I realize as always that I am way behind on posting on this blog. That doesn’t mean the reading has stopped on my end, it just means my book reports are a little late. I get review books from publishers fairly regularly, sometimes requested and sometimes not. But my perspective is they are all worth taking a look at. Some publishers may be of the one and done variety with the publication of baseball books. While others keep the sport in their lie-up on a regular basis. Year after year McFarland Publishing falls into that later category and this past year is no exception. These pictures are just a sampling of what has made its way across my desk from them this year.
From team biographies, individual player biographies, the history of the game to the social impacts certain teams, events or people have had on the game, McFarland has you, the reader, covered. Some of the subjects are obscure, while others are mainstream, but they still take the road of getting books in print that other publishers turn their noses up at.
Another aspect I find important about McFarland’s catalog is that they bring player Biographies to market that would otherwise fall to the wayside and never be published. How many times have we as readers asked, I wonder if this player has a book and you come to realize that they don’t. McFarland seems to be willing to bring obscure players and authors for that matter, to the market. For baseball readers this should be an item of importance. I for one know that the eight bio’s I have on Reggie Jackson are more than enough.
I don’t know if they publish on a self publishing platform or operate on a more traditional scale, and frankly I don’t care. They allow me the opportunity as a reader to learn and enjoy books about people and subjects within the sport that have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. Some of these subjects may not excite everyone, and that is understandable, but honestly if you give their vast catalog a chance, there will be something that will peak your interest as a baseball fan.
You can check out their full catalog at McFarland Books and see if there is something that sparks your interest to dive further into this great game. It is massive and ever-changing and honestly introduced me to some great topics and great new authors as well.
We all have that one. The one that fills our summer airwaves with Baseball memories, and the one who we relate to an almost personal basis. The one I am talking about is of course your local baseball announcer. The one you spend summer after summer hearing in the background of your life. The person who is the conduit to your childhood dreams and your adult celebrations, all through the game of baseball. Each team controls their own brand of baseball. They are the ones responsible for their pre and post game shows and local telecasts. Through the years the local television teams have created some great and not so great ideas for shows, and honestly you can’t win them all anyway. In the days before 24-7 media coverage of the sport, these local shows may have been a big part of your personal contact with the team. One show seems to have stood the test of time and even the changes in the game to maintain it’s spot in the hearts of it’s many fans.
For fans of the New York Mets, Ralph Kiner and Kiner’s Korner was almost a religion. A post game show that while not big on set production value, always gave the viewers something to remember. Through the use of “Kinerism’s” Ralph endeared himself to the fans and through the use of his knowledge of the game he educated them in ways few announcers have been able to. Kiner always attempted to have the star of the game on there and friend or foe, it always made for some good interviews of which none have really survived the passage of time.
Rosenman and Karpin have taken their readers on a stroll down memory lane. Through interviews with those that worked on the show as well as those whom were interviewed at one time or another, they have been able to piece back together some of the shows history. Many of the player have fond memories of their time hanging on Kiner’s Korner and felt it was an honor to have been selected to sit and talk with Ralph. Throughout it’s history the Korner had superstars, future Hall of Famers, rookies and everyone in between take a seat on the set and it made for some very interesting television.
It is a shame there is no real video history of Kiner’s Korner available. It would show how greatly the game has changed through the decades and how the media attention and formats they use has evolved as well. Also fans of the New York Mets would clamor to get their hands on these as well. The fans in the early years of the Mets existence did not have much to look forward to, but Kiner’s Korner was always one of the lights at the end of the tunnel. It also was another showcase besides the game telecast itself where Kiner’s knowledge could shine through and enlighten the fans.
New York Mets fans will obviously want to check this out, but if you are a Ralph Kiner fan you will as well. You get a feel of what his broadcasts were truly about and a sense of what baseball telecasts were like back in the day, before we became 24/7 baseball fans.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Carrel Books
When one thinks about the Yankees the two most significant names that pop into peoples minds are usually Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. They were easily the biggest icons of their respective generations. Passing the Yankee torch from one hero to another required an overlap year and according to legend, a little bit of hostility and animosity among them. Today’s book attempts to set the record straight to the masses regarding the two massive ego’s in New York.
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle could not have come from different upbringings. One from the big California city and the other from the sticks of Oklahoma. They were two immensely different personalities, with daunting expectations under the microscope of New York city. Regardless of their pasts they were destined to have the pennant hopes of the Yankees pinned to them for decades. Good or bad these were the two men that became the faces of the New York Yankees.
After all that has been written about Mantle and DiMaggio, one would think we have explored all the deep dark secrets that both men had. I would think we would have a great perspective on their personalities and the events that transpired in both of their lives. So what makes this one different from all the other books out there? This book tries to in theory, explain the relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in the transition year of 1951 while they were teammates. There are lots of rumors out there about hatred and animosity between the two but not all of those rumors had legs to stand on, so this book had a clear purpose.
Tony Castro does at least weave a good story in this book. He gives the reader some background on both players lives and how they fit in the big Yankee picture. Also, he talks about some interactions between both of the stars during the 1951 season. Nothing that seems out of the ordinary between a fading star and a rookie on the rise. They were both at different stages of their careers and did not travel within the same circles, which did not seem out of the ordinary, at least to me. He also attempts to portray the seedier sides of both people, their personal relationships and how they led their lives, but still did not delve to far into the interactions between the two players.
In the end for me this book came up a little short of the target. It rehashed some points that were covered in other books and did little do dissect the interactions and relationship between Mantle and DiMaggio in 1951. It covered a lot of points that were not related to what the book was supposed to be addressing in regards to each player. This book for me had great possibilities to dispel some myths and give the reader the real story of the two. In the end it glanced over those vital points and felt more like the author was looking for some dirt or gossip to throw on the memories of both.
Check the book out, maybe you will think I am wrong in my review, but in the end I was disappointed in this one.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Lyons Press
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.
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
There are players in the history of baseball that transcend all of time. No matter how much time passes they are in conversations and debates almost on a daily basis. Names like Mantle, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Rose are all names that will forever be talked about and for the most part held in high regard. Regardless of their transgressions on and off the field they are still beloved by many. There are others that the exact opposite is true of. One such person is Ty Cobb. More than a few books have been written about The Georgia Peach and his exploits and honestly up until now most have not been complimentary. There was a new book published this year that attempts to change how we feel about Ty Cobb.
Charles Leerhsen took on a pretty big task in trying to change Ty Cobb’s image. It seems we as baseball fans and as a society were pretty set in our opinions of Cobb. We accepted the facts that he was a cut throat player willing to win at any cost. We also accepted the fact that he was a raging racist during his life. Basically we all were comfortable accepting the fact that he was an all around SOB. Through other books that were written, most of these facts were able to be backed up by stories and first hand accounts, and even though we now know a few may have been fabrications, we were all pretty set in our opinions. But what if we are wrong?
The author, through newspaper articles, interviews and some of Cobb’s own writings has tried to get to the real man behind the image. He does an in-depth look at the personality and the behavior of the man set in his own era. He attempts to dispel rumors, expose certain truths as fraud and show the gentler, kinder side of ole’ Ty.
This book gets its point across very eloquently and does pose some very interesting questions for the reader. Perhaps the biggest question I had at the end of this is were we wrong? I don’t know for sure honestly, but it definitely has raised some serious questions in my mind. Cobb’s grandson Herschel wrote a book about Ty last year and that to me started the ball rolling in my mind that maybe we have the story a little skewed. I finished the book and still in my own mind have no definitive answers on Ty Cobb, but I have opened up to the possibility that the accepted story may not at the very least be accurate.
I recommend this book to any and all baseball fans because if nothing else it will start to make you wonder. It is written very well and moves along nicely. It is not a mindless biography and it forces the reader to contemplate whether they still accept the opinions we have previously accepted as fact. Maybe someone will also help me figure out what I think about the whole subject, because I am still not sure.
Too much of a good thing is not healthy. But how does one know when they get to that point. It could be with food and drink, gambling, or countless other vices, usually you know when you have had enough. With baseball books how are we to know when the market has been saturated with a particular subject? Is it when the subject runs its course of popularity and what defines the point that subject transcends its own timeline? There are certain personalities out there that no matter how much time passes between their relevance to the game and current times, the books keep on coming. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and a handful of others come to mind as players with too many books about them out there. But today’s book to me is another biography on an above average player and manager that gets a ton of coverage no matter how many decades have passed.
Billy Martin is a guy who got more mileage out of his personality than almost anyone in baseball. People loved him and hated him, all at the same time, but you couldn’t deny his passion and skills. On and off the field he was a lightning rod for trouble and everywhere he went, some sort of altercation interrupted his career at that time. He has been the subject of many, many books and this new one tries to give the reader something different.
Bill Pennington has thrown his hat in the Billy Martin Ring with his new volume. Pennington has done thorough research and given the reader a comprehensive story of the life of the volatile player and skipper. From his early days in California to his career at various stops in the majors, the author has given you a good look at what made Billy tick. There were some minor details about Martin’s story that knowledgeable fans may question but overall it is a nice piece of work that readers will enjoy.
The bigger question I have is why do we need another Billy Martin biography? What has happened in recent years that has changed any opinions of Billy. In the almost 25 years since Martin’s death, nothing new has surfaced that would warrant another book. There have been several books on the market that have done this dance. I know of at least ten other biographies that have chronicled Martin’s life and there is a lot of overlap between those books already. So I am not sure why we needed another one. I understand the appeal of the Yankees and Martin’s personality, so that is really the only reason I can conceive as to why this book, at this point in time.
As I said above, Bill Pennington did a really nice job with this book, save for the few minor details he doesn’t have quite right. If you haven’t inundated yourself with Billy Martin biographies in the past, then you will really enjoy this book. If you are like me and read all the other versions available, then you may have trouble finding some new information to keep your attention. I don’t want to discourage readers from checking out this book, I just want them to keep in mind it is a lot of the same stories that have been visited many times before.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
One of the downsides of growing older for me is seeing all of your baseball idols pass on. I understand it is a normal part of life and is ultimately inevitable, but it still sucks. No matter what team pulls at your heart-strings and makes your blood boil at times, how could you not like Yogi Berra? With his passing today baseball has lost another great ambassador to the game. They have lost another link to the golden era of the game and New York baseball. If you look closely these links are becoming few and far between. It is just a normal part of life but still not one I find any appreciation for. You are hard pressed to find anyone that had a bad thing to say about Yogi. A modest character who at times seemed bigger than life but was a down to earth guy who loved his wife, his family and of course his game.
Yogi was the author of an incredible career that was capped by Hall of Fame enshrinement in 1972. An imported New Yorker through and through, he became a symbol of one of the things that made New York great. His death is not just a loss for New York or the Yankees and Mets, but all of baseball. Every team, league, player, manager, coach, executive and fan has lost something here and is in some way a fan of Yogi’s. Everyone has heard some sort of version of one of his Yogisms and honestly they even make their way to non-baseball fans. His death transcends just the baseball world and may even be considered a loss for the entire world. Everyone had opinions of the players who are considered the games greats. Mantle Williams, DiMaggio and even Duke Snider, people either loved them or hated them, and there are plenty of both. But in all honesty it seems that everyone loved Yogi. It’s easy to leave your mark on the game of baseball if you have talent, but he has left his mark on people, which is an even bigger accomplishment.
So how does all this tie into baseball books, since that is what this blog is about? Well much like other popular subjects, there are a lot of Yogi books. If you havent taken the time to look at any of them, maybe you should. Most are a joy to read and give the readers an opportunity to see what the man was like behind the scenes. He seems to be a very what you see is what you get kind of guy. He was nobody’s fool and seemed like a great guy. So take the time to pick one up you wont regret it, and this is coming from a self-proclaimed Yankee hater.
Godspeed Yogi, we’re gonna miss ya!
Much to most of baseballs surprise, it is the first week of September and the New York Mets have a tight grip on first place in the National League East. Mets fans will understand if the rest of the world says talk to us in a month when all the dust has settled and see where you are. Baseball is a game that you never count your chickens before they hatch. The Mets have been down this road during their history and it has not always been the best of outcomes for them. Now there is a book that helps Mets fans relive the highs, lows and spectacular events that make them proud to be called fans of the Metropolitans.
Some years it is harder to be a fan of the Mets than it is in others. From collapses, bad free agent signings, financial scandals and that pesky Bobby Bonilla contract that they are paying on until sometime during the 26th century, it can be tough to be faithful. Mets fans have proven their loyalty to their team and are being rewarded handsomely for it this year. Their team history has not always been the greatest either, from their inaugural 120-loss season to a few World Championships in-between, they still have a rich history that is worth celebrating.
John Snyder has written a fun book for New York Mets fans. It covers the entire team history from 1962 through 2010. It covers every facet of the team you could imagine, and breaks each year into segments. Team rosters, statistical leaders, final standings, attendance and a nice little one sentence synopsis that sums up the teams entire season. Next it presents in chronological order any of the important things that happened on or off the field that year that pertained to the Mets. Finally at the end of each chapter it relays an anecdote that pertains to that individual season. If you are trying to brush up on your team history, this book is really a fun way to approach it.
Mets fans obviously will enjoy this book. You can re-live memories or even learn about some years you may have been on sabbatical from your favorite team. Yes, that last sentence happens to most fans at one point or another. Fans of other teams who are not crazy about the Mets could use this book as a learning tool to gain some insight on team history. Also the author has published other team journals of this type, so your team may be represented by one of those volumes.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Clerisy Press
In each generation there is at least one player that transcends team allegiances. No matter where you are from or who you root for, there is a guy who everyone takes an interest in their career. Roberto Clemente, Bob Feller and several others come to mind, but the one that really stands out to me is Stan Musial. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who had a bad word to say about Stan the Man. He was a great ambassador to both the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. His legacy and outgoing personality carried him through life for the six decades after he retired. That is why going into todays book I had such high hopes for it.
High hopes sometimes in the baseball literature world can sometimes lead to disappointment. In no way was it disappointment in the subject matter, but more the writing style. I enjoy baseball biographies more than any other genre of baseball books. With that in mind I have obviously read hundreds of baseball bio’s, sometimes three, four or even seven on the same person, so I usually know what to expect in these types of books.
Stan Musial is an incredible subject for a biography. He had a great personality and always had a smile face. His career and retirement were not once touched by scandal, so Stan by that measure, is an author’s dream as far as research and a fan’s dream to read about. Wayne Stewart has made a valiant attempt to chronicle the life and career of Stan the Man. He did a very complete and accurate job on the research details on the story itself, but I think he crossed a line that is hard to walk in baseball biographies. The final story came off as more of a fan worship to his favorite player as opposed to a baseball biography.
The book for my money beleaguered many points and makes drawn out attempts in explaining the details of the story. Sometimes in a biography less can be more. Obviously when it is not a first hand story you need a ton of detail to paint a complete picture for the reader. This book unfortunately does to much of that to make sure it doesn’t miss any part of the story. When the author does that, it slows down the flow of the story and the reader feels that they are stuck in that part of the story much longer than they actually are.
Wayne Stewart on the plus side, did nice research on Stan and conducted some informative interviews, but the presentation of the story was lacking for my taste. There are a few other Stan Musial biographies out there that I feel flow better than this one. If you are a big Stan Musial fan, you more than likely will be able to overlook the slow pace of this book. I think the fan that has admired Stan the Man from afar is going to have more trouble embracing this book, like I did.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Triumph Books at the link below
Everyone has a past, it is a fact of life. In that past, people have deep dark secrets that are buried within for various reasons. Sometimes its family trauma, emotional or physical trauma or a combination of all of them. For ex-Yankee John Malangone, his lifelong secret effected every day of his life from the time he was a young boy.
Lets start out by saying John Malangone was a career minor leaguer, so the term ex-Yankee in the title is by definition a bit of a stretch. This book gives you a lot of background information of Malangone. From his upbringing in New York, through some family drama and secrets that helped shape the man we are reading about, it gives you a real sense of how his mind works. It is the way that mind of his worked that probably kept Mangalone from reaching his true potential as a player.
Basically suffering from some sort of ADD/ADHD/schizophrenia that would not have necessarily been diagnosed at that time it effected almost every aspect of his life. Compounding this with early childhood trauma and you get a real mess of a man who does not always conform to what society needed him to be in order to succeed. That is especially true in his climbing the ladder through the Yankees farm system. He never quite fit the Yankees image as to what the expected if you were a Yankee.
The story as a whole is somewhat sad. It is truly a story of wasted opportunity and not necessarily realizing he was doing it at the time. The book is well written, but does show a different era of New York in the 1930’s and 40’s. It shows John crossing paths with gangsters, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and countless other Yankee Hall of Famers. In the end, childhood family secrets haunted John, basically effected every aspect of his life and took him over 50 years to finally lay them to rest.
To me this is more a life biography versus a baseball one. It does have the baseball theme to it, but really the Demons of his personal life overshadow the baseball story. The story when you finish it leaves you feeling sorry for the life John Malangone suffered through. He had so much promise that went unfulfilled, and suffered for so many decades due to the secrets he held inside.
If you are looking for a true baseball biography this may not be a book for you. If you are looking for a good biography that tackles some real life issues, this is your book. It draws you in with the baseball hook, but keeps you interested with the human aspect.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Jarndyce & Jarndyce Press