Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review of "Art Ross"

While away at a conference the past few days, it was hard to find downtime for reading.  But I was able to finish one book and start another, so can't complain about that.  The one that was finished was one that I received earlier from the author, so thankfully he was patient enough for me to complete it.  Before I read this book, I never read anything about hockey from the time frame before World War I, so it was interesting. Here is my review of "Art Ross"




Title/Author:
“Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built the Bruins” by Eric Zwieg

Tags:
Ice Hockey, history, biography, Bruins

Publish date:
October 6, 2015

Length:
308 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Casual hockey fans most likely do not know who Art Ross is.  Some may know of him because of the name of the trophy that is given to the NHL player who has the most points at the end of the regular season.  Others, especially who are knowledgeable about hockey history, may know that he was the general manager for the Boston Bruins in their formative years and made them the popular franchise that they still are today.

While this well-researched book by Eric Zweig covers those years when Ross built the Bruins, that was not the most interesting subject he writes about in this book. It covers the entire hockey career of Art Ross including his days as a player. The positions and game were not nearly as defined as they are today.  His position was not really a forward and not really a defenseman. The style in which he played would be most like a defenseman in today’s game but he was not called one. That really didn’t matter as he was considered one of the best players in professional hockey during that era.

At that time, the NHL was not in existence. Instead, professional hockey was a hodge-podge of various teams and leagues. Ross played many of his seasons with the Montreal Wanderers, an appropriate team name for the time.  The business side of the game was cutthroat as well, with player salaries soaring because they could often sell themselves to whomever would be willing to pay. If this sounds familiar, it is because this book illustrates the well-known fact that no matter which game or era, players always did whatever they could to get higher salaries and the owners would always do whatever it took to keep them down.

While Ross’s success in Boston is also well-researched, I found this part of the book not quite as interesting as his playing days. The Bruins’ seasons, both good and bad, are chronicled here and a reader will learn some interesting facts about Ross in this part, such as it was his idea to paint the center red line as a striped line so that it would be easier to distinguish it from the blue lines on a black– and–white television set.

Overall, this is a good book for readers interested in learning more about the early days of professional hockey and for a good insight of the game in the early 20th century.  It may be a tougher read for more casual fans as it does dig deep into details of the games and later the front office moves.  Hockey historians should make this one part of their libraries.

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

Book Format Read:
Paperback

Buying links:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/art-ross-eric-zweig/1120823778?ean=9781459730403

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review of "Pudge"

When I found out that Doug Wilson was writing another baseball biography, I was excited.  After reading "Brooks" and enjoying it very much, I was looking forward to this one on Carlton Fisk. Then when I received an advance review copy from the publisher, I was even more excited. Having to wait for publication date to publish this review, I admit that I wasn't too patient - I wanted to read it sooner!  But it was certainly worth the wait as it was an excellent book. Here is my review of "Pudge." 





Title/Author:
“Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk” by Doug Wilson

Tags:
Baseball, history, biography, Red Sox, White Sox

Publish date:
October 20, 2015

Length:
367 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)

Review:
It has been 40 years since Carlton Fisk ended one of the best games in the history of the World Series with a dramatic 12th inning home run.  The scene has been played many times in those 40 years as the Boston Red Sox catcher frantically waved his arms to the right, pleading for the ball to stay fair. Then came the leaps of joy along the first base line when those pleas were answered. That is the lasting image of the man.

However, there is much more to Carlton Fisk’s baseball career than that one moment. His journey from a small town in New Hampshire to the ultimate baseball honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame in a small town in upstate New York is captured in this excellent biography by Doug Wilson. 

Fisk’s family life while growing up in New Hampshire helped shape him into the ball player he became through his father – something that Wilson repeatedly illustrates throughout the book. Fisk’s legendary work ethic and punishing workouts are just two examples of how this is illustrated.  His high school, college and minor league playing days are also included in great detail to illustrate his desire to succeed.

However, what really makes the book shine is Wilson’s meticulous research and interviews when writing about Carlton’s major league career with the Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.  The stories from teammates on both teams and the recaps of successful seasons he had with both franchises are captured in a style that is easy and enjoyable to read.  This is because Wilson’s writing is liberally sprinkled with humor, anecdotes and even baseball clich├ęs that don’t sound forced like they do when players use them in interviews. In this book, they just flow naturally with the rest of the text.

It isn’t all peaches and cream for Fisk in his career and in the book. The injuries he suffered and the workouts he endured to make sure he was still in top form when he returned are told in less-than-glorious accounts.  Wilson also writes about Carlton’s acrimonious negotiations with both the Red Sox and White Sox regarding contracts. He ended up leaving both clubs under less than friendly circumstances and the accounts of these departures, while certainly told in a manner that seems more sympathetic to Fisk, are told in such great detail that the reader will feel that he or she is sitting at the negotiating table hearing every insult each side is telling the other one.

Because of all these reasons and more, this is a book that belongs on the bookcase of every baseball fan, whether or not that person saw Fisk play or just knows him through seeing the World Series home run on a highlight show of great World Series moments.  It is a book that it packed with a lot of information on the man and when the reader is finished, the memories will seem like that World Series home run – they will last for a long time.

I wish to thank Thomas Dunne Books for providing an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Buying links:


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review of "Baseball Dads"

While this was a fictional book that I enjoyed reading, I struggled to decide whether or not to include this book here as it truly isn't a "sports" book.  The baseball is more of a setting to the main part of the story and the characters just happen to have kids playing baseball to draw them together.  I decided to include it here in case it does help someone decide whether or not to pick up this book.  Here is my review of "Baseball Dads."


Title/Author:
“Baseball Dads” by Matthew S. Hiley

Tags:
Baseball, fiction, murder, family

Publish date:
September 15, 2015

Length:
263 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
While the title may make a reader think this story is about baseball, it really isn't. It is a story of social classes, murder, drugs, sex...And some little league baseball thrown in as well.

The story centers around Dwayne Devoe, a middle class business owner in the suburbs of Fort Worth. He is drowning in debt, his business has a large numbers of unpaid accounts and his wife has been having numerous affairs. However, his son Alex is a good player for the local baseball team and there isn't anything that Dwayne won't do for him. When the coach won't pay Alex and the more skilled players in favor of less talented kids whose parents are socially connected, Dwayne decides to take action.

With the help of three other "baseball dads" the plan goes into effect. What follows leads to a trail of dead bodies, Jedi warriors, raunchy sex (but not graphically written in the book) and even some wins for Alex's team.

The story reads at a lightning fast pace as one never knows what the next move will be for Dwayne and the dads. There are many funny moments which will make the reader laugh. Many times I was saying phrases to myself such as "What the Heck?" (or stronger) as some the situations and actions are just so bizarre. One example is what Dwayne used to fertilize the baseball field. I won't give that away here...But it isn't something that is recommended to use on your lawn.

If you like dark stories with lots of mayhem and raunch, this is your story. Not recommended for readers under 18. This is a very entertaining book that will leave the reader laughing.

I wish to thank Greenleaf Book Group Press for providing a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review of "Diehards"

This was the perfect title for a sports fan like me.  I have stated many times that I am a "diehard" Minnesota Twins fan.  So, when the author's publicist sent me an email asking if I was interested in reviewing this book, I was certainly curious.  I learned more about us "diehard" fans.  Here is my review of "Diehards"




Title/Author:
“Diehards” by Chip Scarinzi

Tags:
Baseball, Athletics, fans, psychology

Publish date:
September 1, 2015

Length:
222 pages

Rating: 
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Review:
Sports fans are what make the business of sports successful. Their willingness to spend their time, money and emotions in order to support their favorite athletes or teams is a trait that some ask if it is worth the effort.  This book by Chip Scarinzi explores that question by interspersing personal stories of his fandom with interviews and viewpoints of experts who try to address why some people invest so much into a hobby that is usually successful only half the time.

Scarinzi, a Philadelphia resident who is a fan of the Oakland Athletics, explains his love for the Athletics and what is does to his rational thinking, his relationship with his wife and also throws in stories of both agony and ecstasy.  These are the best parts of the book as any sports fan can see himself or herself in these stories – one just has to substitute his or her favorite team. 

The people interviewed in the book add to the stories by lending their expertise in explaining the fan’s mindset, relationship with the team as well as other people and why these fans love the games and the teams.  While the knowledge shared was interesting, I found reading these portions not as easy as Scarinzi’s stories.  This was because I am one of those diehards and like others, I believe in just enjoying the game and investing in the games and the team.  Personally, I almost don’t want to know why – it seemed to take away a little of the joy of being one of the diehards.

Despite these feelings about these parts, I do believe these are essential parts to read if one wants to learn the psychology behind these fans.  If that is the goal of the reader, then this is the perfect book for that goal.  If one just wants to read entertaining and humorous stories about fellow fans, then this book will fill that bill as well. 

I wish to thank Mr. Scarinzi and Rowe Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying links:


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review of "Touchdown In Europe"

Upon receiving a message from the author of this book asking if I was interested in reviewing it, I was skeptical at first.  I had thought most of the history of American football in Europe was the now-defunct NFL Europe league and the regular season games played in London.  Boy, was I sadly mistaken, and I learned a lot reading this book.  Here is my review of "Touchdown in Europe." 


Title/Author:
“Touchdown in Europe: How American Football Came to the Old Continent” by Massimo Foglio and Mark L. Ford

Tags:
Football (American), history, Europe

Publish date:
July 8, 2015

Length:
304 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Most football fans in the United States do not realize that the game has had a long and colorful history in Europe.  For those who thought that when the NFL Europe league existed that it was most of the history of the game on that continent, this book by Massimo Foglio will set those readers straight. 

The game has actually been played in Europe for almost as long as it has been in the United States.  It was brought to the continent by American military members who were stationed in Europe and played it for recreation during some down time.  These games soon became more than just for fun – they exposed the sport to a new audience who was curious to learn more.

As the years passed and World War I and II service members showed their European hosts what type of game was played, there were several leagues organized (and folded) in several countries as well as barnstorming tours done by American college teams organized by entrepreneurs who were looking to make a profit.  The stories of these attempts are rich with humor, detail and insight.  Many of the games played are recapped in the book with details in a manner that one would believe he or she is reading a recap from a recent game, sometimes complete with statistics.

That is the best aspect of this book, as the research shows that by uncovering some of these stories, Foglio has presented a look at the game that few in the United States know.  He concentrates on five European nations where the game is the most popular: Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Norway.  Sometimes the stories are so detailed a reader might have a hard time following all the players and people involved, but Foglio makes sure his readers are following along by providing some reminders of stories in earlier chapters that may tie into the next one.  That made the book easier to read later on, as I had a hard time keeping up with all those details early in the book.

Gridiron fans who wish to learn more about the history of the game beyond the NFL should pick up this book as it will certainly teach them a segment of the game they may not know. These games and leagues are explained in rich detail but in a fun and entertaining manner that make the book one to add to a reader’s football library.

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

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying links:


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review of "Raw" by Colin Cowherd

This was one of those books that I decided to read only because of the author.  As I mention in the review, I enjoyed listening to Colin Cowherd's radio show when he hosted a midday ESPN radio show.  So when I saw this title available on NetGalley, I jumped on the chance to read it - and I wasn't disappointed.  Here is my review of "Raw." 


Title/Author:
“Raw: My Grade-A, Unfiltered Inside Look at Sports” by Colin Cowherd

Tags:
General, broadcasting, musings

Publish date:
October 13, 2015

Length:
320 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
On occasion, I would turn on Colin Cowherd’s radio show “The Herd” when I needed a sports fix during some downtime in the office when he had a midday show on ESPN Radio.  I liked the show because even if the topic was one in which I didn’t have much interest or he expressed an opinion with which I strongly disagreed, he would be honest about it, give reasons for his viewpoint and tell it in a manner that wasn’t overly critical or patronizing.

So, when I saw he was coming out with his second book on his views of various sports topics, I jumped at the chance to pick up a review copy and dig in. As hoped, the book was written in much the same manner as his radio show. He has strong opinions on a variety of sports topics and he tells how he feels about them in a no-holds-barred style.

Just about every major sport and topic from the past two years in sports is covered here. He talks a lot about football and basketball on both the college and professional levels, which only makes sense given they are the two primary sports covered by his former employer, ESPN (He is now broadcasting for Fox Sports).  From the NFL’s attitude toward domestic violence to the saga of LeBron James returning to Cleveland, he shares his perspective on these topics with the readers in the same manner as listeners has heard. 

Social and political hot-button topics such as race relations and same-sex couples are also addressed.  He mentions that he has a way to take any topic and somehow turn it to make it relevant to sports as well – that is what he does with this as well.  Whether it was the saga of Michael Sam in NFL training camps or race relations with his super-hero character “Claiming Racism Man” I found these topics covered fairly and balanced.  Also, if someone is looking to find out Cowherd’s political leanings, I won’t mention them here, but I will just say that some of the views you read about will not fit neatly into one political position.

Overall, this was a very entertaining and enlightening read. If the reader enjoys Cowherd on the radio or television, then he or she will certainly enjoy this book as well. If the reader can envision those words being heard on the car radio or streaming online instead on the pages of the book, the essence of Cowherd’s broadcasts will be captured.

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


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


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review of "Phantom Punch"

As I have stated here before, I find books on boxing to be some of the best sports books around.  So when I saw this book offered for review on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and on the same day the publisher approved my request, I received an email from the author asking if I was interested in reviewing the book.  Double yes!   I am very glad that they sent me the book as  this was a great book on one of the most controversial heavyweight fights in boxing history. Here is my review of "Phantom Punch." 


Title/Author:
“The Phantom Punch: The Story behind Boxing’s Most Controversial Ending” by Robert Sneddon

Tags:
Boxing, history, controversy, Ali, Liston

Publish date:
October 4, 2015

Length:
240 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
The second heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston ended with one of the strangest and controversial endings in boxing history.  Considering the history of the sport and its seamy underbelly, this is quite a statement. However, this outstanding book by Robert Sneddon makes the case for this statement and tells of the background of all aspects of this fight held in a small town in central Maine.

The book read much like a bout between two champion boxers that may start with a flourish, and then slow down as the two opponents feel each other out. In a boxing match that will often lead to more punches landing, more flurries by both fighters and eventually reach an exciting finish.  This book did the same thing as it started with how many people view the ending of that fight today. Then there came a lot of background information on not only Ali and Liston but also about the town of Lewiston, Maine and the politics and officials that either helped bring the fight there or wanted to keep it away.

This portion of the book doesn’t sound like it would be exciting or of much interest to readers who are interested in the actual fight. However, that is not the case as much of this information is well researched and written in such a manner that a reader will be both well-informed and well-entertained while reading it.  Sam Michael and the Nilon brothers are just a few of the people who may not be household names to boxing fans or historians but they played important roles in this fight.

The sections on boxing, especially for both Ali-Liston fights, were excellent reads as well.  I was especially impressed with Sneddon’s account of the first fight between them in Miami, as that information was especially important when it came time to talk about the rematch.  As for the punch that is the center of the controversy even to this day, Sneddon does report on it fairly, writing about views from both sides.  He is careful to emphasize that there were many who felt the punch did land on Liston as well as report on those that believed it never connected.  

Because of this, I felt that this book was not one that tried to sway readers one way or the other, especially those that already have their minds made up. Instead, it seemed that the target audience would be for readers like me who have never seen the punch or the films of it and instead wanted to learn about this controversy.  For this goal, the book hits its mark and is an excellent account of a heavyweight championship fight that will be talked about as long as boxing remains a sport.

I wish to thank Down East Books for providing an advance review copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Buying links: