Tagged: willie mays

Leo Durocher-Baseball’s Prodigal Son


I am sure no one has missed me on here, but I should probably give a brief explanation of my MIA status.  Between a new job, moving back to Philadelphia and figuring out this whole Fatherhood thing, baseball books have become the victim of circumstances.  Now that we are settled in our new place and the very large former Ron Kaplan book collection has been moved, I can hopefully focus on some more books, but if anyone has any ideas how to get an eight month old to sleep through the night, I would love to hear from you.  I figured I would start back with a book that was highly anticipated by myself and did not disappoint.

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By Paul Dickson-2017

I was familiar with Dickson’s previous work on his Bill Veeck book and really enjoyed that one, so I expected more of the same with this.  Leo Durocher was one of those figures in baseball history that was either loved or hated, somewhere in the middle was not an option.  To date, there have been a few books about Durocher, but none recently so it was a subject worth revisiting.

Paul Dickson takes a hard look at both Durocher’s playing and managing career.  Not really much of a player numbers-wise, he had the small guy attitude that was appreciated by many a manager.  This book looks at his trouble with Babe Ruth and the hard-nosed play that forged his cocky reputation.   It is very thorough look at an often overlooked part of Leo’s resume.

Durocher’s real strength was his managing obviously.  With varying degrees of success at all of his stops in the big leagues, you see how his hard-nosed playing attitude spills over into his managing.  The reader also sees how Leo becomes the victim of a changing game.  How more success early in his career does not carry over in the latter years.  The game changed along with player attitudes, but old Leo stuck to his guns.  It translated into some rough times for the long time manager, but those stops still put the finishing touches on an impressive career.

The one aspect of this book I found most interesting was the details of his private life.  From associations with known gamblers, to his friendships with the Hollywood types, it leads to a very interesting life.  Of course, the four wives add some zing to that private life also.  It is an interesting aspect of Leo that we know some details about, but this sheds a whole new light on the subject.

Overall, this book is tirelessly researched and prepared well.  It gets a little stat heavy at times, but the overall content of the book makes up for that lone aspect I did not like.  If you have any interest in Durocher, or are a fan of this era of the game, check this one out.  At 300+ pages it is a lot of reading but is for sure, time well spent.

Check it out, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Handsome Ransom Jasckson-Accidental Big Leaguer


Some baseball books have a real knack for portraying the true feelings of their authors.  These types of books allow the reader to get a good feel of what their personality is like and at what level they appreciated their talents.  I have noticed and with good reason, the brighter the star, the less appreciation for the talent.  Now there are some Superstars that do not fall into that generalization, but through the years I have read enough baseball books to back it up.  I always find it enjoyable when a lesser known star publishes a book and their appreciation for the game and their experiences overflow from the pages.  Today’s book qualifies for that category and allows the reader to hear some new stories along the way.

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By:Ransom Jackson-2016

When sure fire Hall of Famers come up in conversation, Ransom Jackson is not in the mix.  The owner of some respectable career numbers, he would never been confused with stars such as Mantle or Mays.  Making stops in several Major League cities, Jackson has compiled some incredible stories that have lasted him a lifetime and now is sharing with the world.

Ransom starts with the telling about his childhood and his upbringing in a totally different period in American culture.  It gives a nice glimpse of all the changes that have happened in our country over the last century.  He also shows his readers the struggles he faced in making it to professional baseball and the sacrifices he and those around him made to get him there.

Next Ransom dazzles the readers with some great stories from his various stops around the league.  Being part of that great era in baseball, he was able to rub elbows with some of the games great names from a few different eras.  Shining through in all of this is the fact that Ransom is very appreciative of the experiences he has had.  He realizes how lucky and blessed he really was to do what he did for so many years.  Finally the book wraps up nicely in showing the reader Ransom’s life after baseball.

I always enjoy books of the lesser known players.  As stated above, their appreciation of their experiences and accomplishments in the game are much stronger and better explained through the pages of their books.  I also do not use the term lesser known player as any sort of insult.  There are so many of us that would be proud and thrilled to have one days worth of these lesser known players careers.

If you are not familiar with Ransom Jackson take the time to read this book, it is a great glimpse of what you can accomplish if you put in the effort and a good look at what baseball was like 60 years ago.  If you are one of the lucky ones who are familiar with Jackson’s career, you will not be disappointed, his stories are vivid and very entertaining.

You can get this book from the nice  folks at Rowman & Littlefield

Accidental Big Leaguer

Happy Reading

Gregg

Happy Felsch-Banished Black Sox Center Fielder


Some subjects, no matter how much time passes, will always be allowed to produce new information.  The Black Sox scandal almost a century later is still raising questions among fans and historians alike.  Now we have another book out on the market that helps put to rest some of the questions and clarify some of the finer points of the scandal.

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By:Thomas Rathkamp-2016

Happy Felsch, was the veteran Center Fielder on that ill fated 1919 Chicago White Sox team.  A man who was no stranger to battles with owner Charles Comisky and his penny pinching ways,  Felsch was looking to get what he deserved financially from the game.  Historians have been unsure if his participation was voluntary or out of fear of reprisal by local gamblers.  Either way he was implicated in the throwing of the World Series.

Felsch was always the most vocal of the participants after the scandal broke and open to talking about it.  Rathkamp’s book looks at a few of the interviews that Happy Felsch gave with some writers in subsequent years and attempts to connect the dots of the Black Sox scandal.  It is a valiant attempt at something that has been attempted many times before.

What this book does is offer another point of view from one of those involved.  We have several books on Shoeless Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and those that analyze the course of events and the entire World Series, but not much more.  For me it was nice to get a different perspective from a new player in this scandal.  Through these interviews that occurred more than 50 years ago now,  Felsch gives snippets of his view of the events and what transpired and to some degree why he was innocent.

Now here is my problem with the entire Black Sox scandal.  We are at this point, working with documented history from almost a century ago.  We are interpreting conversations and interviews that no one who walks this earth at this point were a part of and are putting our own spin on these events.  Our spin being influenced by our current views and not those of a century ago.  So are we really interpreting their comments as they intended?  For that I am not so sure.  But it takes each reader to interpret what this book offers to the end subject on their own.  I myself like this book on its own,  because it offers a new perspective on the subject, but I am starting to wonder when have we maxed out and learned all we will be able to about the Black Sox scandal?

If you are a fan of this era or the scandal itself, check the book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

You can get this book from the nice folks at McFarland

Happy Felsch

Happy Reading

Gregg

 

The League of Outsider Baseball-An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes


The history of baseball has so many nooks and crannies that it is almost impossible as a fan to say you have heard everything.  Some of the history is well documented and some is taken from legend or word of mouth.  No matter what its historical format, baseball allows for almost everyday to be a learning experience.  Today’s book is one of those that puts a unique and interesting spin on some well-known and some of the more obscure baseball personalities that were an integral part of the game’s history.

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By: Gary Cieradowski-2015

Now I am in no way an artsy guy.  Never a big fan of the creative arts and not a big fan of comic books growing up for whatever reasons that may be.  So when they guy who admits all that, says to you this book is something very unique an enjoyable, you may want to pay attention.

Gary Cieradkowski is hard to pin down.  Is he an artist or a writer?  He created both parts of this book and did a very good job with each.  He has brought to life through his artwork, faces of the past.  He has done both the famous and obscure from the annals of baseball history.  Creating both artwork and a baseball card set that puts faces to some of the names you may never have heard of, actually seen a picture of or been exposed to up until now.  Showing the stars in their pre-fame lives, you get to see a glimpse of Sandy Koufax in Coney Island garb and Walter Johnson on an Anaheim baseball card.  It also  brings to light the stories of those that lurked in the shadows of Major League Baseball.  Semi-pros, Negro Leagues, Barnstormers, Journeymen, Rouges, Odd Balls and players from the Amateur and International leagues all have stories to contribute to this book.

Not to be overlooked by his great artwork, is the quality stories Cieradowski offers the readers about all these unique and varied personalities.  His writing is both entertaining and informative and a few of them leave the reader wanting to go further and research more about certain players.  It is a great tool for a fans knowledge base.

This book is a fun and entertaining read and should not be overlooked.  It is not your average baseball compilation book in the fact that it is not packed full of stars.  It gives the lesser known players their due and appreciates their impact and contributions to the history of the game.  Check this book out, I don’t think you will be disappointed, because quite honestly there is something for everyone.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Touchstone

The League of Outsider Baseball

Happy Reading

Gregg

Strangers in the Bronx-The Changing of the Yankee Guard


I hate to admit it, but I always enjoy a good book about the Yankees.  The Phillies fan in me has a hard time justifying spending the money on purchasing one, much less enjoying a book about the evil empire.  In the past there have been many avenues taken to relay the stories about the fabled team from the Bronx, but as of late it seems we keep taking the same walk around the same block.  I would like to say today’s book would take us on a different tour, but I am sad to say we have been down this road many times.

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By:Andrew O’Toole-2015

Andrew O’Toole has taken the reader on an adventure with the New York Yankees during a time of transition.  A time when the one of the teams greatest stars was fading and its next one was on the rise.  It shows a time when the Yankees were full of uncertainty but about to embark on a sustained period of success that may never be rivaled.  Say what you will about the Yankees, they have a history that is hard to top.

The book shows what the 1951 season was like for the New York Yankees.  Di Maggio’s last season in pinstripes was not one of his greatest, but he earned the respect he demanded from the masses and his teammates and finished out the season and his career like only Joe DiMaggio could.  Waiting in the wings was Mickey Mantle the young mid westerner who was on his way to fame and stardom and did not even realize what was awaiting him.  Its a tale of two outsiders that came to New York and took a bite out of the big apple.

The downside to New York Yankees books is the fact that no matter what the subject matter is, it gets beat to death.  We have several different authors attack the very same subject and for the most part attain the same results in the end.  If I stop and take a look at my personal library, there are an insane number of books about Mickey Mantle and Joe Di Maggio.  It makes it hard to figure out what is the real truth on either of them.

As far as the 1951 season goes we have seen a few books from different authors.  While they attempt to each provide their own spin on the events of that year, unfortunately, it is impossible to.  This is in no way a reflection on this book’s author, it is just the reality that this book falls into a very crowded playing field.  It reminds me of the old politician saying that we may be saying the same thing, but you haven’t heard me say it yet.

While each of these books offers essentially the same thing, each writer has a different style that may appeal to different readers.  So choose wisely, or if you are familiar with that authors previous work and enjoyed it, stick with that version.  I was hoping we could get to the point where some authors would find something different and give us some new revelations, but I think that ship may have finally sailed.

If this book is one that might capture your interest on the 1951 season, you can get it from the nice folks at Triumph Books.

Strangers in the Bronx

Happy Reading

Gregg

Odds and Ends-Spring 2016


I figured with my extended time off to recuperate I would have plenty of time to write on my blog.  Boy was  I wrong, between needing to get up and walk around every ten minutes because I am stiffening up and the fact the the medicines keep knocking me out, I am having trouble finding the time to write, let alone read.  But, what it has done is given me the chance to look at some books that I would not always feel were the correct fit for an entire single post.  The book could be too short, it could be a coffee table book or it could be a book that doesn’t really target my audience.  These are in no way bad books, because honestly if they sucked, I wouldn’t waste the time putting them on here for everyone to look at them, but there is a format issue that doesn’t work well within my bookcase. So from time to time we do one of these multi book posts to clean up one of the shelves in the bookcase……and share some of these books to the world.  So here we go…..

Baseball’s No -Hit Wonders-More than a Century of Pitching’s Greatest Feats

By Dirk Lammars-2016

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Is it me, or do no hitters seem to happen more often today then they did say thirty of forty years ago?  Has the level of play in the league diminished that much that these have become commonplace?  Lammers takes the readers through the interesting history of the no hitter and how it has played out through the history of the game. He shows the pitchers and hitters involved, no hitters that were broken up after 26 outs and all the other odd and wacky things that happened in the past to those pitchers, both lucky and good enough to even flirt with a no-no.  If your interested in the who, what, when, where and why of no-hitters you will really enjoy what this book will bring to your table.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Unbridled Books

 

The 50 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Pirates History

By David Finoli-2016

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These types of books are always fun.  For the one and only reason that no two people will ever agree 100 percent as to who belongs at what spot on the list. I really don’t know what the criteria is by the authors to make it on to these types of lists, but they never seem to disappoint the reader.  They always include the Hall of Famers, team superstars as well as the hometown heroes. You would also have to think they target their specified teams fan base so they are always eager to please the homers.  I had done this type of book by another author on the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and I went back to pull it out to compare.  What I found is that more then half of the players they can agree on being in the book,, but differ on where they rank.  So bottom line is if you read one of these books about your team and find another one, check it out because it may give you a different spin on the players that may be more in line with your personal rankings as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Rowman & Littlefield

 

The BUCS!-The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates

By John McCollister-2016

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Lets stay in Pittsburgh  for a second on this book.  The BUCS! takes a very brief look at the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  From its 19th century beginnings to its current day under field manager Clint Hurdle, this book takes an abbreviated, but fast paced look at the history in Pittsburgh.  If the Pirates are not your team and never have been in the past, this book is a great way to get a good albeit brief history from Kiner and Roberto to Bonds and McCutchen.  Its only roughly 200 pages, so even if you are familiar with Bucs history it would be a quick and easy refresher course.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press.

The Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies

By Bob Gordon-2016

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What would one of these posts be without a Phillies book?  This book, first released by Bob Gordon in 2005, compiles some of the greatest names in Phillies history and gives strong bios on each of those lucky enough to be a Phillie. It gives a great look at team history from an author that has some great ties to the team itself, through several other books he has written.  So why do you need to buy the reprint of a book released ten years ago?  It has been updated for deaths of the older players and it also has added a few Phillies superstars that became prominent in the last half of the last decade when the Phillies were on top of the world.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

The Grind-Inside Baseball’s Endless Season

By Barry Svrluga-2015

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Without question, Baseball has the most grueling schedule of all the professional leagues.  Almost stretching to nine months of the year when you factor in pre and post season, it would take some sort of toll on even the strongest of personalities.  Svrluga has taken a look at this relentless schedule and the effect it has on the personal lives of those involved and how it effects almost everyone involved with a team.  It looks at varying position players , the 26th man on most rosters, travelling secretaries, spouses, kids and clubhouse attendants.  It really is an interesting look behind the scenes of the game and what those involved are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the great game of baseball. You van get this book from the nice folks at Blue Rider Press

 

Diamond Madness-Classic Episodes of Rowdyism, Racism and Violence in Major League Baseball

By William A. Cook-2013

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William Cook’s Diamond Madness gives the reader a good look at the scary side of baseball.  When you get beyond all of the normal hero worship that comes as part of the normal territory with the game and when those things get really scary.  Fan obsessions, death threats, violence, racism, shootings and robberies are all just a part of what is shown to the readers of this book.  It is amazing how even though these are normal stories in the everyday world, they are so many times magnified just by playing baseball.  It also goes to show how much work the people behind the scenes in baseball put in to making sure nothing tarnishes the wholesomeness of the American Past-time.  I think if you check this out it will show some new perspectives to the average fan of what really goes on.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sunbury Press.

 

Tales From the Atlanta Braves Dugout

By Cory McCartney-2016

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I will admit it………..I love this series!   You can get whatever team you wish at this point because it seems like almost every team is available now.  You can also use it as a history lesson to brush up on all the funny stories of a team that you are not very familiar with and get a good feel for what that teams history is all about.  If you grab the book of your favorite team it is a chance to regale in all the stories you have heard time and time again and like a favorite uncle at a holiday dinner, are glad to listen to over and over.  You can get this book from the nice folks at Sports Publishing.

 

 

I See the Crowd Roar-The Story of William “Dummy” Hoy

By Joseph Rotheli & Agnes Gaertner-2014

This book is intended for a younger audience but it does provide a very deep lesson for all fans.  William Hoy was hearing impaired and never heard a single fan cheer for him.  The book shows how Hoy overcame his disability and made the best if it as well as keeping up a positive attitude during the course of events.  The book also shows the positive impact had on the function of the game and how things like hand signals that were originally implemented for Hoy alone, have become mainstays of the game generations later.  It truly is an inspiring story that younger fans should be made aware of so they have a complete baseball education.  There is also a movie version of the book in the pipeline as well.  You can get this book from the nice folks at the lil-red-foundation.

 

Black Baseball, Black Business-Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar

By Roberta Newman & Joel Nathan Rosen-2014

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In baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems.  This book takes a look at how the integration of baseball, while a great thing on the civil rights front, created waves that destroyed black economies in the larger cities that were homes to Negro League Teams.  It is a really interesting look at the economies of the integration of baseball on those parties that were not in any way involved in the decision making process or the game of baseball itself.  It also shows how the innocents involved were essentially destroyed by the baseball powers that were at the time pushing it as a cause for greater good.

Happy Reading

Gregg

Swinging ’73-Baseball’s Wildest Season


Some baseball seasons seem to have their own personality.  It could be the antics happening on the field or the drama that unfolds behind the scenes that keep certain seasons alive in the minds of fans for decades.  The 70’s was a decade that was never short on excitement.  Pick any year in that decade and something monumental was happening that helped shape the future of the game.  1973 was no different.  The most historical feat was the introduction of the Designated Hitter.  So monumental was it, that 45 years later we are still fighting over whether it is a good thing or not.  Today’s book takes a look at year that gave use everything from the DH to a long goodbye to Willie Mays.

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By:Matthew Silverman-2013

In the past couple years a few authors have taken on the task of picking a season from the 70’s and dissecting it.  Silverman has no shortage of material to work with in 1973, that is for sure.  From the introduction to the DH, the closing of original Yankee Stadium, the Miracle Mets and the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson are just a few of the points that made 1973 a spectacular season.

The author has done a nice job at looking at some of the important subjects of 1973, as mentioned above the implementation of the Designated Hitter, the painful farewell of Willie Mays and the Miracle Mets, the closing of original Yankee Stadium for remodeling, the Oakland A’s and their repeat winning of the division and of course last but not least new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his wife swapping pitchers.  Silverman covered them all with accuracy and great detail, he has presented a story that was interesting and engaging and a good read for the average fan on these subjects.

The problem I has with this book is that there was more going on in 1973 than just these few subjects mentioned above.  Hank Aaron was hot on the trail of Babe Ruth at that point.  You were right in the middle of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine.  Roberto Clemente was killed right before the season started in a plane crash.  So there was no shortage of big stories that were a factor in 1973.  The author has mentioned some of these events in passing throughout the book, but nothing of any substantial merit, so I think he missed the boat there.

I understand the reasoning of why you would not want to spend any great amount of time talking about teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians, who were perennial bottom feeders in that era, but I think you would still want to address the full state of baseball if you were writing about one single season.  There were so many different things going on that it would have enable the reader to get a much broader picture of what was truly happening in the game of baseball during 1973.

By far this is not a bad book.  It covers the subjects it chooses to, very well.  Silverman is thorough and puts a fun spin on the events of 73.  He has created a good product that is definitely worth reading, just readers should be aware that it covers a few subjects very heavily, while passing over some of the events of that year of particular importance.

Perhaps I am just spoiled by books like Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes that covered the 1976 season, and now I hold all season books to that standard.  I don’t think any fan with an interest in 1973 will be disappointed, I just think the author missed his chance to paint a much broader picture of the magic that was 1973.

You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press

Swinging ’73

Happy Reading

Gregg