We have seen in the last few posts how certain publishers focus on baseball fans and really provide a great selection for them. As we head into the pending long, hard winter, I figured it is always a good idea to showcase a few more publishers that take care of the fans and get us to our awaited destination, the first pitch of Spring. Sports publishing has long been a staple of baseball book publishers and offers a diverse catalog for fans. They offer multiple sports, but for me it’s all baseball or bust. Historical, team related, biographical, new release or not, there always is something that fans can find that will appeal to everyone.
While this is not a new release, it still is a great look at the most vital position on the field, the Pitcher. By going through the entire history of baseball, Westcott gives the reader some of the most memorable feats performed by Pitchers. Heroes of the game such as Waddell, Chesbro, Cy Young and Mathewson through modern day greats like Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Maddux and Randy Johnson all get their due. It is a nice mix of various pitching accomplishments that have help build the history of the game. 51 chapters covering one position is a lot of memorable feats for the reader, and also introduces them to some not so mainstream stories. Check this book out if you want to expand your knowledge of the game’s history and see the value that the Pitcher has added to our great game.
Lets face it, the Home Run is one of the coolest aspects of the game. It can change the entire momentum of a game, series or even a season. There is a reason we keep so many Home Run records and why we still are arguing who is the real Home Run King. There are easily more than 101 home runs that one can call to mind but this is one of those books that narrows it to a certain number. The one thing the reader has to remember is that they will not always agree with the 101 that were picked. So it offers some debate material for you and your friends to discuss over a few beers, but in the end, everyone’s list will be different. The authors give a nice sampling of Homers and it allows the readers to re-live some of the greatest moments in the game’s history. But in the end, someone, somewhere is going to disagree with at least 1/3 of the picks. So keep an open mind going into this one.
There was a post in a Facebook group this week asking about this series of books. It is a very interesting series that puts a unique spin on your favorite team. The Pittsburgh Pirates book above is the latest in the series and offers you the worst players to wear certain uniform numbers, statistics and history base off the numbers as well as first home runs by certain numbers. There are so many various things they offer related to the numbers that it is almost impossible not to enjoy these books. If you are a fan of a certain team you will enjoy this series immensely. Check out Sports Publishing’s web site for their other team offerings.
We are all familiar with the Black Sox scandal of 1919 so no need to rehash it here. I tend to shy away from the Joe Jackson books at this point because I am not really sure if I am going to get anything new from reading another one. Well I am glad to say Hornbaker has given me a more complete picture of Joe Jackson than I ever had before. He looks at his time prior to joining the Chicago White Sox and his career blossoming career in Cleveland. It paints a much broader picture of the center focal point of the Black Sox scandal and an further understanding of the real Joe Jackson. No matter what side of the scandal you sit on, this book is worth taking a look at. It provides some new perspectives of all events of Jackson’s career and life.
I wonder honestly if Ty Cobb gets more coverage now than he did while he was alive. He also is a very tough market to write a book during the last few years. Hornbaker’s book is another in a long line of recent Cobb themed books and like his Joe Jackson book provides a different perspective on the Hall of Famer. As always it is up to the reader to decide what is fact and what is legend, but the author does an admirable job at presenting alternative truths about Cobb. It is worth the time to read but in the end, the reader has to make the decision which one of the Cobb books presents the most truth. After all the books, both fact and fiction, that have addressed Cobb, it is going to be hard for readers to ever figure out what Cobb’s true story actually is.
Finally, we take a look at one of my hometown favorites. This book covers more than just baseball and usually I don’t touch these book on here,(see my disclaimer above), but hey……….it’s Philly! It takes a thorough look at Philadelphia and the Championships we have been lucky enough to celebrate through the years. Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey are covered as well as showing the transition from a town built on Dynasties to a town laden in a Championship drought for so many years. It events like these that helped shaped me as the sports fan I am today. It also shows that the Philly fans may not be as bad as we are always portrayed.
Take the time to check the books out on Sports Publishing’s website. They have these and many other great baseball books that are sure to please everyone.
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
The history of baseball has so many nooks and crannies that it is almost impossible as a fan to say you have heard everything. Some of the history is well documented and some is taken from legend or word of mouth. No matter what its historical format, baseball allows for almost everyday to be a learning experience. Today’s book is one of those that puts a unique and interesting spin on some well-known and some of the more obscure baseball personalities that were an integral part of the game’s history.
Now I am in no way an artsy guy. Never a big fan of the creative arts and not a big fan of comic books growing up for whatever reasons that may be. So when they guy who admits all that, says to you this book is something very unique an enjoyable, you may want to pay attention.
Gary Cieradkowski is hard to pin down. Is he an artist or a writer? He created both parts of this book and did a very good job with each. He has brought to life through his artwork, faces of the past. He has done both the famous and obscure from the annals of baseball history. Creating both artwork and a baseball card set that puts faces to some of the names you may never have heard of, actually seen a picture of or been exposed to up until now. Showing the stars in their pre-fame lives, you get to see a glimpse of Sandy Koufax in Coney Island garb and Walter Johnson on an Anaheim baseball card. It also brings to light the stories of those that lurked in the shadows of Major League Baseball. Semi-pros, Negro Leagues, Barnstormers, Journeymen, Rouges, Odd Balls and players from the Amateur and International leagues all have stories to contribute to this book.
Not to be overlooked by his great artwork, is the quality stories Cieradowski offers the readers about all these unique and varied personalities. His writing is both entertaining and informative and a few of them leave the reader wanting to go further and research more about certain players. It is a great tool for a fans knowledge base.
This book is a fun and entertaining read and should not be overlooked. It is not your average baseball compilation book in the fact that it is not packed full of stars. It gives the lesser known players their due and appreciates their impact and contributions to the history of the game. Check this book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed, because quite honestly there is something for everyone.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Touchstone
I have been sticking to the theme of Pre-World War II baseball reading lately. I have been lucky enough to find some more material about that era and I have realized that it is a large deficiency in my baseball education. My knowledge hole if you want to call it that, starts in the late 19th century and ends in the late 1920’s or so. Today’s book falls right in the middle of that time frame and allows me to gain some serious knowledge of the era.
Ronald T. Waldo has brought forth another winner in this era. For fans of early baseball he has produced a compilation of some great stories of baseball’s early years. From the games greats like Ty Cobb, and then the games not so greats like Arthur Evans, the author has regaled the reader with some very entertaining stories. He also does go beyond just the players. He includes Umpires, Owners and often forgotten names from this unique era in baseball history.
Characters from the Diamond paints a unique picture of what baseball was really like during its early years. Perhaps during this era baseball was keeping more in-line with its original roots as being a form of relaxation and fun for the players and the masses. This is in contrast to the mega business powerhouse it is today. The picture this book paints helps keep a unique era in baseball’s history preserved in print, so as time marches on fans of the game will realize where the sport came from and how we got to where we are now at today.
Author Ronald T. Waldo has really found his niche in this era. From his previously published books and now including this one he has undertaken measurable tasks with his books. He is working in an era that very few players, if any are still alive. Even people who witnessed the end of this era are few and far between, so he is trying to compile stories in the fourth and fifth person down the line. That is a monumental task for a writer. The pressure involved with fact checking and putting your name on the line that you got the story correct is monumental. As one is reading Waldo’s work you get the feel that the research is thorough and you are getting the complete story. That is both a compliment to his dedication and writing style. This is a very hard era to make the reader feel like they are actually there, but Ronald T. Waldo pulls it off. The main reason being that between alcohol and gambling alone the game of baseball on and off of the field is such a different game than what we are used to.
Baseball fans should take the time to check this one out. It is a great history lesson for everyone, and an era where a few laughs up until now have been hard to find. It is also important for everyone to see where we have come from and be able to appreciate what we now have on the field.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. If not used correctly it can skew the memories of people, times and places of bygone eras. It can make one think and long for something that in hindsight we believe was much better than it really was. Since Baseball has been around for almost a century and a half, there are many eras that none of use were able to witness first hand. We rely on history books, the research of many and documentation to see what really happened. The Deadball era is one that many people have a fondness for and like to learn about it as much as they can. I recently found a book that allows those Deadball era lovers to get some inside stories of what the game was really like during that time, without succumbing to all that messy nostalgia.
Tales From the Deadball Era allows readers to do some time traveling if you will. It takes them back to when violence, segregation and gambling were some of the nicer things happening at the baseball games. A time when fields were in disrepair, equipment was unsophisticated and quite honestly the final product was somewhat of a mess. It was nothing like the showcase we get to witness on a daily basis today.
Halfon introduces us to some of the major events of the era. Showing us these highlights along with some of the great personalities ever to play the game, he gives the reader a very complete picture of what was going on during this era. He also shows some of the more lighthearted moments that infiltrated the game during that period. Many of these things you would not even dream of as being part of the game today. The book also shows how necessity is the mother of invention. Things we normally accept as part of the game had to come from somewhere, and this book shows us those things we should all be thankful for.
If you fancy yourself a novice baseball historian this book is a good book for you. It gives the reader a nice feel for this time period and will leave you wanting to find out more information about the Deadball era and its personalities. If you fancy yourself a novice historian on the John Thorn level then you may want to stay away from this one. If you are at that level you more than likely wont get any new information from this book. Honestly most fans will enjoy reading this book and spending the time traveling back to these decades long ago.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Potomac Books
There are players in the history of baseball that transcend all of time. No matter how much time passes they are in conversations and debates almost on a daily basis. Names like Mantle, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Rose are all names that will forever be talked about and for the most part held in high regard. Regardless of their transgressions on and off the field they are still beloved by many. There are others that the exact opposite is true of. One such person is Ty Cobb. More than a few books have been written about The Georgia Peach and his exploits and honestly up until now most have not been complimentary. There was a new book published this year that attempts to change how we feel about Ty Cobb.
Charles Leerhsen took on a pretty big task in trying to change Ty Cobb’s image. It seems we as baseball fans and as a society were pretty set in our opinions of Cobb. We accepted the facts that he was a cut throat player willing to win at any cost. We also accepted the fact that he was a raging racist during his life. Basically we all were comfortable accepting the fact that he was an all around SOB. Through other books that were written, most of these facts were able to be backed up by stories and first hand accounts, and even though we now know a few may have been fabrications, we were all pretty set in our opinions. But what if we are wrong?
The author, through newspaper articles, interviews and some of Cobb’s own writings has tried to get to the real man behind the image. He does an in-depth look at the personality and the behavior of the man set in his own era. He attempts to dispel rumors, expose certain truths as fraud and show the gentler, kinder side of ole’ Ty.
This book gets its point across very eloquently and does pose some very interesting questions for the reader. Perhaps the biggest question I had at the end of this is were we wrong? I don’t know for sure honestly, but it definitely has raised some serious questions in my mind. Cobb’s grandson Herschel wrote a book about Ty last year and that to me started the ball rolling in my mind that maybe we have the story a little skewed. I finished the book and still in my own mind have no definitive answers on Ty Cobb, but I have opened up to the possibility that the accepted story may not at the very least be accurate.
I recommend this book to any and all baseball fans because if nothing else it will start to make you wonder. It is written very well and moves along nicely. It is not a mindless biography and it forces the reader to contemplate whether they still accept the opinions we have previously accepted as fact. Maybe someone will also help me figure out what I think about the whole subject, because I am still not sure.
Too much of a good thing is not healthy. But how does one know when they get to that point. It could be with food and drink, gambling, or countless other vices, usually you know when you have had enough. With baseball books how are we to know when the market has been saturated with a particular subject? Is it when the subject runs its course of popularity and what defines the point that subject transcends its own timeline? There are certain personalities out there that no matter how much time passes between their relevance to the game and current times, the books keep on coming. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and a handful of others come to mind as players with too many books about them out there. But today’s book to me is another biography on an above average player and manager that gets a ton of coverage no matter how many decades have passed.
Billy Martin is a guy who got more mileage out of his personality than almost anyone in baseball. People loved him and hated him, all at the same time, but you couldn’t deny his passion and skills. On and off the field he was a lightning rod for trouble and everywhere he went, some sort of altercation interrupted his career at that time. He has been the subject of many, many books and this new one tries to give the reader something different.
Bill Pennington has thrown his hat in the Billy Martin Ring with his new volume. Pennington has done thorough research and given the reader a comprehensive story of the life of the volatile player and skipper. From his early days in California to his career at various stops in the majors, the author has given you a good look at what made Billy tick. There were some minor details about Martin’s story that knowledgeable fans may question but overall it is a nice piece of work that readers will enjoy.
The bigger question I have is why do we need another Billy Martin biography? What has happened in recent years that has changed any opinions of Billy. In the almost 25 years since Martin’s death, nothing new has surfaced that would warrant another book. There have been several books on the market that have done this dance. I know of at least ten other biographies that have chronicled Martin’s life and there is a lot of overlap between those books already. So I am not sure why we needed another one. I understand the appeal of the Yankees and Martin’s personality, so that is really the only reason I can conceive as to why this book, at this point in time.
As I said above, Bill Pennington did a really nice job with this book, save for the few minor details he doesn’t have quite right. If you haven’t inundated yourself with Billy Martin biographies in the past, then you will really enjoy this book. If you are like me and read all the other versions available, then you may have trouble finding some new information to keep your attention. I don’t want to discourage readers from checking out this book, I just want them to keep in mind it is a lot of the same stories that have been visited many times before.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Even though baseball players are constantly in the public eye, it does not mean you always get one hundred percent of the details. Almost every players image until recently was a product of their teams media relations department. They would work tirelessly to keep certain issues and events out of the public eye. In the advent of our instant media society some of the demons escape long before anyone on the team knows anything about them. Such is the tale of todays book. Oil Can Boyd was a rising star but you never knew about all of the demons lurking inside his soul.
Dennis Boyd was a superstar not long into his career. With a nickname like Oil Can, he was bound to be a fan favorite in Boston. Underneath the smiling surface were demons that were gnawing away at the star pitcher and made his life difficult at the very least. Being under the sports microscope that Boston is probably didn’t help Boyd’s problems and the end results were more than likely etched in stone long before anyone realized.
A product of the deep south, Dennis Boyd was a youngster when racism was rampant. Events that occurred during his upbringing did a lot of damage in shaping the man he became. You can see that many of these events effected the way he approached his own life and how he dealt with people, thus the outcomes that occurred during his career. These same feelings towards the world around him also show how it led him into a life of drugs that damaged his career and relationships with those close to him.
By far Dennis Boyd does not come out of this book looking like a villan or a victim. He comes across as an honest caring man who just wants to be accepted for who he is. Unfortunately, it is one of those circumstances in life that his surroundings have effected him so deeply that he used the only outlets he felt were available. The book is his honest account of what he feels life has dealt him, and it seems he is not holding anything back. After reading this book I think I have a better understanding of what makes Oil Can tick, and it seems he is a half decent guy that just had some bad breaks. My personal view of him has improved through reading this book and I don’t think he is really the head case that the media had made him out to be.
Red Sox and Expos fans will love this book, just because of the team connection. I think fans in general may like it as well because the book is very honest. It does not pull any punches and Dennis Boyd becomes a better stronger man as the book progresses. Even if you hated Oil Can it might be worth checking out because you perception of him may change by the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Choosing the best of the best can really ignite some serious debates. Who belongs, who doesn’t, who should be eligible and who should not even be there always makes for good conversations among friends. The Baseball Hall of Fame, which is nestled in that sleepy little town in upstate New York, is the mecca of baseball junkies. You can walk among some of the greatest artifacts throughout the history of the game as well as visiting the memorials to all the games brightest stars. If you are not lucky enough to be located within a reasonable distance of the Hall like I am (2 hours), then you may not be able to get there as often as you would like or even at all for that matter. I found a book, if you are one of the unlucky few that may never get there that will help you experience some of the magical aura that is The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has really published a first-rate book with this one. The quality of the book alone is incredible. From the paper stock, to the printing this is a really nice book. Quality of the book is something I really never comment on, but this one is really that good.
The Hall has compiled all its members, including managers, executives and umpires and given the reader in-depth overviews of every single person. Each player section is broken down by position into its own chapter and then sorted by induction year. It has dedicated two pages to each personality and gives a nice biography of their career as well as a brief snippet of that persons unique personality. It is a nice feature for each person that you don’t always get in these types of books, because it is usually more focused on the career numbers. Each person’s Hall of Fame plaque also heads their individual page so you are able to read exactly what is hanging on the wall in Cooperstown.
The other nice feature is a several page essay at the beginning of each chapter. A player from that chapter has written about his own experiences during his career that led him to The Hall of Fame. It is something you don’t normally see in a Hall of Fame coffee table book and adds a real human touch to this book. I think the Hall of Fame sometimes lacks a human touch when speaking about its members, so this brings it back to a very personal and fan friendly level.
This book covers all the players that were enshrined as of the publication date. The only down side to these types of books is that they are not accurate for very long. Once the next July rolls around someone is missing. But honestly this book is done so well it should belong in every fan’s library. You may be familiar with some of the names, but there are others that are a real learning experience for fans young and old.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Little Brown and Company
With the official end to the 2014 baseball season last night I thought today would be an appropriate time for this book. By the way congrats on another World Series win Giants fans. As a Phillies fan, I can only imagine how cool three championships within five years is. This year baseball fans all over the nation bid farewell to Derek Jeter. Some say it was an overblown farewell and others felt it appropriate. Whatever your position on the matter, it was the end of a career, that many of us will never see the likes of again. Every so often the end of a baseball season coincides with the end of a storied career. Todays book looks at such an event.
Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu
By John Updike-2010 Library of America
It goes without saying that Ted Williams was an all-time great. Perhaps even the best all around player ever. New York fans will probably disagree with that last statement, but whatever your feelings, you have to easily admit he was one of the greatest. Teddy Ballgame was the face of the Boston Red Sox for many, many years. The team was a perennial cellar dweller and this was before the birth of the Red Sox Nation. The man as a player, put up incredible career numbers in spite of losing several years to military service on more than one occasion.
When you think of great baseball writers, I for one never have never thought immediately of John Updike. As far as I can tell this is his one significant writing about the sport. What you get out of this book is a fan’s perspective of Ted Williams final game. It essentially shows the lack of fanfare surrounding his final days at Fenway.
Updike walks you through all the activities going on in the park from the time he entered the park to the start of the game. You get information about his surroundings and some of the people in his vicinity. As one would expect you get the game details and also the author’s take on the relationship between the fans and Williams. Finally, you get the description of the final at bat, the final home run and the essential death of Williams career when the game ended.
I found this book to be very interesting. If anything it came across as a very long essay as opposed to enough material for a book. It moved through each topic very quickly and could have easily given some more in-depth analysis on the subjects. The book is only 47 pages, which honestly I did not think anyone could write anything about Ted Williams in under 100 pages.
Overall it is a very quick read and probably something avid baseball readers would enjoy. It is not something that you learn a great deal from but if you were not in Fenway that day, you can at least enjoy the experience of Ted Williams last game. It is also interesting to see how the end of a career was handled over 50 years ago. Good or bad, times have changed. This book shows that in terms of how we as fans hero-worship, its a totally different ball game.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Library of America