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Day 29 of new baseball book reviews in 2021: What’s the real deal, or the fix for fiction can lead to friction

“Escape from Castro’s Cuba”

The author:
Tim Wendel

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
270 pages
$19.95
Released March 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“Big League Life”

The author:
Chip Scarinzi

The publishing info:
Rowe Publishing
244 pages
$16.95
Released March 30, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“This Never Happened: The Mystery Behind
the Death of Christy Mathewson”

The author:
J.B. Manheim

The publishing info:
Summer Game Books
272 pages
$18.99
Released released April 28, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At L.A.’s The Last Book Store
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The reviews in 90 feet or less

Here’s our angle when it comes to this fixation on fiction: It’s not real, it can be really compelling, or really gnarly. The end game: Is it entertaining enough to commit the time and brain room for it? It depends on your disposition, expectations and a higher tolerance for pain. Also, your trust in someone’s recommendation.

Starting with our fiction heroes: Robert Pirsig (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence”), John Irving (“The World According to Garp,” “The Cider House Rules,” “A Prayer for Owen Meany”) and Harper Lee (“To Kill A Mockingbird”) would be at the top. With Francis Scott Key  Fitzgerald (“This Side of Paradise,’ “The Beautiful and Damned,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night”) the best go-to author in any English Lit class for a lesson on how to get things done in a short lifespan.

The most current fiction read in our rotation is Paul Theroux’s “Under the Wave at Waimea,” which we jumped on after hearing him appear with Scott Simon on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and then reading a profile about him in the New York Times. He has a very cool space created for himself to create sentences and paragraphs (above).

Theroux focuses on Joe Sharkey, an aging North Shore surfer who, the Times says, resembles characters Theroux has gotten to know on the beaches near his home. Sharkey has lost a connection to current-day surfers, feeling forgotten. His life as it is connected to surfing is a simple existence.

Amidst this, Sharkey is driving one stormy day and hits, and kills, a homeless man by accident. He doesn’t know how to process how all the bad karma starts to follow him.

Theroux is said to have found surfing to be a metaphor for his own life, just wanting to write without interruption or distractions. And also wonder if people still remember the writer who put “The Mosquito Coast” on the map, as well as many other best sellers.

“I was once a hot shot, I was once the punk,” Theroux says in the story. “And anyone who has once been a punk, eventually you’re older, and you see the turning of the years as it is. We all feel it, every writer. They might deny it. But they do, they all feel it.”

Continue reading “Day 29 of new baseball book reviews in 2021: What’s the real deal, or the fix for fiction can lead to friction”

Day 28 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: A cheat sheet/check list as to who, what, how and why not try

“Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal
and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing”

The author:
Andrew Martino

The publishing info:
Doubleday Book
288 pages
$28
Released June 8, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At Eso Won Bookstore.com
At Diesel Bookstore.com
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

However many fans were allowed into Dodger Stadium last May 21, eventually they weren’t going to go away feeling cheated.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Josh Reddick took his turn at the plate in the eighth inning against the Dodgers’ Blake Treinen, but Dodger fans could see past this new skin he was wearing. A one-time Dodger half-season rental in 2016 who never really endeared himself to the L.A. home base before going to Houston, Reddick might not have guessed there were only about 15,000 COVID-restricted fans in the facility when the chant started in the right field pavilion, and soon became pretty obvious for those watching on TV.

“Cheater … Cheater …”


Maybe they were prompted a few innings earlier, when Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle played a peppy version of the song, “I Saw The Sign,” when Reddick was coming to the plate.

No matter what you choose to be still angry about concerning the recent actions of the Astros — winners of the 2017 World Series over the Dodgers, losers in the 2018 ALCS to eventual World Champion Boston, losers in a seven-game 2019 World Series to Washington and nearly winning the 2020 ALCS which would have put them over Tampa Bay and into a World Series rematch in against the Dodgers in last year’s bizarre finish in Texas — you should know as much of the facts as possible.

Continue reading “Day 28 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: A cheat sheet/check list as to who, what, how and why not try”

Day 27 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Ruppert Jones gets his head around the truth

“#NeverGiveUp: A Memoir of Baseball
& Traumatic Brain Injury”

The author:
Ruppert Jones
With Ryan Dempsey

The publishing info:
Self published
228 pages
$14.99
Released April 23, 2021

The links:
At Amazon.com

Caption for above photo:
Home plate umpire Rocky Roe calls the Angels’ Ruppert Jones safe after he slid past Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, tying the score in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS on Oct. 12 at Anaheim Stadium. Jones, running for Bob Boone, scored on Rob Wilfong’s single. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

The review in 90 feet or less

When Adam Ulrey was tasked in writing a 3,000 word piece on Ruppert Jones’ life and times for the Society For American Baseball Research’s BioProject, it began:

“If a movie of Ruppert Jones’ career were to be made, its title might be ‘What Could Have Been.’ This gifted five-tool player was beset by injuries throughout his career. He could hit with power to all fields and run like a gazelle. Jones called homers “accidents,” maintaining that he was at the plate to make contact and get base hits. He hit 147 accidents in his career. He came to Seattle from Kansas City after being the very first pick in the 1976 expansion draft. Jones was the first Mariner to be an All-Star, in 1977 and made the team again, this time for the National League, for the San Diego Padres in 1982. As a Mariner playing in front of small crowds, Jones heard the constant chants of his name: “ROOP! ROOP! ROOP!”

Hmmm … a movie ….

Opening scene: Overhead shot of Olympic Stadium in Montreal, with 59,000 in attendance, scene of the July 13, 1982 All-Star Game

Ruppert Jones voice over describes his season to that point with the San Diego Padres:

“Despite all my problems, I was playing great this season. The fans in San Diego really took a liking to me. They even had T-shirts made up with ‘Rupe’s Troops’ written on them. I was playing so well that I was selected to the National League All-Star team … The National League took pride in trying to beat the American League. All the National League players talked about was winning the game. Their attitude was infectious and when the game time arrived, I was ready to play.”

Cut to video clip of ABC’s coverage of the game:

Jones coming in as a pinch hitter leading off the bottom of the third inning. He hits the first pitch off Dennis Eckersley with a deep fly to right-center field that looks like a home run, slices off the wall and bounces high between Reggie Jackson and Fred Lynn, caroming sharply on the artificial turf back toward the infield. As Jackson chases down the ball, picking it up just before it reaches second baseman Bobby Grich, Jones steams into third base with a triple.

Two batters later, Pete Rose hits a fly ball to medium right-center field. Jackson makes the catch. Jones breaks for the plate to score and with a head-first slide gets his left hand in around a tag attempt by Carlton Fisk to score on the sacrifice fly, giving the National League a 3-0 lead.

The camera picks up Jones coming back to the dugout, getting a hug from National League Manager Tommy Lasorda as well as high fives from Gary Carter, Al Oliver, Steve Howe and Steve Sax.

ABC commentator Don Drysdale remarks: “It took the speed of Ruppert Jones to beat the tag because Reggie made one whale of a throw!”

Back to Jones’ resuming narration over the video:

“I thought Tommy might put me back into the game, but he didn’t. So, you know what I did instead? I went to the restroom and snorted cocaine.”

Ominous notes of a violin are heard over the narration as the game continues:

“To an outsider, I was completely out of control and reckless, which I was. But it’s easy to judge someone only by what we see on the outside. Rarely do we know what’s happening with a person on the inside. We all have something going on inside, and that’s important to consider before making judgements because that paints a clearer picture. But back then, even I didn’t understand what was going on inside. While I was in the restroom, the National League won the All-Star game, 4-1.”

Continue reading “Day 27 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Ruppert Jones gets his head around the truth”

Day 26 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: They might be Giants — dodging myths and truths about how San Francisco became a big-league town

“Forty Years A Giant: The Life of Horace Stoneham”

The author:
Steven Treder

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
536 pages
$36.95
To be released June 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“The Giants and their City: Major League Baseball
in San Francisco: 1976-1992”

The author:
Lincoln A. Mitchell

The publishing info:
The Kent State University Press
272 pages
$29.95
Released March 2, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Sound the foghorn.

The Dodgers’ first weekend venture to San Francisco – and their oddly initial meet-and-greet with the rival Giants in 2021 – may be just enough to inspire a gregarious gaggle of Angelinos to take a premeditated, pre-Memorial Day journey up memory lane. Just to clear their heads and partake in some suitable chest thumping.

Go for it.

After all, considering the titles the Giants claimed in ’10, ’12 and ’14, and now sitting atop the NL West with a five-game win streak, Dodgers followers are apt to wave under their noses that whatever happened in ’20 meant something to someone.

The trip to the Phone Booth Sponsored Stadium adjacent to McCovey Cove is gorgeous. If you haven’t left by now, you’ve got time to venture somewhere off the 5 over to the 101. At least cut over at 152 West, through Gilroy and up to San Jose.

We are 63 seasons into this West Coast tete-a-tete. It historically began in New York, of course, as the borough of Manhattan’s elitist Giants faced the borough of Brooklyn’s blue-collar Dodgers in an April 18, 1884 exhibition game won by the Giants, 8-0. Their first game as professional franchises was Oct. 18, 1889 at the Polo Grounds — that would be the 1889 World Series, where the Giants prevailed, six games to three. The Giants once had an owner named Andrew Freedman. No relations to the Dodgers’ current president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman.

Continue reading “Day 26 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: They might be Giants — dodging myths and truths about how San Francisco became a big-league town”

Day 25 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Wait, come back … we’ve got a couple more comeback stories … it says so in the titles

“Comeback Pitchers: The Remarkable Careers
of Howard Ehmke & Jack Quinn”

The authors:
Lyle Spatz
and Steve Steinberg

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
512 pages
$39.95
Released April 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website (Steinberg)
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“One Line Drive:
A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback”

The author:
Daniel Ponce de Leon
With Tom Zenner

The publishing info:
FaithWords/Hachette
224 pages
$26
Released March 9, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At Barnes and Noble (signed edition)
At Target

The reviews in 90 feet (or 60-feet, 6-inches) or less

We found ourselves up at about 2 in the morning recently, somehow  drawn again to Jimmy Stewart limping around in “The Stratton Story” on Turner Classic Movies. At least it wasn’t Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander. We had enough of that one.

The lure even at this very late hour was as much a recall of how much the story had been Hollywood-ized as our amusement trying to guess how, for the life of us, George Bailey, 10 years removed from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” was going to throw on a Chicago White Sox wool jersey and strike out the Yankees’ Bill Dickey in a dicey situation.

Monty Stratton, a 6-foot-6 right-hander out of a Texas cotton farm, had just  put together back-to-back 15 win seasons for the Chisox during his age 25 and 26 seasons in 1937 and ’38. But then he done shot himself by accident over a Thanksgiving weekend visit to the family sted.

In the movie, Stewart plays Stratton as someone who trips over a twig, you hear the rifle go off, and he’s nearly bleeding out while sending his dog off to get him some help. The way we read about it really happening, according to his SABR bio, Stratton spotted a rabbit, took out his .22 caliber pistol, fired, then put the gun in his holster and thought he had it on safety, but it wasn’t. The gun fired and hit him in the right thigh behind the knee. He crawled home and was eventually driven 50 miles to Dallas, by which time the leg developed gangrene and eventually had to be amputated.

It necessitated a comeback.

Not to the White Sox, or even the bigs. It was with a Class-C East Texas League, for a team resumed playing in 1946 after World War II. Now in his late 30s, Stratton then went up to Class B in Waco in ’47. A year later, he was given $100,000 to sit on the set at MGM in Hollywood, as an advisor to Sam Wood (who also oversaw “The Pride of the Yankees”) as they re-directed Stratton’s story as much more of a loving relationship he had with his wife. All according to formula.

It’s not likely anyone will ever feel compelled to make a movie about the lives of Howard Ehmke or Jack Quinn, and how their careers intersected at various times, reaching a climax as two reclaimed surprise participants in the 1929 World Series for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics — once called by Sports Illustrated the “greatest team in history that time forgot.

If one were to ever happen, however, there’s now this ultra-thick starting point fashioned by longtime SABR researchers Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg.

Continue reading “Day 25 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Wait, come back … we’ve got a couple more comeback stories … it says so in the titles”