Monday, August 19, 2019

Review of "Soulman"

Since I have written reviews here of books on professional wrestling, I am posting a review of this memoir of Rocky Johnson, a very successful wrestler from the 1960's and 1970's whose son followed in his footsteps and became even more famous. Here is my review of "Soulman". 



Title/Author:
“Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story” by Rocky Johnson with Scott Teal

Tags:
Wrestling, professional, memoir

Publish date:
September 3, 2019

Length:
360 pages

Rating: to
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
A native of Nova Scotia, Wayde Bowles left home at 14 in order to pursue a career in first boxing, then professional wrestling, starting in the 1950’s and continuing well into the 1980’s, helping the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) become the gigantic entertainment company it is today as the WWE. Never heard of Wayde Bowles?  That could be because he wrestled under the name Rocky Johnson.  If you still haven’t heard of him, then maybe you have heard of his son.  His son followed in his footsteps into professional wrestling, then transformed into a movie actor.  The son’s name – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

With that introduction out of the way, this memoir written by the senior Johnson with wrestling author Scott Teal is a very good look at the life of Rocky Johnson in the days when professional wrestling was much more about the regional territories and when wrestlers of color, especially black wrestlers, were working hard to eliminate being cast into stereotypical, often insulting, roles.  Rocky was one of the trailblazers for this new type of black wrestler who gave fans excellent shows without resorting to racial stereotypes.

He writes about not only his childhood and early life with good detail, he also gives readers who are not familiar with the business of professional wrestling an excellent, in-depth look at the industry. He was well-traveled in his career, working in many different regions in the United States and in Canada.  He describes the promotion and management of the industry in great depth.  Readers will also learn about the communication between the wrestlers in the ring as they ensure that they follow the planned show discussed before heading into the ring.  A reader will also learn about how the “championship belts” get distributed to either babyfaces (good guys) or heels (bad guys) in order to maintain the highest level of interest.  This was the best aspect of the book.

Rocky also dedicates a chapter to the success of his son, but also talks about so many important people in the business – both inside and outside the ring – that this could almost be considered a Who’s Who book of professional wrestling from the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Rocky also stays very positive throughout the book by never truly insulting or badmouthing anyone.  He does have some negative comments about Tony Atlas when the two of them were tag team partners and Ole Anderson for some of his racist comments, but in both of these cases, Rocky explains why he felt this way.  Otherwise, he writes with fond memories of his time in the sport and with great pride at the success of Dwayne.

Any wrestling fan who is familiar with Rocky’s work or who wants to learn more about the business at that time should pick up this book.  Even at 360 pages, it is a page turner that won’t take a long time to read and is very entertaining as well.

I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                       
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Friday, August 16, 2019

Review of "Empire of Infields"

One of the perks of being a blogger is that I get to read books on a wide variety of sports-related topics.  Such as this one - I never imagined that baseball had such an impact on Taiwanese culture.  Sure, those of us a certain age will remember when Taiwan dominated the Little League World Series, but I never knew that the game has been a part of the island for a much longer period.  Here is my review of "Empire of Infields"



Title/Author:
“Empire of Infields: Baseball in Taiwan and Cultural Identity, 1895-1968” by John J. Harney

Tags:
Baseball, international, amateur, culture

Publish date:
July 1, 2019

Length:
240 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
While baseball has been an American sport since the mid-1800’s, some may not know that Japanese baseball has also been around since the 19th century and they brought the game to Taiwan, at the time a Japanese colony.  However, instead of viewing the game as a product of Japanese imperialism, Taiwan grew to embrace the game and used it for shaping its own cultural identity.  That point is brought to readers of this well-researched book by John J. Harney.

Harney, an assistant professor of history at Centre College in Danville Kentucky, takes the reader on a trip to the days when Taiwan was first a Japanese colony, then after World War II, an independent nation that would not become part of the people’s Republic of China.  Baseball played an important part of this history, as Japan brought the game to Taiwan via barnstorming tours by Japanese teams. They got the idea from the barnstorming American teams that came to Japan in the early 20th century. 

As the game grew in Taiwan, there are two teams that were notable for helping to shape not only the baseball identity of the island nation but also the overall culture as well.  There are three teams that Harney writes about to illustrate this relationship.  They are the Nenggao team from 1924, the Kano team of teenagers in 1931 (it is interesting to note this team was the most famous of the teams from this area, but they failed to win the championship in that year) and the 1968 Hongye schoolboy team.  This team was a preview of the dominance that Taiwan would show in the near future at the Little League World Series. The Hongye team is also notable in that the People’s Republic of China would use this team for its political narratives and embrace it to illustrate Chinese nationalism at a time when Taiwan and the mainland were in a bitter dispute.

There is very little writing about the actual game on the field as this is a scholarly work that is meant to educate readers about the culture of Taiwan and how baseball became a part of that culture instead of just going away when the island was no longer a Japanese colony when World War II ended.  Readers who are interested in works on Taiwanese or Far Eastern history or culture will want to pick up this book.  

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                       
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Monday, August 12, 2019

Review of "Lady Tigers of the Concrete Jungle"

While I have written a review of this book, words really can't describe the incredible uplifting feeling one will have when finishing this book.  A rag-tag team that eventually was honored at Yankee Stadium, the Mott Lady Tigers are a softball team that meant so much more than just the sport itself.  Here is my review of this book.





Title/Author:

“Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle: How Softball and Sisterhood Saved Lives in the South Bronx” by Dibs Baer

Tags:
Softball, high school, society

Publish date:
October 1, 2019

Length:
336 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
It isn’t often that a team in any sport that goes 1-6 for its season will have a book written about it. However, the story of the very first girls’ softball team for Mott Middle School in the South Bronx is truly inspiring for not only the players, many of whom had incredible challenges in their lives but also for the coach who wanted to make a difference in the lives of these girls.  How the team was formed and their amazing journey is the subject of this wonderful book by magazine writer and editor Dibs Baer.

Mott is not just any middle school – it is one of the most violent, statistically underachieving schools in the nation.  The neighborhood is known for its gang activity and violence and the students who live in that environment bring it with them to school. Fights among all students are commonplace, with many staff members and teachers fearful for their safety. One particularly troubling tale involved a female teacher who was pushed down while eight months pregnant by another student who screamed at the teacher that she hoped that she would lose her baby.  Many stories like this are used to illustrate the atmosphere of the school.

Enter Chris Astacio. Having endured his own troubled past with the death of his older sister, he decided to enter the teaching profession to make a difference in the lives of young people. His first position was as a physical education teacher at Mott.  After seeing the atmosphere in which he was working, he decided to start a girls’ softball team. This despite the fact he had no financial backing from school administration, no equipment, no uniforms, and even no players.

The first day of tryouts was held in the gymnasium with only a Wiffle ball and bat. A few girls showed up, at first just because it was another way to avoid class or authority. Slowly but surely not only did more girls join the team, Coach Astacio was able to raise funds for equipment and uniforms. His players all had their own unique heartbreaking stories and they all had various issues, from failing grades to less than ideal home situations to violence (one player loved to fight anyone who dared look at her wrong) to sexual abuse.  While it was hard to read some of these stories during the book, it made their eventual journey all that more satisfying.

It should also be mentioned that no only did Astacio lose his sister, he was also a stomach cancer survivor. This made him even more determined to make this softball team a success and something that would provide a positive atmosphere and experience for the players who have endured so much. This dedication, and the strain it put on his marriage and home life, is told in rich detail by Baer.

“But what about the team?  How did they do?”  Well, as one might expect, they struggled on the field to start, losing badly in their first game.  As they played more, they got better but still did not win a game.  However, in their last game of their first season, they had to finish against another Lady Tigers team, this one more experienced and the one that gave them that big loss in the first game. No spoilers as I won’t give away the score, but it is safe to say that the Mott Lady Tigers team in that rematch was certainly more unified, more skilled and more ready to play even though the people were the same.

It is often said that sports can bring people together from a wide range of backgrounds.  This softball team is a great example of that concept coming true and the inspiration a reader will feel while navigating the pages of this team’s players and coach is truly remarkable. I was talking back to the book, in the same language (not always clean) that the players use and Baer’s use of that dialogue gives it a certain air of authenticity that this story is one of the more remarkable ones in sports.  The team and Coach Astacio have been honored in many ways, including by the New York Yankees, whose ballpark is in that area.  If a reader wants to be inspired, then pick up this book.

I wish to thank Pegasus Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 
                                                                     
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                                

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Review of "All the Way"

Upon learning that Joe Namath had published a memoir, I was interested to see what he wrote about his life off the football field - everything from his famous playboy lifestyle to the infamous interview with Suzy Kolber.  There was some, but not a lot - much like the rest of the book will read for those who want to know more about his football.  Here is my review of "All the Way"



Title/Author:

“All The Way: My Life in Four Quarters” by Joe Namath

Tags:
Football (American), Professional, memoir, Jets

Publish date:
May 21, 2019

Length:
240 pages

Rating: 
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Review: 
When one adds up other books written about Joe Namath, whether about his football career, his famous off-the-field lifestyle or maybe even hearing about these from television, there isn’t a lot about him that hasn’t already been revealed. Nevertheless, Namath decided to tell his story in this memoir.

However, “memoir” might not be the best way to categorize this book as it really has no category. The book’s setting is Namath’s living room in which he is watching a replay of the game that made him famous to many Americans, Super Bowl III. Namath weaves tales of his childhood in western Pennsylvania and his college days at Alabama playing for coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.  (I particularly liked his story about his admission to having a drink to Bryant and his subsequent suspension off the team.  It was good to illustrate both Namath’s honesty – a trait he often mentions throughout the book – and Bryant’s consistency in enforcing rules.  There are other stories about his teammates and football career as well as other stories about his life in between memories of the game. 

There really is no structure or order to these stories – they are simply written as Namath thinks of them. Some of them are pretty obscure and some of them are famous, such as when he guaranteed that the Jets would win the Super Bowl even though they were eighteen point underdogs. Another moment discussed is one for which he apologizes and states that was when he realized that he had a drinking problem. That was the infamous interview with ESPN football reporter Suzy Kolbert in which Namath wanted to kiss her when he was intoxicated. 

While these anecdotes seem to have no structure, they are certainly entertaining and enjoyable to read.  Fans who are old enough to remember Super Bowl III will particularly enjoy the snippets of the game shared by Namath. I say “snippets” because like Namath’s life stories, not every play is remembered by Namath, even when he is “watching” the game with the reader.

This is a book that fans of Namath will certainly enjoy, but in no way is it a comprehensive look at his life or even Super Bowl III.  Mark Kreigle’s book on Namath is that complete picture and this one is a nice conversation Namath has with the reader over a day of watching football – even if that football game is 50 years old.

I wish to thank Little, Brown and Company for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                 
Book Format Read:
E-book(Kindle)                                                                                                                                

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https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-the-way-joe-namath/1128997677?ean=9780316421096#/

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Review of "For the Good of the Game"

Bud Selig will NEVER be on my holiday card list - I have disliked the man since he proposed contracting the Twins and Expos in 2001.  So why in the world would I read and review his new memoir?  I was curious on what he had to say on this and other controversial topics during his time as commissioner, and while I didn't agree with him often, I found the book a compelling read and have to give credit, it is a good book. So, with that said, here is my review of "For the Good of the Game." 



Title/Author:
“For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball” by Bud Selig

Tags:
Baseball, Professional, business, memoir, history, Brewers

Publish date:
July 9, 2019

Length:
336 pages

Rating: to
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
From working for his dad as a used car salesman “for only one year” to becoming the ninth commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig lived a charmed life, capped off by being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame.  His work in baseball, first as an owner of the Milwaukee Brewers (and being the key person to bringing the bankrupt Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee) and then as commissioner is remembered by Selig in this memoir.

Anyone who is familiar with the game knows that Selig was commissioner during two of the game’s most trying times – the 1994-95 strike that resulted in cancellation of the World Series and the era in the 1990’s and early 2000’s in which many players took performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) in order to gain a competitive edge and as a result, broke many of the sport’s most revered records. While Selig covers those topics thoroughly, there is much more to the book that does reveal the joy that baseball brings to him and the passion he has specifically for Milwaukee baseball.

This is evident in the very first chapter, as Selig talks about his anguish about having to be present at the ballpark when Barry Bonds would break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. He didn’t spend much time criticizing Bonds, but instead was talking about how much of a friend Aaron was to him, going back to Aaron’s time in Milwaukee, both early in his career with the Milwaukee Braves and the end of career with the Brewers. This line about Bonds’ breaking of the record with the controversy of PED’s and Bonds’ surly personality speaks volumes about Selig’s view on the record – “We didn’t get the genie back in the bottle in time to protect Aaron’s legacy.” 

Selig writes that he started addressing the PED issue back in 1997, before the great home run chase between two other players caught up in the scandal ,Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa.  He states that while he cared, he may not have been forceful enough between the language in that memo and subsequent actions. Selig compared his memo to the one his predecessor, Fay Vincent, sent in 1991 as “well intentioned but lacking teeth.”  This is how he addresses his critics who say that he ignored the issue while fans flocked to the ballpark watching Sosa and McGuire. He also placed a lot of blame at the feet of the players union, stating that they were always more concerned about the privacy of the players instead of allowing drug testing. He also used the 2005 Congressional hearings in which Sosa, McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro appeared as one to blame the union, stating in the book that “there were only so many times that I could say ‘We would have a much tougher program if the union would agree.’”

This is an interesting passage in the scope of labor relations, a topic Selig addresses frequently in the book. Along those lines, he does note that in reality, the commissioner does work for the owners as they appoint him to the job.  He admits that the owners had not been united and did not have great leadership for labor relations for 30 years, resulting in the strikes in 1981, 1985 and 1994.  He called the negotiations as a “one-sided nature” for those 30 years, yet fails to also mention that for decades before that, it was strongly one-sided the other way with the reserve clause. These are a few examples in which it appears Selig is either contradicting himself (such as his praise for Marvin Miller) or trying to appease everyone with his actions on these two matters.

What was also noteworthy to me was his lack of mention of some other topics during his reign that caused some controversy. One of these was the proposal to contract the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos – he briefly mentions this when talking about the struggles the Expos had to get a new stadium built with public funds. He didn’t even mention the Twins were one of the clubs on the chopping block. He has always avoided this topic, even when some give him credit for forcing the issue of a new stadium in Minnesota resulting in the building of Target Field.  

That is surprising, considering how much of the book was self-congratulatory in nature.  Some of that is expected as there were some good accomplishments during Selig’s time as commissioner, such as the wild card inclusion in postseason play, use of instant replay to determine close calls when challenged by a manager and yes, drug testing.  While that kind of dialogue will be present in any memoir, it was a continuous theme throughout this book. 

So with all of this seemingly negative critique, why is the book a solid four stars?  Because it is compelling – I enjoyed reading this. I spent an entire afternoon choosing to read this book instead of watching a Yankees-Red Sox game. If a book can capture my attention away from a great rivalry game, that means the book is very interesting and entertaining.  One doesn’t have to be a fan of the Brewers or Selig to enjoy this – heaven knows I was never a fan of him and even after reading this book, I am still not – but readers who are at all interested in this era of the sport, no matter how they felt about him, should take a look at the book.

Book Format Read:
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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Review of "Nolan Ryan" - guest post by The Sports Book Lady

I belong to a few online book clubs on the social media site Goodreads, and one of them is a baseball book club.  Some of us decided to read this book as a group read, and while I enjoyed it, rated it four stars and wrote a review; another member of the group, the Sports Book Lady (who co-moderates the baseball book club with me) wrote an even better review.  Therefore, instead of following my usual format for posting a review of a book I have read, I am going to post her review here of "Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher."


Rating:
4 of 5 stars

Review:

I have always had a wild imagination. It’s the type that forbids me from watching scary movies past 3 in the afternoon. I used to think Darth Vader was coming for me in the shower among other things. Yet, what stands out is a recurring nightmare that I had through my adolescent years. I would be in a tunnel that was fast filling with water and a shark was out to get me until the great Nolan Ryan quickly pulled me to safety through a door on the side. I would be gasping for breath in the comforts of a baseball stadium and Ryan would save the day yet again, this time on the mound. Why, I ask, Nolan Ryan, if I am a Cubs fan to the core and greatest Chicago athlete when I was growing up was Michael Jordan? I still question this nightmare but I do remember watching Ryan’s final no hitter on ESPN and vaguely remember him pitching for the Houston Astros when I first started following baseball during the mid 1980s. When my baseball book buddies decided to read Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher, I was on board to join them if only to deconstruct the man who has been among the best to ever put on a baseball uniform. 


The Ryan family were among the earliest settlers of Texas when the Republic fought for its independence from Mexico. The Ryans had originally immigrated to the colonies as early as 1760 to escape Irish brutality at the hands of the British. Following the war for independence in 1776, the Ryans eventually settled in Mississippi and later played a role in the battle of the Alamo, settling on farm land near Bexar that they dubbed Old Ryan’s Hill. By the time Nolan Ryan was born in 1945, the youngest of six children to Nolan, Sr and Martha, the Ryan family had been in Texas for one hundred years and were products of the so called Texas mystique. Nolan Sr and Martha would settle in the small farming community of Alvin and along the way pass on a strong work ethic and family values to their children. Although their youngest enjoyed farming and cattle, little did they know that his arm and ability to throw a baseball upwards of 95 miles an hour would have him destined toward fame. 


In Alvin, the best entertainment was a movie, a night at the legion hall, or an ice cream at the Dairy Barn. Nolan took his future wife Ruthie on a date to these town staples for the first time when he was sixteen and she a mere fifteen. The chemistry was instant and the couple was promised to each other from that moment on. Nolan already possessed a strong arm and would drive to Houston if the Dodgers were in town to watch his idol Sandy Koufax pitch. Little did either man know that one day Nolan would surpass all of Koufax’s numbers. By the time Koufax retired following the 1966 season, Nolan would sign with the New York Mets. Scouts and management envisioned him as a cog of a young pitching staff that included future Hall of famer Tom Seaver. Nolan would rise meteorically and join the Mets by the end of 1967 but was sparsely used. He credits management’s inability to use him with extending his career as long it did because he logged so few innings at the beginning. In the 1967 offseason Nolan and Ruthie were married and he reported immediately to spring training. It was Ruth’s presence in New York and her insistence that he stay the course that kept him grounded in an otherwise poor relationship with Mets management. Ruth has been a part of all of Nolan’s baseball decisions since and has been a rock for him at every stop of his baseball journey, twice convincing him not to give up when he had a bright future ahead of him. 


Nolan Ryan would move to the upper echelon of baseball pitchers while a member of the California Angels during the 1970s. Playing away from the bright lights of New York and on a team largely out of contention, Ryan came into his own as a pitcher. With the team he would throw four no hitters, strike out 383 batters in one season, and one year lead the league in strikeouts, wins, and earned run average. The achievements and accolades started to pile up, yet Ryan never envisioned himself as a top pitcher. He worked hard because his father, a product of the Depression, worked hard, and Nolan sought to earn a living to support his family. During the off seasons, he would return to Texas and take up cattle ranching, developing a lucrative business that over time would include four ranches and his own brand of beefsteak. If Nolan, known in baseball as the Ryan Express, had chosen to retire during this earlier portion of his career, he knew that he had a Texas sized empire of ranching to fall back on. 


Ryan would pitch the last fourteen years of his career for the two teams in Texas, the Astros and the Rangers, in order to be closer to his home in Alvin. Both he and Ruth were family oriented people and the chance to live at home while competing at the highest levels of athleticism was a tantalizing prospect. Ryan credits Dr Gene Coleman of the Astros and pitching coach Tom House of the Rangers for using technological innovations to help prolong his career. Using cutting edge training methods as well as the budding use of computer technology to chart Ryan’s pitch delivery and use of various pitches, Coleman and House kept Ryan on the top of his game well into his forties, at a time when most professional athletes had long called it quits. During years meant to be the twilight’s of his career, Ryan pitched three more no hitters, including one at age forty four. As pitchers become more specialized and fail to pitch deep into games, his records of seven no hitters and 5714 strikeouts with twenty seven years in the major leagues will probably never be broken. 


Through it all, Ryan stayed grounded. He and Ruth are still happily married and could teach a lesson or two to the athletic and celebrity couples of today’s generation. The author Goldman was a bat boy for the Angels during Ryan’s tenure there and got to know the family off the field, becoming like another child for them. It is from this close relationship that Goldman was able to provide a window into Ryan’s life on and off of the field, where he was able to separate from being a Texas gentleman and fierce competitor who instilled fear in the eyes of his opponents. As a ten year old, Ryan is the athlete who I chose to lead me to safety from my nightmares. As an ace pitcher who was grounded in his values and his family, Ryan was probably a perfect choice. His Ryan Express fast ball most likely would have also instilled as much fear in the shark of my nightmares as it did in his opponents across two generations of ball players, as well as today’s ball players who still revere him as an ace hurler. 


4 stars


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Review of "Here and Gone"

This book's main topic was one in which I have always been fascinated: sports teams that folded or otherwise ceased operations.  When author John Rust sent me an email to ask if I was interested in reviewing this book, I certainly wasted no time in responding and his book was everything I could hope for, even if a couple teams that I remember seeing didn't make it into the book (thinking of the Danbury Trashers hockey team and the Minnesota Kicks soccer team), but he still did a nice job of sharing stories about failed teams and leagues.  Here is my review of "Here and Gone"


Title/Author:
“Here and Gone: Short-Lived Sports Teams and Leagues” by John Rust

Tags:
Baseball, basketball, football (American), soccer, ice hockey, history, short stories

Publish date:
September 24, 2018

Length:
171 pages

Rating: to
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Sports fans are familiar with the scenario: a brand new team or league is formed with expectations that people will come out and support a sports team in a new venue or a new team that replaces one that folded or moved away.  Then problems arise, from lack of funds to lack of fans to poor management and the team is gone, with not many people even noticing or caring.  However, author John Rust did care enough to write a book of essays about teams and leagues that did not last for long.

What is most impressive about the book is that Rust covers five different sports over a long time frame and was able to find information about some of the more obscure teams and leagues.  How many fans realize that there have been professional volleyball leagues?  Or that lacrosse has tried to start several leagues?  Well, Rust talks about these sports and some of the least known teams in those short start-ups. These are mixed in with writings about teams in some of the more well-known leagues that had short lives.  Leagues in this category include the World Football League, the United States Football League, the World Hockey Association and the American Basketball Association.  The latter name was used multiple times for basketball leagues and Rust covers all of them.

The teams also cover a wide range of geography and unusual names, such as the Minnesota Fighting Pike,  This team’s name, even though it lasted only one season in 1996, is still considered to one of the top ten names in the history of Arena Football. Interesting trivia like this make the book entertaining – at least more so on top of the stories of why the various teams failed.  As mentioned, it usually was due to poor management, a lack of fans or a lack of money.  That isn’t always the case as Rust also includes some incidents of criminal behavior and the sad story of a college basketball team that was popular on campus and played very well but was not well-received by the town because of the presence of black players so they ceased operations after only two years. 

Because this is a collection of stories about these teams, the book can be read in as short or long a session as a reader wished.  The usual characteristic of a book structured like this also is true – namely, that not every story will be a terrific one for every reader.  Also, as Rust notes in the epilogue, he doesn’t write about all the failed teams and leagues because there are just so many.  So he had to use his judgement while doing his research on which ones to include. Overall, this is a very good book for readers who, like me, are fascinated with stories about teams that had a very short life in the world of professional sports.

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

Book Format Read:
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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Review of "Babe Ruth: A Superstar's Legacy"

No matter how much I like a book, it is very rare that I finish one in one sitting.  But that was the case with this book that talks about a different aspect of Babe Ruth, one about his legacy and what it means to people and business.  It was a fascinating account of how the man continues to inspire many today, 70 years after his passing.  Here is my review of "Babe Ruth: A Superstar's Legacy."



Title/Author:
“Babe Ruth: A Superstar’s Legacy” by Jerry Amernic

Tags:
Baseball, Professional, business

Publish date:
March 9, 2018

Length:
296 pages

Rating: to
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
With so many books written about one of the most influential athletes in American sports history, it is hard to find new material about Babe Ruth.  However, this book by Jerry Amernic which covers the legacy and marketing of Babe Ruth, which is still going strong more than 70 years after his death, is one for reader who are craving new information on the Bambino.

This book certainly cannot be considered a biography as there is very little coverage of Ruth’s entire life.  Of course, that information needs to be at least mentioned at times to convey the message that Amernic is telling throughout the book, but Ruth’s personal life and his baseball career take a back seat to the fascinating world of how his legend grew and stays strong today. How strong? The students in a current college course all know who Babe Ruth is and what he accomplished save for one student – and he is an exchange student from Nigeria. This story is used to illustrate just how large the man’s legacy still is today.

That legacy grew because of two aspects of Ruth’s personality that are discussed several times in the book by so many people who knew him. They are his genuine compassion for others and his special fondness for children. Stories are shared by so many, from former teammates and business associates to his daughter Julia Ruth Stevens.  Even though Julia was technically Babe’s stepdaughter, as she was the daughter of wife Claire from a previous marriage, she held Babe close to her heart and still does at 98.  She plays a prominent role in this book, popping up several times to make appearances at special events such as awarding the Babe Ruth Home Run award at Yankee Stadium in 2008. 

One other aspect of Ruth’s trait noted in the book that should be mentioned is his progressive views on racial integration in baseball. While it is known he did barnstorming tours with black players and one in Japan, what is interesting to learn here is a baseball historian’s perspective is that Ruth never got to be a manager in the major leagues because of this position. With the color barrier still in force when he retired as a player in 1935, it was well-known that he wanted to manage a team, but was never given the chance. The supporting documentation for this historian’s belief was very interesting reading. 

Even with all of this positive information on Ruth, what really makes this book stand out is the sheer amount of money and reverence his name brings whenever it is mentioned in the marketing world, especially sports memorabilia.  A very interesting fact from the book a reader will learn is that of the 15 most expensive sports memorabilia items ever sold, seven of them are related to Ruth. That includes a Yankees jersey worn by Ruth in 1920 that sold for $4.4 million in 2012. Charlie Sheen is mentioned as he made a nice profit selling Ruth items. It is noted that his signature is one of the most sought after not only in terms of dollars, but also because it is very recognizable and legible.  Also noteworthy is the questionable reason that the Curtiss Candy Company denied that Ruth was the genesis of it’s naming of the Baby Ruth candy bar as Amernic puts doubt in the claim that the name came from President Grover Cleveland’s daughter.

Publishing a book on Babe Ruth that contains a lot of original material that hasn’t already been published in other books on him takes a lot of work, research and some excellent writing and Amernic pulls it off with this one.  It is a fascinating look at the legend and business of Babe Ruth and anyone with any interest in him, whether a baseball fan or not, should read this book.

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

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