Fay Vincent was not only commissioner of baseball from 1989 to 1992, he is also clearly a true fan of the game and shows it in his "baseball valentineFay Vincent was not only commissioner of baseball from 1989 to 1992, he is also clearly a true fan of the game and shows it in his "baseball valentine". Vincent's book is jam-packed with fascinating anecdotes about players from DiMaggio and Williams to Vincent's close friends Ralph Branca (who famously gave up the "Shot Heard Round the World" to Bobby Thomson in 1951) and Slick Surratt of the Negro Leagues. Vincent makes no bones about his fannish joy in meeting baseball legends; he refers to a breakfast invitation from Ted Williams as "an invitation to the Church of Hitting...you can't -- or the twelve-year-old in you, anyhow, cannot -- pass it up", and it's endearing to see his enthusiasm.
I was less enthused about the whole half chapter on the Bush family, which seemed rather more about Vincent's political inclinations than about baseball, but the chapters on Vincent's predecessor, Bart Giamatti (subjective though it obviously is, the two having been the best of friends), and the Pete Rose betting scandal were as interesting as the player anecdotes. The Last Commissioner is a little self-indulgent at times, but Vincent's love for the game makes it a very appealing book. ...more
Less than half the book actually deals with Robinson's baseball career; the rest details his troubled family life and his business and political dealiLess than half the book actually deals with Robinson's baseball career; the rest details his troubled family life and his business and political dealings after retiring from baseball, from the problems of his son Jackie Jr., who conquered a serious drug addiction only to die in a car accident in 1971, to Robinson's work with the NAACP and his relationships with figures like Martin Luther King, Nelson Rockefeller, and Richard Nixon.
Robinson's story is frequently disturbing, but always illuminating, and I came away with a profound respect for a man who suffered many hardships in his life but who spoke his mind and did what he thought was right. This is essential reading for anyone who is interested in baseball. ...more
Double Play is an excellent fictional portrayal of how Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Joseph Burke is a WWII veteran whose wiDouble Play is an excellent fictional portrayal of how Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Joseph Burke is a WWII veteran whose wife leaves him while he's in the hospital recovering from serious wounds; after leaving the hospital, he works as a boxer and a bodyguard and is eventually hired by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers to protect Robinson in his first year in the majors. Repercussions from Burke's previous job, guarding Lauren, the self-destructive daughter of a powerful local businessman with Mob connections, spill over into his work for Robinson, and Burke has to play off various criminal organizations against each other in order to protect Laurie and Jackie. Interspersed with the tight, fast-paced narrative are short chapters in which Parker reminisces about his boyhood, growing up during the war, and his love of baseball and the Dodgers.
The events of the book are of course largely fictional, but Parker's take on Robinson's character is spot-on (and I say this having recently read Robinson's autobiography). Parker shows very clearly the terrible pressure Robinson was under during those early years with the Dodgers, when he was under directive by Rickey not to respond in any way to the taunts and threats that came his way, no matter how awful they were. Even Burke, who's almost entirely distanced himself from emotion after the war and his divorce, cannot but admire Robinson's courage, and their relationship, though fictional, is moving and believable. ...more
Tony Kubek was the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees from 1957 to 1965, and in Sixty-One: The Team, the Record, and the Men, he and Terry PlTony Kubek was the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees from 1957 to 1965, and in Sixty-One: The Team, the Record, and the Men, he and Terry Pluto tell the story of that magical year, 1961, when Maris and Mantle competed to beat the Babe's home run record, Whitey Ford won 25 games, and the Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
The book really revolves around Maris, starting out with an in-depth look at his character and career and how the home run race affected him and Mantle. Then Kubek provides a more detailed description of the 1961 season, the pennant race with Detroit and the Series with the Reds, before finishing with brief accounts of the lives of his teammates after baseball.
It's unpretentiously written, with a nicely personal and direct tone. This is certainly good reading for any Yankee fan, but also for baseball fans interested in an insider's illuminating account of a historic year in baseball....more
Gould's recollections of his personal history with baseball and his passion for the Yankees got a teeny bit repetitive (okay, maybe this is just becauGould's recollections of his personal history with baseball and his passion for the Yankees got a teeny bit repetitive (okay, maybe this is just because I am a rabid Yankee-hater), but overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The statistical analyses were a little over my head at times, but interesting, particularly Gould's well-known theory of why there are no more .400 hitters. I also liked the critical pieces that make up the last section of the book, as I am always looking for book recommendations. ...more
No sport is more about statistics than baseball is, with its long lists of batting averages, ERAs, on-base percentages, and many other well-known andNo sport is more about statistics than baseball is, with its long lists of batting averages, ERAs, on-base percentages, and many other well-known and obscure numbers. However, this isn't a modern phenomenon, and here, baseball writer Alan Schwarz sets out to tell the story of baseball and statistics, from Henry Chadwick, who invented the modern box score back in the mid-19th century, through modern figures like Seymour Siwoff of the Elias Sports Bureau and Bill James, perhaps the best-known of today's statistics gurus.
You might think that a book about statistics would be dry, but it's not in the least; Schwarz's focus on the people behind the creation of baseball statistics keeps it moving along nicely, providing personal stories along with the numbers. This is an essential book for any baseball fan who is interested in the history of the game. ...more
Bissinger collaborated with Tony La Russa, currently the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and one of the most respected managers in the game, to expBissinger collaborated with Tony La Russa, currently the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and one of the most respected managers in the game, to explore baseball through a detailed examination of a key three-game series in August 2005 between the Cardinals and their archrivals, the Chicago Cubs. The games serve as a framework in which Bissinger looks at the players, the plays, the coaches: every little detail which makes up a piece of this complex sport. If you're at all interested in baseball, I highly recommend this book; it's one of the best baseball books I've read, very well written and fascinatingly detailed....more
A classic baseball book, collecting articles Angell wrote for the New Yorker from 1962 to 1972. Angell's descriptions are so vivid that it's almost liA classic baseball book, collecting articles Angell wrote for the New Yorker from 1962 to 1972. Angell's descriptions are so vivid that it's almost like being at the games he narrates (including most of the World Series meetings during the period of the articles); the pieces are remarkably fresh given their age (hey, all of these games were played before I was born!). Angell muses on numerous aspects of baseball: the awful beginnings and eventual triumphs of the New York Mets, the advent of domed stadiums, spring training in Florida, the decline of the mighty Yankees, and players from Mays and Clemente to Koufax and Gibson. The Summer Game is simply one of the best baseball books I've ever read, and I'm eager to read more of Angell....more
This is an excellent collection of autobiographical essays. I'd only read Angell's baseball writing before (specifically, The Summer Game); there's aThis is an excellent collection of autobiographical essays. I'd only read Angell's baseball writing before (specifically, The Summer Game); there's a little of that here, but what I found particularly compelling were Angell's memories of his parents, of their divorce, and of his mother's remarriage to E. B. White, whom Angell affectionately calls by his nickname, Andy. Also a highlight was the long section on The New Yorker, Angell's longtime employer, with witty, often moving reminiscences of Wallace Shawn and Harold Ross, among others. ...more
Hank Aaron was until a couple of years ago the holder of major league baseball's career home run record, and he is by all accounts one of baseball's aHank Aaron was until a couple of years ago the holder of major league baseball's career home run record, and he is by all accounts one of baseball's all-time greatest players. Aaron started his career in baseball soon after Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier, while black players still faced virulent racism on many fronts. Aaron faced more than most when he challenged Babe Ruth's home run record; he received thousands of hate-filled letters, many threatening his life, which are simply horrifying to read.
In this autobiography, Aaron's essential intelligence and dignity are apparent, as he relates the story of his life, from his poverty-stricken beginnings in Alabama to his elevation to the ranks of baseball's greatest. Each chapter is introduced with a third-person section which gives a historical picture of the world Aaron lived in, before Aaron's first-person narrative takes over; I thought this was an excellent structure, setting each part of Aaron's life and career in the context of his times while allowing for his own thoughts and opinions to be set down.
This is one of the best baseball autobiographies I've read, and along with Jackie Robinson's I Never Had It Made, it's essential reading for any baseball fan who wishes to understand the history of the game. More than that, though, it provides a thought-provoking look at American social history and civil rights through the lens of the sport many call America's favorite. ...more
Possibly the most famous play in baseball history is Bobby Thomson's bottom-of-the-ninth home run off Ralph Branca in the 1951 playoff game between thPossibly the most famous play in baseball history is Bobby Thomson's bottom-of-the-ninth home run off Ralph Branca in the 1951 playoff game between the Giants and Dodgers, which sent the Giants to the World Series and the Dodgers home to Brooklyn. Nowadays, the fan who caught such a ball would either treasure it forever or sell it, but back then, baseball memorabilia wasn't big business. For years, the whereabouts of that ball has been a mystery: who caught it, and what did they do with it? When Brian Biegel's father Jack found a baseball at a thrift store which he thought might be the famous home run ball, Biegel began a quest to find out whether his father's ball was really the one. Along the way, he learned to deal with the potentially devastating depression he'd been saddled with since a series of personal setbacks.
The writing is nothing outstanding, workmanlike and readable, but the book is cleverly structured. As the mystery unfolds and Biegel meets more people who might have a clue for him, there are short flashbacks to the moment of the home run, showing what each person involved was (or might have been) doing. In fact, since Biegel is primarily a documentarian and did make a documentary about that, I wondered if the choice of structure was influenced by his film background. I thought his fight with depression could have been a larger part of the book, but as it was, the course of the ball investigation was so absorbing that I was happily carried along by that. Full of baseball history, legends, and lore, _Miracle Ball_ is a great book for baseball fans. ...more
Posnanski spent the 2005 baseball season touring the country with Negro Leagues legend Buck O'Neil, who had an equal passion for baseball and for lifePosnanski spent the 2005 baseball season touring the country with Negro Leagues legend Buck O'Neil, who had an equal passion for baseball and for life. I think it might be hard to write a bad book about the marvelous O'Neil, but Posnanski has produced an outstanding one, full of stories and laughter and hope: hope in spite of racial discrimination, in spite of O'Neil's inexplicable non-election to the Hall of Fame, in spite of the scandals that mar today's game. The Soul of Baseball is full of sentiment without ever being mawkishly sentimental; if you love baseball, you should read it....more
After an introductory chapter on the physics of pitching and how the different pitches work (much of which is based on the work of Robert Adair, authoAfter an introductory chapter on the physics of pitching and how the different pitches work (much of which is based on the work of Robert Adair, author of The Physics of Baseball), Kahn proceeds to a history of pitching, spotlighting various pitchers along the way, from Old Hoss Radbourn, who won 60 games in 1884, to Bruce Sutter, the master of the splitter, and pitching guru Leo Mazzone (at the time the Braves' pitching coach). Along the way, he offers interesting analyses of various aspects of pitching: the development of different pitches, the dimensions of the playing field and of the pitchers' mound, headhunting and hitters' fear of getting, coaching and keeping fit (exploding the myth of the pitcher not being much of an athlete).
It's a good and absorbing book, as you would expect from the author of the baseball classic The Boys of Summer. And besides, you've got to like a guy who offers his own list of the greatest pitchers of all time and ends with Jerry Solovey of Lake Mohegan, NY, because "lists are subjective. Solovey could almost always get me out."...more