Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review of "The Killdeer Connection"

Breaking my own rule of only posting reviews of fictional books with a strong connection to a sport, this wonderful legal thriller by Tom Swyers has only a little bit of baseball in the story.  But a baseball scoring play provided an important clue in the story and therefore I decided to publish the review here as well.  This is my review of "The Killdeer Connection"


Title/Author:
The Killdeer Connection” by Tom Swyers
Tags:
Baseball, fiction, legal, thriller
Publish date:
August 8, 2017

Length:
318 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review:
A youth baseball coach learns that one of fellow coaches is dead.  However, not only is the deceased a coach, he is also the key expert in the case that coach/attorney David Thompson is brining on behalf of an injured worker against an oil company.  What happens to David as learns more about Harold’s death makes for a taut legal thriller in “The Killdeer Connection”

That single death leads David along a path connecting railroad, hydrofracking, and Bakken oil production (which produces an explosive gas as well as the oil) that brings him to the oil wells of North Dakota, a long way from his home in upstate New York.  The reader will not only learn about these aspects of the petroleum industry, but will also learn a great deal about David, his family (wife Annie and son Christy, who plays on the team) and Ben, David’s client.  Other characters that play an important role in the story are the town police chief and an FBI investigator, as the story takes unexpected turns when tanker cars explode at every stop David makes, leading to a terrorism investigation as well as the legal case.

The story is very fast paced, is easy to read and does not contain graphic language, sexual references or violence.  I found that aspect refreshing to read in a novel geared for adults as the actions and emotions of the characters were enough to keep the reader engaged.  I found myself hanging on every twist and turn, especially on David’s trip to North Dakota and his discovery of the connection to the killdeer bird to a legal case against an oil company.

There is not much baseball but for a few passages that do connect the sport to the story.  The most fascinating baseball connection is in the letter written by Harold to David using baseball positions.  A play in the scorebook had the odd sequence of 1-2-6-7 – pitcher to catcher to shortstop to left field.  That ended up being an important clue to the investigation into the explosions of the tanker cars.

This book is part of a series that will continue as the ending leaves no doubt that there is more to come in the adventures of David Thompson.  After reading this book, this is a series that I will be following.  

Book Format Read:
E-Book (Kindle)
Buying Links:


Monday, December 4, 2017

Review of "Do You Want to Work in Baseball"?

If one doesn't have the skill and talent to make it to the Major Leagues as a player, that person can still be part of the sport by working as a scout or player development staff member.  This terrific book provides the knowledge and advice needed to be successful in that endeavor.  Here is my review of "Do You Want to Work in Baseball?"



Title/Author:
Do You Want to Work in Baseball?” by Bill Geivett
Tags:
Baseball, management, employment, business
Publish date:
February 4, 2017

Length:
354 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review:
Like most professions, getting that first job with Major League Baseball can be a daunting task.  Not only does a person need to have all the skills, contacts and education necessary to stand out, a candidate needs to have a clear expectation of where his or her career in the game will go.  This excellent book by Bill Geivett will give the reader advice and guidance in order to pursue a career in the game.

Drawing off his extensive experience as a scout and director for nearly every level of the game, Geivett doesn’t just tell the reader what he or she needs to get that first interview or to land an entry level position.  He also provides inside information how what major league clubs evaluate and develop players so that the team will eventually become a championship club.  By providing the details of how teams break down players during their development, Geivett shares valuable information and lessons he learned to people who have aspirations to work for a club.

There are three main sections to the book.  In the first, Geivett provides many tips and requirements a person needs to secure and be successful in an interview.  He explains how that first job is just that – a first job toward the eventual career goals that candidates must determine for themselves. He then provides the details of the two major areas of employment opportunities – scouting and player development.

In both of these areas, Geivett mixes analysis of the tools used by these areas, detailed analysis of how players are graded in all areas (both pitchers and position players) and how weaknesses of players can be overcome with strength in other areas.  In the end, it will be up to the scout or player development staff member to determine how he or she will use all this data and information to grade out a player.  While he also shares many stories about his work with players such as Shane Victornio and Vinny Castilla, he does end each of these sections with a challenge to the reader to use these pages in his or her own way to grade each player.

This book is a must-read for any person who is interested in a career in baseball without becoming a player.  In fact, some of the advice in the first section is valuable for anyone who is seeking employment in any field. The only thing that is close to negative that I can say about this book is that I wish it had been published about 35 years earlier – if that had happened, my career path would have certainly taken a different turn!

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

Book Format Read:
Paperback
Buying Links:

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review of "The United States Tennis Association"

While most books I read about a sport off the field have to do with baseball, I found this one on the history of the United States Tennis Association very interesting.  If nothing else, after reading this, one will understand why the sport was considered to be only for the elite.  Here is my review of "The United States Tennis Association"



Title/Author:
The United States Tennis Association: Raising the Game” by Warren F. Kimball

Tags:
Tennis, history, business

Publish date:
December 1, 2017

Length:
448 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Starting out as a group of elite white men from the northeastern part of the United States to help promote the game of “lawn tennis”, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has become the largest tennis association in the world. The organization boasts women in many leadership roles, revenues that total well into nine figures and is mostly run by volunteers.  The story of how this organization grew into a unique governing body is told in this book by Warren F. Kimball.

The UST(L)A – L for Lawn as that was the complete name for many years – had its humble beginnings in the Northeast and was composed of tennis clubs instead of individual memberships.  Indeed, the USTA did not begin soliciting individual members until the 1960’s, preferring instead to keep the organization as one of a collection of clubs.  The organization did grow from the Northeast all the way to California and spots in between but for most of its early years, it reflected the culture of the Northeast.  Kimball’s research and attention to detail bear this out well.

A major theme throughout the book is that the USTA would try to keep its championship tournament (which is today’s US Open) and the organization as a whole open to amateur players only.  Professionals who were collecting money for playing the game, in any fashion (prize money as we know it today was not won in those days), such as Suzanne Lenglen and Bill Tilden, were considered rogues.  In Tilden’s case, his rebellious ways against the USTA style did not help win him any fans in the organization.  However, this gradually changed as more people were willing to pay to watch these outstanding player and in 1968, professionals were allowed in the USTA and the US Open was truly an “open” tourney for both amateurs and professionals. 


The organization’s history after that point is also covered in the book as the game’s revenues and popularity grew out of being the reputation of being an elitist sport to one that can be enjoyed by all, both as a player and a spectator. Through the book’s entire description of USTA history, Kimball writes with meticulous detail that has to be read carefully.  This is not a book for the reader who wants a quick history lesson.  Instead, the reader who wants to learn everything he or she can about this extraordinary organization will want to pick up a copy of this one.  

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 (PDF)

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/United-States-Tennis-Association-Raising-ebook/dp/B076PYBY3L/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review of "Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic"

This was a book that I discovered purely by accident.  When searching on Kindle Unlimited for a particular book, I not only found that one but also this one.  I decided on reading this one first - and it was a very good decision.  Here is my review of "Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic"




Title/Author:
Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic” by Mike Reuther

Tags:
Baseball, fishing, fiction

Publish date:
July 1, 2014

Length:
137 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:

One piece of advice that nearly everyone has heard, whether from a parent, teacher or some other figure, is that people should follow their dreams.  However, if one is not so sure what those dreams are, it might be difficult to follow them.  This dilemma was faced by Nick Grimes, the young man who is the protagonist in this wonderful short novel by Mike Reuther. 

Nick was a successful high school pitcher who had the talent to be signed by the Detroit Tigers, but never was able to advance beyond the lower minor leagues. He decides to give up baseball and work with a friend back home in central Pennsylvania in his plumbing business.  The friend, Hal, also enjoys fly fishing and Nick discovers how much he likes it as well. Nick soon opens his own business where clients pay for a guided day of fly fishing, but like baseball, Nick questions this choice as well.

The character of Nick, as well as those of his father, Hal and Jess, a young woman with whom Nick is smitten, is well-developed in the book.  This is even more impressive given the short length of the story.  More words and pages are devoted to understanding these characters than outside details, which makes the characters and their relationships the heart and soul of the book.  One other character that should be mentioned is Sir Jon, a recluse who lives in a cabin he built himself.  Nick met him while fly fishing and he imparts some wisdom as well.

Baseball is a regular theme, though, throughout the book and the scenes in which Nick is pitching, whether good or bad, are ones that any baseball fan will love.  The reader will be feeling the same emotions as Nick whether he strikes out the side or gives up a grand slam. 

A wonderful story with realistic characters, “Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic” is a story that readers of many ages and interest will enjoy.  It is a short but very engaging book.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

 
Buying Links:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review of "Remembering the NFL Glory Years"

The last of the Thanksgiving weekend reviews is about the sport that everyone associates with the holiday: football.  This book interested me as it covered the game during the time that I enjoyed it the most and some of the players mentioned brought back some great memories of the Purple People Eaters days of my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.  Here is my review of this book.



Title/Author:
Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years: An Inside Look at the Golden Age of Football” by Wayne Stewart
Tags:
Football (American), professional, history
Publish date:
July 13, 2017

Length:
238 pages

Rating: 
3 of 5 stars (okay)
Review:
Professional football has undergone many changes since the “Golden Age” of the game, a twenty year time frame from 1955 to 1975, give or take a few years.  Many of the great players from that era are remembered in this book by veteran sportswriter Wayne Stewart.

Stewart doesn’t try to rank players from that time in a numerical pecking order.  Instead, he divides the book up by other means and writes a page or two on each player mentioned.  There is a chapter for offensive players, a chapter for defensive players, one for funniest moments (my favorite chapter), one for the toughest, one for some other players not mentioned earlier, then finally a comparison of the game then to now. 

In all chapters, the reading is easy, quick and flows well.  Because he doesn’t use too many statistics, that makes the book more of an anecdotal read than an analytical one.  That is good for a reader who wants to simply learn a little bit more about each of these players, especially if that reader never saw them play during their careers.

Many of the stories are told from only a few sources.  It appears that Stewart obtained much of the material from a few interviews, most notably Gino Marchetti and Myron Pottios.  Both of these men are mentioned and quoted frequently.  While the information from these stories is good and entertaining, it does give the book a feel that this is mainly about how these men feel about who was the best during the era.

The other matter that caught my attention was that the chapter on defensive players included other positions.  The most notable example was the mention of former offensive center Mick Tinglehoff near the end of the chapter on defensive players.  Since he was an offensive player, I wondered why he was included in the defensive chapter.  The tie-in was that he snapped to Vikings teammate Paul Krause for many years when Krause would be the placeholder for kicks.  Krause is deservedly mentioned in the defensive chapter as one of the best defensive backs (he still holds the career record for pass interceptions), but including Tinglehoff on the pages with him was a head-scratcher for me.

Nonetheless, this is a decent book that football fans who watched the game during that time will enjoy reading.  It is like a time machine, taking the reader back to a time when professional football was played in a much different manner than it is today.

I wish to thank Rowman & Littlefield for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover
Buying Links:

Review of "This Book Has Balls"

Book #2 for the holiday weekend reviews was written by actor Michael Rapaport, who shows that he knows a thing or two about basketball.  Oh, and it is very funny as well.  Here is my review of his book "This Book Has Balls."


Title/Author:
This Book Has Balls: Sports Rants from the MVP of Talking Trash” by Michael Rapaport
Tags:
Basketball, essays, humor
Publish date:
October 24, 2017

Length:
305 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review:
Michael Rapaport is an actor who knows his sports, especially basketball.  He has a very popular podcast in which he rants on many different sports topics.  Sometimes he is crass, often his commentary is laced with colorful language but he also emphatically makes his point and if doesn’t matter if you agree or not, it’s his way or the highway.

This book is a collection of essays written in the same manner as these commentaries.  Therefore, if a reader is familiar with Rapaport’s style, then he or she will love this book.  For a reader like me, who knows of it and has seen him on television in various roles, then this will be an introduction to his sports side.

The first impression I had was that is basketball cred is outstanding, despite never playing in college or professional basketball.  He writes great essays on Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Allan Iverson, the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, the “mecca” of basketball.  These were my favorite ones and I found myself agreeing with him on just about every story about this sport.

The book is not limited to basketball, however, as he also writes about Tiger Woods, Lawrence Taylor (which I thought was the funniest story), athletes whose prowess in the bedroom as well as the playing arena was legendary, and, in a non-sports rant that surprised me, the Real Housewives series which he believes was great television. 

Since his calling is comedy, of course the book is filled with humor, from the beautifully sublime to the crude and obvious.  I mentioned the Lawrence Taylor story, in which Rapaport believes LT is the greatest player in football history because he played while under the influence of cocaine.  That was hilarious as well as some other stories and excerpts. 

I will give one more example of this comedy that left me in tears.  To put it in proper context, this is about Shawn Kemp, a star NBA player in the 1990’s who was as well known for fathering children with numerous women as well as his play on the court.  This is about a dream Rapaport had: “I actually had (a dream) a few nights ago that I was playing for the Seattle Supersonics during the Nineties and Shawn Kemp and I were having an extensive conversation on the layup line about getting vasectomies.” 

While certainly this book has to be read only by adults because of the language, it is a very funny and entertaining book that is recommended for fans of Rapaport, basketball fans, or those who want to just laugh out loud while reading a book with sports content. 

I wish to thank Touchstone 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 "Go Like Hell"

As the Thanksgiving weekend is winding down, it is time to review some books.  It was a very busy holiday weekend for me - between the eating, the basketball (yes, I said basketball - took my grandson to a Brooklyn Nets game on Black Friday) and the other activities with the family, I even found time to finish three books.  First one was an outstanding book on the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race.  Here is my review of "Go Like Hell."



Title/Author:

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory At Le Mans” by A.J. Baime

Tags:

Auto Racing, business, endurance

Publish date:

January 1, 2009



Length:

321 pages



Rating: 

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:

The race known has the 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most famous, testing the endurance of drivers, pit crews and cars alike.  It was a very dangerous race, as it was once called “a four hour sprint races followed by a 20 hour death watch” by Car and Driver magazine.  However, winning the race was also very prestigious for everyone involved.  Two car makers waged an epic war in the 1960’s for this glory, Ford and Ferrari, and the battle is captured in this excellent book by A.J. Baime.



The book covers everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about what the two owners, Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II, did in order to ensure their cars were the best at the race.  Ferrari cars had a head start, as in the mid-1960’s, they were the kings of Formula 1 and European racing, and Ford had some catching up to do.  At first, it appeared to have a deal to work together on racing cars, but when that fell through, a bitter rivalry ensued.


While their business rivalry is well-documented, Baime writes about every aspect of the racing teams and what they did for their respective areas.  Drivers such as Phil Hill, John Surtees, Carroll Shelby (who was also a designer), Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti are all a part of the story.  The scenes in the garage and the pits, starting from 1957 and Phil Hill driving for the Ferrari team up until 1966 when Ford finally won its first race, are described wonderfully as race fans of all interest levels will feel like they are either fueling the cars or speeding down the Mulsanne Straight at over 200 miles per hour.



Baime is a well-respected writer on auto racing and his research and writing for this book is superb. It is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the sport or in the Le Mans race.





Book Format Read:

E-Book (Kindle)

Buying Links: