensely different personalities, with daunting expectations under the microscope of New York city. Regardless of their pasts they were destined to have the pennant hopes of the Yankees pinned to them for decades. Good or bad these were the two men that became the faces of the New York Yankees.
After all that has been written about Mantle and DiMaggio, one would think we have explored all the deep dark secrets that both men had. I would think we would have a great perspective on their personalities and the events that transpired in both of their lives. So what makes this one different from all the other books out there? This book tries to in theory, explain the relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in the transition year of 1951 while they were teammates. There are lots of rumors out there about hatred and animosity between the two but not all of those rumors had legs to stand on, so this book had a clear purpose.
Tony Castro does at least weave a good story in this book. He gives the reader some background on both players lives and how they fit in the big Yankee picture. Also, he talks about some interactions between both of the stars during the 1951 season. Nothing that seems out of the ordinary between a fading star and a rookie on the rise. They were both at different stages of their careers and did not travel within the same circles, which did not seem out of the ordinary, at least to me. He also attempts to portray the seedier sides of both people, their personal relationships and how they led their lives, but still did not delve to far into the interactions between the two players.
In the end for me this book came up a little short of the target. It rehashed some points that were covered in other books and did little do dissect the interactions and relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in 1951. It covered a lot of points that were not related to what the book was supposed to be addressing in regards to each player. This book for me had great possibilities to dispel some myths and give the reader the real story of the two. In the end it glanced over those vital points and felt more like the author was looking for some dirt or gossip to throw on the memories of both.
Check the book out, maybe you will think I am wrong in my review, but in the end I was disappointed in this one.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Growing up in Philadelphia, my childhood coincided with the career of one Michael Jack Schimdt. Arguably one of, if not the greatest third baseman to ever play the game of baseball. Owner of 548 Home Runs, three MVP awards and a World Series Championship to go along with his Hall of Fame resume. The only down side to Schmidt’s career was the love hate relationship he had with the Phillies fans. I got to witness the sometimes borderline train wreck relationship between the 3rd baseman and the fans, and honestly it was not always pretty. I finally found a book that shows the softer side of the burly third baseman and helps fans in Philadelphia appreciate what we really had.
I admit this book is a little dated. It came out five years after Schmidt was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, and at the time, and even today for that matter there is not a wealth of Schmidt books on the market. He is a complex personality that was never truly appreciated by the Philadelphia fans until he was almost gone.
William Kashatus does a tremendous job of chronicling the career of Mike Schmidt. The high school and college injuries that almost ended the career before it began. The minor league struggles that helped shape his personality and forced him to question his abilities. The author also shows an inside look at the pressures the Phillies put single-handedly on Schmidt’s shoulders and the effects it had on his career development.
This book also shows the reader the great influence that Pete Rose was on Schmidt’s career after they picked up the free agent to get them over the playoff hump. He was the extra mentor Schmidt needed to build some self esteem and accept and realize his true talents. It also shows the ongoing relationship that transpired between the fans, the media and Mike Schmidt. If you were not in Philly during his career this book gives a real good portrayal of what really went down.
There are a few books about Schmidt out there but not something that shows this much career depth about Schmidt himself. It was a little light on personal details about Schmidt’s life and I think by design Schmidt may have agreed to be interviewed for the book with that condition. Even with that restriction this is still the most thorough and in depth look at the player and the man.
All baseball fans can learn something from this book. Even Phillies fans can gain some new insight from this as well. Its well worth the time to read it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland