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Day 28 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: For the good of Allan Selig, and Pete Rose’s hunger for attention

71IUBdXKNnLThe book:

“For the Good of the Game: The Inside story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball”

The author:
Bud Selig with Phil Rogers

The publishing info:
William Morrow Books, $28.99, 336 pages, scheduled to be released July 9

The links:
The publishers website, Amazon.com;  at Barnes&Noble.com (with autographed versions available), at Powells.com.

The review in 90 feet or less

The guy who became the accidental MLB commissioner for 22 years, fumbled his way through the steroid era, had the 1994 World Series canceled on his watch, decided the All Star game winner would determine World Series home field and OK’d the use of replay — all after he strategically moved his own franchise from the American League to National League after snatching it away from Seattle back in 1970 — now has the Hatian-stiched balls to put out a book claiming he deserves some/more recognition for ushering the game into the modern age.
What do ushers get paid now a days? Not the severance package afforded to a retired MLB head man.
920x920To get things playfully started, Selig opens by admitting to his squeamish nature toward watching Barry Bonds establish a new career home run record on his watch.
“I know some people will forever link me with Barry Bonds. Some will say baseball’s failure to limit the impact of steroids of quicker is my failure. They may even call me the steroid commissioner. That’s okay, I guess. It’s not fair. I don’t like it, but I’ve come to understand it.”
(Now, please read this link).
Instead, he’d rather be remembered — perhaps revered — as getting baseball to have “the toughest steroid policy in sports.”Again, his words.
And on the business end of things:
“I inherited a fucking nightmare, if you’ll pardon both my language and my honesty. But give us some credit. We identified and corrected our problems. … I shutter to think where baseball would be if we hadn’t found a way to work together to make these deals. We literally might have been out of business. I’ll say that.”
So this is where we’re going, eh? Emphasizing the $1.2 billion in revenue in ’92, 13 years of financial growth, attendance records, 20 new ballparks opening and … dropping an F-bomb … Even Mr. Rodgers knows when and where that’s most impactful. Continue reading “Day 28 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: For the good of Allan Selig, and Pete Rose’s hunger for attention”

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Day 27 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Shake up the bushes, and echos, for stories hardly minor

91tSPUF2uqLThe book:

“Left on Base in the Bush Leagues: Legends, Near Greats and Unknowns in the Minors”

The author:
Gaylon H. White

The publishing info: Rowman & Littlefield, $36, 380 pages, to be released May 30

The links: The publishers website, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Wes Parker remembers.
The former Dodgers first baseman grew up in Brentwood and had his pops take him over to Gilmore Field near Beverly and Fairfax to watch the Hollywood Stars play. Here’s a kid, experiencing the Pacific Coast League’s golden era of the 1940s and ’50s, rooting for Carlos Bernier, Frankie Kelleher and Chuck Stevens.

Gilmore_Aerial

Then one must wonder: We know Farmer’s Market and The Grove, and the CBS television studios exist there today. But what ever happened to the players?
“Players were not analyzed, dissected and interviewed to nearly the extent they are today,” Parker writes in this foreword, sentiments that could include how he was covered in his playing days at Dodger Stadium during the ‘60s and ‘70s, after going to USC.
“They played, then disappeared, returning to a mysterious life from which they came. They were like gods – majestic, young, supremely skilled, beautiful in those white uniforms with red-and-blue highlights, the exact same color and shade Superman wore.”
s-l1000 Bernier, in particular, was someone who Parker really wanted more closure, still disappointed the Stars franchise was forced to move to Salt Lake City in 1958 when the Dodgers arrived to claim the L.A. territory.
White has the answer.
It consumes Chapter 12, “Made for Hollywood.”
It’s quickly pointed out that while the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Bernier was known as “The Cuban Comet” for his speed, he was definitely a Puerto Rican much like his countryman, Roberto Clemente. Bernier was also a perfect draw for the Hollywood crowd because of his flare and hot temper.
The later led to a 34-game suspension – the end of the 1954 PCL season – when he hit umpire Chris Valenti in the face during an argument.
“BERNIER STRIKES UMP BEFORE THOUSANDS” screamed the L.A. Mirror.
“It probably cost Carlos another shot at the majors,” writes White. Continue reading “Day 27 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Shake up the bushes, and echos, for stories hardly minor”

Day 26 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Cone isn’t just a YES man, and, no, he doesn’t gloss over that time in ’88 …

41M523FGBbLThe book:

“Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher”

The author:
David Cone with Jack Curry

The publishing info:
Grand Central Publishing (part of the Hachette Book Group), $28, 400 pages, due out May 14

The links:
At the publisher’s website, at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com (signed copies available), at Powells.com

The review in 90 feet or less

The original thought was to make this as a combo-item with “108 Stiches” by Ron Darling  – both were Mets teammates for a time in the late ’80s and both are now New York-local team broadcasters.
Cone even writes about a time in ’87 when he just came up with the Mets, and Darling took him to a men’s clothing store to teach him how to dress — blue blazer, find some slacks to match.
“That was a big deal,” Cone writes on page 116, ” and I appreciated how Darling guided me and taught me how to be a professional.”
But there were some things Darling couldn’t stop from happening in ’88.
The deeper we went into this Cone tome, it was worth extracting the time when Cone decided to reveal himself to the world. Knowing his impact on the outcome of the ’88 NLCS against the Dodgers, we didn’t want to just gloss over his part in L.A.-sports history for those who may not remember.
He gets right to it in Chapter 2, “When The Going Gets Tough.” Continue reading “Day 26 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Cone isn’t just a YES man, and, no, he doesn’t gloss over that time in ’88 …”

Day 25 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Re-meet the Mets of ’69, from every nostalgic entry point possible

 

Fifty years later, the Miracle Mets may be more in demand than ever before for franchise die-hards looking for something to latch onto. (As a treat, watch the entire decisive Game 5 of the 1969 World Series on NBC with Curt Gowdy on the call, and Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle in the studio with weird red blazers).
Honestly, we have little patience for all this. It’s a great milestone of sorts, a seared memory for many whose fancy was captured eight years after the team was launched as a group of misfits under Casey Stengel.
We don’t need a lot of rehashed history if you’re a Southern California baseball fan. But we let you know these exist just the same.

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 Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

We are into reunions. In 2009, they had a 40-year anniversary: Yogi Berra, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Grote, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Duffy Dyer made it. This time it’s going to be much more difficult.
As Patrick J. Sauer writes in a New York magazine review of all the books churned out this time of year on this anniversary – and Sauer wasn’t even alive then — “the ’69 Mets still have a psychic hold on a substantial chunk of the fan base — even those, like myself, who only know the legend of Tommie Agee through fuzzy television clips and the barstool-chatterbox oral histories passed down from the rickety cheap seats of Shea Stadium. … But ’69, man: That team is frozen in time, encased in the bedrock on which this baseball-mad city was built. I knew the broad strokes, but I wanted a crash course in the day-to-day and the aftermath, then and now, and the looming anniversary gave me hundreds of pages’ worth. What I came to understand is that, while the outcome of the ’69 Series never changes, the lives of the players and those who follow them do. Records are broken, memories fade, players get older and then they die; their blunders and triumphs live on only in books.”
So now, the Mets, with all their blue-and-orange glory,  are a thing again. We’ve decided to recap all this revisionist history in one fell swoop of a Swoboda-looking dive: Continue reading “Day 25 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Re-meet the Mets of ’69, from every nostalgic entry point possible”

Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Everyone’s still wild about Harry? Let’s not get carried away

71e5kd7-O0LThe book:

“The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman”

The author:
Don Zmida

The publishing info:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, $34, 352 pages, released April 12

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

The review in 90 feet or less

Using the Dodgers’ annual trip to Wrigley Field as a news hook, as noted in the Day 23 review, there will likely include a recorded version of Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
That’s still a stretch in our book. The guest singers who have stepped in to do it since Caray’s death in Rancho Mirage just before his 84th birthday as spring training approached in 1998 are able to make the song live and personal. Like, when Bob Costas and John Smoltz did it Tuesday night (and avoided singing they would “root, root, root for the Cubbies.”).
Keeping the artificial spirit of Caray alive with the recording … not necessary.
But the process of recording anything that is attached to the life of Caray, things can get a little hairy.
carraeThe Baseball Hall of Fame resident in the broadcasters’ wing — getting there 13th in line — isn’t someone you may recognize by the portrait used by the Cooperstown-based website. Instead, there is this cartoon version from his 13-year run with the Cubs that too often defines him.
That brings us to Zminda, a Chicago native now L.A.-based SABR member who spent decades working at Stats LLC in publications and research. The Northwestern grad has several important books published on the game, and decided to jump into this one when the publishers came asking one day if he had any projects he wanted to work on upon his 2016 retirement.
What do we need to know about him after knowing there were books done that include Caray’s own sorta biography (“Holy Cow!” with Bob Verdi, from 1989).
After his death, we remember “I Remember Harry Caray,” by George Castille with Rich Wolfe and a forward by Jack Brickhouse in 1998, plus “Where’s Harry?: Steve Stone Remembers 25 Years with Harry Caray” by Steve Stone in 1999. Eventually came “Harry Caray: Voice of the Fans” by Pat Hughes, with a CD of calls, from 2007.
We can even throw in there as a dessert topping: “The Harry Caray’s Restaurant Cookbook: The Official Home Plate of the Chicago Cubs” by Jane and Michael Stern in 2003. Continue reading “Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Everyone’s still wild about Harry? Let’s not get carried away”

Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Another Wrigley moment from 40 years ago

91TCtdnavnLThe book:

“Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink”

The author:
Kevin Cook

The publishing info:
Henry Holt & Company, $30, 242 pages, to be released May 7

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

The review in 90 feet or less

The Dodgers’ annual venture today into Wrigley Field for a three-game series against the Cubs comes with its own crazy history to lean upon and laugh.
October, 2017: Kiki Hernandez hits three homers in the decisive 2017 NL Championship Series Game 5. We can read that sentence three times and it still makes no sense.
June 2015: Adrian Gonzalez reaches over a tarp roller along the first base line to make a catch, but a dad holding his baby in his left arm reaches out to grab the ball with his bare right hand. Fan interference prevailed.

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May, 2000: Nineteen Dodgers players and coaches are fined or suspended after a fan reaches into the bullpen down the first-base line, grabs the cap off the head of Chad Krueter after hitting him in the head, and then the team roster went into the stands to chase him down.
August, 1982: Six years before they put lights in the park, the Cubs have to suspend a game in the 17th inning against the Dodgers because of darkness. So, they picked it up the next day. Ron Cey gets kicked out in the 20th inning. Tommy Lasorda has no more position players. Pedro Guerrero moves from right field to third base, and Fernando Valenzuela grabs a glove and heads to the outfield. Bob Welch ends up playing in the outfield as well, and the Dodgers claim a 2-1 win in the 21st inning in a game listed as six hours and 10 minutes. And not one home run.
Add to that: Jerry Reuss got the win pitching four innings of one-hit shutout relief. After resting a little bit, he pitches the first five innings of the next game and gets another win. Nine innings in one day, two wins, no complete games. You can’t make that up.

Was it as silly as the game play at Wrigley 40 years ago  — May 17, 1979 – when the Philadelphia Phillies prevailed in a 23-22 decision that needed a 10th inning to sort it all out and create a line score that reads like a couple of random phone numbers from suburban Chicago and somewhere in Canada (area codes included)? Probably not.

Chicago-Tribune-May-18-1979.png

Continue reading “Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: Another Wrigley moment from 40 years ago”

Day 22 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The pridefulness of the Yankees … and all the fallen trees sacrificed for more (better?) history

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With all the dollars and sentiments expended each year on the newest shipment of Yankees-related and rebranded baseball books, how does one make educated purchases?
If you live in New York, apparently you buy ’em up.
In Southern California, it’s a cluster mess.
We liken it to walking into a Yankee Candle store. The nose knows which ones might be a little more spicy than the others, but mostly … old and musty.
As the Yankees hobble into Orange County tonight for the first of a four game series and practically everyone of importance on the injured list – they’ll be back in late August for a weekend series at Dodger Stadium, perhaps feeling better – here are the best, OK and worst of what’s out there this season when it comes to pride-fullness Yankeeness:

The book:

71cIGPQGuaL“Inside the Empire: The True Power Behind the New York Yankees”

The authors: Bob Klapish and Paul Solotaroff

The publishing info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, $28, 256 pages, released March 26
The links: At the publisher’s website,  at Amazon.com, at BarnesAndNoble.com, 
at Powells.com

The reviews in 90 feet or less: The book jacket promises this to be along the lines of an HBO “Hard Knocks” look at how the Yankees operate, behind the scenes, as Klapish and Solotaroff “pull back the curtain” on the completed 2018 season.
There are plenty of unnamed sources quoted, making this far more a journalistic endeavor that seems to be necessary in getting to some truths. Klapish, a longtime New York reporter at the Post and Daily News, and Solotaroff, a best-selling author, have one thing in common: Their work has appeared in Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal. The way this is written makes it something that is best suited for either publication, but there’s enough material to make it into a couple hundred pages of phrase-turning pleasure that you don’t often get in one of these kind of projects. Continue reading “Day 22 of 30 baseball book reviews for April 2019: The pridefulness of the Yankees … and all the fallen trees sacrificed for more (better?) history”