Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Review of "The Fast Ride"

Even with the two recent Triple Crown winners, I admit that I have not been much of a horse racing fan since the 1970's - but what a decade that was for the sport.  One of the great horses from that time, Spectacular Bid, is featured in this book that takes a hard look at his trainer and jockey.  Fantastic read that even non-fans would enjoy.  Here is my review of "The Fast Ride"

Title/Author: “The Fast Ride: Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing” by Jack Gilden

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review: The decade of the 1970’s was considered to be one of the best in horse racing history.  After not having a Triple Crown winner in 25 years, the decade saw three horses accomplish that feat – Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.  In 1979, a horse named Spectacular Bid had many qualities to be the fourth in the decade and third in a row to join that exclusive club. This excellent book by Jack Gilden tells a tale of what could have been and the many factors that kept the “Bid” (what he calls the horse throughout the book) from winning that coveted title.

While his jockey was a young newcomer to the sport, teenager Ronnie Franklin had already ridden the Bid to the winner’s circle before the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. From his humble beginnings in Dundalk, a factory town near Baltimore, Franklin found himself becoming immersed in the business of horse racing under the tutelage of legendary trainer Buddy Delp. While he was becoming an overnight sensation to the fans and public, underneath the surface was an ugly picture of substance abuse, horrific working conditions and treatment at Delp’s stables and unkind treatment by fellow jockeys and the press. 

When the Bid won the Derby and the Preakness Stakes, that put even more pressure on the young jockey when the toughest of the three races arrived, the Belmont Stakes.  Delp instructed Franklin to run Spectacular Bid hard right from the gate, in complete contrast to the manner in which horse and rider won the previous two races.  Following his boss’s order, the Bid failed to win the Crown and even worse, Delp, the press and the public blamed Franklin for the horse’s downfall when there were many reasons behind the poor showing by the Bid.

That is what makes this book so good – Gilden’s writing about those other factors in not only why the Bid lost that race, but the entire picture behind the fall of Franklin.  There was a lot of drug abuse in the Delp stables, led by Buddy himself and his son Gerald, who became Franklin’s best friend and led him down a destructive path.  The owner of the horse, Harry Meyerhoff, also plays a role in the downfall of the Triple Crown path and even a horse doctor who was not supposed be on Belmont property but on the day of the race performed a procedure on Spectacular Bid to remove a pin from his hoof that would have otherwise been certain to keep him from running that day.

Gilden gleaned his information from interviews as much of the story that he writes was not published.  He cited three main contributors for which he gave enormous praise in the acknowledgments – Gerald Delp, Franklin’s nephew Tony Cullum and Cathy Rosenberger, who was a long-time employee of Buddy Delp and helped develop Franklin as a jockey.  From these interviews, Gilden gathered enough information that behind the beauty and speed in which Spectacular Bid ran his races - he would go on to win some more races after the Triple Crown – the ugly story of what happened on that Saturday in June 1979 is now being brought to light.  Gilden takes the reader inside the stables and development of a jockey and a race horse in a manner that shows both the beauty and the ugliness of this sport.  This is a book anyone interested in horse racing, especially during that era, must add to their bookshelf.

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

Link: The Fast Ride: Nebraska Press (


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Review of "Scotty"

Having renewed my subscription to Audible as my current working set-up allows access to listening to audiobooks, I added this one to my library upon renewal and it turned out to be an excellent choice. Scotty Bowman has led a charmed hockey life and this book is a perfect means to learn about it. Here is my review of "Scotty"

Title/Author: "Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other" written and narrated by Ken Dryden

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Scotty Bowman is considered to be one of the all-time great coaches in all of team sports, with his teams winning nine Stanley Cups spanning a time frame of 29 years between the first (Montreal Canadiens, 1973) and the last (Detroit Red Wings, 2002).  He amassed over 1400 regular season wins during his remarkable career and his goalie for five of those championships, Ken Dryden, has written a book on Bowman's hockey life as a player, scout, coach and other duties.

"Other duties" include his current status as a special guest of the Tampa Bay Lightning to their home games.  He still attends as many games as he can, goes to his seat in the press box and still takes diligent notes on each game with the chance that he might be able to pass along information to the Lightning staff.  That is typical Bowman – always looking for anything that can help a hockey team improve. It is the impression a reader or listener will get after enjoying this book.

Dryden and Bowman will take the reader through decades of hockey history and the name dropping is impressive – Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky for starters as players he saw but did not coach.  As for those he coached on his championship teams in Montreal and Detroit, there are plenty of stories and observations of them, from Guy Lafluer to Mario Lemieux (even though he was the coach for Pittsburgh when they won the Cup in 1992, Bowman doesn't talk a lot about that team, only obtaining the job due to the death of Bob Johnson, so he calls them Johnson's team) to Steve Yzerman. 

The book isn't limited to Bowman's championships as he talks about his life before coaching when he was working for Sam Pollack with the Canadiens – later they would become a very successful coach-general manager tandem.  He also talks about his time coaching the St. Louis Blues as a brand new expansion team as well as the Buffalo Sabres, who were a talented team under Bowman who could never get over the hump.

One other feature of the book is a "tournament" in which Bowman selects the eight greatest teams he has seen in his lifetime and he breaks each one of them down to Dryden and then eliminates them one by one until there is one team left.  No spoilers here as one will have to read or listen to the book in order to find out which team that will be.

Dryden is an established hockey author and his work shines here.  At times, there is great detail and I believe that the audio version that I listened to will work better for those who both read physical books and listen to audio books.  But whichever version is chosen, one will enjoy this biography of a legendary hockey coach.

Links: Scotty by Ken Dryden | Audiobook |

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Review of "The Great Nowitzki"

 For those who celebrate Christmas, I hope yours was merry and that you were able to share it with the people who are important to you.  

On Christmas, it is traditional to have a plethora of good NBA games and what better book to post a review than one about one of the great NBA players, Dirk Nowitzki?  A book that was published in Germany in 2019 on him is soon to come out in the United States in English and I was fortunate enough to obtain an advance copy.  Here is my review of "The Great Nowitzki"

Title/Author: “The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life” by Thomas Pletzinger

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review: Dirk Nowitzki will go down as one of the greatest players in professional basketball history.  He played 21 seasons in the NBA, all with the Dallas Mavericks with the highlight of his career coming when he led his Mavericks to the NBA championship and was named the MVP of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.  His story of his development as a player in Germany, and his career with Dallas is captured in this excellent book by Thomas Pletzinger.

Originally published in German in 2019, the English version is one that American fans should be sure to pick up whether or not they were Novitizki or Mavericks fans.  Pletzinger spent six years working on this project while spending many days during that time frame talking to Dirk, to his longtime personal coach in both Germany and Dallas, Holger Gerschwinder and key people in Dirk’s professional life in Dallas.  However, that statement doesn’t do justice to the connections Pletzinger made to give the reader a complete picture of not only Dirk the basketball player but Dirk the person.  THis makes the book a very different read than the typical sports biography or memoir in that it delves into other areas of the subject’s life because the author was part of it.

Beyond the season and game recap, Pletzinger brings the reader inside other areas of Nowitzki’s life, starting with his relationship with Gerschwinder.  The conversations between them that are shared in the book are very interesting since they are more than just the drills and unusual training methods used by Gerschwinder.  There are paragraphs how music, specifically jazz music, gets tied in with Dirk’s life and this is made even better with quotes from Ernest Butler.  There are interviews and information from Dirk’s family in both Germany and America, teammates on both teams and so many others.

One of those “others” is a poignant moment that I felt set the tone for not only the quality of the book but captures how nearly everyone who has met Nowitzki has felt about him.  Before Nowitizki, Drazen Petrovic was considered to be the best European player to play in the NBA before he tragically died at 28.  In the book, Dirk is called to meet a woman after the 2005 European tournament in which he led Germany to the title and has already made his mark in the NBA.  Dirk opens his hotel room door and meets Petrovic’s mother who tells him that he reminds her of her son and plays the game the right way.  It remains one of the most memorable moments of Nowitzki’s life.

That is just one small example of the many great moments and passages in this book that pays a proper tribute to one of the truly great players in basketball history. 

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

Link: The Great Nowitzki: Basketball and the Meaning of Life eBook : Pletzinger, Thomas: Kindle Store

Monday, December 20, 2021

Review of "How to Beat a Broken Game"

With the lack of baseball news this off-season due to the current lockout, this was a welcome relief to that drought as I picked up an advance review copy and it was excellent.  And I am not even a Dodgers fan!   Here is my review of this book on the Dodgers' 2020 championship.

Title/Author: "How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink" by Pedro Moura

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Baseball has undergone a fundamental change in its approach to strategy and the development of players through the use of data as well as traditional statistics and scouting.  One team has succeeded quite well in mixing the two together, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  How they accomplished this, climaxed by their World Series championship in 2020, and the people behind this are the subject of this excellent book by Pedro Moura.

The title is the only quibble I have with this book as in the thorough description of the Dodgers organization there really is no description that makes the game "broken."  There are plenty of issues, from low television ratings to the calls that today's "three true outcomes" game is too boring to the wide gap between teams for revenue and therefore spending – and all of them are discussed.  However, I didn't see any of that being used to call the game "broken."  Instead, I saw these as some of the obstacles or aides that the Dodgers faced in order to win it all in the abbreviated 2020 season.

This isn't a game-by-game description of the season.  Instead, it is a deep dive into the minds and actions of several key personnel behind the team's success.  This starts with team President Andrew Friedman, whose success previously with the Tampa Bay Rays led the sport to its current use of analytical data to gain a financial edge. The hiring of Gabe Kapler to run their minor league system also accelerated the use of data for player development. Ironically, Kapler is now the manager of the San Francisco Giants, the biggest rival for the Dodgers. There are great write ups about some of the players who have benefitted greatly from this data such as third baseman Justin Turner, outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher Walker Buehler. Other excellent chapters in the book include one on pitcher Clayton Kershaw and scout Tom Kunis.

On the last profile and other scouts, it is noteworthy that throughout the book it is emphasized that traditional scouting methods and information is not dismissed out of hand but instead integrated with the data compiled by the "nerds" of the organization (it was interesting to learn that their workspace was the old visiting clubhouse at Dodger stadium). This is in contrast to the message that was sent about the last seismic shift in information gathering and use, during the "Moneyball" era where readers of that book or viewers of that movie would have the impression that traditional scouting was going to be gone. 

More than fixing a broken game, the big takeaway from this book for me was that other teams should look to the Dodgers on the proper use of both traditional and modern methods of player development and training.  It has proven beneficial to both players and the team and the results in 2020 were evident.  It's an excellent book for readers who want to know more about today's game, whether or not they believe it is "boring."

I wish to thank Public Affairs Publishing for providing a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Links: How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink: Moura, Pedro: 9781541701427: Books

Monday, December 13, 2021

Review of "Till the End"

While I have never been a "fan" of CC Sabathia or any of the three teams he played for, I was intrigued when I saw a copy of his memoir available at my local library.  It was a good read and I certainly learned a lot about the man.  Here is my review of "Till the End"


Title/Author: "Till the End" by CC Sabathia and Chris Smith

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: As one of the better pitchers in baseball for more than a decade, CC Sabathia was a very public figure, but for a long time he was dealing with a very private battle with alcoholism. That struggle, along with his rise from humble beginnings in northern California and his success in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians), Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees is told in his memoir co-written with Chris Smith. It deals mainly with his baseball career at various levels and ends when his baseball career ends with the Yankees when they were eliminated in the 2019 postseason.

From the beginning, Sabathia shares his pain and dealing with the disease of alcoholism and aside from when he talks about his childhood, it remains a topic throughout the book.  He describes himself as one who doesn't hide when he is upset or wants everyone to know what he is feeling and when he decided to seek treatment, that was the same way he announced it.  He didn't go quietly to his manager and sneak to the rehab facility – he told the world about his disease and what it did to him. Like many other public figures who make this type of announcement, he did so with the hope that it might help others in a similar situation.

He tells very good baseball stories from his time playing high school ball as well as his stint in the minor leagues and then with the Indians.  It was in Cleveland where he became an All-Star and helped the Indians make the postseason.  He was comfortable in Cleveland but also knew the business of the game well enough that his trade in 2008 to the Milwaukee Brewers wasn't a surprise – he enjoyed the challenge of leading them to the postseason.  That lead to a big contract he signed as a free agent with the Yankees, with whom he won his only World Series championship in 2009.  He talks of mostly good memories with teammates and managers for all three clubs.

Sabathia also approaches the topics of racism, mainly through his experiences but also because of the shrinking number of Black players in the game.  Most notably, he talks about his time in Milwaukee mainly through being in a larger group of fellow Blacks than with the other clubs.  While nothing he states is incorrect, his stories may come across to some as complaining.  It should also be noted that he repeatedly states that he got along fine with his white and Latino teammates as well, but was just more comfortable around fellow Blacks.

There is a lot of swearing in Sabathia's account so this book is best read only by adults, but they do add a layer of authenticity to the emotions he has when sharing these tales.  Overall, it is a good book and the reader will get to know the true CC Sabathia, just in a slightly over-the-top way at times.  It is certainly one to read if one wants to learn more about him.

Links: Till the End: Sabathia, CC, Smith, Chris: 9780593133750: Books

Monday, December 6, 2021

Review of "Savage Summit"

Realizing that I had not read a book on mountain climbing in quite awhile, I searched for one with my favorite summit in which to read about - K2.  I found this one, picked it up and was very glad I did as these women deserve this kind of recognition.  Here is my review of "Savage Summit"

Title/Author: "Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women of K2" by Jennifer Jordan

Rating: 4 ½ of 5 stars (very good)


Wanda Rutkiewicz. Liliane Barrard. Julie Tullis. Chantal Mauduit. Alison Hargreaves.  These five women were the first to reach the summit of K2, the world's second highest mountain and considered to be the most dangerous to climb.  These women are portrayed in this book by Jennifer Jordan that digs deep into not only the accomplishments of these mountaineers but also into their personalities.

One cautionary note about the book is that Jordan writes often about the blatant and not so blatant sexism each of these women received.  Some of it is attributed to culture, especially that of Pakistan (K2 is on the Pakistan-Nepal border), some of it is attributed it to simple chauvinism and some is attributed to the attitude of some male climbers that the women were expecting them to do the heavy work of climbing.  Much of that is dismissed by Jordan in the writing.  It should also be noted that much of her research will come from the viewpoints of friends or family members of the women as all of them perished within six years of reaching the summit.  Barrard, Tullis and Hargreaves all died while descending the mountain after reaching K2's peak while Rutkiewicz and Mauduit later died on future expeditions.

While some of the criticism of Jordan's work being biased against the male climbing community can be debated, there is no doubt about the depth and quality of writing about each of the women and that is excellent.  Whether or not one will agree with how much Jordan writes about items such as physical beauty or the sexual affairs of the women (yes, those are include), the descriptions of each woman's climb up K2, their experiences that led them to the decision and how much they each loved the risk and adventure of their chosen career or hobby will leave readers feeling like they knew each of these climbers.

I found Rutkiewicz's story the most fascinating as she was by far the most accomplished climber of the group and had overcome the biases and stereotypes that hinder many female climbers.  She was receiving many accolades for her accomplishments in her native Poland which suddenly stopped when the Cold War era drew to a close in the 1990's.  Her story, while the best reading in my opinion, is just one of the five excellent stories about these pioneering women.  Jordan mentions the passion she had for this project and how she wanted to project their personalities and their accomplishments.  In that sense, this book is a job well done. 


Links: Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women of K2 eBook : Jordan, Jennifer: Kindle Store


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Review of "Bring In the Right-Hander!"

While I usually do not make requests for review copies of older books, I did so for this one when I was reading some of the author's Facebook postings about baseball in the 1970s and 1980s and remembered him pitching for the Dodgers.  His stories are fun to read and the entire collection is put together well in the book.  Here is my review of Jerry Reuss's memoir. 

Title/Author: "Bring In the Right-Hander! My Twenty-Two Years in the Major Leagues” by Jerry Reuss

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:  Only 29 baseball players have played in in the major leagues in four different decades. One member of that exclusive club is left-handed pitcher Jerry Reuss, who was a key member of the 1981 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.  After beginning his career with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals and then finding success with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Reuss enjoyed his best years with the Dodgers.  After the Dodgers released him in 1986, he bounced around with other clubs just trying to stay in the game.  After stints with the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox (twice), he finished with the Pirates in 1990.  Along the way, Reuss accumulated many stories and memories that he shares with the readers in this fast paced and easy read.

This memoir concentrates on Reuss’s time in the major leagues.  There are some stories about his youth, his decision to sign with the Cardinals instead of accepting a baseball college scholarship and his time in the minor leagues, but the bulk of his stories are about his time in the majors.  He tells them with the perfect blend of seriousness and humor in order to both inform and entertain readers.  Reuss also shares his experiences in baseball, both good and bad, with excellent clarity as he did many interviews with those who were important to his career, be they teammates, coaches, managers or anyone else. 

If a reader is looking for a serious book with crisp writing and a lot of detail about the game, this is not that book.  But if a reader just wants to settle back with a light, entertaining book on baseball – especially during the off-season when a fan is anxiously awaiting the start of spring training – then this is a very good choice.  There isn’t one characteristic of this book that makes it stand out about above other baseball memoirs, so it didn’t receive this rating for being that type of book.  Instead, it merits consideration as a good memoir for being the type of book in which the reader can picture Reuss sitting in the same room with him or her and just relieving his good, long career in the game.

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


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Review of "Blood in the Garden"

While I have never been a fan of the New York Knicks and the teams in this book were ones that I use to despise, I was nonetheless very pleased with this book and thought it was an excellent portrayal of a team that was so good and yet couldn't win a championship.  Here is my review of "Blood in the Garden." 

Title/Author: "Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990’s New York Knicks" by Chris Herring

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Professional basketball in the 1990’s was certainly dominated by the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, having won six titles during that decade.  Two others were won by the Houston Rockets and at the end of the decade, the San Antonio Spurs won the first of their five titles.  However, if one is talking about teams that excelled during that time, one must also include the New York Knicks.  Those Knicks teams provided some of the most thrilling moments for their fans and faced the Rockets and Spurs in the NBA Finals during the 1990’s.  This excellent book by Chris Herring chronicles those teams in a fun, fast-paced read – not at all like the style of play by those teams.

Led by Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, the Knicks were most famous for their stifling defense and their physical play. This carried over into their practices, and it is in those practice sessions where Herring tells the most interesting stories and information about the team.  Whether it was about John Starks not wanting to drive to the basket during practice early in his tenure with the team, Gerald Wilkins sharing a story about practice ending early if he ran through a line of teammates ready to throw elbows and shoulders at him (he declined the offer) or the details in which coach Pat Riley had the team execute during these sessions, I enjoyed these sections more than the either the game writing or the portraits of key personnel.

That doesn’t mean that these sections of the book weren’t good – there were full and complete profiles on many of the key people who made the Knicks so successful during the 1990’s.  That starts with Patrick Ewing and Pat Riley, the best player and coach respectively for the team during this time.  But others are included as well – Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Jeff Van Gundy, Dave Checketts – those are just some of the names and people a reader will learn about as he or she reads about the team. 

As for in-game writing, that is not as in depth as one might expect as only memorable games or moments are covered in detail.  Take the 1994 Finals in which the Knicks lost to the Houston Rockets in 7 games.  Of course, game 7 and the shooting struggles of John Starks are well documented as was the scene at Madison Square Garden during game 5 when the fans were leaving their seats and watching the television monitors in the concourse during the low-speed police chase of O.J. Simpson.  But if a reader wants more detail of the other games in the series, there isn’t a lot aside from some details of the Knicks wins.  The reader will still get a good perspective of the series, just not a lot of detail.  This is true for all of the regular season and playoff basketball described in the book. 

Knick fans who remember this time with mostly happy memories (after all, they did not win a championship) will want to get a copy of this book as will fans of the NBA during this time frame, when the Knicks, through their physical play, were one of the better professional teams.

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

Links:  Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks: Herring, Chris: 9781982132118: Books

Monday, November 22, 2021

Review of "Common Enemies"

As a fan who enjoyed watching, if not necessarily always rooting for, the Georgetown Hoyas and Miami Hurricanes in college basketball and football respectively, I was intrigued by the description of this book on not only their success on the field but also for their impact on college sports and society.  An excellent read on both of those areas.  Here is my review of "Common Enemies"


Title/Author: "Common Enemies:  Georgetown Basketball, Miami Football and the Racial Transformation of College Sports" by Thomas F. Schaller

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Two of the most successful college sports teams in the 1980's were the men's basketball team at Georgetown University and the football team at the University of Miami (Florida).  These teams not only dominated their respective sports and contended for national championships for several years, they did so with unique styles that were early versions of the "Black style" of play and became the perceived antagonists in the previously mostly staid world of college sports.  Their success on the field and importance in college sports' revolution is the subject of this excellent book by historian Thomas F. Schaller.

The book's main "characters" are the two coaches who won the most games and brought their coaching styles to the schools – John Thompson for Georgetown and Jimmy Johnson for Miami.  It should be noted that Schaller gives credit to Howard Schnellenberger, Johnson's predecessor, for first bringing Miami football into prominence with the 1983-84 national championship.  Schnellenberger left soon after that victory, opening the way for Johnson and his recruiting of local Black talent.  Thompson did pretty much the same thing for Georgetown, but that's where the similarities in their styles end.

Thompson was not only a coach and recruiter of Black players, he was their mentor, disciplinarian and protector.  He would not let players speak freely to the media, he would often challenge the standard beliefs of what his players should do and he also stressed education.  He let his record on the court and the graduation rates of his players speak for themselves.  The player spotlighted for Thompson's coaching was the biggest star for Georgetown during this time, Patrick Ewing.

Johnson, on the other hand, let his players have much more freedom, especially in expressing themselves on the field.  This often led to criticism from others in the college sports business, whether they were coaches, administrators or media.  Celebrations that were deemed excessive or examples of poor sportsmanship were often cited as a program that was out of control, as well as when Miami would be called out for running up the score, such as was the case during a 58-7 thrashing of Notre Dame.  The player spotlighted for Johnson's program was wide receiver Michael Irvin.

It should be noted that both players not only were stars in these systems but they both went on to professional careers that resulted in their inductions into their respective Halls of Fame.  Neither one, however, ever forgot what their college coaches did for them, nor was the importance of their teams lost either.

That "importance" was that a major shift was now occurring in college sports thanks to Miami and Georgetown.  The "bad guys" were teams who were almost all Black, very successful and talented and had no problem showing that off to fans and opponents.  From Miami players taunting defeated opponents to Georgetown Starter jackets now becoming fashionable among Black and white fans alike, these two teams brought about a huge shift in nearly all aspects of the business.  More importantly, they brought attention to some of the institutional racial issues in college sports.  The progress that has been made can be directly traced back to these two teams.  While Schaller correctly points out that there are still some of these issues existing today, these two teams should be noted for their place in college sports history and the changes they introduced.  A great read for anyone who is a college sports fan or college sports history buff.

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

Links: Common Enemies : Nebraska Press (

Common Enemies: Georgetown Basketball, Miami Football, and the Racial Transformation of College Sports: Schaller, Thomas F.: 9781496215710: Books



Monday, November 15, 2021

Review of "The Baseball 100"

 A confession needs to be made about this review:  I did not read the entire book cover to cover - but this one doesn't require that in order to realize what a wonderful volume this is.  The review is short, but tells enough that this is a book for all baseball fans.  Here is my review of "The Baseball 100"

Title/Author: “The Baseball 100” by Joe Posnanski

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)


Given this title, this work sounds like yet another "best of" or "greatest" list.  While yes, it may be considered to be such, this one is very different than most other lists of the best players of a sport.  Joe Posnanski took the best characteristics of similar books and added some twists of his own to make this list one for every baseball fan.

The best feature to me is his numbering.  No, #1 does not necessarily mean it's the person who he believes is the most important person in baseball or the "best."  There are various reasons why he assigns some numbers.  Some are based on the uniform number worn.  Some are because that person is synonymous with the number – such as Joe DiMaggio coming in this book at #56.  Not because he's the 56th most important person listed but because for baseball history, 56 is the first number people think of with DiMaggio.

The volume is quite big at over 800 pages, which means there is more just basic information – which is true for every person listed.  It is not a book to read in one sitting but instead one to keep on the shelf or cloud and pull it out every now and then to enjoy learning or re-learning about some of the greatest people in baseball history.

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

Links: The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble® ( The Baseball 100 eBook : Posnanski, Joe: Kindle Store


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Review of "Loserville"

While the amount of reading I have done lately for reviews has slowed some due to professional and school obligations, the time I have found to read for review lately has been well-used as there are some excellent sports books coming out this season.  This is one, about Atlanta's entry into the world of professional sports a few decades ago and it was a very good read.  Here is my review of "Loserville."

Title/Author: “Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta – and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports” by Clayton Trutor

Rating: 4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)


For a time during the 1960's and 1970's, the sports world had a nickname for the city of Atlanta – "Loserville."  It was derived mainly from the lack of on-field success for three of the city's four major sports teams – baseball's Braves, football's Falcons and basketball's Hawks.  The only team during that time was the newest franchise, the Atlanta Flames hockey team.  They also were the only team of the four who drew consistently large crowds but even they, by the end of the 1970's, also had troubles in the standings and in the stands.  How these franchises coped with these times and how it shaped the city is illustrated in this very good book by Clayton Trutor.

There is a lot of information and ideas to digest in this volume.  There are the business aspects behind the operations of each of the teams as Atlanta had no major league teams before 1966 when the Milwaukee Braves, after a contentious sale and lame duck season in Milwaukee, moved to the southern city.  Soon afterward, the NFL awarded the city an expansion franchise, hoping the fans who flocked to college football games would do the same for a professional team.  Basketball also took a wayward team, the St. Louis Hawks, and moved them to Atlanta. The Flames came later when the NHL awarded two expansion teams to Atlanta and Long Island in 1972.

Trutor addresses both the economic and the social impacts that the new teams brought to the city. There were new facilities that needed to be built – Atlanta Stadium for the Braves and Falcons in an area that had a poor reputation for crime and safety, not completely unfounded.  There was also a question of removing families, mostly Black from homes to make way for the ballpark. Later the Omni, an arena that was built in a business district hoping the fans of the Flames and the Hawks would revitalize the area, also had issues.  These were mainly due to flaws in the building structure, rendering it obsolete soon after opening.  There were other issues such as transportation and racial matters as well with mostly well-to-do white patrons attending the games.  This makes for an excellent look at what professional sports can and can't bring to a city, something noteworthy as more team owners look for publicly financed facilities.

The reading is easier than expected, staying away from a scholarly type of organization and language.  The only quibble is that the ending feels rushed when other southern cites are illustrated to show that it wasn't only Atlanta that had issues with new professional teams.  It was ironic to read a book titled "Loserville" immediately after the Braves won the World Series and Tampa was a city cited at the end, despite the fact that two of its teams, the football Buccaneers and hockey Lightning, both are the reigning champions of their respective leagues.  Still, if one enjoys reading about the business side of sports mixed in with social issues, this is an excellent choice.

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

Links: Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta―and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports: Trutor, Clayton: 9781496225047: Books


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Review of "Indian Horse"

Wishing to find some more sports fiction to add to my reading list as well as the non-fiction books I am either provided or will find, I saw this one about a hockey player in northern Ontario and was intrigued.  It was so much better than I expected.  This book is also currently a movie on Netflix so that will be the next item on my to-watch list there, although I can't imagine the movie can be better than this book.  Here is my review of "Indian Horse" 

Title/Author: “Iron Horse” by Richard Wagamese

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (outstanding)


It isn't often that one can read a story that combines indigenous culture with ice hockey, but this tale of a northern Ontario indigenous boy who was taken from his family, sent to a Catholic "school" in which the children were more indentured servants than student and fell in love with hockey is one that should be read by everyone who enjoys the sport – if nothing else to illustrate struggles that indigenous people encounter.

Author Richard Wagamese penned a wonderful tale about Saul, aka "Indian Horse" and his evolution from a scared boy who was violently snatched from his grandmother to his development as a hockey player thanks to one priest who allowed him to start off working at the makeshift rink on the school ground.  From there, Saul, through hard work and determination on his own, develops into a fine hockey player.  He becomes far more skilled at the game than his classmates and a visitor to the school invites him to live with another family on the nearby reservation and play on their team that plays other teams of indigenous players.  Throughout this time, Saul keeps not only getting better at hockey, but is also burdened by his loss of family and grateful to the priest that introduced him to hockey.  He gets so good that he attracts the attention of a Toronto Maple Leafs scout, who signs him to a contract to play for their Junior team as Saul is still not an adult. 

The story from here will take a different turn than one may expect and while this review will not reveal any more of the story, it is one that will bring out many emotions in the reader.  The writing about hockey, especially Saul's description of his play on the ice, is wonderful and any hockey reader will enjoy these passages.  Saul's description of what his family and his people are enduring is something everyone should read and understand.  If only for these two reasons, that is enough to recommend this book for many readers.

Links: Indian Horse: A Novel: Wagamese, Richard: 9781571311306: Books


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review of "Wish It Lasted Forever"

While I have always been a Minnesota Timberwolves fan since they entered the NBA in 1989, before that time I was a Boston Celtics fan.  This book about the Celtics of the first few years of the Larry Bird era took me back to that time that I loved the game the most.  I agree with the title of the book in my latest review - "Wish It Lasted Forever." 

Title/Author: "Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Boston Celtics" by Dan Shaughnessy

Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Professional basketball in the early and mid-1980’s were defined by two teams and two players.  One of them was the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson.  The other one was the Boston Celtics and their superstar, Larry Bird.  The latter were the subject of this terrific book by the reporter who was a beat writer for the Boston Globe during that time, Dan Shaughnessy.  He covered the team between 1981 and 1986, leaving the team’s beat midway through that season, which was the third one for the Celtics during this time, to become the beat writer for the Boston Red Sox.  While he didn’t regret his decision to cover baseball, it is clear that Shaughnessy truly enjoyed his time covering this all-time great team.

More than just writing about the team’s accomplishments, in both this book and his articles and columns for the Globe, Shaughnessy’s best work comes when he writes about the players, their stories and their personalities. One great story is when Bird had his right hand taped in a practice due to an injury, Shaughnessy decided to try to win a bet with him by challenging him to a free throw contest – 100 shots for each one with Bird’s hand remaining taped.  Without giving away any more, just assume that it finished the way the reader will think it will.

The excellent prose on players is especially brought out in later chapters for the 1985-86 season when Bill Walton joined the team.  It almost felt like that team was all about a backup center instead of one of the best frontcourts in NBA history with Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.  That is quickly forgotten when the reader learn just how happy Walton was to be part of the team and how upset he was with himself when he felt responsible for the first loss of the season by the Celtics.  Bird immediately told him to forget about it and then told “Scoop” Shaughnessy that he didn’t think that he could endure that for a full season.

“Scoop” was a nickname given to the author by the team, not necessarily a term of endearment as Shaughnessy was not only a new writer for the Globe but he was also among the first sportswriters who would be more than just a buddy with the players who would write only fluff pieces or game recaps.  Some of the players, most notably Parish, would freeze Shaughnessy out or shun him on the buses or planes (at the time, media covering the team would travel with them).

However, this book is not just about the player’s lives or the social issues of the time – it is also a very good account of some of the basketball played as well, especially the two times during this time when the Celtics faced the Lakers in the NBA finals. For readers who enjoyed professional basketball during this era will love reading about those epic finals when the two main figures in the sport met to decide the championship.  As one of those readers that fall into this category, I believe that the title apply to both the book and that era of Celtics basketball – wish it lasted forever.

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

Link:  Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics: Shaughnessy, Dan: 9781982169978: Books

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Review of "The Commentators"

This is the perfect book for sports fanatics like me, who enjoy and follow a large variety of sports, as this book covers 20 different sports with many memorable moments.  Here is my review of "The Commentators"

Title/Author: “The Commentators: 100 Years of Sports Commentary” by Michael Schiavello

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: When a book is published about various sports and one aspect that ties them together, there will usually be some fantastic stories to go along with the topic at hand.  It helps when the author is considered to be a good authority on the topic and for both of these, Michael Schiavello fits in this far-reaching book on the world of sports broadcasting.

The book is far-reaching simply due to the sheer number of sports that Schivaello writes about, 20 in all from cricket to horse racing, from American football to football as the rest of the world plays it.  Because his work is done in the United Kingdom, some of the longer and more detailed descriptions are for sports popular there such as football (soccer) and cricket, but he does a wonderful job of covering American sports as well.

Good examples of his attention to the broadcasters of American sports are the excellent write-ups he provides on two legendary commentators in their respective games, Vin Scully (baseball) and Mike "Doc" Emrick (ice hockey).  Even though he many not follow those sports closely, he does a nice job of writing about two of the best and their descriptions of the games.  In particular, his writing of Scully's call of the perfect game pitched by Sandy Koufax in 1965 was a masterpiece.  It would be hard to do justice in the printed word to Scully's wonderful call of that game, but the writing about Scully's call in the 9th inning is a must-read passage.

Schiavello, himself no slouch when it comes to sports broadcasting and the variety of events he has covered (including oyster shucking), has written a book that any sports fan should read, even if they may not be interested in some of the games.  It is also recommended to find the calls written in the book on YouTube so that the audio can be experienced as well if the reader has not heard the call previously.  No matter one's sports interest, one is sure to find something to enjoy in this book.

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

Links: The Commentators: 100 Years of Sports Commentary: Schiavello, Michael: 9781925927580: Books


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review of "Racing While Black"

I finished this book with some unexpected excellent time.  The day I finish this very good book on the experiences of a Black racing team trying to break into NASCAR was the day that Bubba Wallace became the second Black driver to win a race in NASCAR's Cup Series. The review may be short, but it is a book that is well worth the time to read. 

Title/Author:  "Racing While Black: How and African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR" by Leonard T. Miller and Andrew Simon

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (Very Good)

Review: Author Leonard T. Miller, whose father passed down his love of motorsports to his son, wanted to channel this enthusiasm to create an all-Black racing team to compete in NASCAR.  While they knew they would face many challenges, both financially and socially since the sport was still considered one for the "good ol' boys" in the southern United States, he nonetheless sunk much time and money recruiting people, cars and engines to make this dream a reality.  

Reading about his struggles, while not unexpected, were still eye-opening. Miller Racing's biggest issue, which makes up the bulk of the book, was trying to obtain sponsors, a must for any racing team. There were the encounters with racist fans, the hesitation by white sponsors when Miller was making his pitch and even resistance by Blacks in higher class statuses, questioning Miller's wish to mingle with "rednecks."  

There is so much more to the book and Miller's struggles than just sponsors and their money, or racists (overt and subtle) and the barriers they create. There are great racing stories, stories about work and disagreements in the garage, and even some name dropping aside from racing, such as Jessie Jackson when for a brief time, he assisted Miller and his chase for recognition in the sport.  The story is one that has a mixed ending as well as the usual ups and downs one would expect for this type of book.  Anyone interested in learning more about the hustle for sponsors, drivers and crew members will like this book. While it does focus on the experience facing Black's in racing, it still is a good exposure to the entire business aspect of racing.

Link: Racing While Black: How an African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR eBook : Miller, Leonard T., Shropshire, Kenneth L., Zirin, Dave, Simon, Andrew: Books