Several months ago, I picked up this book at a local bookstore, keenly curious about its content.
As an avid Major League Baseball follower and a lifeSeveral months ago, I picked up this book at a local bookstore, keenly curious about its content.
As an avid Major League Baseball follower and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, Sparky Anderson was a man that I had long respected for his contributions to the game. (As a 10-year old, I first saw him on TV during the 1975 World Series, in which he managed the "Big Red Machine", the Cincinnati Reds, to the world championship. I was impressed by the way he carried himself. Sparky was solid. Four years later, after he was released by the Reds, he was hired by the Tigers as manager. Upon hearing the news, my reaction was: "Why is Sparky coming here?" I would've thought Sparky might have preferred to manage a team in a high profile media place like Los Angeles or New York, were either managerial post available to him. Not Detroit, which, during most of the '70s, finished from the mid-range to the lowest rung of the Eastern Division of the American League. Notwithstanding that, from Sparky's first meeting with the media in June 1979, I had a feeling that he had the best interests of the Tigers at heart and would do all in his power to make it one of the best teams in the majors. Indeed, he promised us a championship in 5 years. And you know what? Sparky delivered. Whenever I think about that magical 1984 season in which the Tigers became World Champions, tears well up. I'll always be grateful to Sparky for giving me one of the happiest moments in my life.)
In reading this book, I learned so much more about Sparky Anderson the man. This is a loving tribute by the author to Sparky, with whom he had a firm, enduring, and special friendship for 3 decades, spanning the entire period of Sparky's tenure with the Tigers up to his death in 2010. As a Tigers fan, I was focused on Sparky as manager. His baseball persona was what commanded my attention. I simply never thought about the myriad other endeavors that Sparky immersed himself in, nor the charities (e.g. CATCH = Caring Athletes Team for Children's and Henry Ford Hospitals) he quietly supported.
By way of example, I want to cite the following passage in this book which profoundly impressed me because it showed how generous and respectful Sparky Anderson was toward all people. (There was no artifice to the man. He was the real deal.)
"Sparky made his point on a bus trip to the airport after a steamy Sunday afternoon game in Texas. Dressed in the coats and ties mandated by Sparky, the players were sweating profusely as the air-conditioning struggled to circulate throughout the bus. Texas sweat seems different from all other kinds. It has a nasty way of penetrating right to the bones.
" 'Hey, driver,' one of the players shouted from the back. 'Turn up the AC.'
"Some of the players gave their teammate a hand.
"A few moments passed and again the player shouted: 'I told you to turn up the AC, driver. It's burning back here.'
"Now the players were hooting and whistling.
"After his third call, Sparky spoke deliberately. 'In case anyone didn't look at the sign above his head, it's Herman. Now Herman is doin' the best he can. So if you wish to say anything else to Herman, I suggest you call him by name.'
"As the players departed the bus at the airport, Sparky remained seated until the boisterous player from the back approached. He grabbed the player by his sleeve and suggested it might be wise to apologize to Herman.
"The player wisely apologized, and Herman smiled at him in return. Herman also thanked Sparky for the consideration he had shown.
"Just one of those things that meant so much to Sparky."
For any reader wanting to read an inspiring, heartfelt story about someone who always sought to do right by everybody and inspire others to embrace "the better angels of their nature", look no further. Read "Sparky and Me." You'll be glad that you did.
As a baseball fan who has had virtually a lifelong love of the game and its history, this was an enjoyable book to read. Both John McGraw, the pugnaciAs a baseball fan who has had virtually a lifelong love of the game and its history, this was an enjoyable book to read. Both John McGraw, the pugnacious manager of the New York Giants and one of baseball's great minds of the early 20th century, and Christy ("Matty") Mathewson, the great pitcher and moral paragon among players, helped to lift up the stature of the game and broaden its national appeal. (In the process, baseball became the national pastime til football supplanted its claim to the title in the 1960s.)
The book also is a dual biography, informing the reader about the lives of both McGraw and Mathewson. Both men, given their disparate backgrounds and temperaments, could not be more different. Yet when they both became part of the New York Giants, they worked very well together. In fact, McGraw, who could be a bit of a control freak in terms of how he managed his players, gave Mathewson considerable latitude in the games he pitched. "Matty" was free to pitch as he saw fit and became one of the most successful pitchers in major league history. Long before the New York Yankees became the pre-eminent team of the major leagues, it was the New York Giants who were one of the great powerhouse teams of baseball. They dominated the game between the early 1900s and the immediate post-First World War era.
Any person who loves a good human interest story or who loves baseball will enjoy this book. It's easy to read and is not at all taxing. ...more
As an unabashed baseball fan, this book was a delight to read. While I didn't have the opportunity to see Bob Gibson pitch (either in person or on TVAs an unabashed baseball fan, this book was a delight to read. While I didn't have the opportunity to see Bob Gibson pitch (either in person or on TV - I was a wee bit too young), I was fortunate enough to see Reggie Jackson play in person, as well as on TV. I remember so well sitting in the living room when I was 12, watching Reggie Jackson hit those 3 straight homers in Yankee Stadium (each time off the first pitch) in the 1977 World Series. I groaned with despair because I was rooting for the Dodgers!
As a reader, you learn about the heart and soul of baseball from the perspective of a star pitcher (Gibson) and hitter (Jackson). Both men share their experiences and perspectives on major league baseball, the great players they played with or against (e.g., Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Willie MacCovey, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, "Catfish" Hunter, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, Willie "Pops" Stargell, Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, and Al Kaline) as well as the struggles that both endured as African American players in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
Even if you, the reader, are not a baseball fan, but enjoy reading stories about people displaying courage, heart, and endurance in the face of overwhelming odds, this is the book for you. ...more
This book is an ABSOLUTE GEM for baseball fans. The author conducted a series of interviews during the 1960s with several of major league baseball’s eThis book is an ABSOLUTE GEM for baseball fans. The author conducted a series of interviews during the 1960s with several of major league baseball’s early stars from what is now known as “The Dead-Ball Era,” the period from 1900 to 1919, when Babe Ruth (who had won renown as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox) hit a then astounding 29 home runs. ...more
As a child, I fondly remember having a set of cards featuring some of major league baseball's greatest and unsung players. I loved learning their statAs a child, I fondly remember having a set of cards featuring some of major league baseball's greatest and unsung players. I loved learning their stats, which attested to their talent and skill. Batting average, RBIs (i.e. 'runs batted in'), runs scored, ERA & Ks ('earned run average' and [K ='strikeouts'] which apply to pitchers), and home runs. One of these cards featured John Franklin "Home Run" Baker. I scanned his stats, which aptly summed up his career. Impressive. But never did I give a thought to what the man, "Home Run" Baker, was like.
That is, until a couple of years ago, when I bought this book. I'm glad I did, because it gave me entree to a man, who, during the prime of his career as a third baseman with Connie Mack's Philadelphia A’s in the American League, became a nationwide sports hero. Through keeping in shape on his farm in his beloved State of Maryland during the off-season and perfecting his skills as a third baseman and hitter, Baker helped to make the A’s into one of the earliest baseball dynasties during the 1910s. Baker himself earned the sobriquet “Home Run Baker” as a 4-time home run champion and from being the first major leaguer to hit 2 home runs in a World Series game in 1911.
The arc of Baker’s major league career spanned the Deadball Era (1900-20) --- when the baseball was heavier, games were generally played with a single ball (which pitchers were free to ‘enhance’ with their spit --- often mixed with tobacco juice --- and scuffing as a way of giving them an advantage over opposing batters; this practice was outlawed in the 1920s; nowadays, major league baseball games are played with a plethora of balls), pitchers dominated the game, and the tactics of ‘hit and run’ (which were so well used by star players like Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, and Honus Wagner) were the norm --- and the coming of “Babe” Ruth as a home run hitter nonpareil in the 1920s. Reading this book gave me a better appreciation for players like Baker who helped make baseball the national pastime during the first half of the 20th century. ...more