In baseball book circles every publisher has their own certain niche. Whether it is historical volumes, biographies, complete seasons or any of the other countless things you could document within the game. McFarland has always been a staunch supporter of the sport and released various books about our beloved game. The one thing that has always struck me interesting about McFarland is how they don’t shy away from the obscure subjects like other publishers would. It adds new facets to the readers library and makes sure we do not forget what the game has evolved from and the great and not so great names that helped bring it there. They have a few new ones out that I figured I would share, because they are subjects that we as readers are sometimes hard pressed to find books on.
Johnny Temple was a household name in Cincinnati during his playing days. Get outside of Ohio and the spotlight tends to fade on Temple’s fairly solid playing career. Cook takes the reader on a journey through Temple’s struggles that he had to overcome to be welcomed into professional baseball. He introduces the reader to his fierce competitive streak that endeared him to local fans, but quite honestly to the rest of the world made him look like a miserable SOB. The author shows the reader his entire playing career with stops in various cities throughout the league. He was a solid player who was probably a bit underrated in the end, but that was probably due to the fact that he may have been his own worst enemy both on and off the field.
Finally this book takes a look at Johnny Temple’s life after baseball and the struggles that followed. Troubled by serious financial and legal problems, Temple lived a life of obscurity and carried a heavy burden that followed him until his dying days. The author does not delve very far into Temple’s legal problems but enough to peak the readers interest and realize these problems were probably of his own making. Check out this book if you want a real good feel of what the Reds had at Second Base during the 50’s.
I have read work from these authors before and expected nothing less than what you get with this book. George Weiss was part of the Yankees front office during the Golden Years. He is also not remembered very fondly by former players and members of the team. There are many adjectives that have been used to describe him by former players and most were not very flattering. This book takes a look at Weiss’ business acumen and how it was applied to building the powerhouse that the New York Yankees became.
It is an interesting look at the business angle of a team that everyone is familiar with and it’s one that not many people take the time to analyze. This is an often overlooked subject with the Yankees of this era and now that we see what a major business powerhouse the game of baseball has become, it shows what differences the business dealings had during that era. This book offers a unique perspective of the Yankees to the readers and should not be missed if you want to complete your education of the New York powerhouse.
Our final book of the day forces me to ask the question, where do you draw the line of who to write about and publish? Is it the author’s personal preference or is it just one of those things keep going until you find someone willing to publish it. Mike Torrez had a serviceable career and was witness to a few interesting events during his time on the mound, but will never be confused with the second coming of Cy Young. All of the above being said this book did make me pose the question as to why, but there have been lots of other books published for less deserving candidates.
This book attempts to tackle two issues in one step. Torrez’s life and career are addressed like most biographies attempt to do, but it also attempts to analyze his Hispanic heritage and the social impacts that may have had on his career. Now both of these things would make great books in their own right, but when you try and squeeze them both into one book, you don’t give enough time to either subject. Overall it is a pretty good book, but if you split the subject into two volumes you could probably have two better books. If you are a Mike Torrez fan and looking for a baseball book, you should still check this one out. 70% of the book is still baseball and career related and would hold the readers interest.
Take the time to check out the McFarland website, because they have countless other books on baseball available and quite honestly will have something for everyone.
It is amazing how the game of baseball evolves right in front of our eyes. Players get stronger, equipment and playing conditions get better, fan experiences are more enhanced and the basic business model of a baseball team changes dramatically. These are all things that have happened through the last several decades that change the end product fans see out on the field. Today’s book takes a look at how one of the longest losing streaks in professional sports history was ended by evolving with the times and changing a teams basic business approach.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were a team that could not catch a break. The owners of bad team morale and essentially no end in sight to the losing streak no matter what moves they made. Baseball history is full of superstitions, so you could almost call them cursed. The Pittsburgh Pirates was desperate to break this cycle and decided a fundamental change was needed in their approach to the game to help end their misery.
Big Data Baseball walks the reader step by step through the Pirates plan. Showing how they saw the need for fundamental change and how they implemented it into their system. By following charts and data analysis they were able to play the numbers for batter tendencies and apply essential Sabermetric principles to their on the field game.
By implementing this new culture within the franchise, they started at the lowest level of the minors and installed in their up and coming players how these moves were beneficial to the team. By doing this they were able to establish some credibility to their new system that carried over to higher levels of play which essentially created a winning culture that spilled over to the field.
Travis Sawchik does a real nice job of showing the reader how the Pirates fostered the change in their system and how they have now built a consistent winner. While they are not steam rolling all of baseball this system is good enough for the second best record in all of baseball this season. It has ushered in the winds of change in Pittsburgh and breathed new life into that struggling franchise.
Even if you are not a fan of the Pirates or the new numbers game within baseball you will still like this book. It is a good story of how hard work and outside the box thinking leads to great results for an ailing franchise.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books