Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review of "A Deadly Game"

It isn't too often that I have the chance to review fictional stories with a sports theme, but that was the case with this book. It took a little different twist in that the baseball theme was less about the game on the field and more about fantasy baseball - a game that is intriguing and has a world all its own.  Here is my review of a thriller about fantasy baseball, "A Deadly Game."


Title/Author:
“A Deadly Game” by Gary M. Lepper
Tags:
Baseball, fiction, fantasy, murder, mystery
Publish date:
December 6, 2016
Length:
299 pages
Rating: 
4 ½  of 5 stars (excellent)
Review:
When six Major League baseball players in various cities are injured and two of them died as a result of their injuries, it felt like more than just coincidence.  It raised the curiosity of former police detective David Kenmuir and what he finds while investigating these cases is the storyline for this very entertaining novel by Gary M. Lepper.

Set in the 1980’s, when computers were still primitive but useful for vast amounts of information and statistics, Kenmuir discovers the world of fantasy baseball and how one can get easily caught up in the high stakes at which some fantasy leagues operate.  While he was a baseball fan, Kenmuir did not play fantasy baseball.  However, with the help of a computer nerd, he learns not only about the game, but also starts to understand how the star players each became victims of an organized crime operation.

Baseball fans will enjoy the references to the games and also to baseball card collecting as well as the fantasy game. There are settings in major league ballparks, such as the Oakland Coliseum, in which Kenmuir and a Don from organized crime watch ball games. The story did start a little slow as it was not apparent how the injuries were connected, but once the concept of fantasy baseball was fully ingrained into the story, it took off from there. 

The characters were well-developed, and Kenmuir develops into a troubled hero with his experiences in the Vietnam war and the loss of a partner while on the police force playing a key role in the book. The antagonists are well developed as well, and the usual stereotyped behavior of the leaders of organized crime are not obvious in this novel, a welcome relief.   

This is a novel that will be enjoyed by fans of book on baseball, mysteries or organized crime. It was a very good read that only bogged down once, but once one gets past that portion of the book, it is one that will be hard to put down.

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

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


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review of "Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story"

I mention this in the book review, but when I saw this book was available for review, I jumped on the chance because I saw Mad Dog Vachon perform at many wrestling events when I was growing up in Minnesota, both live and on television. I enjoyed watching his antics in the ring, and I enjoyed this book.  Here is my review of "Mad Dog."


Title/Author:
“Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story” by Bertrand Hebert and Patric Laprade
Tags:
Wrestling, professional, biography
Publish date:
September 5, 2017
Length:
320 pages
Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review:
Growing up in the Twin Cities, I would watch wrestling every weekend on television and would occasionally attend wrestling cards in the old Minneapolis Auditorium. One of the big stars in the business at the time was Mad Dog Vachon.  So when I saw a biography of the man was available for review, I jumped at the chance to do so. 

Starting with his childhood in Quebec in which he was considered a trouble-maker, the book follows Maurice’s venture into wrestling, from his amateur performance that earned him a trip to the Olympics to his somewhat nomadic life as a professional wrestler to his life afterward. There are many interesting stories along the way about Vachon’s professional and personal life. At times it seemed amazing that with all the travel and all the issues in his personal life that he became such a star in wrestling. 

But it was Vachon’s work ethic and willingness to help other wrestlers to succeed that helped make him the successful heel (villain) that he became. He put on a great show for the fans, while remembering that it was them who were the most important people in the business. The reader will get a glimpse into what Maurice was like through his interactions with wrestlers, promoters and his brother Paul, who under the name “Butcher” became Maurice’s partner in the ring and later in the business.

What made this book a good read was the research and writing about the inner workings of the professional wrestling circuit.  There are many more smaller organizations than the big ones with which many people are familiar.  Much like real estate, one’s location can determine the success of a wrestler.  This was certainly the case for Mad Dog as his career took off when Vern Gagne brought him to Minneapolis. Reading about his matches in the Twin Cities brought back a lot of memories and made the book a fun one to read.  

I wish to thank ECW 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/mad-dog-bertrand-hebert/


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review of "The Pitch That Killed"

This book is one that has been on my radar for several years, but I just never thought about picking it up.  Then in an online baseball book club to which I belong, it was selected as the book for this month.  Decided to read it on the train to and from a baseball game and my only complaint is that I waited so long to read it.  Here is my review of "The Pitch That Killed."


Title/Author:
“The Pitch That Killed: Carl Mays, Ray Chapman and the Pennant Race of 1920” by Mike Sowell
Tags:
Baseball, professional, history, Yankees, Indians, tragedy
Publish date:
September 1, 1989
Length:
330 pages
Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review:
Most baseball fans know about Ray Chapman being the only player to die because of an on-the-field incident when he was beaned by Carl Mays. These same fans may also know that he was very popular, not just with the fans of the Cleveland Indians but also is teammates. Then they may also be aware that Mays was not very popular, even before this tragedy, with the players, teammates and opponents alike. 

Just these topics would make a good book, but author Mike Sowell takes these and crafts an even better book by giving readers a complete picture of not only Mays and Chapman and that fateful day of August 16, 1920, but by including so many other key baseball men such as Tris Speaker (the Indians manager), Babe Ruth and Miller Huggins, the reader gets the complete picture of the men involved and the lead-up to that fateful pitch.

Mays was known as a trouble maker before arriving to the Yankees from his days with the Boston Red Sox.  It didn’t affect his pitching as he had success with both teams and was a key member of the Yankees staff as they were involved in a three team pennant race with the Indians and the Chicago White Sox.  His pitching was affected, however by a new rule that was enacted to disallow trick pitches.  Mays’ underhanded delivery was deemed to be this, but he still threw in that manner that was effective and hard for a batter to pick up, as would be horribly on display during an at bat by Ray Chapman.

Chapman, on the other hand, was a young player on the rise with the Indians.  A gifted shortstop, he was becoming a better player and gaining the confidence of his teammates.  Newly married and expecting his first child, the young man seemed to have the world in his hands when he stepped up to the plate during a game against the Yankees. A pitch from Mays was coming in high and tight on Chapman, who never saw it coming.  It hit him in the left temple and he was knocked to the ground bleeding and unconscious.  He was able to make if off the field with help from his teammates, but died the next day in the hospital.

Just this alone would make a good book, but Sowell turns it into fascinating reading by including many details on both Mays and Chapman, such as when Mays told his wife in 1918 that he may have needed to do something “out of the ordinary” to get his name in the papers, or that Chapman may have retired after the 1920 season after promising his father-in-law to consider giving up the game to run their successful family business. Sowell also weaves the tight American League pennant race into the story along with other people that makes story of Chapman’s death even more completing.  Little items such as Speaker getting involved in the decision on where to bury Chapman, a New York writer who tried to implicate Mays in throwing games during the 1921 World Series and the talk of players boycotting any game in which Mays was the pitcher.

All of this and more makes this book one that every baseball fan and historian must read. Even though I had known about this book for many years, I never picked it up until it was selected as a book of the month in an online baseball book club.  My only problem with that is that now I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. 

Book Format Read:
Paperback

Buying Links:




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review of "Eyes Within the Diamond"

If you have ever picked up a book expecting it to be written in a certain style or on a specific topic, but it turned out to not be that way, you will adjust your expectations for what to get out of the book.  That was the case for me as when I started "Eyes Within the Diamond", I expected a collection of essays.  While there were essays there was so much more to this book.  Here is my review of "Eyes Within the Diamond."


Title/Author:
“Eyes Within the Diamond: Inside the Game, Outside the Box” by Stacey Marc Goldman
Tags:
Baseball, professional, lists, statistics, race
Publish date:
November 19, 2016
Length:
270 pages
Rating: 
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)
Review:
This book doesn’t really fit neatly into a common baseball book category.  While there is advanced statistical analysis of many great players, it isn’t a sabermetrics book in the same manner as Bill James. There are essays about many of the players listed, but it isn’t the type of book to curl up on your favorite piece of furniture and read for hours.  There are many lists of the greatest player in many different categories and positions.

This was problematic for me at first, as I was confused as to why the author would start creating lists of the greatest players with no explanation of how he graded these players. But as I kept on looking at lists and reading essays on the Negro Leagues, the book got better. There are also essays on players from every era and an interesting comparison of the two Canadian franchises in Major League Baseball history, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Expos.

What really settled my mind, however, was at the end of the book when Goldman gave the formula for how he graded both hitters and pitchers and that helped explain his rankings and comparisons. The comparisons were of great players – to settle the argument of who was better between the two.  Many different parings were compared, such as Barry Bonds vs. Ty Cobb and of course Joe DiMaggio vs. Ted Williams.

Goldman also tackles a tough subject – the institutional racism of the game before integration and much of the writing and listings give much credit to the Negro Leagues. He believes Josh Gibson is the greatest baseball player ever and he makes a compelling argument.  Other stars from the Negro Leagues such as Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige also are prominent in the book.

This book is best read in small doses or used as a reference book to look for the best players at certain positons. It’s also a great reference to settle a bet or argument about the best players.  Many books with lists are useful for that purpose and this one follows in that mold.

I wish to thank Summer Game Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)
Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/Eyes-Within-Diamond-Inside-Outside-ebook/dp/B01N971KM4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494466065&sr=8-1&keywords=eyes+within+the+diamond


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review of "A Renegade Championship Summer"

Living in the Hudson Valley region of New York, I was thrilled to find this book available on Kindle.  While I only saw a couple games during this 1999 championship season, it was still very exciting to have a championship team in the local area.  Here is my review of "A Renegade Championship Summer."




Title/Author:
“A Renegade Championship Summer: A Broadcaster’s View of a Magical Minor League Baseball Season” by Rick Schultz

Tags:
Baseball, minor leagues, championship

Publish date:
August 12, 2016

Length:
227 pages

Rating: 
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)

Review:
The Hudson Valley Renegades won that first New York Penn League championship in 1999 and this book by broadcaster Risk Schultz, who called the team's games that year, shares not only the highlights but some interesting stories about the players as well.

What I like about books like this is that the reader gets inside life in the minor leagues. The book has plenty of bus trip stories, reflections from players and manager Edwin Rodriguez and even other employees such as the clubhouse manager. Of note - Josh Hamilton, the #1 draft pick that year who went on to become an MVP in the major leagues, played briefly for the Renegades that season and was there to celebrate the championship with his Hudson Valley teammates.

Overall this is a decent read about a team that will be long remembered for bringing a championship to the area. Fans of minor league baseball will enjoy this one.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)


Buying Links:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review of "Lefty O'Doul"

Admittedly, I knew very little about Lefty O'Doul until I received this book from the publisher. After reading it, not only did I learn a lot, but I now understand how much of a role he played in the baseball relationship between Japan and the United States. I won't give too much away - I will simply say to read this book.  Here is my review of "Lefty O'Doul."



Title/Author:
“Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador” by Dennis Snelling

Tags:
Baseball, biography, Yankees, Giants, minor leagues

Publish date:
May 1, 2017

Length:
392 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Francis “Lefty” O’Doul can be considered a rarity in baseball – while he was an outstanding major league player, retiring with the fourth-highest career batting average in history, it was his work in the minor leagues and in Japan where he truly made a difference in the game.  The story of his life in and out of baseball is told in this biography by Dennis Snelling.

O’Doul was raised in the Butchertown section of San Francisco, a tough neighborhood which got its name from the proliferation of butchers and slaughterhouses in the area. O’Doul was destined to follow his father into that business until he was encouraged to use his athletic gifts by his teacher Rose Stolz. It was uncommon for women to be coaching sports at that time in the early 20th century, but she was his coach and O’Doul gave her credit for teaching him the game and mentoring him early in his athletic career.

His career started with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League , which at (PCL)the time was considered close to the equal of the Major Leagues and the highest level of baseball played west of the Mississippi.  O’Doul was playing the outfield and pitching, eventually gaining a spot on the New York Yankees, but not succeeding in either position. He set a record during that brief time that still has not been broken – he gave up 13 runs in one inning, the most allowed by a single pitcher in one inning.  He was convinced to give up pitching during another stint with the Seals, and this time it proved to be better when he played for the New York Giants, becoming a prolific hitter including a season in which he hit .398 in 1929.

However, despite this success, where O’Doul left his mark in the game was with his coaching and managing, which he did for a few decades for the Seals and San Diego in the PCL. One of his prize pupils was Joe DiMaggio, who gives O’Doul much credit for his success.  They stayed friends long after both of their careers were over.

The book’s format has each chapter start with an excerpt describing O’Doul’s biggest accomplishment, and that was the 1949 series of exhibition games between a team of Major League all-stars and Japanese teams played in Japan. This exhibition was notable for several reasons – the countries still had some bitter feelings so soon after World War II, the American players were treated like royalty by the Japanese fans, and General Douglas MacArthur even attended games.  O’Doul worked tirelessly to promote the game in Japan, having made several trips there and was in attendance when Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in the Major Leagues in 1964.

Given the variances in topics in which to write about O’Doul, I felt that Mr. Snelling did a very good job of piecing all of these aspects of the career of O’Doul and wrote a book that is not only easy to follow with all of these pieces, but is also informative enough that the reader will finish it believing that he or she knows a lot about O’Doul. That was the case for me as I had not known much about the man’s career and certainly not that he was a true ambassador for the game in Japan.  After reading this book, I believe that Lefty O’Doul’s story is one that anyone interested in the game’s history, whether in the United States or in Japan, is one that should be read.   

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:



Monday, May 1, 2017

Review of "Our Bums"

No matter whether one was around when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, nearly everyone has some type of story to share about the team.  This book is a great collection of those stories, plus information on the team's history in Brooklyn and its spot in popular culture.  Here is my review of "Our Bums."


Title/Author:
“’Our Bums’: The Brooklyn Dodgers in History, Memory and Popular Culture: by David Krell.

Tags:
Baseball, Dodgers, History

Publish date:
May 31, 2015

Length:
228 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
While 2017 will mark 60 years since the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles, the memories of the team’s time in the borough still resonate, even with those too young to have seen the team play at Ebbets Field.  The team’s history, marks on the city and many references in popular culture during that time are told in this interesting book by David Krell.

This is more than a baseball book as there are plenty of stories about the team and what it meant to Brooklynites in all walks of life.  Child or adult, rich or not-so-rich, and across the entire spectrum, the book is rich with stories about the team and what it meant to be a fan or to meet one of those “bums” as they were affectionately called. Between numerous interviews and extensive scouring of nearly every printed source of information on the team, Krell captures the spirit of the people who were affected in some way by the comings and goings of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The sections written about the team’s history and its performance on the field is good as well.  While not as extensive as other books that are devoted to the Dodgers, the reader will get a good sense of not only the record and business of the team but how this aspect also affected the people interviewed.  The reader will feel the profound sadness felt when the Dodgers headed west.

The best section of the book is the eighth chapter, or inning, when the many stories, plays, movies and other such forms of entertainment have some type of reference to the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Whether is it one line or the subject of the entire work, readers will be surprised at just how many shows make mention of the team.  This book is one that anyone who has fond memories of the Brooklyn Dodgers, even if only through stories passed down from generation to generations, will have to add to his or her baseball library.

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

Book Format Read:
Paperback

Buying links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/our-bums-david-krell/1120828012?ean=9780786477999

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com - order line 800-253-2187.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of "The 1997 Masters"

This was one of those sporting events that you will know exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard that Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes. The only part of that day that seems sad to me is that it has already been 20 years since that historic event.  Woods decided to share his story about that tourney, and it is a terrific book. Here is my review of "The 1997 Masters."




Title/Author:
“The 1997 Masters: My Story” by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein, narrated by Scott Van Pelt
 
Tags:
Golf, history, race, audiobook

Publish date:
March 20, 2017

Length:
244 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:

By 1997, Tiger Woods had already become a well-known golfer thanks to his outstanding amateur career.  But that year, when he won the Masters by 12 strokes, his career and personal life took a different turn that would drastically change both of those lives for him.  On the 20th anniversary of that historic tournament, Woods decided to share the story of that tourney and what it meant to him and his family.

Readers who want to learn more about Woods’ personal scandals or hear him speak out on racial issue will be disappointed as he only calls his divorce and subsequent scandal personal mistakes and instead of speaking out on social issues, his talk about race is gratitude and appreciation for black golfers who suffered through discrimination in the game and broke through the color barrier the Augusta National Course.  These include golfers such as Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder, the latter being the first black golfer to play in the Masters in 1975. 

The most personal Woods gets is frequent stories about his parents – and in the book, his mother receives as much credit and love from Woods as does his father.  Most stories fans read only talks about Woods’ relationship with his father, but in this book he opens up about the relationships with his mother as well.

The bulk of the book is about golf.  There are stories about that week in the Masters of course, but he also shares stories about playing practice rounds with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, his current golf business and much discussion on technique and equipment.  Casual golf fans may be lost in the talk of angles of putters or snap-hooked drives into the trees, but for me, this was terrific.  A reader can learn a lot about the game by listening to these segments, which come in the sequences about the 1997 Masters itself as well as the stories outside the tourney.

The reader will follow Woods shot by shot, hole by hole for the entire tourney and I loved listening to Scott Van Pelt’s voice describing the scene and Woods’ thoughts as he wrote them.  The end of the book when he describes how today golf is all about how long the players can hit is a perfect transition to illustrate the differences between his win 20 years ago and the game now. Golf enthusiasts should add this to their libraries, regardless of their fandom of Woods. The tourney was a historic one and this first-hand account from the winner of that Masters is one to treasure.


Book Format Read:
Audiobook

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review of "Dick Allen, The Life and Times of a Baseball Immortal"

Dick Allen was a player whom I remembered as someone who would hit a home run against the Twins every time I watched a Twins-White Sox game when I was a kid.  I did know that he was also a star in Philadelphia, but those majestic shots he hit in a White Sox uniform was what I remembered about him.  So, when I saw this book offered on NetGalley I picked it up to learn more about the man.  Here is my review of the latest biography written about him.



Title/Author:
“Dick Allen, The Life and Times of a Baseball Immortal: An Illustrated Biography” by William C. Kashatus

Tags:
Baseball, biography, Phillies, White Sox

Publish date:
May 28, 2017

Length:
288 pages

Rating: 
3 of 5 stars (okay)

Review:
Baseball has had many players through the years whose talent would be overshadowed by some type of controversy, be it bad press, a bad personality or maybe just bad luck.  One of these players was Dick Allen, who played primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox between 1964 and 1976, with stops in Los Angeles (Dodgers) and St. Louis along the way.  His story and career is captured in this biography by long time Philadelphia writer William C. Kashatus.

The book follows the tried-and-true format for a sports biography by writing about Allen’s childhood in which his father was gone for long periods of time but when he was around, the moments were special for Dick.  His mother ran a strict house and that helped Dick concentrate on baseball.  When he signed with the Phillies (who subsequently called him “Richie” on rosters and press releases) he had his first exposure to racism and discrimination when he played in Little Rock, Arkansas.  That brought a profound awareness to him on the civil rights movement and his views were note always popular with the media or the fans in Philadelphia, a city that was having its own problems with race riots in 1964.

Throughout the book, Allen is portrayed in a sympathetic light, explaining that many of the accusations made through the press are countered by either teammates, his manager or other personnel associated with the teams.  This was the case not only with the Phillies but also with the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, the other teams for whom Allen played in his career.  He enjoyed the best success in Chicago where twice he led the American League in home runs and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1972.  He then went back to the Phillies after expressing his desire to “retire” after the 1974 season.

After writing about Allen’s post-baseball life, Kashatus devotes the last chapter to making a pitch for Allen to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He uses today’s advanced statistics to make a favorable case for Allen that from strictly numbers, looks favorable when compared to legendary players who are already enshrined such as Harmon Killebrew.  It is the author’s belief that Allen has been kept out because of the media’s negative feelings toward him, both in the past and present.  This is a section that is one that is best left for the readers to make that judgement for themselves.

This is the second book on two years written about Allen and this one shows the player in a very favorable light.  If a reader was a fan of Dick Allen during his career, then this will one to add to his or her library.

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



Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying links:




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review of "Boston's 100 Greatest Games"

I will admit, I love to read books like this one.  Lists of the greatest or the worst of anything are sure to generate arguments, discussions and second guessers.  Even if I agree 100% or don't otherwise have a great interest in a subject, it is always interesting to read about someone's choice of the best. This book is one of those books - here is my review of "Boston's 100 Greatest Games."


Title/Author:
“Boston’s 100 Greatest Games” by Rob Sneddon

Tags:
Baseball, Football (American), ice hockey, basketball, Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics

Publish date:
February 15, 2017 (Third edition)

Length:
290 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  
Any book that contains a list of the greatest games, players or teams (or worst for that matter) is sure to generate conversation, arguments and second guessing.  When that happens, that means the book has done what it was supposed to do. This list of the 100 greatest games involving a Boston team by Rob Sneddon does that and a whole lot more.

What I liked best about the book was Sneddon’s explanation at the beginning that explained his criteria for selecting the game.  They were magnitude, closeness, level of play and historical context. This might hurt some teams that would otherwise be closer to the top – such as the 2007 Red Sox, who were champions soon after the 2004 edition broke the mythical “curse.” 

All four major sports and Boston professional teams are included, as well as Boston College and Harvard football and Boston University hockey.  Therefore, no matter what team a Boston fan roots for, he or she is sure to find that team represented in the book. The rankings, despite the explanation of the reason for them, are sure to generate debates, even amongst the fans of the same team. Which of the Patriots’ five Super Bowls was the best one? (Given the date of this third edition, most can figure out that answer)  Was winning the 2004 World Series the best moment for the Red Sox, or was it beating the Yankees that same year in the American League Championship Series after being down three games to none?  There are plenty of Celtics and Bruins moments as well and all four teams are represented in the top ten, so no bias toward one sport exists either.

Boston sports fans will want to pick up a copy of this book as the short story of each game will bring back great memories or let the fans learn a little history about their favorite teams.  Even those who are not Boston fans, like myself, but always like to find books like this for trivia information and a good debate will enjoy it just as well.

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

Book Format Read:
Paperback

Buying links:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reveiew of "The Cubs Way"

Having been a fan of Tom Verducci's work for Sports Illustrated and ESPN, I was thrilled to learn that he wrote a book on the 2016 Chicago Cubs.  Then when I saw he also narrated the audio version of the book, I knew I had to pick up a copy of the audiobook. Sometimes when I look so forward to a book like this, it lets me down because of the high expectations.  That was not the case with this one - an outstanding book on an outstanding baseball team. Here is my review of "The Cubs Way."


Title/Author:
“The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse” by Tom Verducci

Tags:
Baseball, history, Cubs, championship, audiobook

Publish date:
March 28, 2017

Length:
396 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Nearly everyone, including non-baseball fans, is aware of the story of the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 season.  Having not won the World Series since 1908, the team was led by a core of young position players and not only compiled the best record in baseball, they broke the so-called “curse” and defeated the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling 7-game World Series.  The story of how this championship team was built is told in this outstanding book by Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci.  He also narrated the audiobook, which was also done well.  Authors who narrate the audio version of their books help to lend an air of authority to the work.

The story of the team is told mostly through extensive interviews with Cubs president Theo Epstein and field manager Joe Maddon.  Both of them have ideas and viewpoints that go against the traditional way of building and managing a winning team, something that is noteworthy in the usually conservative business of baseball.  For example, many teams try to build their teams through pitching as there are plenty of clich├ęs and conventional thoughts that state pitching is more important. 

However, Epstein didn’t follow that model.  Instead, he concentrated on obtaining a core of talented position players who would live up to his standards for talent, character and leadership.  Between trades and the draft, Epstein found his core players.  First baseman Anthony Rizzo (trade), third baseman Kris Bryant (draft), catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber (draft) and shortstop Addison Russell (trade) make up that core and Verducci tells the reader why each of these players are so important to the team.  Oh, and as for pitchers – through some shrewd trades and free agent signings of veterans like Jon Lester and Jake Arrietta, that was addressed as well.

The best and most extensive writing, however, is saved for the lengthy passages about Maddon and his unorthodox approach to running his team.  Having already achieved success with the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon’s complete story with the Cubs is captured with humor, detail and inside information that he was more than happy to share with Verducci. The reader will feel like he or she is part of the Cubs clubhouse – which is one of those important details that helped change the culture of the team after it underwent a multi-million dollar upgrade.

If Cubs fans read only one book about their team’s magical 2016 season, this is the one they must read.  Even readers like me who are not Cubs fans but want to read about an excellent baseball team, this book should be added to their libraries.  Verducci can certainly fly the “W” with this winner of a book.

Book Format Read:
Audiobook

Buying links: