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