Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review of "Banned"

When I saw this book available for review, I thought it would be mainly about the 1919 Black Sox and Pete Rose.  While they are covered in the book, there are so many more players, managers, owner and even a team doctor that have been kicked out of the game at some point. Whether for just a few games or for life, suspensions and banishments from baseball are covered here.


Title/Author:
“Banned: Baseball’s Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans” by Hal Bock

Tags:
Baseball, professional, gambling, performance enhancing drugs

Publish date:
February 21, 2017

Length:
148 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Many players, managers, umpires, executives and even a team doctor have been banned from baseball over the history of the office of the commissioner of baseball. From the first commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis to the current commissioner, Rob Manfred, each one has acted in what he believe would preserve the integrity of the game. The stories of some of those who faced suspension or expulsion are told in this book by Hal Bock.

Well-known stories such as those of the eight players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the suspension of Alex Rodriguez for the 2014 season and Pete Rose are covered, but so are the suspensions of others who were not as well know. Jimmy O’Connell and coach Cozy Dolan of the New York Giants who were suspended for a failed bribe attempt. In 1946, the second commissioner of the game, Happy Chandler, stated that any player who left for the brand new Mexican League would be suspended from Major League Baseball for five years.  Suspensions of owners like George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott are covered and even the brief expulsion of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for accepting promotional jobs for casinos.

No matter who the subject of the suspension was, each one is covered by a brief story that explains the behavior that warranted the suspension and the commissioner’s reasoning. That may or may not be something the reader will agree with, but each story is structured in this manner and makes for quick reading for each chapter.  None of these chapters fully describe the entire story, especially those of the 1919 White Sox or Rose, as there are other publications that delve much deeper into those topics. However, if the reader is looking for a quick and informative book on each of the persons who have been punished by a baseball commissioner, then this book will fulfill that need. 

I wish to thank Diversion 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/banned-hal-bock/1125579470?ean=9781635760316


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review of "City of Dreams"

This book was a fascinating look into the politics and the obstacles that Walter O'Malley faced when he moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. It contained a lot of information that I was not aware of and it got more and more interesting as the saga of the building of Dodger Stadium continued.  Here is my review of "City of Angels"



Title/Author:
“City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles” by Jerald Podair

Tags:
Baseball, history, Dodgers, politics

Publish date:
April 4, 2017

Length:
384 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
When the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 baseball season, little did anyone predict the long protracted process it would take for owner Walter O’Malley to construct Dodger Stadium.  That process, with all of the political battles and conflicting visions of what type of city Los Angeles would be with the new ballpark, is captured in this well-written and balanced book by Jerald Podair. 

Every step of the process from the announcement that the Dodgers were moving to Los Angeles to the opening of Dodger Stadium in 1962 is covered from many points of view.  All of the various disputes that O’Malley encountered from citizens, local politicians or other officials are discussed in a manner that presents all sides of the argument fairly and offers some facts to dispute some myths, such as stating that despite the popular belief, it was not Walter O’Malley that ordered the eviction of residents from Chavez Ravine to make way for the ballpark.

Information that is new to the reader may be surprising, such as the amount of rent that the team had to pay the organization that ran the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as that was the location for the team from 1958 to 1961. The court battles for Proposition B, the case by a family who wanted to keep its residence in Chavez Ravine and the dispute over building the roads to provide access to the ballpark are just a few of the topics covered in great detail in this book. These details are key to presenting this balanced picture of these events and because of them, it is a book that must be read slowly and carefully in order to absorb all of the information.

Readers who are interested in learning about the building of Dodger Stadium, as well as the team, the city of Los Angeles or even just a glimpse into the political conversations at the time will enjoy this book. 


I wish to thank Princeton University Press for providing an advance review copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review of "Seinsoth"

If you have ever picked up a book that seemed mildly interesting to you, but you tried it because of a request or recommendation then were blown away because it was so good, then you know the feeling I had after I finished this book. The author sent me a request and while I was interested, I was in no way prepared to read a book that was as good as this one was. Here is my review of a great book on a baseball prospect who died far too young.


Title/Author:
“Seinsoth: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Dodger” by Steven K. Wagner

Tags:
Baseball, high school, college, professional, biography, USC, Dodgers

Publish date:
November 30, 2016

Length:
214 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
The story of Bill Seinsoth is one that sadly is not uncommon: a talented, handsome athlete who dies far too young.  Like many others who met this fate, his story is not well known outside of his hometown area and where he starred in his sport. In Bill’s case, this was baseball and he was a big star for his high school in Arcadia, California and also for the University of Southern California (USC).  At USC, he was named an All-American in 1968 and played all three years he was eligible for the varsity team under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. 

He immediately signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers after graduation and played one season for their Bakersfield farm club. After Bakersfield’s season ended, Seinsoth was killed in a car accident.  It came as a shock to everyone as Seinsoth was thought to be the next Dodgers first baseman.  In fact, it is believed that even a player as great as Steve Garvey would not have played that position for the Dodgers had it not been for the tragic death of Seinsoth.

Wishing to “capture the essence of Bill Seinsoth”, author Steven K. Wagner has pulled together notes and old newspaper clippings along with correspondence and interviews with people who knew Seinsoth to put together a wonderful book about the short life of this young man. While it has been almost fifty years since his death, the story of Bill Seinsoth still resonates in southern California to this day and readers who pick up this book will be touched as well.

The writing of this book as well as the content is what makes it a truly special read. Admittedly, when I was reading the introduction I was thinking that this will be a typical account of a young life from someone who knew him and would not dare say one negative word.  On that last comment – there was not ANYONE mentioned in the book who could say that – even when the comments or quotes were taken from the time Seinsoth was alive, not just sharing fond memories.

The manner in which Wagner put this story together was amazing considering the difficulty he had in trying to obtain some information.  One very nice touch and a great example of how well the writing is in this book was the chapter on Seinsoth’s season in Bakersfield. He was able to cobble together a good picture of what life was like for him in the low minors through letters that Seinsoth sent to his girlfriend Gaye Gannon. Given that was the main source of information and the fact that Wagner was able to write about that season in a way that the reader will be able to fully understand what Seinsoth went through that season was truly amazing. 

This is a book that once a reader gets going, he or she will not be able to put it down. That was the case for me as Wagner had me at the time of Bill’s Little League adventures – Seinsoth was so good in Little League that some people wanted him off the team because he was TOO good. That is a good way to describe how I felt about this book – it is almost TOO good to simply be called a biography. Even if one has never heard of Bill Seinsoth, this is a book that is highly recommended to add to one’s baseball book shelf.

I wish to thank Sunbury Press 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/seinsoth-steven-k-wagner/1125268183?ean=9781620067161


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review of "26 In a Row"

Reading this book was a lesson - not only about this team about which I had previously known nothing, but also a little bit about the times during which this winning streak took place.  Here is my review of "26 In a Row."



Title/Author:
“26 In a Row: The 1916 New York Giants and Baseball’s Longest Winning Streak” by Alex Drude

Tags:
Baseball, Giants, history, streak

Publish date:
September 22, 2016

Length:
275 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:

Winning streaks are memorable and many people can recite the famous ones.  However, the longest winning streak in Major League Baseball history is one that many do not know about.  There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that the 1916 New York Giants were composed of mostly unknown and unaccomplished players.  Their story is captured in this book by Alex Drude.

Like many fans, Drude states that he was fascinated with winning streaks and he set out to tell the story of this team in the introduction to this book.  He then does so by introducing the position players who were the starters for each game during this streak.  Seven of the nine positions had the same man in each game, with the only changes occurring for pitchers and catchers.  Their stories are varied and interesting and the reader will gain a good understanding of each one, including both catchers and the pitchers in the starting rotation.

The book then reads like a diary as it tells the happenings of each calendar day during the streak.  These are not only about the Giants and the recaps of their win (or wins if there was a doubleheader) that day, but also about the major events of the day, such as what was going on in Europe as the Great War was going on.

An interesting book on the longest winning streak in baseball history, this is one that all baseball fans, especially Giants fans, will enjoy to learn more about this fascinating team and its unmatched success.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LY9HNNJ/ref=x_gr_w_glide_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_glide_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01LY9HNNJ&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review of "The Perfect Pass"

The last book I read on our recent vacation was appropriate for the time, as I started it on Super Bowl Sunday and finished it on the train ride home, two days after watching one of the most exciting football games, let alone Super Bowls, I have ever seen.  Of course there were a lot of passes thrown in the Patriots' win over the Falcons - this book is a terrific one on the history of the passing game and one coach who saw the benefits to a pass-first offense.  Here is my review of "The Perfect Pass."


Title/Author:
“The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football” by S.W. Gwynne

Tags:
Football (American), college, coaching, history, biography, Kentucky

Publish date:
September 20, 2016

Length:
304 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
No matter what level of football a fan follows, it has become very clear that the forward pass is now an integral part of the game. To many, this has made the game more exciting and to others, it simply brings more variation to the offense than the smash-mouth type of game that was espoused by coaches and players alike for the first several decades the game was played.

However, it wasn’t an easy time to get the game to where it is today as many who wanted to make passing a bigger part of the game were rebuffed time and time again.  One of those coaches who saw the benefits of a pass-first offense was Hal Mumme, a college football coach whose life was pretty much like any other coach – always working, wondering when the next pink slip would come and trying to convince players and athletic directors that this way would work.

Mumme’s offense, dubbed the “Air Raid”, was given the opportunity to be put into effect at a tiny school in the Midwest, Iowa Wesleyan, that had been a losing program for years. Along with assistant coach Mike Leach (who developed his own air game and is the subject of the excellent first chapter of the book), Mumme turned the program around and not only brought winning football to the campus, but an entire new atmosphere.

It is here where there is some fuzziness in the book, as Gwynne never gives a reason as to why Mumme was asked to leave Iowa Wesleyan, but that doesn’t stop him.  Eventually landing in Kentucky, Mumme does the same thing to a football program at a basketball-first university.  The Air Raid becomes a hit in Lexington, enough so that the Wildcats did the unthinkable at the time – they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Equal parts biography and history, “The Perfect Pass” is a terrific book that all football fans should read to gain a better understanding of the history of the forward pass in the game and how the innovation of one relatively obscure coach help change the game for good.

I wish to thank Scribner 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/the-perfect-pass-s-c-gwynne/1122858642?ean=9781501116193


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review of "Once There Were Giants"

For boxing fans who long for the days back when the heavyweight champion of boxing was a title that held a lot of esteem and one could see the bouts between these titans on regular TV, then this is the book for you.  Jerry Izenberg has put together a terrific book on the fighters of that era that is one that every fan should add to his or her bookshelf.  Here is my review of "Once There Were Giants."

Title/Author:
“Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing” by Jerry Izenberg

Tags:
Boxing, professional, history

Publish date:
February 7, 2017

Length:
252 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Great boxers in the heavyweight division are names that are recognized by even those who are not fans of the sport. Fighters like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman are just a few of the heavyweight champions who have left their mark both in boxing and in the world in general.  That era when these and other great heavyweight boxers ruled the sport is chronicled in this terrific book by veteran writer Jerry Izenberg.

There is a passage in the prologue that fits the general theme of the book and also expresses the feelings of not only the author but also many of the readers when Izenberg states that “…there will never again be a heavyweight cycle like the one that began when Sonny Liston stopped Floyd Patterson – and ended when Mike Tyson bit a slice out of Evander Holyfield’s ear.”  This covers the 35 year period of 1962-1997 and Izenberg tells many great stories about many great fighters from that era.

There is Sonny Liston, whom Izenberg states was the last fighter to be controlled by the Mob, a great account of all three classic fights between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  Noteworthy is that Izenberg believes their third bout, the “Thrilla in Manila”, “…was the greatest fight I ever saw.  Hell, I think it was the greatest fight anyone saw.”  Many who have seen it will echo that sentiment. Then even more great storytelling is in store for the reader as Izenberg tells about both Spinks brothers who held the crown, Leon and Michael and of course, Mike Tyson and all of the chaos surrounding him.

This book is a breeze to read, especially for fight fans who remember the days when the heavyweight championship was a title that was held in reverence and was held by one man, not by several because of various organizations who claim to be the “one” who can declare the champ. The stories about these fighters, and some of the epic bouts they fought to either gain, lose or defend their championship are ones that boxing fans will treasure for a long time.

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

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:






Review of "Macho Row"

If one presses me to state my favorite type of sports book to read, I would have to say it would be a book about a particular team during a particular season or time frame, such as a decade.  This book is one of those types of books, as it is about one of the more surprising pennant winners in recent times, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies.  It was an entertaining book and one that many baseball fans will enjoy. Here is my review of "Macho Row.:


Title/Author:
“Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code” by William C. Kashatus

Tags:
Baseball, professional, Phillies ,history

Publish date:
March 1, 2017

Length:
384 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
During the 1993 baseball season, the Philadelphia Phillies were considered the surprise team.  Not only because they unexpectedly won the National League pennant and took the defending champion Toronto Blue Jays to six games in the World Series, but also because of their image of being a rag-tag collection of misfits and outlaws.  This book by William C. Kashatus shows that this image was well-deserved as he examines that season and the six men who played the biggest roles in projecting that image and also for playing good baseball.

The six players on which the book focuses are Lenny Dykstra, Mitch Williams, John Kruk, Pete Icavigulia, Dave Hollins and Darren Daulton. To understand the team, one must understand these six players, their personalities and what “the Code” (the unwritten rules of baseball) meant to them. That is the strength of this book as the reader will learn a lot about these six men.  Kashatus writes about each one’s personality, what drove them on the field and how they loved being part of a team of misfits that was beloved by a city known to be hard on its sports teams.

There is plenty of writing about the baseball played on the field as well as the reader relieves many of the key moments of the season, including all of the games of the National League Championship Series and the World Series. The former was the biggest surprise of that season as the Phillies defeated the heavily favored Atlanta Braves and it was in this section where I felt the best baseball writing was done in the book as it felt like I was at old Veterans Stadium celebrating along with the six members of “Macho Row.”

While the attention to detail is very good, at times that made the book a bit difficult to follow as the reader may have to refer back to understand a point made.  Also, at times I felt there were contradictions in the opinions made by the author, such as how he felt about one of the players, Lenny Dykstra. On one hand, I thought he really liked Dykstra because of his hard-nosed play and the joy the author felt when he and his teammates later became winners.  On the other hand, when the subject of performance enhancing drugs is discussed, the author makes his feelings clear that those who used them were cheaters.  Because Dykstra’s use of PED’s is documented throughout the book, I wasn’t sure how the author truly felt about this key member of the team.

Nonetheless, this is a book that was as fun to read as was the lifestyle after games that “Macho Row” lived. Phillies fans will especially enjoy this book as it is one that should certainly be added to their bookcase.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press 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.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Macho-Row,677349.aspx