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!
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
This time of year with Spring Training in full swing, it reminds us of all the exciting possibilities this upcoming year has to offer. Everyone is looking forward to all the games and highlights in the near future, but the business end of baseball is the furthest thing from most fans minds. Truth be told, somewhere, someone is attending to the business end of the game and always has. Most fans don’t think about the contract negotiations that take place, the players working conditions that the union fights for or the meal money stipend the players get. These are all the realities of the game and have been for decades. It may be hard to comprehend for the average fan why these are important and further more how they arrived at where they stand today, but today’s book takes the time to explain what has transpired throughout the history of the game in regards to working conditions.
Krister Swanson has created a really interesting book. It starts from the very early years of the game and shows what relations were like between the owners and players. It was more of a parental relationship versus a business one. It shows how the owners were able to realize what an advantages they had in the reserve clause and how to use it to their own benefit. The author shows how owners were able to maintain low salaries and reap all the rewards without having to share almost anything with their players.
Swanson also shows that the players started to realize how they were being exploited by the owners and attempted to improve conditions both on the field and monetarily. The few feeble attempts at first which finally led to the formation of the MLBPA are chronicled in these pages. I don’t think the owners or the establishment of the game itself had any idea what the possibilities were for the newly formed union. It shows the union’s rise to power, how the media helped that and the fans sympathy that would help them along their journey. The book also covers the few short strikes and lockouts along the way that occurred, just to keep things interesting.
The problem I had with the book is it seemed to stop the history lesson after the 1981 players strike. I know as a fan, there were other strikes that occurred after 1981 and they were very influential on the shape of the game we now know. Obviously there are other books out there that cover these strikes, but I think for complete coverage of the topic it should have been included in some shape or form in this book. The only other problem I had was it said that Bob Feller played his entire career for the Braves. I mean for me that is a huge error that should have been caught by someone.
Overall this is a very entertaining book. It gives a great and thorough history lesson that even the most die hard baseball fan will be able to gain some knowledge from, plus the early years of labor relations within the game are not always widely covered.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Have you ever found a book that on the surface you found intriguing, but was not sure it merited what the title was portraying? A book that was trying to catch a certain market or readership base, but you knew deep down inside that it probably wouldn’t be able to meet any of the readers expectations within that market. These were the dilemmas I was facing when I picked up today’s book. I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but I am very happy to say that this book proved me wrong on every front.
I will admit when I read the author bio on the inside cover I became a little nervous. What could someone who gave up baseball and became an anthropologist give to the baseball reader? I realize he had done other baseball books in the past, but none have ever crossed my desk, so honestly I was unfamiliar as to what tales George Gmelch would be able to produce.
What I found in this book is a great journey of a young man through the minor leagues during the tumultuous 1960’s. It is a time in our country where the consciousness was changing in society and baseball was slowly following suit. It really was both an unsettled and amazing time to be alive in our country.
In this book the author really shows you life from both sides of the fence. From a baseball player who’s ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues. One who is supposed live, eat and breath baseball. The other perspective is showing his normal teenager, early 20’s side. One who is aware of the changes of the world around him and the affects they are having on both him and his fellow man. You see a very personal side of the author and see how interactions with teammates, friends and the fairer sex all help shape and change him during a very influential time in his life.
Unfortunately in the end, George Gmelch never made it to the big time in baseball. After various stops in the minors his career fizzled out and he was left, like many players to figure out what was next. Luckily for George he landed on his feet and had a great career as a Professor of Anthropology. You can see some events in this book that helped guide him towards that career path.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but truth be told, I couldn’t put it down. It kept the reader entertained through the entire book and felt like you were on this journey as the authors friend as opposed to a reader forty some years later.
You don’t need to have any particular team affiliation to enjoy this book. It really is a good book about a life journey that has a baseball flair to it. As baseball fans that is what will draw us to this book, but the entire story makes us stick around to the end.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Baseball lifers are a tough breed. When you find one in this day and age, look at what they have witnessed. They have seen the game go from small wages and managements sole control to a strong players union and skyrocketing salaries. They have seen stadiums come and go, the passing of legends and friends as well as their game becoming a big business. On the flip side of all this, baseball lifers have the opportunity to share some great stories. Today’s book is no exception to the fact that there are lots of stories just waiting to be told.
This book is a re-issue of the book that first came out from another publisher in 2011. Eddie Robinson walks you through his baseball career, first as a player and then as a general manager in the major leagues. He has been witness to some great moments in baseball history from both sides of the fence. He also states that he has never worked a day in his life, because he has been lucky enough to be involved in the game he dearly loves.
Robinson takes you through his playing career, overcoming challenges to make his dreams come true and become a big league player. He was blessed enough played in an era with some of the games all-time greats and was able to have his career coincide with great moments in history. He had a respectable career that would make any mother proud, it was by far not Hall of Fame worthy, but he still achieved his dreams.
After his playing career ended, Robinson entered the business side of baseball. Most notably becoming general Manager for both the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves. He tells some great stories of happenings at each stop and again he got to witness some great things such as Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run. If you could have a charmed life as a General Manager, this may just be it.
One thing I could not shake with this book the entire time I was reading it was Robinson’s attitude. While telling stories about his playing career, I almost got the feeling that Eddie thought he was much better than the world ever gave him credit for. Essentially he felt that he was slighted because of the era he played in because it contained so many great players. This vibe carried over into his General Managers days and for me it just put a negative feel to some parts of the book. By far this is not a bad book, I just felt uncomfortable as the stories progressed, mainly because Robinson always seemed to feel slighted in some way.
Fans regardless of the team allegiance will enjoy this book. It is a lot of stories from baseball’s golden age as well as stories from the years baseball underwent great changes. There are no earth shattering stories, just a basic autobiography from someone who has really enjoyed his multi-faceted life within the game of baseball.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
Its that time of year where baseball’s winter meetings are upon us. The one week a year where the business side of baseball comes to the forefront. Players are traded, free agents get signed and the Rule 5 draft occurs. For some fans it is an early Christmas present when your team signs that key free agent, while for others it might be the time you say goodbye to one of your favorite players. For the people that work these meetings it is just another day of business as usual. Fans sometimes get so engrossed in their team they may forget at the end of the day that baseball is still a business. For the people who are involved it is their job. A job many of us envy, but still a job nonetheless. Now there is a book that walks us through the business side of baseball and shows how the more things change, they somehow stay the same.
In Pursuit of Pennants takes an in depth look at the business of baseball, almost a history of the business side of you will. It looks at franchises over the last 100 years, showing the reader the dealings and hard business decisions that had to be made to produce winners. The book looks at how the teams were assembled and what worked and did not work. What key moves were made to help teams lay the groundwork for success, what moves should have been made to sustain the success or which moves proved to be just plain foolish.
The book also shows how teams heavily rely on their off-field personnel to help them build winners. The chain of command goes well beyond just the General Managers. All aspects of the front office play a part in the success of the team. It shows how everyone must believe in the team philosophy to be able to have it work at any level. It also shows that the same principles employed in the Moneyball theory have always been around. It may not have been the same ways to measure productivity or forecast any outcomes, but there were still theories that they adhered to that evolved as the game changed. The bottom line for all teams is to produce a winner.
Like other Armour and Levitt books, this book may not be for everyone. It is part history book, part reference book and part narrative. If you are looking for a nice easy flowing story that rolls through the book, this is not it. If you are looking for detailed information on the business side of baseball and a very thorough history lesson then this is your book. The authors have done a great job of explaining a not so glorious subject to the readers. The topic to some may be the equivalent of watching paint dry, but for those who stick with the book, you will be greatly rewarded in the end. You will walk away with a better understanding of how teams function off the field and understand the mindset needed to build a winner.
Baseball fans across the board that dedicate the time to reading this book will enjoy it. It honestly does start of a little slow but does pick up the pace enough to keep your interest through the rest of the book, so overall you wont be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
It always starts somewhere. No matter who your team is, their history begins at a specific point in time. Now for the first few years they may not be very good, but eventually there is a point when they get better. You can see a point where the team improves and success is imminent. Now for some teams success is fleeting, while for others the highs ride along for several years. For the New York Yankees they have had decades of success. With a few speed bumps along the way and a bad era or two, they really have been the most successful franchise in baseball history. This streak of great teams had to start somewhere and there had to be a certain person responsible for building that winner, now there is a book that shows when the Yankees started to take over the game of baseball.
I have never hidden the fact that I am not a New York Yankees fan. But even I have to admit as a baseball fan that they have such a rich history, it is hard not to admire it. Once playing second fiddle in New York City to the Giants, the Yankees found the right combination of ownership, management and players that helped propel them into the stratosphere of sports.
Steinberg and Spatz walk the reader through the partnership between Miller Huggins and Jacob Ruppert. More than just an owner and employee relationship, they worked together to build the foundation of a team destined for glory. They found unprecedented success and took over as the number one team in New York. The most important thing to take away from this book is that it was not Babe Ruth that turned around the Yankees, it was these two Hall of Famers.
This book is a great walk through an entirely different era of baseball. Completely 180 degrees different from what we are used to as fans of the sport today. Society may have changed as well as the financial structure of the game, but the end result has never changed. To win championships and maintain success have always been the underlying theme to the game. The Yankees certainly have done that through the years and this book shows the reader exactly when those events occurred that started this ball rolling down the hill.
The authors did very thorough research on this book and it shines through. They kept the story moving at a good pace which made it very hard to put down at times. With so many books out there about the Yankees, this one portrays a different era in baseball and also shows that the New York Yankees existed before George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson came to town.
This book should appeal to more than just Yankees fans. It shows a different time in both the world and baseball and is a very good history lesson to readers. It shows the steps that needed to be taken to build a winner and sustain that success. I really think if you put the time into this one, you will not be disappointed.
You can get this one from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
There are so many available mediums available for the average baseball fan that it is almost mind-blowing at times. Television, Radio, Internet, Cable TV, Social Media, Fantasy Leagues and even Blogs have all taken their place in our society to bring the fan every facet of the game we love. It is hard to believe how these things have impacted the way we look at the game, and amazingly all this has evolved over the last century. It is also hard to comprehend that at one point baseballs only consistent outlet was through radio, and it was a hard sell at that. Today’s book takes a look at the evolution of baseball first medium, Radio.
James R. Walker has written a book that takes the reader through the birth of radio in baseball. It chronicles the struggles that baseball had to overcome to become part of the American fabric. From scheduling conflicts to sponsorship rights and legalities between both the government and the teams, it is all covered in here so you get the full picture of the birth of baseball on the airwaves.
The author walks you through baseball selling the rights to World Series games and how it eventually evolved into regular season games becoming the norm on the radio. This book also gives some very interesting facts about how the radio business operated at the time and how it effected the growth of baseball on the radio. It really was a convoluted system that impeded progress, but in the end the strength of baseball won out.
Finally the book takes you through the unprecedented growth of the game and its parallel growth on the radio. It also shows how radio lent itself to countless generations becoming familiar with the game. I found interesting that it shows the decline of radio once it was challenged by other mediums such as television and how it changed radio broadcasts. Some people feel that radio is the truest medium in which to follow a game, which I think to some degree is true. It forces you to imagine from the announcers story as to what is going on out on the diamond.
This book takes the reader back to a simpler time in society and shows the reader that even though baseball may not have realized it at the time, they were big business. There were some serious arguments over the baseball rights and substantial money was being paid to own those rights. Baseball fans will enjoy this book and the progression baseball follows in getting into american homes.
You can get this book from the nice folks at The University of Nebraska Press
Lets face it, in its glorious past Major League Baseball has never been on the cutting edge. For certain things they may have been ahead of the curve but for most things, not so much. On this very day in 2015, we as fans all know about the Japanese league of baseball, as many of our players leave here to play over seas. Also many of their stars have done the same and crossed the ocean to pursue a career in the states. Today’s book takes a look at the very first player who was chosen to bridge the gap between the two countries and leagues and the results that followed.
Robert Fitts has undertaken a great task with this book. Not only do you have to make sure your details are accurate and spot on but he also has the cultural gap to overcome. Masahiro Murakami was the first Japanese player hand-picked to be sent to the United States to the San Francisco Giants. He originally came as a group of three players but was the only one of the three to have any sort of success on the bigger stage.
Fitts takes you through the upbringing of Murakami and the strict cultural rules he was raised by. You also get a glimpse of the way that Japanese leagues operate and personal standards that the players must maintain. The differences are staggering in both training and requirements to be on a professional team in that country. It shows what a large cultural difference that exist in both leagues and society’s.
You see Mashi’s rise through spring training camps and the minor leagues to reach the big stage in San Francisco. Success on the field was not enough to overcome Mashi’s sense of duty to his family and dedication to his league and country, which eventually were his reason’s for going back and playing in Japan. One of the most interesting things I found in this book was the business dealings and player contracts that effected Mashi’s career. I think personally in the end nobody was sure who truly owned his contract. Which again points out more of the differences between the two baseball operations.
This book also shows the reader the broader picture of how it was helping to mend relations of two bitter enemies in World War II. It showed how baseball can play a positive role in society’s problems. This event was monumental in bringing the two nations back to the table with each other and allowing a better relationship to move forward. It is a fine example of international diplomacy fostered by a kids game.
This may be a little late but the author Rob Fitts and Mashi are currently on a book signing tour in the United States, so you may want to check his website to see if they are near you. Meeting Masahiro Murakami is more than likely a once in a lifetime event for most fans. http://www.robfitts.com
You can also get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press
I often wonder like any other fan, what some umpires are thinking. It seems that they almost want to show up the players at times by making themselves not only part of the show, but the show itself. The baiting of players into confrontation has never been one of my favorite scenes. I may be old school in thinking like this, but I enjoy when an umpire blends into the scenery and does his job. Umpires do have the opportunity to some degree, to enhance the show, but never have I ever seen them as THE show. That thought brings us to todays book…
Called Out But Safe – A Baseball Umpire’s Journey
By Al Clark and Dan Schlossberg
2014 University of Nebraska Press
I am never quite sure what to expect from an umpires autobiography. In the past, the books that I have read about umpires portray them as pompous and stuffy, not only on the field, but off the field as well. The one exception to that statement is Ron Luciano’s book. He has been viewed as an odd duck and not widely accepted as a traditional umpire.
I have not been very familiar with Al Clark’s field skills until I read this book. Growing up in a National League city and Clark being an American League umpire most of his career, I rarely saw his work on the field. Clark is very forthcoming in this book and leaves no stone unturned. He covers both his professional and personal life in this book. From his upbringing in New Jersey, to the Minor and Major Leagues, prison time and life after prison. He takes the time to chronicle how he was proud of his craft and what steps he took to become better at it. He reviews his personal accomplishments on and off the field and shows a tremendous pride in being an umpire. For me, the most interesting part of his on-the-field explanations, is the descriptions he gives of how to be a technically better umpire. I think someone in the MLB may want to seriously look at getting him into some sort of umpire scouting or training program, just to improve the current batch that are out there on the field.
I have said in previous reviews, sometimes life is full of redemptions and this book is no exception. Clark goes in to great detail about how he wound up losing his umpiring job and wound up in prison. You get the feeling that Clark learned a lot, from both his on and off the field experiences. I believe through those experiences, it has made him more appreciative for what he has now.
My overall feeling of this book is that Al Clark tried to be the best umpire he could be on the field and the best person he could be off of the field. To err is human, you have to live and learn and I think Clark did just that. If you enjoy books about someone on the field but that person doesn’t have to be a baseball player, this is a book for you. It is a very smooth read and flows very good and was a book I learned something from. It may not be as easy to be an umpire as it looks, after all!
You can get this book from the fine folks at University of Nebraska Press