Sunday, December 31, 2023

Final review of 2023 - “Snow in the Kingdom”

For my last review of 2023, I decided to go back to a topic that always fascinates me - high altitude mountain climbing. Found this book on Kindle Unlimited written by a climber who scaled Everest without Sherpas or bottled oxygen. Wondering how he and the team could possibly do this, I picked up the book and am glad I did.  Here is my review of “Snow in the Kingdom.”


Title/Author: “Snow in the Kingdom” by Ed Webster 

Rating4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: No matter which peak, which path, or how many are in the climbing party, there is always an element of danger is such an expedition. This book by Ed Webster brings to life one such trek, when he and three other climbers reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the spring of 1988. This was accomplished without bottled oxygen, assistance from Sherpas, or radios. Webster’s account of this expedition on a new path to the top, along with stories from before that Everest climb (it was his third attempt to reach the summit) that make the a very good read for the most part.

I say “most part” because there times the book feels like it is moving slower than a novice climber on their first Himalayan climb. This is especially true when Webster describes his previous climbs before his famous 1988 trekking. The book also moves along slowly at times durian the Everest climb although that helped readers to understand the slow pace, and the danger, these climbers faced.

Two parts of the book I really liked were the descent after reaching the summit and the photography. While reaching the peak for any climb is undoubtedly the goal and is often dangerous, often the descent back to Base Camp is just as risky. In Webster’s case, that was certainly true. The terrifying ordeal the team went through on the descent, with frostbitten toes and fingers that eventually were amputated as a result, was a more gripping account of climbing than the journey to the highest peak in the world was.

Even though I read this in e-book format, the photography was stunning, especially the color photographs. Whether it was the beauty of the mountains, happy pictures of Webster and others (including a few of Lauren, his girlfriend who was killed in a rock climb accompanying Webster) or photos of the climbers on the mountain or back in camp, they all help to tell the story of this very intriguing climb of Mt. Everest.


Link:https://www.amazon.com/Snow-Kingdom-Storm-Years-Everest/dp/0965319911/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 






Sunday, December 24, 2023

Review of “Deep Thoughts From an Armchair Quarterback”

Happy Holidays! For one of the last reviews of 2023, I went with this book written by a sports fan on thoughts that other fans usually have and/or express. Here is the review of this book. No matter which holidays you celebrate, I wish all of you a joyous season.  


Title/Author:

“Deep Thoughts From an Armchair Quarterback” by Chris R. Weilert


Rating

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:

Sports fans who view many games in a wide variety of sports will relate to this book by Chris Weilert. He’s not claiming to be any different than any other fan - simply a fan who is sharing his thoughts on a wide variety of sports and it makes for a very enjoyable reading experience.

What I really liked about this book is that Weilert covers a wide variety of sports and doesn’t spend a lot of time on any on particular game, team or athlete. He doesn’t get overly critical of anything, nor does he go overboard on praise. If there is a topic that affects him and his feelings about it, he’s not shy to voice his thoughts. The best example of this is when he talks about a topic sports fans debate all the time - who is the GOAT (greatest of all time)? Pick any sport, any team, any player and this debate rages - Weilert thinks that it’s a waste of time - how can one fairly compare performances in different eras? (Note - while it’s not the reason I chose this example, I am in complete agreement with him on this topic). 


Another good aspect of this book is that while it helps to be a fan, a reader doesn’t have to be an expert on the vocabulary or nuances of the various sports discussed to enjoy the book. The language is basic and easy to comprehend- it feels like a barstool discussion on whatever topic is the subject of the chapter. Finally, what makes the book fun is the wide variety of games covered. Of course the main four of baseball, football, basketball and hockey are a majority of the text but so many others are discussed, such as the Olympics and the Highland Games - that was a fun chapter.


No matter who or what they follow, sports fans will want to pick this book up, maybe with their favorite adult beverage close by and enjoy these discussions that fans engage in all the time. 


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


Link:https://www.amazon.com/Thoughts-Recliner-Quarterback-Chris-Weilert-ebook/dp/B0CDP5LT3J/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 




Monday, December 18, 2023

Review of “The Fighter of Auschwitz”

 Having not read a boxing book for a while, this title intrigued me. It turned into a story on a topic much more important than boxing or sports. Here is my review of “The Fighter of Auschwitz”


Title/Author:

“The Fighter of Auschwitz” by Erik Brouwer

Rating

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Leendert Josua Sanders was a middleweight European boxing champion from the Netherlands in the 1930’s. Even avid boxing fans and historians may have trouble remembering much about his boxing career as he wasn’t one to avidly promote his fights. He was also a Jewish boxer in Rotterdam and this was the time when the Nazis were gaining power in Europe. 

Sanders, who would often fight under the name “Lee” or “Leen” to try to mask his Jewish identity, would eventually be captured with his family and sent to Auschwitz. This excellent book by Erik Brouwer covers both of these segments of Sanders’ life.

Sanders wasn’t keen to pursue the sport at first but with some encouragement from his family, including his brother who became his trainer and manger, Leen did work his way up in weight and prestige, with his biggest boxing accomplishment winning the above mentioned title.

But once Sanders and his family were arrested in Rotterdam as the Netherlands fell to Nazi occupation, this book gets even better. There are many books that describe the brutal conditions Jewish prisoners faced at these concentration camps and this one is just as graphic. Sanders is spared the worst treatment, conditions and work detail when it is learned he was a professional boxer.

Boxers and other prisoners who had special talents that could be used by the SS guards in the camps would receive privileges that other prisoners could have, such as better food and clothing ans special detail such as the kitchen or laundry. Because Leen beat a well-known fighter in one of the Sunday boxing matches held for the “entertainment”of the guards, Leen became one of these privileged prisoners and as such, received this type of detail. 

However, as Brouwer tells in vivid matter-of-fact detail, the other prisoners had much harsher conditions and more brutal work. Leen would help out many less privileged, especially new arrivals to Auschwitz, by providing extra food, clothing or blankets. This was done at great risk to his own safety as if he were caught, he would certainly have faced swift execution. This went on for nearly two years, until Leen and other survivors of the evacuation of Aucwitz were rescued by advancing Allied troops. For a final touch, to make this book complete, Brouwer informs the reader that Sanders had some good and bad experiences in his life after surviving Auschwitz. Even there , Sanders had struggles as he was wrongfully denied the Extraordinary War Pension he deserved until close to his death.

What I really liked about this book is that while the majority of it talks about his heroic feats at Auschwitz, it also gives the reader an inside look at his boxing success as well as his life in the concentration camp. It’s the complete story of a man whose story needed to be told.

I wish to thank Octopus Publishing US for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Link:https://www.amazon.com/Fighter-Auschwitz-incredible-Sanders-survive/dp/1788404300/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 




Saturday, December 9, 2023

Review of “Team of Destiny”

As a fan of the Minnesota Twins, of course I will read any book about their time as the Washington Senators. This is an upcoming book on the anniversary of their only championship in Washington. Here is my review of “Team of Destiny.” 


Title/Author:

“Team of Destiny: Walter Johnson, Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris and the 1924 Washington Senators” by Gary Sarnoff


Rating

4 of 5 stars (very good)


Review: 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of the only World Series championship by the Washington Senators. To commemorate this anniversary, Gary Sarnoff compiled this comprehensive recap of the special season in which rookie manager Bucky Harris became the youngest manager to win the World Series at age 27. This is a record that still stands today.

The book starts off with the end of the 1923 season as the Senators finished 4th in the American League. It was an improvement but owner Clark Griffith was not satisfied and he felt a change was needed at the manager spot. After several considerations he contacted his second baseman Bucky Harris and asked how he felt about handling managerial duties as well as playing regularly at second base. Harris accepted the challenge in his calm and unassuming manner. This is a characteristic of Harris that is evident throughout the book, especially when reading his quotes given to the press.

This section of the book, and the celebration by not only the team but the entire city of Washington DC after the World Series are the best parts of the book. The reader will certainly feel the joy that the city has after their baseball team brought home the championship. It is also interesting to read the tidbits during the World Series when President Calvin Coolidge is attending the game. This is mainly due to the rabid fandom of Mrs. Coolidge as Sarnoff lets the reader know about her enthusiasm while cheering for the team. 

The bulk of the book, from the first spring training game to the last out of game 7 of the World Series against the New York Giants, is a detailed account of every game. For the absolute baseball junkie this is great material, but it feels like it drags. Just like the players, I felt I was reaching the “dog days” of the book by the time August rolled around. It read like a narrative of baseball-reference.com accounts of the game. Although to be fair, there were sprinklings of interesting anecdotes about various players, especially the stars of the team. These included Hall of Famers Sam Rice, Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson. The reader will feel the same joy as Johnson did when he became the winning pitcher as Muddy Ruel scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. This section of the book is the part where I was most grateful for the deep detail of game action.

Overall, I felt this was a decent book on the magical 1924 season for the Senators. While it does seem to go slow at times, that matches the grind of any baseball season. As a fan of the Minnesota Twins, I always enjoy reading anything about the franchise’s days in Washington so this account of their most successful season during that era was one I was glad to read. 


I wish to thank Rowman and Littlefield for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Link:https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538182352/Team-of-Destiny-Walter-Johnson-Clark-Griffith-Bucky-Harris-and-the-1924-Washington-Senators 



Monday, December 4, 2023

Review of "The Big Time"

Books about anything to do with sports, no matter the topic or which sport, in the 1970s always intrigues me and this one was no exception.  Here is my review of "The Big Time"

Title/Author:

The Big Time: How the 1970’s Transformed Sports in America ” by Michael MacCambridge

Rating: 

4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  For anyone who followed sports during the decade of the 1970’s, they were certainly not the same at the end of the decade as they were at the beginning.  This is true no matter which game, league or athletes one examined. This was also a reflection of the changes in American society and these are tied nicely together and told in wonderful prose in this book by Michael MacCambridge.

While many different sports and social topics are covered in this book, women’s sports and how they affected the feminist movement of the 1970’s is the most prominent theme in the book.  The big events are covered, of course, such as the “battle of the sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but there is much more to this topic.  The best example has nothing to do with action on a playing surface but in board rooms. 

The Association for Intercollegiate Atheletics for Women (AIAW) was founded in 1971 to govern women’s college sports.  They were more about opportunity than for competition, and they believed Title IX, passed in 1972 and an important point mentioned several times in the book, would be the final hurdle to their goals.  However, the NCAA, having other ideas, was incorporating those sports into their programs in order to comply with the law and they eventually took over all women’s programs.  While it was sad for those AIAW members, it was important to note the progress made.

Similar write ups are in the book for other social issues such as racial equality and labor rights in various sports.  It is noted how important the decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz to strike down baseball’s reserve clause had a ripple effect in all other sports when it came to free agency for players.  Some sports adapted free agency more quickly than others and it didn’t come without significant labor strife, but that is also an important topic when it comes to 1970’s sports.

Of course, the text isn’t limited to just these types of topics.  There are several passages about the actual games played as well and the variety of sports covered is tremendous.  Just about any particular game you can think of that was played in front of spectators was covered.  That is one of the best aspects of this book – the variety.

I wish to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Link: The Big Time: How the 1970s... by MacCridge, Michael (amazon.com)

 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Review of “The Chicken Runs at Midnight”

After seeing the 2023 finalists for the Casey Award for the best baseball book, I decided to read more of these award winning books and finalist for not only 2023 but past years as well. Looking at past years’ finalists, this tile of a 2019 finalist caught my eye. I then read the synopsis - and then immediately checked out a copy. Wow, what a book! Here is my review.  


Title/Author:

“The Chicken Runs at Midnight: A Daughter’s Message From Heaven That Changed a Father’s Heart and Won the World Series” by Tom Friend


Rating

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: It’s very hard to categorize this book because it touches so many areas. Is it a baseball book? Yes, there’s much about the sport and one man’s quest to reach the major leagues, but it is so much more than that.  Is it a spiritual book? Yes, but it doesn’t really have that characteristic until the last third or so.  Is it a book on family life and relationships? Yes, that’s important to the story but again, not a complete description. Yet, this wonderful book by Tom Friend will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading about these topics.  Field’s writing about the following topics is a joy to behold and will keep the reader glued to the book.

Let’s start with the baseball. Rich Donnelly grew up in the town of Steubenville, Pennsylvania as a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. While he dreamed of playing for his beloved Pirates, he wasn’t the best athlete in his family - that honor belonged to his brother Jerome Jr. or Romey. Romey was also Rich’s hero, 14 years his senior and continually monitored by their father Jerome. Wanting to ensure that Romey would become a major league pitcher, Jerome Sr. was basically a helicopter parent in that he set strict rules for Romey about practice, social time, eating, dating - you name it, it was monitored by the father. While Romey did end up in professional baseball, he failed to make the major leagues and tragically died not long after giving up the game. 

Enter Rich, who was already doing pretty well for himself as a catcher. Jerome Sr. then shifted his focus to Rich who also ended up playing college and professional baseball. Like Romey, Rich had struggles in the minors and also married a woman soon after finally having the freedom to do so. He and his wife Peggy had four children - Richard Jr. or Bubba, Tim, Mike and Amy. It is the daughter, Amy, who spoke the phrase making up the title of the book - and it was just a spontaneous remark when she asked her dad what he told players when cupping his mouth while being the third base coach. This was in the 1992 NLCS when Rich was the third base coach for the Pirates. He may not have made his boyhood team as a player, but he was just as thrilled to wear their uniform as a coach. 

But the road there was filled with many issues. Rich inherited his father’s type A personality and while that may work on a baseball diamond, it certainly caused issues with his family. He pushed the three boys hard when they showed promise in baseball and basketball. But Amy…we’ll, Amy was her own person and always tried to show her father how she was important too. Not to mention her talents were on display as well. She would gather kids in the family garage and hold classrooms lessons, complete with homework and forms for parents to sign. She also became an athlete, excelling in basketball. But Rich never saw this - thanks to falling for the vices that often plagued baseball players on the road - drinking and women - Rich and his wife Peggy eventually divorced and Amy was left despondent over not being able to please her father. 

Even more so, as Freind wonderfully describes, Rich is also,left with so many lingering doubts - about how good a father he was to his daughter, to his faith and his overall life. But news about Amy and a devastating diagnosis of brain cancer left Rich in shock and the story of how he got back into Amy’s life, how special she was and the time they together in the Pittsburgh playoff drive - capped off by “The Chicken Runs at Midnight” comment is one that is some heartwarming that one would think that wine Amy passed away the following spring, that would be the end of the story. 

But Rich, following manager Jim Leylamd to Miami and being the third base coach for the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series, there was one more miracle from Amy thanks to Marlin Craig Counsell, who was nicknamed the Chicken and the time that the Marlins won game 7. Not wanting to give away any more of the story than already told, just know that if a reader got this far without tearing up or at least feeling some emotion, they are sure to do so when this occurs. 

This book was a finalist for a 2019 Casey Award and once one read it, they will understand why. Not a typical baseball story even though there are many typical baseball plays and personalities in the book, this is one that is sure to captivate a reader. Even this lengthy review cannot do justice to the complete story of Rich and Amy Donnelly. 


Link:https://www.amazon.com/Chicken-Runs-Midnight-Daughters-Message/dp/0310352061/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 



Saturday, November 18, 2023

Review of “Rocky Hockey”

 Having earlier read and reviewed here a book on the NHL’s Kansas City Scouts, I was interested in this one on the franchise’s next home in Denver. Here is my review of a book about those six mostly miserable seasons in the Mile High City. 


Title/Author:

“Rocky Hockey: The Short But Wild Ride of the NHL’s Colorado Rockies” by Greg Enright


Rating

4 of 5 stars (very good)


Review: When a sports fan thinks of a team called the Colorado Rockies, baseball is usually the sport associated with that team name. But between 1976 and 1982, there was a hockey team with the same name in the NHL. Those years in which the franchise played its home games in Denver are recalled in this book by Greg Enright.

The team was trying to make a fresh start in a new city during that fall in 1976 after two disastrous seasons as the Kansas City Scouts. With a better arena already built and a city that had never had a hockey team at the highest level, it was believed that the franchise would improve in both its won-loss record and its financial situation.

However, as Enright describes well, that was not the case. The Rockies remained at or near the bottom of the NHL standings as well as in attendance. The team had a revolving door in both ownership (4 different owners) and the head coaching job (6 different coaches in 6 seasons). As for players, while there were a few bonafide stars on the team such as Wilf Paiement, Barry Beck, Lanny MacDonald and Rob Ramage, the team was mostly made up of young players or cast offs from other teams. That was the state of the team in Kansas City and also in Denver. 

The book is written in chronological order by season and well organized. The writing is mostly like long recaps of each season, both on the ice and in the front office. However, that doesn’t mean it’s dry or boring because Enright includes many entertaining quotes and stories from players, coaches and front office personnel. This is the case right up to the fateful day in 1982 when the NHL voted unanimously to allow the franchise to relocate to the New Jersey Meadowlands (with some extra cash to the Islanders, Rangers and Flyers to soften the blow of having another team in their market).


If a reader enjoyed hockey during that era, they will enjoy reliving the mostly down years of this team that happily found success in its new home. One doesn’t have to have been a Rockies (or New Jersey Devils) fan to like this book.


Link:https://www.amazon.com/Rocky-Hockey-Short-Colorado-Rockies/dp/B0BYRG7PXZ/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Review of "Why We Love Baseball"

Sometimes it is better to listen to the audiobook than read the physical book and that was the case for this selection.  It was one I wanted to obtain since the author announced he was working on it and when I saw he narrated the audio version, I opted for that - glad I did.  Here is my review.


Title/Author:

Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments ” by Joe Posnanski, read by Joe Posnanski and Ellen Adair

Rating: 

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:  Any baseball can tell you about his or her favorite moments in the game and they will probably tell you that this is one reason they love (or at least like) baseball.  Best selling author Joe Posnanski has gathered 50 such moments and wrote about them in this fun book for any baseball fan.

As one who likes to listen to audio books that are narrated by the author, I felt that because one will get Posnanski’s take on these moments with his voice inflections it was more meaningful than reading the book.  In addition, between chapters about these moments there were other items sprinkled liberally through the book such as the funniest moments, great bare-handed catches and other such nuggets.  The narration by Ellen Adair for these sections was just as good as Posnanski’s and gave a nice break in hearing the same voice.

As there is with any list of the best, the greatest or other subjective subjects, one might argue about Posnanski’s choices and many readers/listeners will want to exclaim “Where’s my favorite moment?”  That doesn’t really matter for this book as anyone who enjoys the game will recall many of them and smile.  That is true whether a person was alive to witness the event live or on television or even if they just know about it through stories passed down through the generations – each moment is a wonderful one to someone.

The players and teams are various and while not ever team is mentioned in these 50 moments, there is a chapter for the most popular one for each team as Posnanski reached out to fans to send him their favorites.  While the one I sent did not make the top 50, it did get mentioned for my favorite team so that was a good thing (Kirby Puckett’s home run in game 6 of the 1991 World Series). This is a must read or must listen for any baseball fan.

Link: Amazon.com: Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments (Audible Audio Edition): Joe Posnanski, Joe Posnanski, Ellen Adair, Penguin Audio: Audible Books & Originals

 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Review of "Boston Ball"

College basketball got into full swing last week so it was time to read something on that sport.  This one on the early careers of three legendary coaches is a very good one.  Here is my review of "Boston Ball" 


Title/Author:

Boston Ball: Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams and the Forgotten Cradle of Basketball Coaches” by Clayton Trutor

Rating: 

5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:  While most basketball fans think of the NBA’s Boston Celtics when one refers to Boston as a “basketball town”, that wouldn’t tell the complete story.  In the 1970’s and early 1980’s there were three colleges in Boston – Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University – that were also putting together very good basketball programs.  The coaches at these schools were Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams and Rick Pitino respectively.  All three of these coaches are well-known for their success elsewhere, but their time in Boston was equally impressive.  Those coaches and their Boston programs are highlighted in this excellent book by Clayton Trutor.

Through hundreds of interviews with various people involved in those programs, including many former players, a reader will learn much about how all three coaches not only plied their trade at these smaller schools (save for Williams at Boston College since they became part of the Big East), but also had success when they were not expected to do so.  It was an even bigger hurdle to gain recognition and draw fans for Pitino, as Boston University is considered more of a hockey school than basketball and often had to cede the arena to the hockey team.  This didn’t detour Pitino, nor did a similar situation at Northeaster give Calhoun many problems.  All three coaches took over their programs under less than ideal circumstances but got their teams multiple NCAA tournament invitations.

There are other aspects of the book that while keeping the central theme of the basketball programs, the reader will enjoy.  There are some history lessons about the city of Boston at that time, a nice (?) description of the conditions of the Boston Garden are included and plenty of game action for all three schools.  As a lover of the college game during that era, I found this book to be full of very interesting stories and information on the earlier careers of three legendary coaches and the programs they led to the “Big Dance”

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

Link: Boston Ball: Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun,... by Trutor, Clayton (amazon.com)

 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Review of "Daybreak at Chavez Ravine"

Now that baseball season is over (congratulations to the Texas Rangers), it is time to read baseball books when a fix is needed.  For this, I want to catch up and read the 2023 Casey Award nominees that I have yet to read.  This book is the first one toward that goal.  


 

Title/Author:

Daybreak at Chavez Ravine: Fernandomania and the Remaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers” by Erik Sherman

Rating: 

4½ of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  One could not be a baseball fan, even a very casual one, in 1981 and not know who Fernando Valenzuela was.  That was the year of “Fernando-mainia” when he took the baseball world by storm as a 20 year old rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers by winning his first 8 games with a humble attitude, speaking little to no English, and became the pride of his native Mexico.  This book by Erik Sherman makes a great trip down memory lane who remember that season and the sold-out crowds at every game Valenzuela pitched.

Sherman begins the book with the history of the relationship between the Dodgers and the Mexican-American population of Los Angeles.  That relationship was tenuous at best as Mexican-American family were forced out of their homes at Chavez Ravine for the construction of Dodger Stadium.  While Sherman does state that the Dodgers are not solely to blame for this happening, they were considered the emblem for this poor treatment of a marginalized population. 

Enter Valenzuela.  He came to the Dodgers near the tail end of the 1980 season and working out of the bullpen, he didn’t allow an earned run in more than 17 innings of work.  But the young, seemingly portly (but in great shape) pitcher born in a small impoverished Mexican town really turned the baseball world upside down in 1981.  Sherman’s account of those games, the sold-out crowds and the fervor among Mexican-Americans reveling in the success of “one of their own.”  The impact Valenzuela had on this population cannot be overstated. 

Not only were Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles excited over his success, but all across the country “Fernandomainia” was building.  When Valenzuela pitched his first game in New York and the media buzz that occurred, Sherman wrote about that with good detail.  When talking about how Valenzuela remained humble and focused on his work even with all the requests for his time, that was described well.  This was also the case during the postseason, when he defeated all three teams he faced in that season’s expanded playoff format due to a players’ strike, capped off by a World Series championship for the Dodgers.

Sherman does justice for Valenzuela by also writing about his years after that special season and finding teammates and others who felt that he was just as good in other years, especially 1986 and 1987, as he was in 1981.  There isn’t a lot about him that is remembered after that special season, but that chapter in this book will show the complete pitcher Valenzuela was, even if it always wasn’t as spectacular as his rookie season.  Sherman finishes the book by making a case about Valenzuela being in the baseball Hall of Fame.  He does give voices to those who disagree, but Sherman does present a good argument to have him in.  This is especially true when considering his overall impact on the sport aside from just his pitching statistics. Any baseball fan who remembers that special season or the very good pitching of Fernando Valenzuela should pick up this book.

Link: amazon.com/Daybreak-Chavez-Ravine-Fernandomania-Remaking/dp/1496231015/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Monday, October 30, 2023

Review of "Black Ball"

As I very slowly work my way through older titles, this one is one that any basketball fan might want to take a look at.  Here is my review of "Black Ball." 


 

Title/Author:

Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA” by Theresa Runstedtler

Rating: 

4½ of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  

The decade of the 1970’s was a decade of both progressive change and a decline in the interest of mostly white fans of professional basketball.  Some call it the “dark age” of the sport, but this book by Theresa Runstedtler tells why that is not necessarily the case.

The book has some great prose and well-written sections.  One example is when she is writing about the American Basketball Association (ABA), a short-lived but very important professional league that directly competed for players against the more established NBA.  She writes that the red, white and blue basketball the league used was not the only example of a change of color.  This passage is typical of the language used in the book: “Little did ABA team owners realize that their upstart league would change the color of the game in more ways than one. It would soon be the incubator for a new style of pro ball - black ball - and its existence would help spur black players to lead a more forceful push for higher compensation, better contract terms, and more control over their careers."

This prose is not the only excellent feature of this book as it is well-researched and the arguments presented are backed up well with factual evidence.  More than just basketball, issues that either are directly part of civil rights and racial justice or tangentially related such as labor relations are discussed in great detail.  While that is the main focus of the book, it also describes how the game itself changed.  With more Black players gaining jobs in both leagues, especially the ABA, the game changed from set plays and jump shots to a more freewheeling style with dunks and creativity. 

All of this is told with racial integration and justice as a key theme and for the most part, Runstedtler is very convincing and will make a reader think, no matter their race.  The only downfall of this argument was the last section about a punch thrown by Kermit Washington, a Black player, on a white player, Rudy Tomjanovich. Having seen that game and also having read other sources about the two men and the incident, there isn’t much agreement about the racial aspects of this and sadly, this isn’t of the same high quality as the rest of the book.  However, don’t let that one chapter discourage you from reading this one.  Anyone interested in civil rights or basketball from that era will enjoy it.

I wish to thank Bold Type Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Link: Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA: Runstedtler, Theresa: 9781645036951: Amazon.com: Books

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Review of "1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession"

"Obsession" is a good word to describe the author's passion for this writing after he found the film clip that is the subject of this book.  Here is my review:


Title/Author:

1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession” by Ned Boulting

Rating: 

3 of 5 stars (good)

Review:  During the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, author Ned Boulting bought a spool of film that featured a clip from stage 4 of the 1923 Tour de France.  This book could be considered a dedication to the obsession that Boulting soon had to find out as much information as he could about the people in the film clip and the events surrounding that race.

Boulting does a yeoman’s job of research, interviews (as best he could during lockdowns) and writing in order to gain this material.  The book itself covers a lot of material and that is both good and bad. The bad: Boulting diverges a lot from the film and the race and writes much about French and German history and important figures.  It is interesting, but it takes a lot of attention away from the main topic – the race and the stage 4 winner, Theofile Beekman.

Beekman is the lone rider who crosses a bridge (which had its own history, covered by Boulting, of course) on the film and he won stages but the overall winner was Henri PĂ©lissier.  The stories of Beekman, Pelissier and others in the race were really interesting as were the writings about the Tour itself.  Had the book concentrated on the riders, the pieces in the film and the riders, it would have been a much better read.  

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

Link: 1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession: Boulting, Ned: 9781399401548: Amazon.com: Books