Tagged: spring training

Mike Schmidt-Philadelphia’s HOF Third Baseman


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.

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By:William Kashatus-2000

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

Mike Schmidt

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Weaponized Baseball-Making Us Question What We Thought We Knew


Baseball is a sport that infiltrates your entire life.  It comes early in the spring, offering hope to the fans of the down trodden teams, and offering the prospect of repeats for the good ones.  It stays through the warm summer months, enduring summer vacations and heat waves and fills our free time with the escape from the every day routine.  Finally, it stays until the brink of the pending winter, forcing us to forego the cold and miserable season on our own counting the days until the ritual starts all over.  These are just a few of the reasons why baseball plays such a big part in our lives.  Always willing to teach the fan something new every year, along with supplying them with countless new memories.  But what if there was more than just the game itself?  What if it is part of a bigger plan that expands beyond the sport of baseball?  What if we as fans had it all wrong, what if it is really more than just a game and a much more vital part of our society than we ever imagined.  Today’s book takes a look at how the world has been shaped and influenced by the game of baseball beyond the diamond.

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By: Scott Rowan-2016

This book really makes you stop and think.  The author shows the reader the many ways that the game of baseball has shaped society.  From influencing businesses, battlefield leaders, large scale government agendas and military actions around the world.  It is proof that baseball has the power to manipulate the world in multiple ways.  It can influence , distract, build morale and of course help create some enemies along the way as well.

Scott Rowan takes the reader on a journey mainly over the last few centuries of what baseball has done for our society.  How it has played a role in the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.  He shows how world leaders have used the game to distract the masses and push political agendas, a very good example being Cuba.  He also shows us how it has created strife in the White House among politicians and their personal feelings about the game.  Some generally accepted baseball myths are busted along the way, which were generally accepted as fact at one time.  Obviously, Cooperstown is another one of those baseball myths that gets busted in numerous ways.

Rowan does make the reader step back and think about what he is writing about on more than one occasion in this book.  Readers can easily see how many of these facts are possible and sometimes the facts are so obvious, this could be why we never really thought about it.  It proves how much more there is to the game of baseball and the influence it has on the world.  It goes so much deeper than just the game on the field.  The book covers big-time world leaders and events. Names such as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, Castro, Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt, The Mexican Revolution, Korea, Japan, China and Nicaragua.

Baseball fans should really check this out.  It is fun look that takes a look at baseballs far reaching history beyond the diamond.  It is guaranteed to teach every baseball fan some new fact and will definitely make you ask more than once, how was that able to really happen?

You can get this book from the nice folks at Sherpa Multimedia

Weaponized Baseball

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Playing With Tigers-A Minor League Chronicle of the Sixties


Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying?  A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market.  These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book.  I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.

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By: George Gmelch 2016

 

I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous.  What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader?  I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.

What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s.  It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.

In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence.  From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues.  One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball.  The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side.  One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man.  You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.

Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball.  After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next.  Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology.  You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told,  I couldn’t put it down.  It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.

You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book.  It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it.  As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.

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

Playing With Tigers

Happy Reading

Gregg

A Book That Most of Us Have Been Waiting For


There are few figures in baseball that were as polarizing as Dick Allen was during his career.  Philadelphia fans maintained a blurry line between love and hate for Dick which helped forge his reputation that followed him from city to city.  Allen was a bonafide superstar during his era, who some say never met his true potential.  Multiple stops in his career ended in messes that were partially Dick’s fault but in hindsight not totally.  There have not been many attempts at putting Dick Allen’s complete story in print, quite honestly, this is one of the few I have ever found in my travels.  Now there is a new book coming out in a few weeks that gives a more in depth look at the man behind the legend.

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By: Mitchell Nathanson-2016

Where does one even start when talking about Dick Allen?  He is such a complex personality that has gotten so little attention since his retirement that it would seem overwhelming to any writer willing to tackle the subject.  The prior book about Dick Allen as mentioned above relied on interviews with Allen himself.  It presented some conflicting stories that made the reader feel like he did not get the whole story.  This new book relies on interviews with some people who witnessed events first hand and gave a different perspective on everything that happened.

Nathanson walks the reader through Dick’s entire career, from the minors to all his stops in the majors.  He shows the horrible treatment Allen endured in the south during his baseball training as well as the same racism he he had to put up with playing for Philadelphia.  The author dissects the love hate relationship between Allen and the Phillies fans and shows his treatment may have been a part of the bigger mindset of the town itself, not just a personal dislike for Allen.   On the flip side of the City of Philadelphia’s shortcomings you also get to see how Dick Allen did not make the situation better for himself along the way.  Some things get clarified while other things may forever be a mystery.  Neither party is innocent in the course of events but this book helps clarify the fact that the events that happened in Philadelphia were not all Dick Allen’s fault.

The author also covers all of the other stops along Dick’s career path.  While each one had a mix of success and trouble, each one ended the same way, the team was glad to be moving on.  The most interesting part to me of this book was the events that led up to Dick’s return to the Phillies.  You see the change in the city’s  mindset and team management that helped welcome Dick home for one last stand.  You can see the healing on both sides and the change of attitudes.  To some extent I think the Phillies fans realized what they once had and to some degree were willing to make amends for past indiscretions.  This also allowed Dick to leave baseball on his own terms and finish up with the Oakland A’s.  The only thing I wish this book had was more about Dick on a personal level.  It mostly sticks to his career, but does offer a few glimpses behind the scenes.  I wold like to know more about Dick Allen the person, but few of us will ever be so lucky.

This book really sheds some light on Dick Allen and the events of his career.  There are plenty of things that transpired that fans, owners, management and Dick himself should not be so proud of, but it does give a complete picture of what happened during those times.  All that aside, the most recent question as of late is does Dick belong in the Hall of Fame.   If you remove the Phillies association out of the equation for me, I still say yes to his induction.  He was a major player in the 60’s and 70’s and made some great contributions to the game on the field and contributed some great things of the field when he mentored younger players. His introverted personality may have rubbed some people the wrong way at the time, but it still not diminish his contributions to the game.  Hopefully the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will get it right the next time around.

Baseball fans should not miss this book.  It is a player that never has gotten much book coverage and it really sheds new light on what we all thought about Dick Allen.

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

God Almighty Hisself

Happy Reading

Gregg

Connie Mack-A Life Well Chronicled


I have said in the past there are certain personalities that transcend the game itself. Usually they are players that fall into this category, mainly because of their own field exposure.  There are always exceptions to that rule and easily Connie Mack is one of them. The Grand Old Man of Baseball is one of the patriarchs of the game and through all time is a name that will be known to all.  A person who had an entirely different contribution to the game as Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, but still a name that is just as recognizable as many of the games greats.  Norman L. Macht has recently completed his third installment of his Connie Mack trilogy and it completes in print the life of one of baseballs true pioneers.

 

Obviously I read a lot of books, but no series of books I have ever come across has made me go WOW!, like this one has.  The first volume of this set was published in 2007 with subsequent volumes in 2012 and 2015 respectively.  All three book take a look at a specific portion of Connie Mack’s life and the events that helped shape his life and career.  These books show how he forged his personality and the steps he had taken to amass his baseball empire.  Each book also shows the baseball dealings he conducted on a daily basis, how he constructed teams and eventually dismantled teams to pay the teams bills.  Various financial struggles are addressed throughout the years, power struggles within team ownership and family infighting that eventually led to the final downfall and removal of the Athletics from Philadelphia.

Norman L. Macht has dedicated a good portion of his life to this project.  Starting in 1985 the research he did was in depth and led him essentially to every location Connie Mack ever stepped foot.  He spoke to as many people who were friends, colleagues or family of Connie Mack and got the inside scoop on what the man was really like.  The amount of time and research that was dedicated to this project is just mind blowing to me.  I can’t imagine dedicating three decades to one subject and then being able to narrow it down to only 2,000 pages of details for a publisher.  Usually, most publishers would shy away from a multi volume biography anyway.

For me growing up in Philadelphia there were always a lot of stories floating around.  From just having the local ties and being a fixture in the city itself to the part that my Grandfather put a roof on his house in the late 40’s, Connie Mack for me was always an intriguing figure.  This book dispels a lot of the myth’s that I had accepted as fact about Mack.  Through the stories you hear growing up in Philadelphia, many of them you just accept as fact and don’t dedicate the time to looking for the truth.  He truly was one of the games great owners and we will never see another one like him.  In reality how many owners have a rival team name their stadium after your team leaves town, as the Phillies did out of respect for Mack.  The respect that people had for him was astounding, so much so that as of my last conversation with Bobby Shantz about a year or so ago, he still referrs to him as Mr. Mack, over 60 years after his death.

Baseball fans should really check these books out.  They are a vast wealth of knowledge for the fans of a very popular subject of the game that has not had many books dedicated to him.  Norman L. Macht should be commended, and rightly so, on a great job writing these three  books and completing his 30 year journey to show fans the real Cornelius McGillicuddy.

You can get these books from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press

Connie Mack

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

Lady Moguls-A History of Women Owners


Owners are an interesting lot in Major League Baseball.  Some are from the old school and don’t really care about the fortunes of the company, they just want to own a team.  Some are in it for the profit aspect, while others ownership groups are part of a corporate conglomeration.  I have always found the individual owners the most intriguing.  Some of the best off-field personalities within baseball have come from ownership.  Walter O’Malley, George Steinbrenner, Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley are just a few of the greats that have come from that group.  Baseball has always been considered a good-old boys club but there have been a few exceptions to that rule.  Today’s book takes a look at those exceptions and the great contributions the lady owners have made to the game of baseball.

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By:William A. Cook-2015

William A. Cook has taken some of the most influential names in female ownership within baseball and created in-depth biographies of each one.  Owners such as Effa Manley, Joan Payson, Jean Yawkey, Marge Schott, Joan Kroc and Grace Comisky to name a few.  Each woman came into ownership through a unique set of circumstances.  Some were by design and some were by accident, but nevertheless it shows how each overcame the obstacles inherent to being a minority and owning a baseball team.

This author does a great job of showing the state of each respective team when the owner took over, the coming to power and the final results the team achieved under their ownership.  Finally the author tells us how each team was disposed of.  It really shows a complete picture of what the ownership by each of the lady moguls accomplished during their tenure and where they have missed their mark.

I have seen individual biographies on some of the women mentioned in this book, but really did enjoy the format of covering several of them in one book.  20-30 pages was plenty to cover each one of the owners and gave a thorough picture as to what each ownership group achieved.  Obviously you would be able to complete a stand alone biography on any of the owners covered but this is a very nice resource to get your feet wet with a group of female owners.

Fans who have an interest in the off-field history of the game really will enjoy this.  It is a glimpse behind the curtain of stuffy team ownership and shows some of the driving personalities throughout history.  Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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

Lady Moguls

Happy Reading

Gregg

ESPN-The Making of a Sports Media Empire


I am sitting here on the northern edge of a monumental blizzard that is wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard.  While I am not lucky enough to be getting the awesome amounts of snow that the big cities are getting, at least we saw something out of this storm.  In sports and baseball in particular through the last several decades, the media outlets have exploded.  Much like this winter storm they have made an indelible mark on our society that may never be forgotten.  ESPN especially has made their mark and on sports other than just baseball.  Their self proclaimed moniker of the Worldwide Leader in Sports, holds true and may never be seriously challenged.  Now there is a book that takes an in depth look at how ESPN became the king of sports media.

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By:Travis Vogan-2015

Travis Vogan has taken an inside look at how ESPN has come from their roots of showing Australian Rules Football as their main programming and using ramshackle sets to becoming the go to source for all sports information.  They found a niche that obviously America wanted to fill and took advantage of that.

This book shows that through their rise in power in the sports media industry they have been able to push agendas, create superstars both on and off the field and also create a rapport with their viewers like no other sports media outlet ever has been able to or probably ever will.  They have created a success that will be tough to ever repeat because of how much of a stronghold they have been able to place over the industry.

Travis Vogan has written a very interesting book that gives you the ins and outs of a media empire.  I realize they do more than baseball but did include them on here, because they have been able to do some innovative things through the years where the game was concerned.  They also have dedicated some serious air time to the sport, in so many different ways that other networks were not interested in doing.  They have been a great partner in helping Major League Baseball grow.

Baseball fans should check this out because it is very informative and helps you understand what they have truly given to each and every fan of the game.

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

ESPN-The Making of a Sports Media Empire

Happy Reading

Gregg

Man Versus Ball – Life on the Fringe


Baseball is a game full of wild and outrageous stories.  Players, coaches and even fans get in the mix.  Regardless of where these stories originate from,  on or off of the field, most of the time they are entertaining.  But what about all those people behind the scenes that make the process function.  Little people who work in the world of baseball, you may casually notice but never really give a second thought to.  What are their stories?  What are their dreams?  Today’s book takes a look at one of those people who lived his life chasing his dreams of being one of those petty functionaries who make the game happen.

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By:Jon Hart- Potomac Books 2013

Before we jump into this book please keep in mind it is not 100% baseball, but contains enough about our sport that it warrants a place in my bookcase.  A trip to the stadium requires the efforts of hundreds of people behind the scenes.  Some people who you never knew existed.  Some you see right out in the open, such as vendors and ushers, but most folks don’t really think twice about them either.  Jon Hart was never a super athlete but he has fulfilled his mission to become one of those people who are part of the experience and still not a part of the actual game.  It almost feels like a personal bucket list, by taking on the jobs in sports that most of us would not relish.

The author takes on jobs at various venues and relates his experiences.  What one of us has not wished we were a vendor at Shea Stadium on a 100 degree day, or a ball boy at Wimbledon.  How about life in a mascot suit, or stair climbing competitions.  These are all things none of us go, wow that is my lifelong dream to work, but Jon Hart has made them his own.

He has taken on each of his professional challenges on the very edges of the sports world and strives to be the best he can be at it.  He has shown the struggles that are inherent with each career path as well as whatever highs can be mustered from each position.  It’s a funny book that takes the reader to a spot where they rarely will be able to go, and gives us the insight as to what really happens behind the scenes.  It shows that with a little work and some creative interpretation of what being a professional athlete really is, it is not that difficult to be a part of that world.

As I said above it contains other sports besides baseball, so all sports fans will find something in here that will interest them.  It is a fun look at one man’s personal journey through the world of sports, and will probably make you laugh out loud more than once.  It truly shows that with a little ingenuity, the world of sports is open to everyone who wants to participate.

You can check out the Author’s website at the address below.

http://www.manversusball.com/index.html

Happy Reading

Gregg