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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best. It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed. When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era. In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans. But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964? I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.
For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide. I was familiar with his writing from his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good. He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.
Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes. From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers. It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II. It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era. Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.
Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days. His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees. On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about. Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person. Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life. To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.
For my money, Joe Niese did a great job with this book. He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with. He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by. Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.
I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this. It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality. Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time. This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese
I will admit it, 2016 has been off to a somewhat slow start for me with baseball books. The books from publishers and authors have slowed down somewhat, so I just don’t have as many books to post as of late. One book that I am glad to say I still had in my arsenal was this one.
Every generation of baseball seems to have that one character that stands out above the others. Not necessarily for their skills on the field, but more for the character they are off of it. One of those larger than life characters was Bobo Newsom. Coming from very humble beginnings in South Carolina, he turned his baseball skills into his own little circus. Making stops in various cities around the league, some of those actually more than once or twice, he made the best of situations and created himself, the legend of Bobo.
Bobo is definitely an under-covered personality of the game. Perhaps it is because he passed away more than 50 years ago or perhaps the powers that be within the game want us to forget about him altogether. Whatever the reasons may be, it is important that we remember these types of people because these dedicated folks are what the game is built on. Guys like Bobo and Boots Poffenberger need to be remembered for their contributions to the game and not lost to the passage of time.
Jim McConnell has done an awesome job of bringing Ol’ Bobo back to life. For generations that may have missed him, this book takes you back to the time when Bobo reigned over baseball, to the delight of many and maybe not so much to others. His career and personal life are both covered in this book and it paints a complete picture of someone we honestly don’t get to read that much about. I had trouble putting this one down because he played in so many decades that he kept crossing paths with some of the games greats and it kept the story moving along at a brisk pace. His larger than life personality also made it a very interesting book and kept the reader involved the entire time.
Baseball fans should pick this one up, because it will appeal to fans of the game. If you are a fan of a specific teams, there is a pretty good shot Bobo played for your team at one time or another way back when, so it should have some appeal there as well. In all honesty, there is a great story in this book about one of the games most interesting personalities. This book is a great tool to teach the future generations of fans about the legend of Bobo Newsom.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
In continuation of the Hall of Fame induction week posts, I thought we would take a look at another Hall of Fame member. Someone who had a distinguished career and excelled to the top of the game, making an indelible mark for future generations to admire. This person is also someone that I feel gets forgotten in the shuffle of baseball history and his achievements get lost with the passage of time. George Sisler is not a name that immediately pops into a fans mind when they think of the Hall of Fame. He was one of those baseball lifers that worked hard and gave his life to the game he loved. Fans do get the chance to learn about a baseball great in this book I just finished reading
This is not a new book by any stretch of the imagination, having now been around for more than a decade. The importance of this book is obvious to me though, in the fact is that it pays tribute to a Hall of Fame career and the quality of character that was George Sisler. Playing mostly for the Browns, then bouncing around at the end of his career, it is important that fans remember who George Sisler was and the level he achieved on the field, and eventually his enshrinement in Cooperstown in 1939.
Rick Huhn walks readers through the story of George Sisler. Covering his own the field triumphs along with personal moments off the field. You see the lives of his two young sons (Dick and Dave) who go on to become Major League Baseball players as well and a third son (George Jr.) who had an off field career in baseball as well. If you dig further into Sisler’s playing career you see he actually did produce some pretty astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time.
Books like this one are a great learning tools for fans through the generations so that important players don’t get forgotten. In a world where there are twelve Billy Martin biographies and even more about the New York Yankees, it is nice to see a book about a player like this one. It reminds fans of a simpler time from where the game evolved and the people who sacrificed and produced to help write the game’s history.
RIck Huhn did a very nice job with this book. At the time of its release, Sisler had passed more than 30 years prior and had not been on the field as a player in almost 75 years. So it had to be hard to find living friends and people around that witnessed George Sisler first hand. Huhn’s in-depth research shines through and creates an enjoyable product for fans to both learn from and entertain. True baseball fans that enjoy the game’s history and like to be educated while they read will really enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Missouri Press
Bill Veeck has been called a lot of things through the years. Innovator, Showman, Maverick, the P.T. Barnum of baseball and of course some other not so many nice names. A definite man before his time, no matter how many books come out about old Sportshirt Bill, I feel the need to read them.
Bill Veeck, Baseballs Greatest Maverick
By:Paul Dickson-Walker & Company 2012
Bill Veeck always seemed to be the friend of the average fan. From early beginnings with his father working for the Chicago Cubs, Bill spent a lifetime sharing his love of the game. Working various jobs for the Cubs he cut his teeth in the field, and went on to team ownership. With stops in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland and Chicago, Veeck left an indelible mark on baseball that while unconventional at the time would be appreciated today.
Paul Dickson undertakes the task of fitting all of Veeck’s exploits into one book. He visits all of Bill’s baseball stops and the shenanigans that earned him some of the nicknames I mentioned above. Ladies nights, midgets, game day give aways and of course disco demolition etched Bill’s name into baseball history. Dickson also looks at Veeck’s activities outside of baseball including running a horse track. Veeck had so many innovations both in and out of baseball that he could almost be called spectacular.
Truly an ambassador for baseball, Veeck was rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame shortly after his death in 1986. But what I find even better about this book is you see the principled man who stood upon that wooden leg——that he used most times as an ash tray. From civil rights to baseball integration to countless other causes that presented themselves in society. Bill Veeck had several causes he thought were worth fighting for. This shows the worth of the man himself. He may not been popular with the other owners for several different reasons, but as a person Bill Veeck seems like a really great guy. This is finally the biography Bill Veeck deserves. It portrays a complete and accurate picture of the man who was well before his time and someone to be admired for his forethought and decency for his fellow-man.
Paul Dickson did a great job with this book. It is one of the best pieces I have ever read on Veeck and anyone who is any kind of fan of Veeck should read it. There may be some duplicity in some of the stories you have heard before, but the painted picture is complete. He may have made a lot of owners angry through the years, but he made lots more people happy and in the end, that’s what matters. He leaves a legacy that should be appreciated for all time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Walker & Co.
Knowledge is power. Baseball history affords us the opportunity to gain greats amount of knowledge. If you appreciate the game as an entire institution or just an individual team holds your attention, the information available is endless. Todays book allows fans the ability to learn in-depth about their favorite team.
The Orioles Encyclopedia
By:Mike Gesker – 2009 The Johns Hopkins University Press
Fans of the Baltimore Orioles have a very valuable tool at their disposal. Whatever morsel of knowledge they want to acquire is now contained in one neat little package. From their roots deep in the transplanted St. Louis Browns, starting play in 1954 as the Baltimore Orioles through the date of the book’s publication, you get it all. Fifty plus years of information rolled in to one neat little 862 page package.
Readers get several interesting aspects of the teams history. The book is split into various sections. Seasons, all-time rosters, coaches, managers, ballparks, post season berths, award winners and broadcasters are all covered in here. One of the more interesting sections I found was first round draft choices. You get to see the successes and busts that have come through Baltimore’s farm system. Off the field is fun is not forgotten in this book either. You get some behind the scenes glimpses of what antics went on in the Baltimore locker rooms as well. This book is invaluable to Orioles fans that want to complete their team knowledge.
There have been several of types of these team encyclopedias published through the years for various teams. I think they are a very important piece in a fans personal library. You get the ability to sit down and browse through the book and relive some great memories of your favorite team. I know by reading through this I came across some players I didn’t even know played for the O’s. The only down side to these types of books is that they need to be updated every few years with new editions. Orioles fans, this should be on your must buy list because it will really be enjoyable to have the information at your finger tips and the ability to re-live some old memories.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The Johns Hopkins University Press