Most things in life are at the perspective of the person doing it. Baseball offers many things that could be relative to the person witnessing the action, and you could have 100 people and get 100 different perspectives. Today’s books offer essentially the same type of biography but the readers give two totally different outcomes from their authors.
Richard Elliott offers his biography of Clem Labine from a personal perspective. Theirs was essentially a life long friendship that grew from hero worship as a child when Clem was still an active player, to a relationship as a trusted colleague when Clem was an instrumental member of the author’s family business. It is an interesting transition between player and fan and adds a unique twist to the story. It is not often you come across a story like this where the former player becomes almost a member of the family.
This book is very sentimental and has every right to be. It is stories about the many interactions between player and young fan and how they formed an unlikely friendship. The book also allows the reader to see the fondness Elliott has for Labine still to this day, and the emotion of the author comes through strongly. If you are looking for an in-depth bio on Labine’s career, then this one comes in a little light, but in all truth it is an enjoyable story on a personal level that really carries its own weight and worth the read.
The next book also attempts to do the same. Tom Molito was a die hard Mickey Mantle fan growing up and as he aged his business dealings allowed him to get close to Mantle on a personal level. This one has the same hero adulation that the Clem Labine book does, but it also is from the perspective of a businessman. It shows the struggle between childhood memories and hero worship, and the dark realities of an alcoholic and former hero you are trying to work with.
It gives a very interesting look into the life of Mickey Mantle during his final years and the daily struggles Mickey had with his own demons and those that his handlers had in up keeping his public persona. The author has done a great job of being honest with the struggles he had dealing with the childhood memories and the stark truth that stared him in the face. Fortunately for the author, there was some good memories that came from his dealings with The Mick, so all was not lost.
Both of these books offer good things for the reader. Labine’s book I believe was intended to be just what it was, a tribute to a dear friend and since Labine’s death it may have been a way to write the final chapter on their friendship. The Mickey Mantle book on the other hand offers a direct look at the bleak reality of what Mickey Mantle really was near the end of his life. I don’t think it was in any way intended to be a smear book and the authors tone throughout the book solidifies my opinion on that. It is just one book had an easier subject to work with than the other.
Check out both books, because they are both short easy reads and give unique perspectives on both subjects. Labine is a hard subject to find books on and this is one of the few I have found available. Also, when was the last time you read a new and different story about Mickey Mantle, for most of us I bet it has been awhile.
Like it or not, wherever your favorite team plays is an integral part of the game experience. From unique dimensions, playing surfaces and the elements, these things can all add or detract from the overall experience. With the birth of so many new venues over the last 25 years, the fan experience has been dramatically improved. For the most part the previous generation of stadiums lacked ingenuity or any sort of bling and at the bare minimum left something to be desired for the fans. The only fun part of them was the nicknames that were bestowed to several of them such as concrete doughnut and my personal favorite…..the Toilet. There was one stadium that stood out among all of these circular disappointments and stood above all the rest, The Houston Astrodome. Its amenities were well ahead of the times and served the fans of Houston well for several decades. Now there is a book that celebrates the creation of the iconic stadium and shows all the work that went into building the eighth wonder of the world.
I have always looked at the Astrodome as a baseball stadium. Never giving much thought to the other uses for this multi-purpose marvel. First, this book takes a look at the political wrangling that it took for the city of Houston to procure a Major League team as well as some of the promises it was required to make as part of that deal. It shows the tireless efforts of several key figures in Houston and the many failed previous efforts of the town. It paints a vivid picture of how much time and effort goes in to just getting a promise of a team.
The book also goes into great detail about the political obstacles the new stadium faced in Houston as well as all the engineering hurdles that had to be cleared to create something of this magnitude. It goes into great depth to explain how the stadium was physically built to withstand the elements and how it has been able to withstand the test of time. The authors also show the readers all of the unique attributes that were built into the stadium and you can see how forward thinking those involved with its construction truly were.
The book also addresses the many uses the Astrodome had. From concerts, rodeos, football and countless other uses, it really lent itself to being a jack of all trades. Like all stadiums of this era, it was a living, breathing and evolving building and changed with the needs of the times. Finally, it does take a harsh look at the aging of the dome and how it fell victim of the current times. In the end, the once grand palace of baseball became just another decrepit old stadium. A stadium that no one is sure what to do with and probably at some point, like all the one time greats, will meet its demise.
The book is very comprehensive and shows those not living in Texas what the Astrodome was truly about. It also gives a nice glimpse at Texas politics and how that works as well as the way the people of Houston have helped change their self image with the help of the dome.
While this is not a baseball only book, it still has a large chunk of Colt 45’s/Astros information. If you have interest in old stadiums this book covers it from its beginnings to its possible near end. It has lots of information readers will find informative and entertaining, If like me, you were never lucky enough to visit the Astrodome, this book will surely make you wish you had.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
In prior posts we have taken a look at book publishers that dedicate some of their new releases to baseball books. Baseball is easiest the most popular of the four major sports in regards to books and fans always come through and support the good books. Rowman & Littlefield is no stranger to the baseball book realm and through the years have produced some great books for the fans enjoyment. With the pending long, hard winter staring us all in the face I figured now would be a good time to showcase some of R&L’s offering from this past season. They have a wide array of topics and they are sure to have something for almost every fan longing for baseball.
This book could not have picked a better year to be published. Having the good fortune to capitalize on the Chicago Cubs breaking the curse that has hampered them for decades. Noted Historian Hal Bock takes a look at the last Cubs dynasty, you remember that one that came before World War I. It looks at the powerhouse teams the Cubs were able to produce and how they were one of the most feared teams of their time. It showcases a colorful cast of characters that called Chicago home and how they were central to the team’s success. It also provides some rare photos and takes the reader back to a time before the Cubs were the lovable losers.
If anyone really enjoyed this years World Series victory, then they should check this book out. It transports the reader to a time when World Series victories were the norm for the Cubs, not some sort of a once in a lifetime moment. A very enjoyable walk down memory lane that is well worth the time reading it.
Baseball during its history, has been full of characters to say the least. You could almost classify this book into the good, the bad and the ugly. Just for good measure you could throw in the sad as well. It takes a look at players lives outside of the game during their careers as well as their lives after baseball. The book sticks to legendary names of the game so it is a roster of players most fans are familiar with and possibly will shed some new light on some of their personalities. It goes well beyond statistics and shows what these guys were like on a man to man level.
It shines a whole new light on the legends of the game and will help readers possibly understand why some of these players did what they did during their lives. The book covers a wide array of stars and eras so there should be someone in here everybody will relate to, no matter whom your team allegiance lies with.
The past few years Ty Cobb has been as popular in the baseball book world as ever. There are contradicting stories about his personality that have arisen over the past few years and has changed the ways in which people perceive Cobb. No matter where you lie on the subject their is never going to be a definitive answer as to the man’s personality, but that will not stop the book world from trying.
The author takes a unique approach on this one and reviews Cobb’s personality from a rural Southern upbringing and the mentality of the times. He compares it to the current day expectations of social behavior and shows the differences and transgressions. Tripp also reviews Cobb’s place as a sports icon in Cultural, Social and Gender histories, both within the game and our country. It is a unique approach on a man that passed more than a half century ago and sheds some interesting ideas on what Ty Cobb was all about. Time marches on and so may be the ever changing legacy of Ty Cobb.
A welcome addition to any fans library is this book. It is a subject and player that in the past has been overlooked so there is not that much information out there about him. It looks at Pennock’s stellar career for the pre-dynasty New York Yankees and the contributions he made to the game. Pennock came within four outs of being the first Pitcher to throw a World Series No-Hitter. In interviews with family and remaining friends of Pennock, the author paints a vivid picture of a great player and a well liked man.
The book also touches on his second career as General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his work that guided their farm system to new heights and levels of production. This book was truly a welcomed learning experience for me and would add to any fans arsenal of baseball player knowledge.
Step aside Bo Jackson, Ted Strong Jr., was the original multi-sport superstar. A player in both the Negro Leagues and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Strong could pretty much do it all. He is a widely overlooked subject in today’s sports realm and this book is reversing that injustice. This biography shows the readers the determination and sheer guts that drove this man to obtain his goals throughout his life. Through interviews with family and friends this is another book that sheds light on an often overlooked subject and expands the fans knowledge base of the game.
This is another book that was a welcome learning experience and I think it is very important to remember those who hard work and dedication this game is built upon. Fans of any league or sport for that matter, will not be disappointed in this one.
Someone sound the subjective alarm, we have reached that point in our book round-up. These types of books are always of the subjective nature and that is not meant to say any of them are bad by design. It is just to say that you are falling into the author’s idea of what constitutes a great moment within the game. I may think one play is more important than another, but in essence it only matters what the author thinks. These types of books are great for sparking debate among friends and may honestly generate some disputes that are never settled. It is the design of these books to do this and perhaps to some degree their purpose as well.
Constantino’s book is well written, greatly detailed and he presents concise arguments as to why each of these moments should be considered one of the games 50 greatest ones. These books are hard for me to review because I don’t always agree with the 50, but the do allow the opportunity to spark some great debates among friends………….so have at it !
Obviously the most important event during the Golden Era was integration. It changed the landscape of the game and to some degree society as well. When you see these types of books about this era they are mainly focused on segregation. While this one does give segregation its due a s a monumental event of the time it also discusses some other events that were taking place in the background of the game. It was a time when baseball was at the forefront of American society and minor things like a change in the on field strategies, the use of a player/manager and the views of pinch hitters were all happening. Relief pitchers were evolving, defensive strategies changed and it was all happening right in front of our eyes, the problem was no one was really noticing.
It is a different look at this era than we have seen before and really makes the reader sit up and take notice of what else transpired during one of the most, if not the most important era in the history of the game.
If you have an interest in Cuban baseball, then this is the book you need. Bjarkman is the end all, be all authority on Cuban baseball. He knows every inside story on every player in the country and understands the Cuban culture, which allows him to understand the mindset of the players. He is the man ahead of the headlines and shares with his readers the back stories of the players that have come into the U.S over the past few years, how Cuban baseball factors into the lives of those who live in the country and how baseball has aided in helping the relations between Cuba and the U.S.
This is a very comprehensive work and Bjarkman is second to none on his knowledge of the Cuban game, their players and the proud society of Cuba. If you want to learn about Cuban baseball, I will say it again, you need not look any farther than here. Bjarkman has spent 20 plus years on this subject and it shows through in this body of work.
These great baseball titles and lots of others are available from Rowman & Littlefield
Check out their back catalog as well because there are lots of diverse subject on the baseball front there as well.
It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
The passage of time is a fact of life. No matter what happens in the world around us, time always marches on. In baseball we measure time by seasons, innings and even outs. As time passes, nostalgia tends to creep in and distort memories of the past. So how does one keep those memories straight and know exactly what was going through their mind at a given point in time almost 50 years ago? You ask Bob Gibson how to do it of course!
I don’t know about any of you, but I can’t keep straight what I did last week, let alone decades ago. So you can understand my apprehension with this book when you realize Gibson is trying to remember his thought process from one single game in 1968. Granted that game was game from the 1968 World Series, but I still started reading this book with some skepticism.
After reading this one, I am very glad to report that Gibson and Wheeler have produced a very enjoyable book that is fun to read. Bob Gibson walks us through the entire game of the 1968 that he started. Inning by inning he gives the reader the inside angle on pitch selection, how he approached certain batters and his overall attitude. All these things put together give you a view of the game that fans can rarely see.
Another nice aspect of this book is that it is not strictly game details. He weaves in stories and anecdotes that give the reader some things in which to connect with Gibson. A fierce competitor who some would consider downright scary at times and a person never known to hold back his opinions, this book puts a face to that side of his personality that you rarely see from Bob Gibson.
I imagine it is very hard for anyone to remember all the details from that long ago and I am sure some video watching was involved in prepping for this book, but Bob Gibson does a really great job of getting the entire story across to the reader. This game was a few years before my time, but I found within these pages what was needed to make me feel like I was really there.
Baseball fans across the board should enjoy this book. It is a rare glimpse into the mind of a great competitor doing what he does best. At almost 80 years old the recall of the game is an amazing feat in and of itself, but the book makes you feel like you are on the field with him. Check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books
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