Tagged: spring training

When Baseball Went White


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.

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By: Ryan Swanson-2014

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 Baseball Went White

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

DiMag & Mick-Sibling Rivals and Yankee Blood Brothers


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.

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By:Tony Castro-2016

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

DiMag & Mick

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball’s Power Shift-How the Players Union, the Fans and the Media Changed America’s Sports Culture


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.

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By: Krister Swanson-2016

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

Power Shift

Happy Reading

Gregg

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