Monday, September 20, 2021

Review of "The Case for Barry Bonds"

 Realizing that just the title may evoke strong reactions for this review, I will start with this disclaimer: I am in the camp that believes Barry Bonds should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and like the book and this review states, the book did not change my mind nor is that an objective of the book.  I do believe this is worth reading whether or not one agrees with this author.  Here is my review of "The Case for Barry Bonds."  


Title/Author: "The Case for Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame: The Untold and Forgotten Stories of Baseball's Home Run King" by K. P. Wee

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: Barry Bonds is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of Major League Baseball for many reasons.  Of course, the main reason is the allegations of his use of performance enhancing drugs while setting the all time record for home runs – one of the most hallowed records in all of sports.  Add in his personality and his frequent disdain of the press and you have a few of the main reasons given why as of this review, he has yet to be elected by baseball writers to the Hall of Fame. This book by K. P. Wee tells many reasons why he should be enshrined.

To Wee's credit, he realizes that many people are already set in their minds about Bonds and his worthiness to be enshrined or to hold the records that he does. He also acknowledges at the beginning of the book that he very likely will not change the minds of those who have such strong beliefs about Bonds, either way.  Instead, he states that the book is written to tell about relationships with former teammates, stories and statistics that have not been widely reported.

To that extent, the book does do what it sets out to do, although there are several stories that are repeated many times during the book.  One example of this is that despite the coverage of the argument between Bonds and his manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time (1991), Jim Leyland, the two men have a strong friendship that endures to this day and the argument was something that was blown out of proportion.  This is one of many repetitive points, some of which come about because some of the players interviewed are quoted multiple times in different chapters.

Speaking of the chapters, each one is about either a reason that voters may cite in order to not vote for Bonds or reasons that the author believes are used in order to withhold a vote for Bonds.  Wee will either point to double standards with these reasons (why is so-and-so given a pass while Bonds is criticized for it?) or will provide evidence that disputes the claim.  This makes up the bulk of the book and even though Wee may have stated that he was simply trying to set the record straight, it comes across as either excuses to those against Bonds being inducted or items that Bonds supporters will gleefully use without careful thought.

In the end, it was a book that I thought tried to carry out its mission and was substantial but missed its mark on trying to be objective.  Not that there is anything wrong with that and even if more people disagree with Wee than agree, he at least accomplishes one goal of presenting a case for Bonds to be included in the Hall of Fame.

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

Links: Amazon.com: The Case for Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame: The Untold and Forgotten Stories of Baseball’s Home Run King: 9781626015821: Wee, K.P.: Books

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review of "Tony Lazzeri"

With apologies for the long period of no reviews, I am back to reviewing after getting my personal schedule settled.  This book is one that those who are not familiar with Tony Lazzeri and what he meant to the Italian-American population in the 1920's and 1930's should read.  Like me, readers will learn a lot about not only the man, but also about the social inequities that this population was facing.

Title/Author: "Tony Lazzeri: Yankees Legend and Baseball Pioneer" by Lawrence Baldassaro

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: When one thinks of the 1927 New York Yankees, the first names that come to mind are Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  However, they were far from the only two fine baseball players on that historic team.  One was Tony Lazzeri, whose main claim to fame prior to 1927 came the previous October when he struck out in the World Series against Grover Cleveland Alexander with the bases loaded.  Unfortunately, history was not kind to Lazzeri for many years afterward because of that one strikeout but that was eventually corrected and Lazzeri became a member of the baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, 45 years after his untimely death at age 42.  Lazzeri's life and career is captured in this book by Lawrence Baldassaro.

The structure is the same basic format as most sports biographies – accounts of Lazzeri's family and his childhood in the hometown.  In his case, that is San Francisco.  Then it covers his career and important personal events, a detailed account of not only the baseball on the field but also important events and implications off the field and finally his life after baseball.  Some parts of this are short, such as the latter because he died soon after his baseball career was over but overall the book is well organized and reads well.

There are two big takeaways from reading this book, especially if the reader knows little about Lazzeri.  One is that no matter how good his statistics were (and they were VERY good for an extended period in the 1920's and 1930's) there was always something to overshadow them.  If not the strikeout in 1926 mentioned earlier, it would be the success of his teammates like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, or it would be the press coverage that would make slurs of his Italian heritage.  At the time, as Baldassaro reminds the reader, slurs like "dago" and "wop" were common in putting down Italians.

However, the second big takeaway from the book is that despite this negative press, Lazzeri's success was an inspiration to Italian-Americans and gave them a baseball hero they could look up to, follow in the newspaper or in the stands and point out with pride that he was one of theirs.  Lazzeri never shied away from this, despite being mostly private. While he was considered an excellent teammate by those he played with, he always preferred to keep his personal life private, something that wasn't always successful. 

Despite all of this, many do agree, then and now, that Lazzeri deserves his place in baseball history both for his representation of his ethnicity and his performance on the field.  Even though he did not complete his career as a Yankee, playing briefly for the Cubs, Giants and the minor league Toronto Maple Leafs before ending his playing days, he is considered to be one of the all time Yankee greats.  After reading this book, the reader will understand why that is the case.

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

Links: https://www.amazon.com/Tony-Lazzeri-Yankees-Baseball-Pioneer-ebook/dp/B08MPVSJ1X/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/nebraska/9781496216755/

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Blog tour - "Striking for Ford" (non-sports)

 

BLOG TOUR POST

Striking for Ford by Alan Dixon


Summary:

A wry look at the 1978 winter of discontent, seen through the eyes of a trainee personnel officer in a militant Liverpool car factory. An insight into the vanished world of a polarised society of petrol queues, three million unemployed, public service strikes and a socialist government unexpectedly trounced by Margaret Thatcher in May 1979.


Information about the Book

Title: Striking for Ford

Author: Alan Dixon

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 24th August 2021

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Striking-Ford-Alan-Dixon/dp/1913962377


Author Information

Alan Dixon was born in Luton to a large family of coal miners and manufacturers. When Vauxhall Cars opened in Ellesmere Port, his father took a job as a foreman, moving the family north. Initially bullied for being a southerner, Dixon would develop a thirst for literature and learning; unlike his peers, Dixon became the first in his family to go to university, studying politics and sociology at Lancaster. Having completed an MA and been captivated by the Labour Party Young Socialists, he was fuelled by a desire for social justice as he entered the workplace. He was recruited as a graduate trainee with blue chip company Ford, working over three years in a variety of training and staff personnel roles. In 1982 he joined ICI Agrochemicals as Personnel Manager of the company’s main agrochemical formulation and packing plant. He became HR Director of UK manufacturing for Zeneca Pharmaceuticals in 1990 where he was responsible for three sites and 3500 people. In 2001 he left manufacturing to join Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals Commercial as a Regional HR Director. Today he works as a self-employed consultant and lives in Wilmslow, Cheshire, although a part of his heart still lives in Speke.



Tour Schedule



Monday 25th August

Turn the Page Blog


Friday 27th August

Alex’s Books


Sunday 29th August

The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books


Tuesday 31st August

Bookish Blue


Thursday 2nd September

Big Book Little Book


Saturday 4th September

C is for Claire Reads


RATING: 4 stars of 5

REVIEW: Alan Dixon was a young personnel manager when hired by the Ford plant in Liverpool in 1978. Little did he know he would be walking into a tempest of union activity, strikes, and other actions that would soon be frowned upon by the new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. His accounting of that time at the Ford plant is an entertaining read even if one is not familiar with this history, as I was not. Being an American, I did not realize there was a Ford plant in Liverpool.

It is not unusual for automakers to have plants in various countries to save on labor and material costs so a Ford plant there wasn't the surprise - the surprise to me was that the auto union was not as strong, even before Thatcher's Conservative party took power. Here in the United States the United Auto Workers is one of the nation's strongest unions and from the reading about the conditions of the workers, what they had to do in order to obtain items such as an advance in their pay and other amenities, it was clear they were not close to the strength of their American brethren.

But that isn't the big takeaway I had with this book - what I got out of it was a fascinating look at not only Britain's industrial and political landscape at the time but a good inside look at what a young personnel manager had to endure at that time and how he lived his life outside the office - which still revolved around working. There is even a hint at a romantic story for awhile which usually turns me off, but in this case it made the characters more human instead of just figures to read about in a book. No matter where you may reside, "Striking For Ford" is an enjoyable read for a lighter version of a very deep topic.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review of "The Big East"

Even though my college basketball loyalties remain with the Big Ten and Minnesota, I enjoyed watching Big East basketball, especially in its heyday of the 1980s.  This book about the history of the conference is recommended reading for every fan of that time.  Here is my review of "The Big East" 

Title/Author: "The Big East: Inside the Most Entertaining and Influential Conference in College Basketball History" by Dana O’Neil

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: No matter what loyalties a college basketball fan may have to a school or conference, chances are that the fan will have at least a few great memories of watching Big East basketball.  It might be the thrilling six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut in 2009, the 1985 NCAA championship game in which Villanova shocked favored Georgetown or when Providence made an improbable run to the Final Four in 1987 under Rick Pitino. These are just a few of the highlights of the conference’s many accomplishments in this excellent book about the Big East by Dana O’Neil.

The book isn’t all about the action on the court.  No book on the Big East would be complete without the story of how the conference’s first commissioner, Dave Gavitt, took an idea to bring eastern schools together to form a conference to make east coast basketball improve on its dismal record of only producing three NCAA championships in 40 years.  But thanks to some shrewd talking, handshake deals and a new all-sports network called ESPN that was looking for programming to fill its airwaves, Gavitt brought together seven schools to form the Big East conference and from there, it almost immediately became a basketball powerhouse.

O’Neil brings some great storytelling to chronicle not only Gavitt’s wheeling and dealing to get the conference together, but she also describes his insistence that all schools not only share the wealth that would be generated but also should share in the glory and build up a program worthy of championship contention. While even the most casual fan will remember some of the greatest Big East teams of the 1980’s such as Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown teams, nearly every school who was a member of the conference between its inception in 1979 and its near collapse when Syracuse and Pittsburgh left in 2013.

The influence of football schools joining, which started in 1993 with the addition of Miami among others, is when O’Neil argues the conference really started to lose its luster that Gavitt and company worked so hard to gain. It seemed almost painful to read about the conference succumbing to football interests after the story of Gavitt convincing everyone who would listen that the conference tourney should be held in Madison Square Garden. 

The Big East conference changed the college basketball landscape forever and this book is a very worthy telling of that story. O’Neil has written about the conference for ESPN and her knowledge and connections to the most important people in Big East lore shows.  Any fan of college basketball from the 1980’s and 1990’s should read this book.

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

Link:  The Big East: Inside the Most Entertaining and Influential Conference in College Basketball History: O'Neil, Dana: 9780593237939: Amazon.com: Books

 


Monday, August 16, 2021

Review of "Hail Mary"

I like to believe that I know a lot about old defunct sports leagues, but when I first learned about this book, I had no idea there was a professional women's football league that existed in the 1970's.  Thank you to the author, Britni de la Cretaz, for writing this book to introduce the league and its player to those of us who will learn a lot about it.  Here is my review of "Hail Mary"


Title/Author: "Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women's Football League" by Britni de la Cretaz

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: When Sid Friedman, a talent agent from Cleveland, thought about creating a women's football team to do barnstorming tours and make a few bucks in the process, little did he realize that he found women who not only wanted to play the game, but play hard and compete – to do the same things that make the men's version of the sport so popular.  This led to the creation of the National Women's Football League (NWFL) that had a brief life in the 1970s but impacted many women.  This book by Britni de la Cretaz tells about not only the league, but the stories of the players and their teams.

Some of the teams featured in the book are the Detroit Demons, the Houston Herricanes and the Los Angeles Dandilions.  But far and away the most successful NWFL team, both before and during the time of the league, was the Toledo Troopers.  Their stories make for some of the best reading in the book, along with those about the best player on the team Linda Jefferson. Jefferson's story is first told early in the book and that sets the tone for what every woman wanted – to be recognized as legitimate players of a sport they loved.

As for organizing these teams into the NWFL, that wasn't done by Friedman (who attempted to form a league with teams from the Ohio and Pennsylvania areas) but instead by several businessmen left mainly by Bob Mathews.  Mathews had more foresight than Friedman in that he knew that he needed more than hype to sell the game – he needed organization, a schedule, fans, marketing, media coverage, financial backing and much more.  Sadly, he and the other owners never really obtained that to what was needed and the league was out of business soon after the 1979 season. 

Reading about the teams, the structure of the league and what eventually led to its demise was very good and it is clear that de la Cretaz did excellent research on this aspect which makes up the bulk of the book.  The only downfall to this reviewer is that when she adds in some of her opinions, it appears that she only uses facts that would support her viewpoint without the entire picture.  The example I use is near the end when she opines that the NWFL and other women's leagues would succeed if the financial backers would not bail on them so soon after realizing that they will not be profitable immediately.  That is not incorrect, but the example that she uses that this isn't the same case for men's team with the Pittsburgh Steelers is not completely accurate.  Yes, the Steelers struggled for decades both on the field and in the front office, but it should be noted that Art Rooney did not build up his fortune elsewhere – he allegedly used money won betting on horses to buy the Steelers and they became his business.  Including that information, depending on how she would use it, could make her case stronger.

There are other aspects that may make some readers uncomfortable, such as the section on the stereotypes placed on female athletes (and her section on the background of some players in lesbian bars may make some readers buy into the stereotype even further) but these are necessary for a complete picture and story of these women who risked a lot to play a sport they loved for very little money. 

Any reader wishing to learn more about women's football must pick up a copy of this book.  Football fans, including this reviewer, who have never heard of the NWFL will enjoy learning about this short-lived but fondly remembered league.

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

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Hail-Mary-National-Womens-Football/dp/1645036626/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Review of “The 50 Greatest Players In Minnesota Vikings History”

 As a lifetime Vikings fan, I was thrilled to see review copies of this book offered and even more happy when my request was granted. Here is my review of this list of all-time Vikings greats.


Title/Author: "The 50  Greatest Players in Minnesota Vikings History " by Robert W. Cohen


Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)


Review: While they may have never won a Supr Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings have a long list of exceptional players who have won several awards, complied excellent statistics and careers, and have given their all for the team. Author Robert W. Cohen, who is noted for writing books containing lists of the 50 greatest players for various team, chooses the Vikings for his latest compilation.


As with his other books, Cohen doesn’t make the reader wait to find out who is #1 on the list. Starting with the player who ranked the highest using his scale (which is always explained well at the start of his books), he will write a chapter on each of the top 50 with a very brief biography, a chronology of his career which would include his best season(s) and his life after retirement. Then Cohen lists some of the best games and moments in that player’s time with the Vikings.


It should also be noted that Cohen stresses that his ranking will count only for the time a player is with the team who is the subject of the book. So, for example, Brett Fabre would not make this list even though he is a Hall of Fame quarterback since he only spent his last two seasons with the Vikings. There are some players whose time with the Vikings was long enough and good enough to make this list even if they were also successful elsewhere such as Gary Zimmerman.


Also, like any other book that lists the greatest of all time, some readers will disagree with either the ranking, the players included or both. This reviewer felt the list of players is mostly correct but has some issues with the ranking. And what good would a book like this be if there wasn’t some disagreement? Cohen always makes these lists of greatest players interesting and this lifetime Vikings fan is grateful that he picked the team for his latest project.

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

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Players-Minnesota-Vikings-History-ebook/dp/B093P43Q96/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=50+greatest+Vikings&qid=1628971258&sr=8-1 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Review of "Undone"

Every now and then, it's good to pick up a fictional book to cleanse the reading palate before diving back into the non-fiction books on the TBR mountain.  This was one I discovered in the Goodreads baseball book group when the author plugged the book (in the proper area of the group page).  I decided to give it a try since it was available on Kindle Unlimited and boy, it exceeded all expectations.  Here is my review of "Undone"


Title/Author: "Undone" by Phil Warner

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: When a promising young shortstop for the Detroit Tigers is found dead at the scene of a one vehicle auto accident, it didn't appear that foul play may have been involved.  However, thanks to the inquisitive mind of the officer on the scene and the detective later assigned to the case, it does involve much more and the result is this terrific murder mystery with a baseball connection by author Phil Warner.

When Officer Roberta Hodges discovers the crash scene and realizes that the dead driver is Tigers rookie shortstop David Stone, something tells her that despite the appearance, there is more to the story than a tragic accident or a suicide.  Told through three different narrators – Officer Hodges, long-time Tigers star Jimmy Grayson and Detective Finn Gaines – the story is riveting with just enough twists that keeps a reader captivated but not confused with too many turns and characters.

Baseball fans will love the plentiful amount of baseball in the story, especially during Grayson's dialogue as he talks about his play on the field, what he thinks of Stone's play, the coaching he does from watching televised games during his injury rehab and even brief talk about performance enhancing drugs.  There isn't a lot of on-field action as the most text there is during a game is when Grayson suffers his injury during an intrasquad game when Stone lands on Grayson's leg when the latter was sliding to break up a double play.

If one is not into baseball, there is still plenty to enjoy about this book.  For those who have not been to Detroit, there are many references to some of the city's landmarks and other attractions.  For those that are familiar with the city, they will enjoy the hometown feeling. The pace of the story is excellent and the descriptions of the ongoing investigation is an excellent mix of the familiar (at least fans of police television shows, movies or stories) and the not-so-familiar.  The dialogue is crisp and very believable and the ending does not disappoint.  In short, this book has everything a good murder mystery story should have with plenty of baseball thrown in to attract fans of the sport, no matter their level of interest.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Undone-Phil-Warner-ebook/dp/B091G15Q8T/ref=sr_1_1?crid=20NZ67I8NV5HH&dchild=1&keywords=undone+phil+warner&qid=1628276183&sprefix=undone+phil%2Caps%2C210&sr=8-1