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Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: If those walls could talk at Mickey Mantle’s home in Commerce, Okla.

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From our 2017 visit to 319 S Quincy Street in Commerce, Oklahoma. It’s still standing.


Mutt’s Dream: Making the Mick

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The author:

Howard Burman

The publishing info:
Ascend Books
$22.95
320 pages
Released June 16, 2020

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Powells.com
At Indiebound.org
At the author’s website

The review in 90 feet or less

 We had a dream the other night about Mickey Mantle.

It was more a flashback, to a trip that a friend of mine and I took a few years back. We did a start-to-finish, Chicago-to-L.A. trek on what is still left of Route 66. Not quite halfway through, after starting the day in Carthage, Mo., we hit the part of the journey that sliced through Kansas and dipped into Oklahoma. Not far into the Sooner State did we hit a bend and come upon the water tower of Commerce.

It’s the hometown of Mickey Mantle, aka The Commerce Comet.
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His high school was just off the main road. A statue of him, right behind Mickey Mantle Baseball Field.

With a Google search, we went just a few blocks away to the home — a sign posted on the front of it looked no worse for wear and confirmed we hit pay dirt in this unexpected discovery.

It also confirmed the story of “Mutt’s dream.”

Across the yard was a tin-covered shed.

Anyone home? Didn’t seem so. A wasp’s nest was formed in one of the window sills.

After paying our respects, it was time to move on. But we felt the need to have a piece of this to take home with us. We found a small branch of a tree on the property. That was enough.

Our own Wonderboy.

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To have been on the property on a quiet summer day allows one to listen to the wind blow, the leaves rustle, the ghosts swirl. It provides something of a surreal context when we now come to an immersion of this book by Howard Burman.

BurmanBurman notes in his acknowledgements that there are “quite a number of books about Mickey. Most concentrate on his Major League Baseball career. Some delve into his public life after he left the game. Not a great deal has been written about the years before he became a professional. There are snippets here and there in various books, including some written (or ghosted) by Mickey himself, including “The Education of A Baseball Player: The Mickey Mantle Story,” as told to Ben Epstein (in 1967, a year before Mantle’s retirement), and “Mickey Mantle: The American Dream Comes to Life,” co-authored by Lewis Early (in 1996, shortly after Mantle’s death at 63). John G. Hall’s “Mickey Mantle Before the Glory” was a valuable resource for this book.”

All those may provide a foundation here for Burman, a Brooklyn native who eventually would get into theater production and chair the department at Cal State University Long Beach. But the sincere beauty of how this book is constructed as a theatrical production feels so real that Burman also has to clarify in here that the dialogue is “word-for-word accurate as recorded” in most parts, and other parts “invented but it is always consistent with the reality of the situation.”

That adds a deeper humanity far richer than simply reproducing facts and newspaper accounts that and gives clarity to more than just a “based on a true story” attempt.

Mutt Mantle Ground Boss
Mutt Mantle, center, ground boss of the Blue Goose Mine crew in ’50, shortly before his death. (Photo from http://www.cardinkids.com/Mining/Mutt%20Mantle.htm)

In the first two chapters, Burman establishes the life and struggles of Elven “Mutt” Mantle in the dustbowl of Oklahoma, at the dawn of The Great Depression. A fan of the somewhat nearby St. Louis Cardinals that he can reach through radio broadcasts, Mutt is a bigger fan of Philadelphia Athletics’ hard-nosed catcher Mickey Cochran.

The 18-year-old Mutt is courting Lovell, eight years older than him and the sister of a girl he’d been dating. She’s also divorced and with two kids.

“She is a hellcat; he is invariably polite,” writes Burman. Continue reading “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: If those walls could talk at Mickey Mantle’s home in Commerce, Okla.”

Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: The baseball haiku / Straight out of Sacramento / by Johnny Doskow

BOOKS

Goodnight Em: Baseball and Life Through Haiku

The author: Johnny Doskow
The publishing info: Self published, $17.99, 200 pages
The links:  At the author’s website

The review in 90 feet or less

Scroll through Johnny Doskow’s Twitter timeline and eventually you hit this post from last March:

Then he did another.

By March 24 it was tagged #dailyhaiku. He was off and cooing, counting syllables and whatever wasn’t so supercilious in the grand scheme of the baseball life and how he affected his filters through the ancient Japanese poetry structure: Continue reading “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: The baseball haiku / Straight out of Sacramento / by Johnny Doskow”

Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: An emphasis on how Effa Manley was the woman of her time

Queen of the Negro Leagues:
Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles

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The author:

James Overmyer

The publishing info:
Rowman & Littlefield
$35
271 pages
Released in April 8, 2020

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Powells.com
At Indiebound.org

The review in 90 feet or less

Claire Smith, a recent recipient of The Baseball Writers Association of America’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award for her contributions to baseball writing as a reporter and columnist, did a piece on Effa Manley for TheUndefeated.com this month that began:

“If you look deep into the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, you will find one club owner enshrined who would fit seamlessly into the worldwide cultural revolution that is 2020.
“Effa Manley co-owned the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League with her husband, Abe, and her words and deeds from more than 80 years ago would be just as relevant today.
“We’ve marveled as millions in nascent rainbow coalitions have found their voices, sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis. The footage of a policeman’s knee bearing down on Floyd’s neck caused revulsion throughout the world.
“In this year of celebrating 100 years since the first Negro League game, I can’t help but wonder if Manley is somewhere asking what took the world so long to catch up with her. She lived Black Lives Matter before it was a mantra and a movement.”

As Smith pointed out: In 1939, Manley had vendors at New Jersey’s Ruppert Stadium sell buttons that read “Stop Lynching” for a buck a piece, and the funds went to support legislation in Congress aimed at making the federal government address lynching. That claimed about 6,500 Black lives between 1865 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama.

“Lynching remains a federal conversation in 2020,” Smith adds. “In June, Kamala Harris, the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate, was among three to sponsor legislation to finally make lynching a federal hate crime.

“Manley’s fight eight decades ago was before a suddenly ‘woke’ sports world acknowledged the often deadly dangers of living while Black in America.”

It’s time a lot of us woke up to Effa Manley.

The 2006 inductee into Cooperstown for how she keep the Negro Leagues vibrant, and progressive, can be a useful reference these days when one wonders what current MLB ownership are awake to what’s happening in the world.

In Smith’s piece, she also finds a spot to talk to James Overmyer, a voice on the SABR committee for the historical preservation of the Negro Leagues and did his first edition of this book in 1993 as “Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles,” and then updated it in 1998 under the title “Queen of the Negro Leagues”for the American Sports History Series by Scarecrow Press. Continue reading “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: An emphasis on how Effa Manley was the woman of her time”

Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: Meet us in St. Louis and have a Ted Drewes cup of frozen custard at the ready in a Cardinals’ plastic hat

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Baseball in St. Louis:
From Little Leagues to Major Leagues

The author: Ed Wheatley
The publishing info: Reedy Press, $39.95, 240 pages, released April 1, 2020
The links: At the publisher’s website; at Amazon.com; at BarnesAndNoble.com; at Powells.com; at Indiebound.org

The review in 90 feet or less

St. Louis’ unchallenged claim as the “best baseball town in America” may come from years of assumed merit. It used to mark the location of major league baseball’s most Western destination — even while there were credible pro baseball leagues all over California and beyond.

99ed3e3fe4ff9288f775d82d68e9d3dc-800It’s still odd to us that the stadium, which continues to have its magnetic view of The Gateway Arch along the banks of the Mississippi River, is also just a block or so away from the Old Courthouse where Dred and Harriet Scott’s battle for their freedom from slavery started in the 1840s and became a large part of why we even got to a Civil War.

The history of St. Louis and its 160-plus years of baseball, as presented here in a slick photo-album type layout with so many precious, archival photos and other memorabilia as procured by local historian Ed Wheatly, deeply involved in the St. Louis Browns Historical Society.

It speaks to its amateur leagues and Negro Leagues, to all its famous sons who have populated Major League Baseball rosters. Even, of course, a mention of  Eddie Gaedel. The residents learned the game from the radio calls of Harry Caray and Jack Buck, and before that, from local Cardinals legend Dizzy Dean and France Laux. It could support two big-league teams at one point – a professional home game nearly every day between April and September.

As Wheatley writes in the forward:

“For St. Louisans, it has truly been a blessing that bonds the community and continually repairs our losses. It provides the positive daily diversion for the generations that endured the hardships of two world wars and the poverty of the Great Depression, and it held us together through times of civil and social disorder. Baseball has been there for all generations, young and old, from the days of horse and buggies to today’s world of drones. Baseball survives these transitions and takes St. Louisans around the bases with hope and recreation. It has been a constant in St. Louisans’ lives since the days of the Civil War.”

Did we have to come full circle so soon?

Continue reading “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: Meet us in St. Louis and have a Ted Drewes cup of frozen custard at the ready in a Cardinals’ plastic hat”

Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: What’s the stein-hoisting limit for toasting the Brewers’ half-century existence?

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Hank Aaron, who came up with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and spent his first 12 seasons there, moved with the franchise to Atlanta from 1966 to ’74, where he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. He went back to the Milwaukee Brewers for two more seasons as a DH – 1975 and ’76, ages 41 and 42, and hit 22 more homers to finish with 755. (Photo from the book “Turning 50: The Brewers Celebrate A Half-Century in Milwaukee”)

The Milwaukee Brewers at 50:
Celebrating a Half-Century of Brewers Baseball

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The author: Adam McCalvy; introduction by Bud Selig and Mark Attanasio, forward by Robin Yount
The publishing info: Triumph Books, $40, 256 pages, released May 19, 2020
The links: At the publisher’s website; at Amazon.com; at BarnesAndNoble.com; at Powells.com; at Indiebound.org

Turning 50:
The Brewers Celebrate a Half-Century in Milwaukee

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The author: Tom Haudricourt; introduction by Bud Selig
The publishing info: KCI Sports Publishing, $24, 136 pages, released May 15, 2020
The links: At the publisher’s website; at Amazon.com; at Powells.com; at Indiebound.org; at Bookshop.org

The reviews in 90 feet or less

How do you drink in the fact the Milwaukee Brewers have been a Major League Baseball team for 50 years? Even at the expense of the Seattle Pilots’ misfortunes? Or the Milwaukee Braves abandoning the city to move on up to Atlanta?

How about oversized books.

With “The Milwaukee Brewers at 50,” it’s a slick 12-inch by 10-inch volume that goes 256 pages and runs $40. With “Turning 50,” we’re in the same ball park — 11 inches by 8.5 inches of production value – with about half the pages and not quite half the cost.

Some will take both. Others need to compare and contrast. Continue reading “Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: What’s the stein-hoisting limit for toasting the Brewers’ half-century existence?”