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!
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
I find it fascinating that there are people who have played this game and despite their momentous accomplishments on the field can to some degree remain in the shadows. Perhaps this is by design, but I find it hard to believe a player would want to avoid accolades. Maybe it is the player being a victim of circumstances in playing for a team in a small market or he is just being a bright spot on some very bad teams. Whatever the reasons may be one of the players that I felt may not have always gotten his due is Harmon Killebrew. Playing for first the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins and finally the Kansas City Royals, Killebrew never really spent any great amount of time in a large market. I think this plays into the premise for me that even though Killebrew earned his Hall of Fame status he never really got the notoriety he was due. Today’s book takes a look at the gentle giant that lurked behind Killer Killebrew.
From normal American upbringings in Idaho, Harmon Killebrew was like every other kid in the post World War II era. A local hero with respect for his elders there was nothing bad that could be said about young Harmon. This book follows the home town hero through his local rise to stardom and his trek to the big leagues. It has countless interviews with some of the folks that crossed paths with Harmon and not a single person had anything negative to say about the slugger. If they were friends in High School and have not seen him in 40 years everyone still considered him their friend.
Aschburner takes the reader through Killebrew’s journey, getting established in the majors and getting adjusted to his new locales. He gives the reader a glimpse of the persona behind the player and how it didn’t matter who you were, Harmon Killebrew seemed to treat everyone just the same. It shows the humble character of Harmon that was something that never changed his entire life.
I always find interesting in these books how a player deals with the downside of his own career. It is inevitable and something every player in every generation will have to face. Like everything else he did in life Harmon faces it with grace and dignity and moves to the next chapter of his life. The author shows the reader how life after baseball can be hard on any player, even the Superstars. Money and health are two key real life issues that effected the post playing days for this Hall of Famer. It was a good look at the humanity involved in Harmon Killebrew.
Steve Aschburner did a real nice job with this book. I honestly feel that after reading this book I have a better feel of who Harmon Killebrew the person was. We are all familiar with the Hall of Fame player, who unfortunately played in a city that may have hampered us to getting to see his personality off the field.
I would recommend this book for all baseball fans. It’s a nice, easy reading book and it offers the fact that you would be hard pressed to find anyone that anything bad to say about Harmon Killebrew.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books
Have you ever been the fan of a superstar player, but never felt like you really connected with him. When we have players that we really like, on some level you feel some sort of connection with them. Whether it is admiration of their skills, or of the off field personality they have, you need something to hold on to and make that connection. Such is the case with Tony Oliva and myself. I always admired his career even though it was over before I could say the word baseball, I still thought he was a pretty great player. What was missing for me was some sort of wow factor though. In that vein is where my hopes were lying in todays book, that it would create some sort of better connection for me with Tony.
Tony Oliva could be considered the King of Minnesota. Playing a majority of his career with the Twins, he is respected and loved above almost all others. Being from outside Minnesota I have heard all the stories and highlights of his career. But for me there was never any feeling of connection with Oliva that I have with some other players that I had never seen. Perhaps it is Oliva’s low-key personality that didn’t get him the limelight of other Hall of Famers, or maybe it was the fact that he played in Minnesota and became a symbol of greatness for a team that is largely forgotten at times. So I was going into this book hoping for something that would improve my feelings toward Oliva.
Thom Henninger does a really nice job in this book at portraying the career of Tony Oliva, from his beginnings in Washington D.C. to the end of his career as an on field legend. The author shows the ups and downs of his storied career and some of the experiences that helped shape Oliva’s personality. The reader gets to see some personal tribulations that you would not see if you followed only his on field accomplishments. It is a very well-rounded biography that are the results of in-depth research and tireless fact checking.
The down side to this book for me is that I don’t feel I got any sort of new information on a personal level. When I read a biography I want to feel that I made a personal connection of some sort with the subject or could relate to the situation at hand. As I said above it is a well-rounded biography, but to me came off very dry on the personal level. It seems to be a very strict agenda of stick to the on-field activities and don’t reveal anything new about Tony Oliva, if it can be avoided. So for me after reading this the legend remained intact and nothing was gained for me as a fan. There is the old publishing saying – If the legend is more interesting than the facts…….print the legend.
Henninger’s writing style was enjoyable and moved along at a good pace. I am just unsure as to why we got nothing new. Perhaps it is the subject matter that keeps himself very guarded and won’t allow the world to see more, or maybe there really isn’t anymore to get. I as a fan may never know, but in the end I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to get a bigger piece of what is the Tony Oliva legend.
If you are a fan of Oliva then you should check it out. Maybe I am missing something hardcore Minnesota fans will only be able to find. Perhaps I expect too much out of a biography, but I really don’t get disappointed by a lot of them, so I am not 100% sold on the fact that I am to blame here.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Minnesota Press
In continuation of the Hall of Fame induction week posts, I thought we would take a look at another Hall of Fame member. Someone who had a distinguished career and excelled to the top of the game, making an indelible mark for future generations to admire. This person is also someone that I feel gets forgotten in the shuffle of baseball history and his achievements get lost with the passage of time. George Sisler is not a name that immediately pops into a fans mind when they think of the Hall of Fame. He was one of those baseball lifers that worked hard and gave his life to the game he loved. Fans do get the chance to learn about a baseball great in this book I just finished reading
This is not a new book by any stretch of the imagination, having now been around for more than a decade. The importance of this book is obvious to me though, in the fact is that it pays tribute to a Hall of Fame career and the quality of character that was George Sisler. Playing mostly for the Browns, then bouncing around at the end of his career, it is important that fans remember who George Sisler was and the level he achieved on the field, and eventually his enshrinement in Cooperstown in 1939.
Rick Huhn walks readers through the story of George Sisler. Covering his own the field triumphs along with personal moments off the field. You see the lives of his two young sons (Dick and Dave) who go on to become Major League Baseball players as well and a third son (George Jr.) who had an off field career in baseball as well. If you dig further into Sisler’s playing career you see he actually did produce some pretty astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time.
Books like this one are a great learning tools for fans through the generations so that important players don’t get forgotten. In a world where there are twelve Billy Martin biographies and even more about the New York Yankees, it is nice to see a book about a player like this one. It reminds fans of a simpler time from where the game evolved and the people who sacrificed and produced to help write the game’s history.
RIck Huhn did a very nice job with this book. At the time of its release, Sisler had passed more than 30 years prior and had not been on the field as a player in almost 75 years. So it had to be hard to find living friends and people around that witnessed George Sisler first hand. Huhn’s in-depth research shines through and creates an enjoyable product for fans to both learn from and entertain. True baseball fans that enjoy the game’s history and like to be educated while they read will really enjoy this book.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Missouri Press
You can always find a team that one year or another falls in the cracks of existence. It could be a bad season or a string of bad years that makes most of America forget or even care that the team is still playing. Perhaps it is even the locale or the personality of the team and ownership that makes it less appealing to the masses. Teams that have had these problems such as the Montreal Expos, Miami Marlins and even the Seattle Mariners at times have trouble sustaining success on the field when none of the fans really care. The Minnesota Twins are one team that I feel that gets lost in the shuffle of baseball. Be it a lack of success in recent years or geographical location, the Twins just seem to get no love from the rest of the country. It’s a good thing they have a rich history to celebrate and a die-hard fan base that will enjoy today’s book.
The Twins started their existence as the transplanted Washington Senators in 1961. Moving to a colder and more temperamental climate they set off to build a whole new tradition on and off the field. They have succeeded in building one of the most dedicated fan bases in the game and achieved some moderate success through the years on the field including a few World Series Championships.
Doug Grow takes fan’s of the Minnesota Twins on an entertaining ride through their existence. Year by year, you are walked through the history of the team, along with some pop-culture snippets going on at the same time as well. Published in 2010, this book only takes you through the opening of Target Field, so currently it is a little dated. Each year starting with the shift that bore the Minnesota Twins you get player insight, on and off field team drama, as well as fun facts about the team itself. If you are not a die-hard fan of the Twins or have not spent a lot of time learning their history it is very helpful.
These type of books that chronicle a franchises complete history allow general baseball fans to learn specific details of a team and form a connection. When you have fans forming a connection with a team, you in the end create a fan of that team. These books then become dual purpose, by being both a history book and also the ability to generate new fans for that team. Doug Grow did a very thorough and entertaining job with this book. It was hard to put down because it was so enjoyable. If you are a Minnesota Twins fan you probably have heard some of these stories before, but will more than likely enjoy them again. If the Twins are not that familiar to you, this book becomes a great learning experience and is entertaining at the same time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Minnesota Press
Genuine humility is a hard quality to find in baseball today. With mega money contracts and endorsement deals, being humble will cost a player some dough. In some cases overwhelming humility will lead to injustice. Sometimes that person that shows humility will just blend into the crowd, become overshadowed by the not so humble and almost be forgotten. Such is the case of our book subject we are looking at today. His own humility has led to the world sometimes overlooking the greatness he showed both on and off the field.
I am going to say I walked into this book biased. I think Gil Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame, and it is just another in a string of dumb moves the hall has made in recent years to exclude him. This book verified many of the things that I felt in regards to Hodges as both a player and a man. He did more in his 48 years on Earth than most people who are here twice as long as Gil was.
Mort Zachter takes a look at the man behind the legend. What Gil Hodges accomplished as a player and manager is readily available out there in all the media outlets for us to research and review. The thing that makes this better than all the other Gil Hodges biographies is the stories you get about the man himself. From humble upbringings as the son of a coal miner, you see the formative years that shaped Gil Hodges personality and made him the humble man of baseball. You see how World War II shaped Gil’s life and the sacrifices he made for his country, and of course you get his baseball career in Brooklyn. Managerial stints in both Washington and New York show how Gil affected others in the way he became a teacher and helped others succeed on the field.
What I find fascinating is that Gil never really left Brooklyn. From his stint with the Dodgers until his death in 1972, Gil was just an average guy living among the people of Brooklyn. He played stick ball with the kids in the neighborhood and never felt that he should be considered a star. While this form of humility is very admirable and hard to find, it is probably what has kept him from reaching the Hall of Fame. The voters have forgotten his quiet consistency on the field and the leader he became in leading the 1969 Mets to the World Series. It is hopefully an injustice that will be corrected in the near future.
If you have read other Gil Hodges biographies that are out in the marketplace, you are still going to want to pick this one up. From the others I have read in the past, this new one by Zachter is the most comprehensive and gives some new insights into Gil as both a person and a manager. I did find it odd, the one book that I feel is the most comprehensive, is the one that I read Gil’s widow Joan Hodges did not make herself available to the author for interviews. All baseball fans will enjoy the book, especially if you have an appreciation for the pre-expansion era.
You can get this book from the nice folks at University of Nebraska Press