Growing up as a Phillies fan in the late 70’s was full of heartbreak, and most of it was at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. My very first game that I went to at the ripe old age of five was the NLCS at Veterans Stadium against those same hated Dodgers. That very game helped prepare me for a lifetime of mostly heartbreak brought to me by my beloved Phillies. Today’s book takes a look at two of the Dodgers powerhouse teams from that era and in particular the 77 and 78 versions that really stuck it to my Phillies.
Both of these Dodgers teams contained a plethora of homegrown stars. Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes are just a few of the players who came up through the Dodger farm system playing for their now Major League manager Tommy Lasorda. It helped foster the environment that the Dodgers always outwardly portrayed, that of being one great big happy family. It created unity and allowed them to play at a level on the field that was matched by very few teams in the league. Its surprising that it took them until 1981 to finally win a World Championship.
Michael Fallon has written this book in an attempt to showcase the teams of 77-78. It is a time where the Big Red Machine was on the decline in the N.L. West and the division was ripe for the Dodgers to pick it. All of their homegrown studs were in their prime and all the stars were aligning for them to become a reigning powerhouse. It was a great time to be a Dodger fan and embrace the changing of the guard between Alston and Lasorda, and learn the new fast paced ways of the late 70’s
Fallon does tell a good story within these pages and does a nice job relating these facts to the readers. If you were not around in Los Angeles during these years you get a feel of what the vibe was like there. In a time before the internet and instant gratification that we exist in now, it is a good throwback to remember the different ways of our world. It also gives a glimpse of how old school baseball was still alive and well in the game during the late 70’s
The downside of this book for me was being from the other side of the continent I had trouble finding a reason to care about the social activities and politics of Los Angeles. It was a lot of names that someone outside of California would be able to recognize or even care about, but for local readers it still gave a vision of life outside of baseball in L.A. My other gripe about this book is that the author at times puts an autobiographical spin on it. Stories about Dad’s hardware store and things like that really just felt out of place with what it seemed the book was trying to accomplish. It almost seemed as if the book had a split personality and the two of them did not work well together. My final gripe is that there were some minor baseball factual errors. This seems to be a recurring problem in baseball books and I wish the publishers would hire a freelancer or someone like that just to fact check some of these things. But that really is more of a pet peeve I guess.
Overall its a good baseball book, just be prepared for it to veer off in other directions every so often. If you can live with that aspect of the book, and you have an interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, then you will enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
Sometimes I find a baseball autobiography and wonder if this player really needed their own book. If that player had an average, or even less than average career, what could they possibly bring to the table? Sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when one of those average player writes a book that holds my interest and produces a good reading experience for me. Today’s book falls into that pleasant surprise category and from an unlikely source to boot.
Jerry Reuss by most standards had an average career. Never the ace of a staff, but a serviceable arm that would eat innings and help teams in their push to the top. Pitching for eight teams over a 22 year span, Reuss compiled an impressive win total of 220. From a pitcher that never won more than 18 games in any given season, that is an impressive total.
Jerry Reuss starts the reader on a journey through his early years in Missouri, where he first dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. Signing with the hometown St. Louis Cardinals, Reuss had all the makings of a real life dream come true.
Reuss then shows the reader what the inside, off the field life of a baseball player is really like. Back stabbings by the upper management people he trusted, trades, releases and other not so pleasant things a player deals with on an annual basis. It shows how much more players even back in those days had to deal with off the field.
The big thing I took away from this book is how remaining true to yourself and dealing fair with people will help you get ahead at whatever your vocation. Jerry Reuss played more years than many of his contemporaries did who maintained the same skill set. It comes across as being a combination of perseverance at his chosen trade and being a decent person on and off the field. In the end this average pitcher ended his career, after a few stops in different cities, the proud owner of a World Series ring.
This book is a pretty enjoyable read. It moves along at a brisk pace and holds the readers interest through more than just on the field happenings. Anecdotes about himself and teammates keep you engaged and give you a real feel what it was like to be a teammate of Reuss’. It also shows a glimpse of the personality of Reuss himself which comes across as a fun loving guy and a great teammate.
If you are a fan of Reuss or any of the teams he played for, take the time to read this book. It is not a book that one would compare to War & Peace in any way. It is more of a breezy light hearted read of an average pitcher with an interesting journey. I wasn’t expecting much out of Reuss’ stories about his career and his teammates, but was pleasantly surprised at what I got. You never know who or what is going to present you with an enjoyable book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I am a born and raised product of Philadelphia. I am loyal to my teams, much of it to a fault and live and die by what they accomplish. In my lifetime my Phillies have won two World Series Championships, five pennants and twelve division titles. For some teams that may be impressive considering it covers over four decades, but not for the Phillies. They have been around for almost 135 years and have had limited success. Even when they capture the brass ring they somehow find a way to screw it up. Today’s book takes a look at how the Phillies are intertwined with the city of Philadelphia’s self image and how they have helped shape each others destinies.
Let me start out by saying, we Philadelphia sports fans are nowhere near as bad as our reputation states. Yes we are passionate, yes we are dedicated and yes we expect 110% effort from our players. We hate to see other stadiums where the game is an afterthought, people only go there for the social status attached to it and leave by the 7th inning to beat traffic. We are not the baby hating, nun tripping, puppy kicking hate mongers the world has made us out to be. We are just very, very dedicated, I mean seriously we only beat up Santa Claus that one time.
Mitchell Nathanson has written a book that take a look at the 1977 Phillies NLCS series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That series contained a sequence of events that Phillies fans to this day refer to as Black Friday(Game 3). Basically, it was the game that shifted the entire series momentum to the Dodgers and they never looked back. My journey as a Phillies fan started the next day after Black Friday when my Dad took me to Game 4 for my very first in person game at Veterans Stadium at the ripe old age of four.
Nathanson does a very nice job of reviewing the series but what I found more interesting about this book is how shows the parallel between the city’s baseball teams and its self worth. It chronicles both the Athletics and their time in town as well as the Phillies. Quite honestly when Philly had two teams the Phillies were the red headed step child of the town. Only after the A’s departure did the city start to identify with the hapless Phillies.
The book does do a very nice job of covering the events of the 1977 NLCS as they unfolded. The downside is that portion of the story is no more than 30% of the entire book. It has more written about activities in Philadelphia and the history of the city. If you are not from Philadelphia or do not have some sort of interest in city politics you may have a bit of trouble getting through this. Overall it does a very nice job of sharing the story of Philadelphia, but if you are looking for a true baseball story it may not have enough game information to hold your interest.
Readers should check it out so that they can get a better idea of why the Phillies fans are the way we are, and may God have mercy on our Philly sports fan souls.
You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland
Baseball books can provide valuable history lessons. Even if they are of the biography genre, they can still give valuable lessons to the reader about a multitude of things. It has always been said that baseball mimics society and in the case of todays book that may ring true. It shows how society has changed and become more tolerant and accepting. Baseball may be slow to change at times but in this case, they have finally caught up with society.
Glenn Burke was the first openly gay athlete in Major League Baseball. While that alone is trailblazing, in the end he suffered the wrath of the game and became black-balled. He had a very short career in the majors playing for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 70’s. For his brief career he put up decent numbers and probably had he not been openly gay would have had a longer career. When you are the first person who does anything different in baseball it seems that you have a much more difficult time being accepted than the next person. Just ask Jackie Robinson, being a trend setter is hard work.
Glenn Burke suffered the wrath of the baseball hierarchy and essentially lost his career for it. Even though some of his teammates knew about his sexual orientation and didn’t care, the baseball establishment was not embracing it. Glenn eventually died of AIDS in 1995 and this book was his way of getting his story out before his untimely death. It is a very good book that shows the struggles and humiliation Glenn had to endure just to be himself and play the game he loved. It shows some of the intolerant practices that existed during his time in the jock world of Major League Baseball.
More importantly this book allows the reader to see how both the game and society has evolved in the twenty years since its initial publication. MLB has now added the Ambassador of Inclusion position in Billy Bean so that these issues don’t happen again. This book also shows how society’s views have evolved in regards to homosexuality and it is not as big of an issue as it once was. It shows that everyone has a place within our society and while it may not happen as fast as some people would like it has made some progress. One thing I found interesting between the original publication of this book and the re-issued edition is that they used the same cover photo, but the Dodgers logos had been removed his uniform. It just struck me as odd that after all this time they would remove them.
Glenn Burke is pretty much at this point a footnote in baseball history but this book does give you a nice glimpse of both the player and the man. Perhaps if he was somewhere else on a less profile team than the Dodgers, his career may have lasted longer but honestly who knows. After all he went through you get no signs of bitterness from Glenn for his outcome in life. He was proud of who he was and who he loved, and hoped in the end he would be remembered as a good person and what more can any of us ask for in life.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Berkeley Publishing Group