One thing I really enjoy about this blog is I never know who I am going to talk to, get the chance to meet or what I might have the opportunity to obtain. One of those such people who I had the absolute pleasure to meet yesterday was the one and only Ron Kaplan. For those of you not familiar with Ron (and I say shame on you if you are into baseball books and don’t know who he is) he is the man behind Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf as well as an accomplished baseball author. One fact that may not have been as well know is that Ron was the man with an insanely large amount of acquired baseball books taking residence in his home, which led to this weekends meeting.
Ron decided it was time to clean house and get some of the boxes out the door and reduce some of his clutter. He worked tirelessly to find them a good home where they would be appreciated, because he and I both feel there is something inherently wrong with just throwing books in the garbage. The term one man’s trash is another man’s treasure applies here to some degree. Through his generosity he agreed to dispose of a large chunk of the book collection to me. It was Christmas in October on a quiet suburban New Jersey street if you will for this baseball fan.
I would guess roughly 800 books changed hands in this meeting, and with smiles on both our parts we ended the meeting, each of us very happy. The generosity of this to me was overwhelming to me and to Ron I send a heartfelt Thank You. I find it cool how baseball books can bring two strangers together and give them common link to build friendship upon.
To my wife Brina, if she does not leave me over bringing home 800 books to our house…….then I thank her too.
She was a real trooper after a late night Saturday in getting up bright and early for our trek to New Jersey. Without a complaint all day she helped greatly in loading and unloading of the truck and even had a few complimentary things to say about my blog…….yes, I was surprised too!
If you ever get a chance check out Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf using the link above. As far as baseball book sites out there go, there is Ron Kaplan’s…….and then there is the rest of us. He would in my opinion almost be the Godfather of Baseball Book Blogging. Again Ron, I thank you, the boxes of books are all settled in their new home waiting to be unleashed. If you ever feel the need to unleash more of your baseball books on the world, remember I am only a phone call away. Next time we will definitely take you up on the offer of the cup of coffee.
As baseball fans we should remember we are the keepers of the game, and if there is something we can do to help our fellow baseball book fans enjoy their time more, we should pay it forward. I know that’s what I am going to be doing with some of my books (new and old ones) in the next few months.
In each generation there is at least one player that transcends team allegiances. No matter where you are from or who you root for, there is a guy who everyone takes an interest in their career. Roberto Clemente, Bob Feller and several others come to mind, but the one that really stands out to me is Stan Musial. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who had a bad word to say about Stan the Man. He was a great ambassador to both the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. His legacy and outgoing personality carried him through life for the six decades after he retired. That is why going into todays book I had such high hopes for it.
High hopes sometimes in the baseball literature world can sometimes lead to disappointment. In no way was it disappointment in the subject matter, but more the writing style. I enjoy baseball biographies more than any other genre of baseball books. With that in mind I have obviously read hundreds of baseball bio’s, sometimes three, four or even seven on the same person, so I usually know what to expect in these types of books.
Stan Musial is an incredible subject for a biography. He had a great personality and always had a smile face. His career and retirement were not once touched by scandal, so Stan by that measure, is an author’s dream as far as research and a fan’s dream to read about. Wayne Stewart has made a valiant attempt to chronicle the life and career of Stan the Man. He did a very complete and accurate job on the research details on the story itself, but I think he crossed a line that is hard to walk in baseball biographies. The final story came off as more of a fan worship to his favorite player as opposed to a baseball biography.
The book for my money beleaguered many points and makes drawn out attempts in explaining the details of the story. Sometimes in a biography less can be more. Obviously when it is not a first hand story you need a ton of detail to paint a complete picture for the reader. This book unfortunately does to much of that to make sure it doesn’t miss any part of the story. When the author does that, it slows down the flow of the story and the reader feels that they are stuck in that part of the story much longer than they actually are.
Wayne Stewart on the plus side, did nice research on Stan and conducted some informative interviews, but the presentation of the story was lacking for my taste. There are a few other Stan Musial biographies out there that I feel flow better than this one. If you are a big Stan Musial fan, you more than likely will be able to overlook the slow pace of this book. I think the fan that has admired Stan the Man from afar is going to have more trouble embracing this book, like I did.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books at the link below
Well the move is over, and as I live among the piles of boxes awaiting unpacking and finding new homes, I figured now was as good a time as any to post a new blog. A majority of the books aren’t unpacked yet, but in due time they will adorn the shelves again. For those of you familiar with me, my love for the Phillies has been well documented, so I figured let’s get back in the saddle with a Phillies book today.
When you have been in existence for over 130 years and had limited success in that time frame as the Phillies have had, your great moments are few and far between. You have limited happy stories to draw from and a few miserable failures that stick in the fans crawl for a long, long time. If you are familiar with the Phillies you know these stories all to well. The Championships, the Pennants and of course 1964.
Robert Gordon has compiled these familiar highs and lows in his book and presented them to the Phillies fans. He has intertwined interviews with former players, coaches and people associated with the team at the appropriate time. They are thorough interviews that give an added perspective beyond the authors, and enhance the story itself. The facts are well presented for fans of the Phillies to appreciate their inglorious history at most times.
Here is my problem with this book. If you are a dedicated Phillies fan, you already know these stories by heart. You have lived and died by these stories your entire life and they have become part of your Phillies soul. For Phillies fans there are already countless books out there hashing through these anecdotes, so except for the personal interviews, you are not getting too much new information. By far, this is not a bad book. It is well written, accurate and entertaining. Just for my personal taste I was hoping for something new. If you are not familiar with Phillies history and want to learn more about them, this would be a great book for you. If you are familiar with the team and hoping for some new stories or inside dirt, you may be disappointed.
Check it out and see what you think, maybe I am just in too deep with my love for the Phillies, that it makes it difficult for me after a while to go down the same road over and over again.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
I am not sure how many people actually pay attention to my blog, which is fine , I understood that when I started this. Why would people want to read what I think sometimes, in all honesty these blogs are just my opinions. Anyway, my posts on here have been few and far between as of late, and maybe for some that may be a good thing that I have been quiet. The reason behind the silence is that myself, my wife and three fairly ungrateful but still loveable cats are moving. So the time has come for this.
We are loading up the bookcase and moving to new digs over the next few days. So internet access ability will be few and far between and time at a premium, and besides I have a crap-ton of books to pack up and move. So for the next ten days or so Gregg (that’s me) will be among the missing until we get everything situated at the new place.
For those of you that have stopped by in the past year and checked out the blog, I thank you. This site is a labor of love for me and nothing more. So please be patient because in a few days we will be back rolling again. Also, if anyone has sent me a book to review, please be patient, you will not be forgotten, maybe just delayed a little bit.
I know I am looking for the restoration of some sanity in my life, not living out of cardboard boxes anymore and having some time to start reading again. So in the mean time, everyone keep reading and if you have any idea for books I should check out, drop me a line and let me know.
Be back soon and Happy Reading
and of course Brina, Phillie, Booger and Moose (All the innocent victims in moving all these books)
Some stars rise to the pinnacle of the game slowly and come back down at the same rate. Others reach the pinnacle and in one quick move come screaming back to earth at an alarming speed. Steve Blass unfortunately falls into that second category. Throughout his career, Blass was a superstar pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but then one day he lost it all. He basically lost all his pitching control and was unable to find home plate again. No reason was ever figured out for Blass’ loss of control but it became a career destroying problem. Today’s book takes a look at how perseverance and a positive attitude can help you make lemonade out of lemons in this game of life.
Steve Blass had a pretty good career. The only problem was it was cut short due to a baffling illness. He lost all his control and his career plummeted. Most players that would be the end of the story but luckily for baseball fans, that is not the end of his story. Steve Blass turned his damaged and essentially dead career into a lifetime of being a contributing member of the proud Pittsburgh Pirates family.
A Pirate for Life takes a look at Steve’s entire life. From his humble upbringings to his rise to stardom on the mound. You see his World Series triumphs as well as a few bumps along the way. You get an in-depth look at the ultimate demise of his career and the toll it takes on him personally. All that being said you see Steve Blass’ perseverance and strength come through. You see him embark on a new career and becoming his own institution in Pittsburgh as a member of the broadcast team. It shows the type of quality person Steve Blass is and how he overcame his obstacles to build a life and career he can be proud of.
Personal strength is an underlying theme in this book, and I think it unintentionally gives the reader the message that with confidence, dedication and whatever your own measure of strength is, you can attain anything you wish. It is a nice message that I feel is born out of the story and really not something you get in a baseball book that often.
All baseball fans will enjoy this. It is an interesting story both on and off the field, and its underlying message is one that will benefit everyone. Sometimes you life plan doesn’t work out as expected, but in the end result may be greater than you could have ever imagined.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Lets face it. The New York Yankees have always been the prettiest girl at the dance, the prom queen and grandma’s favorite at Thanksgiving dinner. They get all the ink in the press, they get all the big impact free agents, and have a seemingly endless supply of money. These reasons above have given fans plenty of reasons to hate the Bronx Bombers. In the course of winning 27 World Championships the Yankees have had the occasion to create more than one dynasty in New York. Today’s book takes at the most recent dynasty assembled in the Big Apple, down to its very core.
The last thing I want to do when I find time to read a book, is partake in the Yankees propaganda machine. After the 2014 grand retirement extravaganza that was Derek Jeter, I as a fan was tired. I more wanted to find a book that would make me enjoy the good old days of the recent Yankees without finding out why Derek Jeter was the best player ever. Even though Jeter is part of today’s book, it thankfully wasn’t dominated by Derek.
Core Four takes a look at the roads traveled by the four main players that were members of the Yankees new millennium dynasty. While that dynasty actually started in 1996, it carried over into the 21st century, so I figured that was the easiest way to categorize it. The book looks at Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and of course Derek Jeter. It shows the journey each of them made in their private lives to get to professional baseball, their minor league journeys, as well as their pecking orders in the Yankees minor league system. Finally our core four move to the majors and you review each of their individual accomplishments.
The part of the book I found most interesting was the way that these four players were present for a substantial period of success in Yankees history. Six pennants and four World Series over the course of eight seasons while these four called each other teammates. That in itself is nothing to sneeze at. But you also see how as some of these pieces moved on to other teams how the Yankees suffered. It is a really interesting look at how the foundation of that dynasty was assembled and how it functioned.
Some people enjoy Phil Pepe’s writings, and I am one of them. He is obviously New York biased which is fine if you accept that fact before you start reading the book. This is another stellar effort on his part in the telling of the Yankees dynasty and New York fans should really enjoy it.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Different point of views are very important in baseball. If you have one hundred people see the same thing, you will get one hundred different takes on what just happened. This is one of the things that makes the game so great. Everyone gets to enjoy it on a personal level and make their own connection with the events as they unfold. Certain writers help the fans understand what they see out on the field, and help them digest the events so that they get full comprehension of what just happened on the field. Jayson Stark’s new book is one of those that helps fans understand what has just happened.
Being from Philadelphia I am very familiar with Jayson Stark’s work. From his days as a Phillies beat reporter to his current ESPN gig, I have enjoyed his work. He always seems to have a good grasp on what the average fan is seeing and has a way to confirm to that person that they are right. He talks to fans in his writings on a level they understand and never tries to prove how smart he is about baseball. It almost feels that you are just sitting around talking to a friend when you read one of his columns.
Wild Pitches is no different in that talking to a friend feel. It seems to be mostly a compilation of some of his previous articles of baseball events after the year 2000. It covers all the big events in the league and some of the not so big ones, but does present a nice mix of teams to the reader. Stark’s writings give you background on the events and then his take on the events and why he feels they are important. They are always well thought out and presented to the reader in a way that is easy to understand and enjoy. The only down side to this book was that the stories were not in chronological order. The end result was the book jumped around a little bit, but most readers will get over that fact.
To me, and I say this without any bias, I always enjoy Stark’s writing. I don’t have to stop and look up words after the fact, when I read his books. Honestly I don’t like it when any writer prints something and gets cute with his word choice, because in the end the reader (me) feels like an idiot. Sometimes in baseball a little bit of being down-to-earth goes a long way. Baseball fans will really enjoy this book, because it covers all the teams not just the Phillies. But on a side note, his Phillies piece in this book is exceptional, especially the chapter about Harry Kalas. You can take the boy out of Philadelphia, but I don’t think they will ever be able to take the Philadelphia out of the boy.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books.
Sometimes you come across a book that I would consider a “comfort book”. These are the types of books that you have heard some version of the included anecdotes 100 times before, but will still read and enjoy them again. It’s almost like re-living the same stories with your college buddies over and over again of all the stupid crap you did in your youth. For me, todays book falls into that category.
If These Walls Could Talk-Philadelphia Phillies
By:Larry Shenk- TriumphBooks 2014
Larry Shenk is a true Phillies lifer. He has been with the team starting in 1964 and held various roles through his current day position of Alumni Relations Manager. Larry has seen it all in his 50 years with the team. The championships, collapses, Hall of Famers, near misses and all the barren years in between. That is what makes the man affectionately known in Philadelphia as “The Barron”, the perfect person to tell these stories.
This is by far not a Phillies fluff piece. You get insider Phillies stories that add color and perspective to the product you are getting on the field, which in 2014 is not a very good product. Stories from the player’s points of view about their own careers and team events. He also touches on one area I thought was very interesting being a Phillies fan. The importance of scouting and player development within your organization. That is something that has lacked for this team many years in its existence, and finally someone from within the organization sees its importance.
Lastly, included in this book is the stories that true Phillies fans have heard hundreds of times throughout the years. Stories about the players, team, stadiums, managers and everything we love that makes the Phillies so great to its fan base. If you are a true Phillies fan, I really do not think you will be disappointed with the Baron’s newest book.
I am not sure what kind of mass appeal this book would have to people outside the Philadelphia area or to non-Phillies fans. These types of books seem to be a somewhat targeted market. Again, to me, being a Phillies fan, they are almost as good as comfort food when you are feeling down. They have a familiarity that almost envelopes the reader.
But you are in luck if you are a fan of another team. Triumph Books has the same type of book for almost every team. So you will be able to read the stories that pertain to your team and players. This way you can have the same enjoyable time reading about your favorite team. You can check http://www.triumphbooks.com to see if your favorite team has been published yet.
Finally, it is explained. We all do it and probably don’t even realize it. I know I didn’t because I never really thought about it. Baseball is as American as apple pie, fireworks on the Fourth of July or loving your Momma! It has intertwined itself into our daily lives. It’s almost astounding when you see it. That brings us to tonight’s book…
How Baseball Explains America
By Hal Bodley 2014- Triumph Books
Baseball has infiltrated our national history, our families, our language, our government and even our daily lives. We can look at our national history over the last century and almost always come up with a baseball event that happened in each decade that was remarkable. We can look at our family life and I know for myself, I can equate fond memories with my Dad to baseball games and championships. How many times through the course of any given day do we use a baseball term to something we did in the normal course of our day. Failure equals striking out. Success becomes a home run. When you are a teenager, you even equate baseball terms to dating…..single, double, home run etc. How many opening days or first game pitches were performed by sitting Presidents? Our Government also has a deep history of Legislation and laws (anti-trust) designed for Baseball. Finally, how many times have we readjusted our schedules and turned our lives upside down to get to a certain game, watch a game on TV or attend a championship parade. I think as fans, we have all done at least one of these things, at least once in our lives.
Hal Bodley has done a great job with this book. He has examined each of the above areas of society and done a great job explaining how they fit in our lives. Rarely do I read a book that makes me think about how baseball affects my life. This book does just that by making you look at yourself and figuring out if you do some of these things.
In this new “Moneyball” era, the game has transcended to numbers. This book makes you take a step back and see the natural beauty that is the game of baseball and what it really means to all of us as a society. Hal Bodley’s knowledge of the game transcends through this book as it has in other books of his that I have read. It also shows his honest and unbiased love of the game. I think all fans can relate to that aspect of the book. We all love the game of baseball for different reasons, be it a team, a player, or just the game as a whole. A book like this does show every fan that they are not alone in their feelings for the game, regardless of the depth of their feelings.
I recommend this book to every baseball fan. It is something that is part of every one of our lives. It also is part of all our personalities as well, even the casual fans. Hal Bodley hit a “home-run” on this one.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books. www.triumphbooks.com
Sometimes in Baseball with today’s insane salaries and elite status you get the feeling some players just don’t get it. They believe they are special and deserving of special treatment and other accolades just because they can hit and throw a ball better than the average person. Then, other times you come across a player that has worked extremely hard to overcome many obstacles, both public and private, to reach his pinnacle of success. In that second instance, we as fans tend to gravitate towards that person and accept him as our own, which I believe is just human nature. We appreciate the struggles and the perseverance that player has shown and to some degree adopt that persons determination as a part of our own struggles.
This brings us to our book today on the Blog.
Shane Victorino-The Flyin Hawaiian
By Alan Maimon (Triumph Books Ver1-2011, Ver2-2014)
I lived through Shane Victorino’s entire tenure in Philadelphia, as I lived there during that period and as I said, I’m a die hard Phillies fan. This book is a very accurate account of what the fans felt for Victorino and he for them as well. There are two editions of this book out there right now. Edition 1- Chronicles Victorino’s life and career through the end of the 2010 season. That one has the Phillies cover. Edition 2 – includes all the information as in Edition 1 but also includes 2011 through 2013 and the Boston portion of his career.
Alan Maimon does a great job of portraying the human side of the player. Sometime in a book like this, that gets lost and you start getting regurgitation of stats and field achievements. You get the childhood background which explains his struggles with ADHD and coming to grips with that. It also talks about how he overcame that obstacle and how it benefitted his career. He covers the struggles in the minor leagues, failures with other MLB teams and almost giving up before finally getting a real chance with a team. While not harboring on the negative, it does show the character of the man who eventually becomes the champion he is in more than one city.
Shane Victorino has been more than just a player in the cities he has played. You also see the side of him where he gives back to the cities he has played in with his foundation. That is a very important aspect for the disadvantaged in the area and again shows the human side of the player. To me, that shows that he understands how lucky he realizes he is to be gifted and takes the time to spread his wealth….and not necessarily in a monetary way. So in the end as said above Shane Victorino gets it!
If you are a Phillies fan, Red Sox fan or just a fan of the human spirit,this would be a good read for you. In the end of this book you find more than just the worth of the player…..you find the worth of the man.
Give the friendly folks at Triumph Books a call if this is a book that might interest you