Blog

Day 20 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: It pays to save your transcripts

81XDVvbuAtL.jpgThe book:

“They Played The Game: Memories from 47 Major Leaguers”

The author:
Norman L. Macht

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press, $29.95, 328 pages, to be released June 1.

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

 

The review in 90 feet or less

We’re not only grateful Macht transcribed his interviews over the years, spanning the early 1980s all the way to just a couple years ago. But he also kept them in a safe place until this point to where we now can read some wonderful exchanges come to light that otherwise might just be in someone’s file drawer.
In the process of writing his epic three-volume biography of Connie Mack for Nebraska Press that came out between 2007 and ’15, Macht logged dozens of interviews with players who first-hand accounts of the Hall of Fame manager and owner. But he also had many more encounters with former MLB players to where, as Macht says:
“We hear truths that resided in their minds when they talked with me in their later years. If you wish to do the research to verify or question their facts or versions of events, do so. I didn’t … What you read is what they said.”

Such as Mike Marshall.
99d8b22ef0b8cb7441589b6be3492e2aThe Dodgers’ record-obliterating 1976 Cy Young Award winning relief pitcher talked plenty during his 14-year career from 1967-’81, spanning nine teams — including the short-lived Seattle Pilots (again, read “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton).
0df4596bfb5e70e9885a5cb36283b55cWe realize after this Marshall encounter with Macht in Zephyrhills, Fla., in March of 2003, there was a lot more revealed in 11 pages that kept us fascinated.
Such as:
== Marshall admitting Gene Mauch, his manager in Montreal, deserves “every credit for the success I had in baseball.” Add to that, the Dodgers’ Walter Alston, when compared to Mauch, was “a better manager and person. He understood more about people and how to get the most out of them.
mike_marshall_autographThere was nothing duplicitous about the man.” Then again, Marshall admonished then-Dodgers third base coach and defensive alignment man Tommy Lasorda for refusing to adjust the defense as he  would request while on the mound. He also calls out catcher Steve Yeager for trying to call his pitches when he decided he would be the one to decide.
s-l640== Often the players’ union rep on every team, Marshall explains how he schemed with Andy Messersmith how to challenge the reserve clause and test free agency. The plan was to have both Marshall and Messersmith be the guinea pigs for this move that changed the entire future of the game. It would happen the Dodgers’ post-1974 World Series appearance. But because of a verbal promise Marshall made with the Dodgers, he couldn’t go through with it, sending Messersmith ahead to challenge the reserve clause and open the floodgates.

Then there’s Johnny Roseboro.
1962-Post-Baseball-Card-107-John-Roseboro-Los-AngelesMach found the former Dodgers catcher in a Pittsburgh hotel in 1990 prior to an Old-Timers game. We find out more about how, as an Angels coach, he continued to get demoted instead of promoted during Dick Williams’ regime.
“Do you want to manage?” Macht asks.
“Like I need air,” says Roseboro, who died in 2002 without ever getting a manager’s job. “Offering me a minor league managing job is like – what’s the word – a pacifier. I have more experience and success at what I did than 90 percent of the managers in the major leagues, and they go out and hire these guys that continually lose year after year, and they keep putting them on the clock. …A lot of people in baseball now are business majors, corporate people not into the talent side of it. You call the Dodgers office now, you get a computer. You don’t talk to people any more.”
Again this was 30 years ago.
A joyous romp with Ted Williams is also included. So are enlightening words from the likes of Ferris Fain to Dave “Boo” Ferriss, from Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell to George “High Pockets” Kelly to Ralph “Putsy” Caballero, with former Babe Ruth teammate Mark Koenig sprinkled in.
If only there was audio to go with it. But again, be thankful for what’s here.

How it goes down in the scorebook

MachtOf all the books this month we find as the most joyous of surprises, this is probably it. The stuff the Baseball Hall of Fame needs stuffed in its files, for everyone’s permanent record. SABR, and the game, should be indebted for this collection from Macht, who turns 90 this August.

Advertisements

Day 19 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Semiliterate recluses, syphilitic dementia, Harlem Hellfighters and blind shoe shines

51biS4hqVaLThe book:

“Baseball Epic: Famous and Forgotten Lives of the Dead Ball Era”

The author and illustrator:
Jason Novak (who would rather take credit on the cover, right, for doing “words and pictures”)

The publishing info:
Coffee House Press/Hachette Books, $16.95, 240 pages, released April 2

The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Is it true that Ping Bodie, once a Yankees teammate of Babe Ruth, “once won a spaghetti-eating contest against an ostrich” and “was also kicked out of a movie theater for disruptive laughter during a drama”?
Draw your own conclusions.
Novak, a cartoonist based on Oakland whose work has appeared in the Paris Review and New Yorker, was inspired to put this project to paper a when he came across Jimmy Claxton’s story while reading about the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast League.
claxtonFor the book, Novak’s mini-bio about Claxton (illustration left) says that he “broke the color line by registering as an ‘American Indian’ … but was booted when a spectator in the bleachers recognized him as a black player.”
“It made me wonder how many other forgotten milestones there were from the early days of baseball,” Novak continued.
Novak also related to a nugget about Albert “Chief” Bender, “whose family — like mine in his day — was a mix of European immigrants and American Indians. But while my great-grandfather was raised to be reticent about his heritage, Albert Bender was proudly and defiantly rubbing it in the faces of his detractors.”
So the Bender entry explains that Bender, “who was Chippewa, endured relentless taunts, insults and war whoops from the bleachers, but would circle the stadium following a victory and yell, ‘Foreigners! Foreigners!”
“I admire him for taking the hard and dangerous path at a time when many American Indians were denied rights as basic as citizenship,” adds Novak.
Very interesting. But is any of this accurate? Continue reading “Day 19 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Semiliterate recluses, syphilitic dementia, Harlem Hellfighters and blind shoe shines”

Day 18 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Edgar Martinez passes the eye test: He’s had a Hall of Fame life

61ysO7o49dLThe book:

“Edgar: An Autobiography”

The author:
Edgar Martinez, with Larry Stone

The publishing info:
Triumph Books, $28, 352 pages, due to be released June 11

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

The Angels’ series against the Mariners starts tonight in Anaheim – they’ve already played two in Seattle to start the month, losing both.
The Mariners’ signature to this season has been the home-run ball — they had one of ’em in their first 20 games to set an MLB record until they endured a 1-0 loss to at home Cleveland on Wednesday.
In his 18 year major league career, between the ages of 24 and 41, Edgar Martinez hit 309 long balls, with a high of 37 in 2000, when he also led the league with 145 RBIs to go with a .324 average.

edgar_martinez_autographHe won two AL batting titles — .343 in ’92 and .356 in ’95, the later one that also included a league best 1.107 OPS, 52 doubles and 121 runs to go with a career best 182 hits. He was third in the AL MVP selection, the closest he ever got to winning it.
A seven-time AL All Star who came up as a third baseman, filled in at DH as needed and then became an All-Star designated hitter, also as needed.
We knew the numbers, more or less. Yet Baseball’s Hall of Fame didn’t have him on speed dial when he retired after the 2004 season.
s-l640It took until his final year of eligibility – five years past retirement, plus 10 years — for him to get enough votes (85.4 percent) from the Baseball Writers Association of America after initially getting 36.2 percent and actually falling to 27.0 percent as late as his sixth year of eligibility.
Martinez will go to Cooperstown this summer as the fifth Puerto Rican native, after his idol, Roberto Clemente, as well as Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar and Ivan Rodriguez.
It’s time to tell his story, his way, with the help of the long-time Seattle Times columnist, so we know what we’re really getting here aside from a handful of very good statistics – even he knows he didn’t reach milestones like 3,000 hits or even 400 homers, but having five Silver Sluggers and five times winning the award as the league’s top designated hitter – an honor now named for him. Continue reading “Day 18 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Edgar Martinez passes the eye test: He’s had a Hall of Fame life”

Day 17 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: What’s eating you? How to reach the celery cap without a bad taste in your mouth

91N0IF5NGPL
The book:

“The Game of Eating Smart: Nourishing Recipes for Peak Performance Inspired by MLB Superstars”

The author: Julia Loria and Allen Campbell

The publishing info: Rodale Books,/Crown Publishing $25.99, 240 pages, released March 26

The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com. Also at MLB.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Breaking bread these days with a big-leaguer comes with a warning label. Is it gluten-free? Can I put avocado and egg on it after it’s toasted? Can it be made with oat flour, almond flour and garbanzo flour?
“Big League Bread,” serving six and requiring 45 minutes of cooking time, is right there on page 34. The key is using coconut nectar, a “low-glycemic natural sweetener and an excellent alternative to the sugary sweeteners found in many store-bought breads.”
No matter how you slice it, MLB players are as health conscious as any athlete who has endure at least a seventh-month season of late-game endings, arrivals at the park by 2 p.m. without thinking about breakfast yet, and trying to figure out what kind of fuel makes the most efficient. Continue reading “Day 17 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: What’s eating you? How to reach the celery cap without a bad taste in your mouth”

Day 16 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Calling on Cuba, Castro and last call for Bjarkman covering the Big Red Machine

The book:

41bjDSdzz8L“The Untold Story: Fidel Castro and Baseball”

The author: Peter C. Bjarkman

The publishing info: Rowman & Littlefield, $38, 400 pages, released December, 2018

The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The book:

9122eAQE7nL“Last Seasons in Havana: The Castro Revolution and the End of Professional Baseball in Cuba”

The author: Cesar Brioso

The publishing info: University of Nebraska Press, $29.95, 304 pages, released March 1

The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Or, in 90 miles or less, considering the country we can see right off the Florida Keys.
So are we still talking about Yasiel Puig back in town? Wearing red?
Cuba baseball and the MLB seem to come in and out of the news cycles, with politics of course having a role. It’s an important story to stay current on.
But this is an entry, to be perfectly clear, that is meant more as a tribute to Bjarkman, who died last October at 77. In a memorial piece done on him appearing in the Lafayette Journal & Courier called him the Indiana city’s unlikely expert in Cuban baseball, a retired Purdue University linguistics professor who was on another tour of baseball stadiums in Cuba, perhaps his 50th trip over the last two decades, when he collapsed and died at the Havana airport. Continue reading “Day 16 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Calling on Cuba, Castro and last call for Bjarkman covering the Big Red Machine”

Day 15 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: On Jackie Robinson Day, do we really remember him the way we should?

81UBaTq8wvLThe book:

“Reclaiming 42: Public Memory and the Reframing of Jackie Robinson’s Radical Legacy”

The author: David Naze

The publishing info: University of Nebraska Press, $45, 234 pages, to be released June 1

The links: At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

There’s an advertisement/three minute “documentary” called “Impact,” distributed by a well-known beer company that came out recently. The obvious attempt is it is pinning its company to a recognition of the career of Jackie Robinson.
Spike Lee was involved in producing it. Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter, does the narration. So that seemed to make it OK.
Even with the tagline #ThisBudsForJackie. With a reminder that the company is the official beer sponsor of Major League Baseball.
If you haven’t seen it:

It’s very likely we’ll never have that brand of beer in our home cooler, poured in any of our pint glasses and use to toast any historical moment. This “film” clinches it.
It also plays right into the premise that Naze is getting at here with his book that can seem a little too academic for the masses, but will nonetheless state its intended point clear enough.

 

Continue reading “Day 15 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: On Jackie Robinson Day, do we really remember him the way we should?”

04.15.19: Five things you should plan for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

black 1The guy wearing No. 42 for the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night against the Dodgers will be Yasiel Puig.
And Matt Kemp. And Alex Wood. And Kyle Farmer. And even hitting coach Turner Ward and first base coach Delino DeShields.
Remember all them?
The Dodgers’ version of Jackie Robinson Day is one long memory of what once happened 72 years ago now for a man whose 100th birthday was celebrated last January 31.
The No. 42 on the mound for the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, for the first time this 2019 season.
There’s a lot in play here – lots of pomp in your circumstance today (7:10 p.m., ESPN and SportsNet LA), with Rachel Robinson and family in attendance. All across all of Major League Baseball, too. Let’s keep it in perspective.
Also this week for the Dodgers:
* vs. Cincinnati, Dodger Stadium: Tuesday, 7:10 p.m., Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. (all on SportsNet L.A.)
* At Milwaukee: Friday and Saturday at 5:10 p.m. (SportsNet L.A.; ESPN coverage of Thursday game not in L.A), Saturday at 4:10 p.m., (SNLA and FS1), Sunday at 11:10 a.m. (SNLA)
This week for the Angels:
* At Texas, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:05 p.m., Fox Sports West
* vs. Seattle, Angel Stadium: Thursday and Friday at 7:07 p.m., Saturday at 6:07 p.m., Sunday at 1:07 p.m., all on FSW

*************************

black 2The Clippers’ Western Conference Game 1 quarterfinals loss at Golden State on Saturday – kind of expected, with some extra chippiness. What will change? TNT has the next two games. Maybe that factors into things? At least three games are left in this matchup: Continue reading “04.15.19: Five things you should plan for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance”