I find it fascinating that within the history of baseball there are still forgotten Superstars. We have left no stone unturned in the documentation of the game, yet there are still players that do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. Napoleon Lajoie is one of those players that falls into this group. Yes he has gotten his plaque in Cooperstown and no one can take away his monster career numbers, but to me he always seems like an afterthought. Perhaps timing comes into play here, being a part of the same generation as some of the games premier immortals, forcing him out of the spotlight. Today’s book acknowledges his undeserved existence living in the shadows of the game’s bigger stars.
In all honesty, I know of Napoleon Lajoie and his great contributions to the game, but I am not very well read on him. I thought that was somewhat odd for a Hall of Famer, but after a little research I now know that there are not that many Lajoie bios’s on the market. So I was hoping with this book to learn a little bit more in depth about both the man and the player. I got some of what I wanted, but not all of it.
This book is not a beginning to end Napoleon Lajoie biography as it is billed. It is a series of anecdotes, poems, photos and other assorted bits that give the reader a very good feel for what baseball was like during this period. Now it also dedicated a good portion of the book to Napoleon Lajoie and his storied career as one would expect. How he was loved by his fans and how he lived his years after baseball. The final chapter of this book shares a conversation between Ty Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie on a warm Florida afternoon a few years before their respective deaths, which I found very interesting. It gave a brief glimpse of the immense pride of these two greats of the game.
The down side of this book for me was that this book was not a full Lajoie biography. It was an opportunity missed for new generations to learn in depth about an oft forgotten Hall of Fame career. My other pet peeve with this book was misspelled words and overall poor editing. Just a pet peeve that arises from time to time for me as an avid reader.
So in the end something is better than nothing at all. It didn’t give me enough of the Lajoie information that I was hoping for, but fans of this period should still enjoy it. Hopefully Lajoie is not one of those early superstars of the game who eventually fades into oblivion, as generations go by.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Stillwater River Publications
If you are looking for a book review tonight unfortunately you have come to the wrong place. Being the name sake of this blog provides me the opportunity to have a public venting session when needed. So please if you all will, amuse me tonight and let me complain so that by tomorrow I will be in a better frame of mind and will return to what I normally do around here…….baseball books and all that go with it.
For those of you who haven’t heard, my wife and I are expecting our first child in August. To celebrate the event we were going to take an epic trip in May and visit six MLB stadiums in eight days along with one Minor League stop in there as well. Here is the link to the original story if you missed it. We had some good responses and ideas from a few of my readers to some things we should not miss at the places we were going. We also had some preliminary contact with a couple of the teams we were going to visit so it was looking like it was all going to come together nicely and be a fun trip. Until today, when my little black cloud, that seems to follow me almost everywhere, showed its ugly face once again and rained all over our trip. You may ask, what has happened that would be so crappy to ruin our epic trip……..here let me show you…………….
That is a wonderful x-ray of my spine. The same spine that now requires surgery and some sort of implant to fix and has essentially screwed us out of our trip. I will be out of commission for at least a month and that falls right during the month of May. So instead of following the Phillies from city to city, and eating an Egg Mcmuffin in Toledo at a baseball game, I will be sitting at home on the couch with my head buried in another baseball book.
My wife has brought up the proposition of doing this trip next summer with our new little bundle of joy in tow, but I haven’t 100% signed off that idea yet. I do think having the new addition along would be a great bonus to the trip, I am just not sure how easy that much travel would be with someone that little.
I would like to think there is some sort of reason this has happened now and that we are better off staying home. But more than likely, it is just my black cloud following me again. So all the above being said if anyone has some ideas for books I should check out during my several week recuperation let me know. I have a few weeks until my surgery date, but will still have several weeks at home to read.
So that’s the plan, we will make that my silver lining in all of this and hopefully get some new recommendations from my readers. I have lots of faith in the folks I talk to in baseball book land and have already read a few of your ideas. So I look forward to and also appreciate any ideas you all have.
Thanks for reading my rant, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to listen to me whine and complain……………now back to your regular scheduled book reviews.
It seems like every generation in baseball has a phenomenon all their own. Something that takes the game by storm and regardless of who your team is that you root for and want to be part of it. Things that come to mind are Roger Maris in 1961, McGwire and Sosa in 1998 and even the Bash Brothers in the 80’s. But the 1970’s were a unique decade. We have seen in the past from some of the other books we reviewed like Stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein, how the 70’s were a decade of change both on a social level and on the ball field. The 70’s can lay claim to a few different memorable events, but one stands out above the rest. Mark Fidrych of the Detroit Tigers was about to take the baseball world by storm, and they didn’t even see it coming.
Mark Fidrych was the product of a small Massachusetts town, coming from a modest background. Never groomed to be a star athlete, he just played because he wanted to do so. But Mark Fidrych’s antics on the pitching mound, a big head of unmanageable hair and blazing fastball made him the talk of the country in 1976. Nicknamed The Bird due to his resemblance to Big Bird from Sesame Street, Fidrych had brief but magical career that to this day makes fans wonder what could have been.
Doug Wilson has written a book that explores the man behind the legend. Everyone is familiar with all the on-field antics that were part of Fidrych’s quirky personality, but unless you lived in Detroit at the time, you may have not been all that familiar with the real Mark. Wilson’s book gives a nice, detailed look at the man himself. From his roots in Massachusetts, through the minor leagues, his gig as “The Bird” and finally life after baseball, it paints a very detailed picture of what a nice guy he was. You always hear old players saying that they played for the love of the game, but I actually believe it with this one. He just seemed to have fun with everything he did and baseball was no exception. Many of the first hand accounts of Mark are taken from interviews with friends and family so they are really nice remembrances of a man who was taken from this world too soon.
Of course, what baseball book would be complete without taking a look at the on field activities of The Bird. You see his minor and major league career, his attempts at rehabbing his bad arm and finally his life after baseball. Most times the reporting on Mark Fidrych does not get beyond the on-field antics. It was nice to see someone finally put something together that showed the complete picture.
All baseball fans should like this one. If you were around during that magical summer that he took the game by storm, it will be fun re-living it. If The Bird was before your time, it will be another fun ride seeing what made the 70’s so groovy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Thomas Dunne Books
I wasn’t sure if I was going to use this book on the blog or not. I have no clue what my reader base is and didn’t want to do something inappropriate for that audience. After seeing all the articles on the internet about Umpire Dale Scott announcing his homosexuality, I figured this was a s good of a time as any to take a look at this book.
Going the Other Way
By:Billy Bean-2014 The Experiment Publishing
Being politically correct has never been one of my strengths so if I offend anyone, my apologies up front. Billy Bean was a major league player in the late 80’s to early 90’s. He bounced around to a few cities and played for a few years in the majors but was never a player who produced substantially. While we all may know of his baseball side, this book is more of a personal revelation book in the sense that he seems to come to grips with who he really is.
For those unaware Bean is gay. I am in no way judging his lifestyle on here at all. I am just stating facts and letting each reader have their own opinion whatever that may be. I am not sure I would necessarily call this a baseball book so much as possibly it is just a book about reflecting on one’s own life. Sure there are baseball stories but it is not an overwhelming theme.
Bean takes a look back at his own life and the choices he has made, his career and where is life is going. He talks about the struggles of being gay and how he came to grips with who he really was. You get amazing insight into a person’s journey through this topic and oh yeah by the way, he was a professional baseball player. Billy pulls no punches and does not try to sugarcoat any of the choices he has made, good, bad or indifferent. It is a surprisingly honest account from a professional athlete. There is nothing written in the book to try to portray Bean in a different light from what he really is. He comes across as human just like the rest of us, and you share in the journey of him finding himself. This honesty about his own being has probably led to MLB naming him the Ambassador of Inclusion in 2014.
This book was originally written 7 or 8 years ago and the new edition has some more pages. Whether you read the original printing or the new one it is a well written book and in the end you admire Bean for his forthrightness in the story. With homosexuality starting to come to the forefront in professional sports in the past few years, this is a very good book to get a glimpse at what an athlete endures to play the game. Perhaps they can get the players who are enduring this scenario to read this book and use it as some sort of guide.
If you want a strong baseball book, this may not be the best choice for you. If you are looking at an honest human interest memoir and learning about the author’s journey, who, oh yeah, happened to be a professional baseball player, then you will really enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The Experiment Publishing
In the age of seven-figure salaries and endorsement deals, it becomes harder to find respect for the game itself on the field. Players do not care about the history of the game or the sacrifices other generations have made to allow the current group of players to reach for the stars. Todays book reveals the thoughts of a player you could consider to be a throwback to an age of respect for the game.
Just My Game
By:Jason Grilli – 2014 Mascot Books
Jason Grilli may never be a first ballot Hall of Famer. That is in no way a slight towards Jason, just very few players are. He has had many stops along the way during his career. Some have worked out better than others. Unfortunately injuries have reared their heads more than once and seemed to slow his career dominance. With all that has happened, Grilli has kept his head held high and persevered to try and achieve his career goals. It is that perseverance and his respect of the game that has made him a unique player in today’s game.
Grilli is a second generation baseball player, and it is that fact that seems to make him have a better appreciation for the game. He and his extended family understand the sacrifices that need to be made in order to become a major league player. It has been his aspiration from a young age to be that, and he has never wavered from that goal. His respect for the game makes me want to term him a throwback because it shows his appreciation for what he has attained. That respect for the game has also been behind his drive to recover from numerous injuries and become a better, stronger player and person.
Grilli does a nice job in this book reflecting on his journey to the majors. He is very honest with both his accomplishments and disappointments. He does not shy away from anything negative and you see how each experience has made him a better person. Grilli truly comes across as thankful for the opportunities he has been given, both in and out of baseball. He shows his appreciation for the history of the game and how he is part of something greater than just the individual player. He also talks about lessons he has learned from his rehabilitation experiences. He speaks about the ways they have made him more appreciative for what he has and what he has been able to accomplish.
This is to an extent an inspirational book in the fact that it shows anyone can overcome almost any obstacle in life. It is nice to see this kind of book from a player of the current generation. Most of the times current players come across as me, me ,me, but this is different. You now see there are still good guys out there on the field, living their dreams and realizing how lucky they really are to be there.
Baseball fans that want an honest, feel-good story will enjoy this book. He may not be a Hall of Fame player but he comes across as a Hall of Fame person.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Mascot Books