Sunday, November 22, 2020

Review of "Seven Days in Augusta"

While it felt very strange to watch the Masters in November, it was still an enjoyable experience, especially when Dustin Johnson put on a clinic for everyone to enjoy.  That led me to pick this book off the pile of ones to review since Georgia (Augusta) was on my mind.  Here is my review of "Seven Days in Augusta"



 Title/Author:

“Seven Days in Augusta: Behind the Scenes at the Masters” by Mark Cannizzaro

Tags:

Golf, professional, history, championship

Publish date:

March 10, 2020

Length:

256 pages 

Rating:

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:

No matter what level of golf fan or player one is, there is a good chance that person has heard of the Masters golf tournament.  Held in April every year (with the exception of 2020 when it was played in November) it is called “a tradition like no other” and very often it lives up to that billing.  This book by Mark Cannizzaro brings many of the characteristics of not only the tournament but also the city of Augusta, Georgia.

The title may lead one to think that the book is a guide throughout the week of the tourney and that is somewhat true.  Cannizzaro talks about many of the activities that take place before the actual tournament.  The chapter on the par 3 tourney on Wednesday is excellent as is the story of a fan who camps out every year on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning to make sure he gets a prime location – just behind the rope at the 18th green.  However, this doesn’t mean it follows a true chronological order of events throughout the week.  The closest this comes is the passages about the great triumphs (Phil Mickelson 2004, Tiger Woods 2019) and crushing collapses (Greg Norman 1996, Jordan Speith 2016) on Sunday. 

There is also excellent writing about the city and Washington Road’s bustle during the tourney and relative sleepiness the rest of the year as well as very good chapters on some landmarks unique to Augusta National such as the oak tree near the first tee and Butler Cabin where the winner is interviewed by Jim Nantz of CBS, the network that telecasts the tourney. Plenty of text on the actual golf played is present as well. The best of this is the 1997 tourney when Tiger Woods took the golf world by storm.  While all of these are reasons to enjoy the book, the overall organization of the book and the repetition of some points, such as Norman’s loss to Nick Faldo in 1996, tend to bog the book down.

Nonetheless, this book is one that anyone remotely interested in golf or the Masters should pick up for a quick and enjoyable read on the aforementioned “tradition like no other.”  If nothing else, these stories will live up to that billing.

I wish to thank Triumph 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/Seven-Days-Augusta-Behind-Masters/dp/162937749X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr


Monday, November 16, 2020

Review of "So Many Ways to Lose"

While I usually don't review books this far in advance of publication, this book was one that I just couldn't wait to read.  So instead of digging deep into the TBR pile, I plucked this one off the top and I wasn't disappointed - it was so hard to put down.  Here is my review on this great book on the New York Mets, "So Many Ways to Lose." 


Title/Author:

“So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin' True Story of the New York Mets – The Best Worst Team in Sports" by Devin Gordon

Tags:

Baseball, history, Mets, professional

Publish date:

March 2, 2021

Length:

352 pages

Rating: 

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:

Those who follow baseball, whether or not they are fans of the New York Mets, know that the team has a very interesting history that has more downs than ups.  This book written by journalist Devin Gordon, who makes it known from the start that he is a die-hard Mets fan, is certainly one of the most entertaining books a baseball reader can read. 

This book will grab a reader right from the start, as the introduction has two very important pieces one must know before diving in.  One is mentioned above and that is Gordon's love of the Mets.  The second is his definition of the "best worst team" and why the Mets are the perfect embodiment of that definition.  Briefly, it means that when they lose, they will often do it in spectacular fashion. This goes well beyond games, standings or championships.  He also explains why other teams that may fit the description of "best worst team" such as the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Vikings just don't do justice to that moniker – only the Mets will do.

That last sentence is written in a manner like much of this book is written – with plenty of humor and attitude that New York City is known to have.  That is the charm of this book, even if one is taken aback with that "attitude" in real life.  By writing in this style, Gordon gives authenticity to his claim about the Mets being that team.  He also will describe a particular event as being "Metsy" many times in the book.  This is another characteristic that makes this book so hard to put down.

As for what is covered in this book, it truly is a good source of the history of the team.  From its beginnings in the Polo Grounds, the historic bad records and Casey Stengel at the helm to the record breaking 2019 rookie season of Pete "Polar Bear" Alonso and just about everything in between, this book covers a lot of Mets territory.  Some of the more interesting parts of the book are the chapters on Joan Payson (someone that Gordon believes gets far too little credit for what she did to bring a National League team back to New York), "Bobby Bonilla Day", and Cleon Jones.  That last chapter on the treatment he received from the team will really leave a reader wondering how any team can treat a player like that.  Other good chapters include the "Midnight Massacre" when the Mets let Tom Seaver get away – twice, Mackey Sasser's yips and why Endy Chavez made "The Catch" instead of Willie Mays.  These are all written with knowledge, humor and attitude.

Any baseball reader, from the biggest Mets fan to the team's biggest detractors will enjoy reading this book as it will give fuel to both sides of the coin.  For those who aren't emotionally invested in the Mets, it's still a great book to get some perspective on the "best worst team in sports."

I wish to thank Harper Publications 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/So-Many-Ways-Lose-Mets_the/dp/0062940023/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Review of "He Crashed Me, So I Crashed Him Back"

While I have been following NASCAR for many years, this year marked a significant uptick in my NASCAR fandom.  With today being the finale of the 2020 season with the Championship 4 racing for the crown, it was only appropriate to review a NASCAR book.  This one about the 1979 season is a very good and entertaining read.  Here is my review of "He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back."



Title/Author:

“He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back” by Mark Bechtel

Tags:

Auto racing, NASCAR, professional, history

Publish date:

February 8, 2010

Length:

309 pages

Rating:

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:

One of the most famous scenes from the Daytona 500, “The Great American Race”, came in 1979 when Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough were fighting when they were involved in a wreck on the last lap of the race.  While that type of scene was not that uncommon for stock car racing at the time, what made it memorable was that a then-record television audience saw this drama play out. Because of a massive blizzard that affected most of the eastern and Midwestern part of the country, many snowbound viewers tuned into the CBS broadcast of the race.  This moment is considered by many to be the introduction of NASCAR to most of the country and is the backbone of this book on the 1979 NASCAR season by Mark Bechtel.

As Bechtel notes throughout the book, calling this moment a turning point for the sport doesn’t fully explain the how NASCAR became a bigger part of the American sports conscious that year.  Yes, the Daytona 500 may have had that fight, but it was far from the only exciting race that year and the best of them are captured by Bechtel in a manner that one doesn’t think that he or she is just reading rehashed newspaper accounts of the races. 

This is mainly because of the excellent portrayal of the sport’s biggest names at the time.  The first chapter in the book on the Pettys – Richard, who was the king of the sport then and his son Kyle, who was a rookie that year- sets the tone for how the stars of NASCAR will be portrayed in the book.  No matter which star driver from that era one wishes to read about, chances are the reader will find information on that driver in this book.  This is also the case for many others in the sport, including owners, crew chiefs, crew members and even the founding father of NASCAR, Bill France.  The story of how he supposedly made the rain stop in time for the Daytona 500 is very good and even will make one chuckle at the comparison to France controlling weather as much as God.

Like other sports books about a particular year, the politics and social movements of the time are covered and contrasted with racing as well.  For NASCAR, this is particularly notable for 1979 as the country faced a gasoline shortage.  The sport did well to protect its public image despite this problem. The other big news that affected the sport greatly was the introduction of a 24 hour sports cable station called ESPN in 1979.  Trying to continue to expand its exposure, NASCAR began building a relationship with the fledgling network that continued for many years.

NASCAR fans will enjoy reading about this watershed season for the sport, whether they saw these drivers and races from that era or only know about them through grainy highlights and stories passed down over the generations. It’s a great look into the sport and how 1979 planted the seeds to see NASCAR grow into what it is today.

Book Format Read:

E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                               

Buying Links:

https://www.amazon.com/He-Crashed-Him-Back-Earnhardt/dp/0316034029/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=   


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Review of "Macho Time"

Boxing is a sport I love to read about, as followers of this blog know, and one author whose work on the sweet science I truly love is Christian Guidice.  He has a new biography out on Hector "Macho" Camacho and it is just as good as his other works.  Here is my review. 

Title/Author:

“Macho Time: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of Hector Camacho” by Christian Guidice

Tags:

Boxing, professional, championship, biography

Publish date:

October 20, 2020

Length:

320 pages

Rating:

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:

Hector “Macho” Camacho was a boxer from the 1980’s and 1990’s who won over fans as much for his flash and his style as well as his fists.  He won titles in three different weight classes and had millions of fans, but he still had critics saying that he never reached his full potential. This was mainly due to his lifestyle outside the ring where drugs and partying at times took over his life.  His entire life, which ended tragically when he was shot in 2012, is captured in this great biography by Christian Guidice.

Guidce is a respected biographer of Latin American boxers, having previously authored well-received biographies of Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Gomez.  Just like the other three, Guidice leaves no area of Camacho’s life unturned. Interviews with many survivors of Camacho, including his mother, son, several trainers he had throughout his career and the mother of Hector Jr. help to portray a man filled with so much talent yet was very much a walking contradiction.

One of the best examples of this was an interview in the ring Camacho gave after a fight in which CBS announcer Tim Ryan was talking to Hector and Camacho was asking Ryan if he was his friend. Right there in the ring after a victory on live television, the “Macho Man” was showing a vulnerability that many did not know.  However, those who did know him felt that this was just one more time in many where Camacho would prove to be a very complicated individual.

Of course, Camacho’s boxing career is covered completely as well with some great passages of some of his more memorable fights, whether he won or lost.  Probably the best boxing passage in the entire book was when Camacho won a controversial split decision over Edwin Rosario. While he won that fight, many believed Camacho was never the same after that bout in which Rosario hurt him several times.  This came as a surprise to many who loved him and contrasted him to other great Latino boxers.  As Guidice writes, “Alexis Arguello had respect, Roberto Duran had cachet, Hector Camacho had presence.”  This “presence” was in the ring far longer than expected, however, when he later accepted big days against fighters who were also past their primes such as Sugar Ray Leonard.  It was a far cry from the fast and furious fighter that many Puerto Ricans came to love.

Boxing fans who remember Camacho’s career and his flair will want to pick up this book as well as those who enjoy a good biography of a famous fighter whose hard lifestyle helped bring an end to his life far too early.

I wish to thank Hamlicar Publications for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review                                                                           

Book Format Read:

E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                             

Buying Links:

https://hamilcarpubs.com/books/macho-time-the-meteoric-rise-and-tragic-fall-of-hector-camacho/

https://www.amazon.com/Macho-Time-Meteoric-Tragic-Camacho/dp/1949590135/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=