Tagged: spring training

Odds & Ends-Spring 2018 Edition


As we sit here today, Opening Day is only five short days away.  I find that very hard to believe since I am sitting here watching a foot and a half of snow that came three days ago, melt out the window, but I am sure the baseball scheduling Gods have that all figured out.  The Spring edition of Odds and Ends is upon us and while everything we look at today may not be a 2018 new season release, they are still solid books to help the reader wander through the new baseball year.

 

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Ronald T. Waldo always takes on somewhat obscure era’s and subjects for his books.  It is a good thing because Waldo always shows the reader an almost forgotten era in baseball and brings prominent names back to the forefront.  I like Waldo’s books because his thorough research always shines through in the book and you can rely on the accuracy of the stories he tells the reader.  If you have any sort of interest in 1920’s baseball or want to use this book as a history lesson for yourself, than this book is definitely one you should check out.  You can get this one from the friendly folks at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

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Staying in the same era of baseball, what more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said.  It has won numerous awards since its release last year and quite honestly deserves every one of them.  Steinberg has done a phenomenal job bringing the life and career of Urban Shocker to the modern day fan.  It gives the reader a glimpse of what baseball was like during that timeframe and makes you realize how even though we are still essentially playing the same game, times have changed dramatically.  For those with an interest in players of the past, the New York Yankees and several other aspects this book presents to the reader, it is worth checking out.  It offers so many levels of information that you will be glad you took the time to read it.  You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

 

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There have been a few books written by, or about Lou in the past.  For my money, this one is the best of the bunch.  It is updated through the end of his managerial career and into retirement and really gets you to the personal side of Lou Piniella.  It covers his full life and is not really specifically team focused.  It goes through everywhere he stopped during his playing and managing days and really doesn’t pull any punches.  He is telling it like he sees it at this point.  Other books on Lou have been more team or time frame focused, so this one really shows it all.  If you have read the other books, there may be some overlap of information on certain teams but for the grand picture of a career this is your best bet.  Yu can get this one from the nice folks at Harper Collins Publishers.

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If you have a Yankees book, you should always follow it with a Red Sox book.  1967 seems to be a watershed year for the Sox and always seems to be the year everyone references as the highlight of an era.  It was their first real taste of success after a long drought but it was unfortunately not sustained.  Crehan’s book takes a good look at 1967 and why it is so special to Boston fans and why it was an important year in team history.  For those of us not around then or for those not paying attention to them in 1967 it gives a great look at what happened.  If you are a hardcore BoSox fan, of course you will want to read this, but some of theses stories may be tried and true classics that you love to hear about.   For others, it may be a good learning tool about 1967 and the names that help make this team famous.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Summer Game Books.

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Where would the game be without the Sportswriters.  They are a vital part of looking at the game and analyzing what transpires on the field.  Jim Kaplan previously has written for Sports Illustrated and has decided to share his thoughts on the history of the game and some of his views of players, on field plays and other aspects we may not have thought about.  Its a fun read and makes you look at things just a little differently than you had before.  You can get this one from the nice folks at Levellers Press.

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McFarland has never been a publisher that was one to shy away from overlooked players or long forgotten subjects and this one easily falls into that category.  Roy Sievers was a feared hitter during the 50″s but was often overshadowed by the other greats of that decade both on the field and in print.  Finally getting his due in book form, readers can now learn about the great career of one of baseballs most overlooked hitters of that decade as well as learn about an overall pretty nice guy.  Its important that people like this from baseball history don’t get forgotten, and McFarland has done a nice job of helping preserve his legacy by getting this to market.

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Baseball seems to have a singular year every decade where they shoot themselves in the foot and the 60’s were no exception.  Widely known for being the year of the pitcher, 1968 was the year the powers that be put their dunce caps on once again.  This is a good look at what management was like back in the day and how that has changed as well.  It also shows how baseball has been able to survive and rise above its own stupidity at times.  You can get both of these from the nice folks at McFarland.

So ready or not the new baseball season is upon us, so no matter who you root for we are all in First Place at least for one day.

Happy Reading and Go Phillies!

Gregg


 

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Who Deserves a Book?


It is a simple yet valid question, that I see pop up from time to time.  Which players really deserve a book?  What criteria have we set forth as a baseball community to answer this question?  To date, I don’t think we have answered that question, and in my honest opinion it is one that probably should will be answered.  Every player, coach, executive, umpire or whomever has a unique story to tell.  It is up to you as the discernible reader to decide which stories have merit and which ones were better lost to the passage of time.  With the help of a few unbiased reviews you can usually get a feel of what to pick up and which ones to leave alone, but there are still a ton of baseball books out there to choose from.  For my money, I like the somewhat obscure players telling me about their experiences and sharing stories that may have never been told before.  Today’s book is one of those types of books that takes a look at a life and career dedicated to baseball from someone who wasn’t a household name.

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If you asked 100 baseball fans who Skip Lockwood was my guess is a majority of those asked would not be able to answer right away.  That is okay though because baseball history is filled with those types of guys.  It is no knock on them as individuals, it is just sometimes how baseball history goes.   Lockwood will best be remembered as a serviceable journeyman closer that could eat innings and mop up when needed.  He played on some horrible teams and unfortunately what positive things came from his own career got overshadowed by the bad teams he played on.

Skip walks the reader through his life in and out of baseball.  You go through his childhood and see how he knew early own that baseball was his calling.  You see all the preparation he did to achieve this dream and the countless hours spent perfecting the trade.  Once the dream became reality and he was signed by a professional team, you see the struggles of honing his skills at the next level which led to an eventual position change and the making of a Pitcher.  It is an honest look at the game at a minor league level during that era and shows the struggles a lot of guys faced.

Next up you see the game through Lockwood’s eyes at the Major League Level.  Stops in Milwaukee, California, New York, Oakland and Boston paint a picture of the consummate professional always willing to work on the trade.  While results may not always have been what was wanted or expected, it wasn’t from lack of trying.

One aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Lockwood’s recollection of every thought and action during certain times on the field.  He gives such detail of exactly what was going through his head at that very moment.  How the ball felt, how the sweat felt, what exactly his mind was thinking and more.  Now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so I always find it fascinating when players have such vivid recollections as this.  It really gives an interesting look at what it is like to be out there on the mound in given situations.

If you are looking for a book that gives the reader some new stories and an honest and detailed look at what goes through your mind when you are a Major League player when they are out on the field, then you should check this book out.  It’s a nice easy read that sheds a different light on a player than what many of us are used to.  It engages the reader on a different level and provides a great insight to the game in many different ways.  So I ask again……….Who deserves a book?  Many more people than you would originally think.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing

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Happy Reading Gregg

 

There’s No Place Like Home


When a team changes cities it is a daunting process.  Ownership has to make sure it crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s to make sure everything will be to their, and more importantly their fans liking.  No where as near as common place as it once was, team transfers can be a great thing for those involved.  New stadiums, new fan base, a whole new chance to invent yourself and the financial rewards usually aren’t too bad either.  That is just what the New York giants were hoping for with their move to San Francisco.  A shiny new stadium to call home accompanied with lots of parking spaces for ownership to sell each night helped sell them on their new locale.  But sometimes all is not what you hope it will be, and todays book takes a look at the Giants move to California and good or bad, depending on where you stood, their new Home Sweet Home.

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We are all well aware of the story of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles and their conquering of the Southern California market.  Sometimes lost in that great shadow is the Giants, who abandoned the Polo Grounds and the city of New York at the exact same time to help usher in baseball across the continent.  Walter O’Malley was larger than life at times and in that shadow one can understand how Horace Stoneham may have fallen by the wayside.  So with that, it easy to forget the history of the Giants during the first years in California.  Luckily for us this book shows us what it took to get the Giants in place in San Fran and the hopes ownership had for the new frontier.

Robert Garrett does a good job of giving us the background of the team in New York and the situation it found itself in during the late 50’s.  From stadium woes to the personality of Horace Stoneham you get a pretty good feel of what it was like for the team during their waning days in New York.  He shows the courtship of the Giants by a new city and the promises bestowed by the local government, the biggest of all being a new stadium.

Stoneham had a somewhat of a hands off approach to his new stadium as the book shows and it in turn came to bite him in the butt.  Candlestick Park had its own set of issues that are well chronicled in the book which in turn snowballed, enough so that it would essentially destroy many of the dreams of what Stoneham had for this new venture.  In the end it is one of the driving factors that ends the Stoneham ownership of the team.

Next we look at the struggles to find new ownership and the quest to keep the Giants in San Francisco less than twenty years after the had arrived.  Once new ownership was found you see the same struggles of old ownership with the albatross of Candlestick still dangling around its neck.  It shows an interesting look at how baseball operated in regards to stadiums, success at the gate and play on the field.  You see how the Giants, except for a few years as a whole, struggled while they called Candlestick home.  It’s also shown how the people of San Fran really didn’t care if they ever got out of there.

Finally, you see a final change on ownership that get the Giants to a new frontier and a stadium worthwhile of Major League Baseball and the success that comes with that type of arena.   I honestly think this book is a great look at this era of Giants baseball, no matter how bad it was on the field.  It’s a portion of team history that gets overshadowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers moving at the same time, the expansion of baseball and the evolving changes that were going on in both baseball and society.  It proves some dreams take longer than others to come to fruition.

If you have an interest in California baseball during this era this book is definitely worth checking out.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press.

Home Team-The Turbulent History of the S.F. Giants

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping a Lost Franchise Alive


Every once in a while in baseball we lose a team.  Good or bad, there are lots of reasons why this usually happens.  Most recently over a decade ago, the Montreal Expos disappeared from the baseball landscape and some folks are rightfully so, still up in arms about it.  The longer a team is gone, the more time marches on and the more that team inevitably slips from memory.  I have witnessed this first hand in my area with the Philadelphia Athletics Historical society.  The people who saw them play first hand aged and passed on and the memories and interest faded despite folks best efforts.

The St Louis Browns have been gone for over 60 years now and probably most of the people who had seen them first hand have passed on at this point.  So more than likely, other than the hard-core baseball fans, people don’t have as much of an interest in the team or its history.  Today I have a book that does a very nice job of introducing a new wave of fans to a team of yesteryear and hopefully help keep their legacy alive.

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The St. Louis Browns were in a tough spot.  Fighting for fans loyalty in a baseball crazy town with the Cardinals was no easy task.  In the end we all know how it worked out, the left St Louis and pitched their new tent in Baltimore with a brand new name.  They were not always the door mats of baseball as some would have you believe.  There were plenty of good times in the early years, but in the end the battle with the Cardinals for supremacy just became too much.

This book is a great look into those wonder years in St Louis.  It takes an in-depth look at the teams roots, its early success and its fights for league supremacy.  It is a great learning tool for those that are not familiar with their history or the people who wore the uniform through the years.

The Browns were more than just Bill Veeck and his ahead of the curve promotions.  More than just an aging ballpark, more than tiny batters and all those things everyone is familiar with.  For the new generation of baseball fans this is huge opportunity to learn about a team that has fallen from the landscape but never from the fabric of the game.  If we as the generations of fans, post Browns baseball do not take the time to learn about them now, then we risk losing them to the passage of time.   This has happened to other teams throughout history and I would for one be very sad to see this happen to the Browns and their storied past.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Reedy Press

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

Spring has Sprung !!!!


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.

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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

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Lyman Bostock-The Inspiring Life and Tragic Death of a Ballplayer


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.

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By:K. Adam Powell-2017

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

Lyman Bostock

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

Rowman & Littlefield Knocking ’em Out for Baseball Fans


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.

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By:Hal Bock-2016

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.

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By:John A. Wood-2016

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.

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By:Steven Elliott Tripp-2016

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.

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By:Keith Craig-2016

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.

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By:Sherman L. Jenkins-2016

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.

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By:Rocco Constantino-2016

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 !

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By:Bryan Soderholm-Difatte-2016

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.

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By:Peter Bjarkman-2016

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.

Happy Reading

Gregg