Friday, July 22, 2016

Blog Tour post - "Trials and Triumphs of Golf's Greatest Champions"


I am happy to be a part of the blog tour highlighting the book "Trials and Triumphs of Golf's Greatest Champions." The stories of these legends of golf are inspiring and were fun to read. So without further ado, here is my review of the book.


Title/Author:
“Trials and Triumphs of Golf’s Greatest Champions” by Lyle Slovick

Tags:
Golf, professional, history, race

Publish date:
May 19, 2016

Length:
318 pages

Rating: 
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)

Review:
Those who play golf know that it can be a cruel game – not only for the difficulty involved but also there are no teammates who can pick up for a mistake made or no encouragement from others to shake off a slump.  It is just the golfer and his or her thoughts and emotions.

The individualism of the game makes the stories of the six golfers and one caddie in this book who overcame physical and mental struggles to excel in the game even more inspiring. Lyle Slovick, a historian and golf enthusiast, has researched various sources to craft the stories of many golf legends from their beginnings to their courage through injury (Ben Hogan, Ken Venturi), fighting illness (Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Babe Didrikson Zaharis, caddy Bruce Edwards) or social stigmas such as racism and sexism (Zaharis, Charlie Sifford). Their stories are inspiring and shows the talent and devotion they had to the game.

For each golfer (or in the case of Edwards, caddie), Slovick writes about their devotion to God for helping them overcome their difficulties as well as their talent and physical strength. Many of the golfers are legendary for their comebacks, such as Jones’ 1930 Grand Slam achievement, Hogan’s victory in nine majors despite near constant pain after his car accident or Sifford’s courage and dignity when confronted with racial taunts and slurs. Slovick’s writing about their golf as well as their courage is well researched and will inspire the reader.

Readers who have an extensive golf library may see information referenced in the book that sounds familiar. This is because Slovick obtained much of his material from secondary sources and conducted his research in this manner instead of interviews or first-hand accounts. It can result in a reader re-reading information he or she read before. An example of this for me occurred in the chapter about Edwards. Having read “Caddy for Life” by John Feinstein, I was already familiar with Edwards’ story. Then I read passages and information that I had seen before in Feinstein’s book. Checking the footnotes, there were over 20 notes from Feinstein’s book. So, personally, I was disappointed that I did not learn much new about Edwards.  But that was offset by the stories I enjoyed and learned new information on golfers I had never read about before such as Vardon and Sifford. In the case of the latter, that is a story that everyone should read and realize how difficult it was for black players to be accepted in the golfing community.

Overall, this is a decent book that readers who are not familiar with any or all of the legends will enjoy as their stories will inform and inspire the readers.  A solid three-and-a-half-star rating, rounded up to four for Goodreads and Amazon.

I wish to thank Mr. Slovick for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying links:




 Lyle Slovick AP

About Lyle Slovick

Lyle Slovick is a historian and golf enthusiast, having played and studied the game for over 40 years.  He has an M.A. degree in American History and is a former Assistant University Archivist at the George Washington University, where he worked for 13 years amongst the rare books and manuscripts in the Gelman Library Special Collections Department.  Lyle enjoys telling stories that shed new light and offer new perspective on often well-trod subjects – what he describes as “augmented interpretation.”  This book is an expression of his passion for the game of golf, which has taken him to various major championships around the world, including the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf.  Lyle enjoys travelling, reading (especially biographies), and resides in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he currently works as a consultant for the United States Golf Association.
Find out more about Lyle at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review of "The Yucks!"

While it is generally true that fans love a winner, there are some losers who become well known and loved.  Examples of teams that achieved this status are the 1962 New York Mets, the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The latter of these lovable losers is the subject of this terrific book by Jason Vuic. Here is my review of "The Yucks!"


Title/Author:
“The Yucks!: Two Years in Tampa With the Losingest Team in NFL History” by Jason Vuic

Tags:
Football (American), professional, history, Buccaneers

Publish date:
August 30, 2016

Length:
256 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the National Football League in 1976 and immediately became a nationally-known team. Not because of their excellent play, but because they put together an incredible losing streak by losing all 14 of their games in 1976 and the first 12 games of the season in 1977.  When they finally ended the streak by defeating the New Orleans Saints, it was such an embarrassment that the Saints fired head coach Hank Stram. It was a road game, so when the Buccaneers returned home that evening, over 8000 fans were at the airport to greet the team. Their Bucs had been a national punch line for so long, they were just happy that it was finally over.

The adventures of this beleaguered team and the stories behind the losing are captured in this often hilarious, always entertaining book by Jason Vuic. His previous work was about the Yugo, probably the worst car ever sold in the United States, so it just seemed natural that he would follow up with a book on the worst football team in the history of the NFL. The 1976-77 Bucs were considered even worse than the 2009 Detroit Lions who also went through an entire season without a win.

The book chronicles the arduous route taken for the Tampa area to secure an NFL franchise and the expansion draft that left very few talented players for the Bucs to build their team.  Much of the humor in the book comes from the caustic first coach in Bucs history, John McKay. McKay was a successful college coach, winning national championships at the University of Southern California, but even he couldn’t take this rag-tag collection of players and produce a win from them in that first season. There are many quotes from McKay that will leave the reader laughing hard, even if it is the one hundredth time he or she has heard that one. One of the more famous quotes (in which the book raises doubt to its origin to McKay) is when asked about his team’s execution, McKay replied “I’m all for it.”  

There are also many stories about owner Hugh Culverhouse, who was notoriously cheap – he would make players put money in a vending machine for sodas and had the walls of the team’s training facility painted white in order to avoid buying a projector screen. It was one of the reasons given that the team was so bad, but no amount of money could have bought the publicity that the Buccaneers had when the losing streak lasted into 1977 and was often the subject of many jokes from late night television legend Johnny Carson. 

It was at this time when the team became a beloved group of losers in much the same manner as the 1962 New York Mets. The country started paying attention and the tension mounted within the team to finally break the streak.  Readers of the book will feel the same tension, even if they were already familiar with the history of the team and the streak.  Even though I remember the game well, I was cheering with joy when they beat the Saints and ended the streak and the jokes.

This book is best for football fans or readers familiar with the lingo of the game as it is full of this type of text. However, the humor in the book will make any reader laugh loud and long and for that reason alone, this book is one that every football fan should add to his or her library.

I wish to thank Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links (pre-order at time of posting):






Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review of "Pigskin Rapture"

With training camps soon to open around the NFL and college football starting its season soon as well, it is time to get in the mood for the gridiron.  What better way to do so than by reading a book about four game in four days in the most football-mad area of the United States, Texas.  Here is my review of "Pigskin Rapture."




Title/Author:
“Pigskin Rapture: Four Days in the Life of Texas Football” by Mac Engel and Ron Jenkins

Tags:
Football (American), professional, college, high school, Cowboys, Texans

Publish date:
August 26, 2016

Length:
240 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Football is as much a part of the culture of Texas as are oil rigs, barbecue, and cowboys (the kind in the Western novels). What the game means, at every level of play, to the state and its fans and teams is illustrated in this book that is well-written by Mac Engel and illustrated beautifully by Ron Jenkins.

The premise of book is a four day, four game trip taken by the authors in which they cover two professional games -Houston Texans on Thursday, Dallas Cowboys on Sunday - as well as a high school game on Friday and a college game on Saturday. The high school game featured Odessa Perriman, the school featured in the best-selling book “Friday Night Lights.” The college game was one of the biggest rivalries in the sport, Texas against Oklahoma.

The book is divided into four quarters, one for each game. While there are sections in which game action is recapped and Engel writes about the game with knowledge, the book is at its best when it is about other topics.  Examples are memories of the Houston Astrodome and the Houston Oilers from long-time fans in that city, what it takes to become a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, what it is like inside AT&T Stadium at a Cowboys game and the spirit of the students and fans of the Texas Longhorns, especially with this particular game in which the Longhorns upset the heavily favored Sooners. The reader will really feel what it is like to be part of Texas football.

The photography is just as important to this book as the words. Jenkins has many pictures that not only complement the text, but add additional images and emotion beyond what is being communicated.  The reader will feel the emptiness of current pictures of the deserted Astrodome, be inspired by the cheering Longhorns students and cheerleaders and feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of the mammoth videoboard at AT&T Stadium. Often pictures in sports books will be accompaniments – in this book, the pictures are just as vital to the story as the words

Football fans will enjoy this book on the culture of the sport in Texas, covering the game, the people, the towns and the food. One does not have to live in the state or be a fan of a Texas team to appreciate what the game means to residents of the state after reading this book. A very enjoyable and entertaining read.

I wish to thank Lone Star Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links (pre-order at time of posting):




Monday, July 11, 2016

Review of "Champion of the World"

This book is not like others I have reviewed - a fictional wrestling story from the early 20th century. It is a tough, gritty tale but sometimes sweet at the same time. Here is my review of "Champion of the World."



Title/Author:
"Champion of the World" by Chad Dundas

Publication date:
July 12, 2016

Length:
480 pages

Tags:
Wrestling, fiction, historical, romance

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Pepper Van Dean is a wrestler from the early 20th century who lost his title when he had a broken leg and never got a chance to regain it. To keep himself and his wife Moira financially afloat, he joins the circus as a vaudeville act but gets booted from that gig as well, being left behind when the circus packed up after a performance. How Pepper and Moira then get their lives back together while training a talented but troubled black wrestler named Garfield Taft makes up the premise of a great novel by Chad Dundas.

The atmosphere of early 20th century America and all the issues of the times such as Prohibition, race relations and even homosexuality are explored in the story so no controversial topic goes unnoticed. The three main characters (Pepper, Moira and Taft) are all complex and yet well developed so that the reader will feel a connection with all three of them. 

The wrestling scenes in the book have an authentic feel and the reader will feel the pain of the wrestlers as well as the sharpness as fixed matches and calls of corruption were not uncommon at that time in the sport. Dundas shows his knowledge of the sport from that era and writes it in a very easy to read manner that one will be books and spend a long time before putting this books down, as was the case for me. An outstanding debut novel that will resonate with the reader even if he or she knows nothing about sports or wrestling.

I wish to thank G.P. Putnam's Sons for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Format read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying link:

https://www.amazon.com/Champion-World-Chad-Dundas/dp/039917608X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468288394&sr=8-1&keywords=champion+of+the+world 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review of "The Fungo Society"

This book was an unexpected gift from the author as he sent an email to me asking if I was interested in reviewing this fictional baseball book. Wanting a break from the serious non-fiction books, I gladly accepted.  This was just the type of fictional story I needed - not too heavy and lots of humor.  A great read, not just for baseball fans, but for mystery fans as well.  Here is my review of "The Fungo Society."


Title/Author:
“The Fungo Society” by Jeff Stanger

Tags:
Baseball, fiction, humor, mystery, memorabilia

Publish date:
November 24, 2015

Length:
258 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Jonathan Quick, a baseball memorabilia dealer who answers a call for assistance from the Fungo Society, a group of older retired baseball players residing in Phoenix. Because Quick can find things, the Society wants him to find out who killed their friend and Society member Eddie. The Fungo Society wants revenge on who they believed who was responsible for their friend’s death and Quick’s investigation of this matter, along with some wheeling and dealing for jerseys and other memorabilia, is the subject of this humorous, fun-to-read novel by Jeff Stanger.

Quick is the type of guy who always finds a way to get into trouble, whether is it with other dealers, with women or with criminals and he finds plenty of it in this story. How he manages to get out of so many jams and still be able to work on solving the mystery of Eddie’s death and even make a couple of good deals on rare jerseys is a fun adventure.  The reader will be rooting for Quick’s crazy ideas to work and will also agree with many of the other characters who tell him it’s time to settle down instead of getting into trouble because of women. 

Along with Quick, the elderly gentleman of the Fungo Society, Eddie’s daughter and Quick’s latest fling Ramona are all characters that the reader will enjoy and make the story hilarious, even if a bit far-fetched at times.  But that is part of the charm and fun of this book - the story is just so fun to read. One doesn’t have to be a baseball fan or memorabilia collector to enjoy the book, but Stanger does show his knowledge of the sport and the business throughout the book. That gives Quick and some of the minor characters more credibility and therefore the ability to capture the heart of the reader.  Those who like reading mysteries with plenty of humor mixed in as well as intrigue will enjoy this book.

I wish to thank Mr. Stanger for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review of "Pitch by Pitch"

If you have bought e-books, you may know about the recent settlement in which many readers were given credits in their accounts on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and similar companies. I was one of these readers and I used some of my settlement to purchase a book that I have wanted to read since it was published last fall.  Had time to read it on the train to the baseball game I attended yesterday and finished it in one round trip - excellent book.  Here is my review of "Pitch by Pitch."


Title/Author:
“Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game” by Bob Gibson and Lonnie Wheeler

Tags:
Baseball, history, World Series, Cardinals

Publish date:
October 5, 2015

Length:
256 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Game one of the 1968 World Series was considered to be one of the most dominating pitching performances ever seen in the Fall Classic. Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 17 Detroit Tigers in a winning performance that is chronicled in this book by the pitcher with author Lonnie Wheeler, who has assisted with several baseball books.

The title is a literal description of the book as Gibson relieves the game pitch by pitch after viewing and breaking down video of the historic game. He lets the reader get inside his mind as to what his thought process was before and during the pitch and what his reactions were for the results – mostly positive of course.

However, there is more to the book than just a recap of the game as stories about teammates, opponents faced on the Tigers and other tidbits of information that make for good reading. These stories are mostly Gibson’s fond memories of teammates such as Tim McCarver and Curt Flood, or showing respect for players on that Tigers team such as Al Kaline and Norm Cash. For the most part, these stories are inserted into the game summary when the subject played a key part of that moment of the game. The one exception to this is in the chapter on the eighth inning. There, a story about Gibson’s brother Josh is inserted where Bob gives credit to his brother in giving him the competitive fire he was famous for. It broke up the flow of the book, but not for long as afterward the ninth inning is recalled when Gibson set the strikeout record.

Gibson is not only renowned for his talent, he was also renowned for his meanness and inside pitching.  On the latter, he gave one of my favorite passages from the book when he explains the difference between pitching inside, which “implies placing the ball in the strike zone”, and coming inside, whose purpose “is to bring the ball inside often enough and aggressively enough to keep the batter from striding confidently across the plate to the side that you positively have to command; to keep him honest in other words.” So it is more appropriate to say that Gibson was famous for “coming inside” instead of “pitching inside.”

A very fun and entertaining read, this book is recommended for any baseball fan who wants to learn more about this pitcher and what was going through his mind as he was completing one of the best pitched games in World Series history.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:



Monday, July 4, 2016

Review of "Swee'pea"

Happy Independence Day for my fellow Americans who are celebrating today.  On this Fourth of July, what better sport to read about than the one whose origins are strictly American, basketball?  This book on New York City playground legend Lloyd "Swee'pea" Daniels is a very compelling read and one that I enjoy immensely.  Here is my review.


Title/Author:
“Swee’pea: The Story of Lloyd Daniels and Other Playground Basketball Legends” by John Valenti and Ron Naclerio

Tags:
Basketball, race, society

Publish date:
July 5, 2016 (updated version of book first published November 1990)

Length:
416 pages

Rating: 
4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
Lloyd Daniels seemed to have it all – at least when it came to his status as a playground basketball legend in New York City.  He had dreams of making it to the NBA and nothing was going to stop him.  However, there were plenty of thing that DID derail the young man’s drams and they make for a very sad tale.  Lloyd’s dilemma is not uncommon and his story, along with several other playground legends, is expertly captured in this compelling book by John Valenti.

The book was first published in 1990 when Daniels, nicknamed “Swee’pea” after the character in the Popeye cartoons, was eye-opening for what it revealed about life in the inner city for these basketball players. They are so focused on basketball that other options, such as education, and perils, such as drugs and street crime, are either ignored or the young man succumbs to them.

Daniels’ story is particularly sad, as he was provided so many chances to succeed.  He was enrolled at a community college without a high school diploma or GED, played on a basketball team with NBA talent at a drug rehabilitation facility, enrolled in a major college without said diploma or even passing grades in community college and most importantly, many opportunities to recover from his drug addiction.  It is a fascinating tale, mostly sad, at times irritating, but always compelling. 

There are many other stories of players who had the same types of struggles as Daniels – mostly with the same fate, but a few success stories such as Kenny Anderson.  While they made for good reading, I thought they were a bit of a distraction from the main story of Daniels. Nonetheless, because the goal of the book was to make the reader become more aware of these stories, it was good that they were included.

If a reader read the original book in 1990, the updated information is very good and helps explain the story in more depth.  If the reader is like me and this version is the first time he or she has read the book, it is well worth the time to read in order to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the life and trappings that a playground basketball star will encounter.

I wish to thank Atria Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sweepea-john-valenti/1122858636?ean=9781501116674