Saturday, February 24, 2024

Review of “Sho-Time”

With baseball spring training in full swing, getting back into reading baseball books. This is one I found on Kindle Unlimited about the biggest name in the game today and it was decent. 


“Sho-time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played” by Jeff Fletcher


3 of 5 stars (good)

Review: Even casual baseball fans are very familiar with the accomplishments of Shohei Ohtani, the most successful two-way -layer in the major leagues since Babe Ruth. This book by Jeff Fletcher on Ohtani’s historic 2021 season is a decent read with the best sections coming early in the book.

The best parts of the book are not about Ohtani’s time in the major leagues, at that point all with the Los Angeles Angels. Those are reserved for Ohtani’s time in Japan, when he played professionally for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. This was probably the most significant aspect of Ohtani’s professional baseball career because as soon as major league scouts discovered the talented pitcher and hitter, he had thoughts about not playing in Japan and going directly to America. However, after announcing that he was not going to play in Japan, that is what he ended up doing through 2017 before joining the Angels.

It is here that the book, although decent in the details written about Ohtani with the Angels, loses its luster for me and other passionate baseball fans because there really isn’t a lot about Ohtani in the book that hasn’t already been said or reported elsewhere. Nothing on the diamond or his injuries in 2019 or 2020 were new to me. The most interesting aspects of these chapters were about the marketing of Ohtani by the Angels and his work with different translators. 

While there would not be too many people, even non-baseball fans, who don’t know who Ohtani is, this book would be best for those who fall into this category. As he now starts a new chapter in his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, this book can be considered a decent recap of his time with the other Los Angeles team. 

Link: m

Monday, February 19, 2024

Review of "The Tigerbelles"

While I have read other great books on Olympic athletes, on Black athletes during the era of blatant racial discrimination and other books on running and track, this is probably the best one that combines all three of these topics into one great read.  Here is my review of "The Tigerbelles".  


The Tigerbelles: Olympic Legends from Tennessee State” by Aime Alley Card


5 of 5 stars (excellent)


While there have been many books released on the struggles of Black athletes from previous eras the last few years, there hasn’t been one that has focused on an exclusive set of fabulous Black female athletes from those times until now.  “The Tigerbelles” gets its title from the name given to the women’s track and field team for Tennessee State University.  This excellent book on the Tigerbelles by Aime Alley Card is a fantastic account of their success at both their competition against other amateur athletes and their medal-winning trips to the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

 Any discussion of the Tigerbelles has to start with their dedicated coach, Ed Temple. Temple not only provided guidance to the women on their performance on the track, but he also was a mentor on showing them how to conduct themselves outside of the school.  This was not only about their behavior, but their attitudes, their dress and their temperament.  There were some who would rebel against this, and they would be met with consequences but overall, Ed Temple was the driving force behind their success.  The book describes what he did and his life extremely well.

 As for the athletes themselves, Card writes about them with equal detail and knowledge.  While the most famous member of the Tigerbelles would have to be Wilma Rudolph, her story is not the only one that makes for great reading.  Others who enjoyed success with the team such as Barbara Jones and Lucinda Williams also have stories that should be shared and they are in this book.  The women’s experiences, both good and bad, are shared here as well.  While it is well-known about the racial discrimination faced by all Black people at that time, it is always painful to read about them.  However, there are also many uplifting stories, including the experience of those who qualified for the 1960 Olympics in Rome. It was good to read about these as well as the hardships the athletes faced.

 Speaking of hardships, the team faced those at their school as well.  Despite their success and popularity, Temple faced many difficulties in securing funding from the school for the team and for upgrading their facilities.  It didn’t help that the press did not take female athletes seriously (even more so than today) and did not give them the same respect and publicity. That didn’t detract their fellow students as Temple would annually hold a Blue and White competition with teammates running and competing against each other and it would attract many spectators on campus.

It isn’t often that a high quality book is written about a little-known athlete or team and while Wilma Rudolph may be known to some, the Tigerbelles have a story that many may not know but now will have stories that should be known by more people.

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

Link: The Tigerbelles: Olympic Legends from Tennessee State eBook : Card, Aime Alley: Kindle Store

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Review of “The Gas and Flame Men”

Sometimes a book that I thought would be mostly about baseball (or another sport) may be more heavily into another topic. That was the case for this book and it was a very good one. Here is my review of “The Gas and Flame Men.” 


“The Gas and Flame Men: Baseball and the Chemical Warfare Service During World War I” by Jim Leake


4 of 5 stars (very good)


When Germany started using poisonous gas as a weapon during World War I, the United States formed its own Chemical Warfare Service to not only counter this type of attack, but also to go on the offensive for this strategy. When the call was made for men to join this special unit, several well-known baseball players heeded the call. This book by Jim Leake is a very good work on both the military and baseball parts of this story.

There is certainly more written about the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) than about baseball in the book. However, this doesn’t mean the game is ignored. There is good material on several well-known ballplayers who were part of the CWS - including two very famous Hall of Fame players, Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb.  Leake, through excellent research, finds quotes about how the players felt about serving their country with the “work or fight” orders of that war. There was some controversy about Mathewson’s willingness to fight, and Leake’s research shows that wasn’t the case. Cobb’s feelings about the possibility that he would not return to baseball after military service was also interesting.

However, the best work was about the CWS itself. Every aspect of the program was covered, from its inception to the recruiting of men with knowledge of chemistry and gasses to the training. One notable item was something that is hard to fathom today and that the soldiers were shipped overseas without any training in the program - that would be received while on the field. Interestingly, one soldier who would fell under this category was Cobb, but the Armistice Day treaty was signed before Cobb saw any combat. He was getting training but the war ended earlier than expected. 

As all know, Cobb went on to more great seasons after returning home. However, as author Leake noted, this wasn’t the case for all. He does write about the tragic death of Mathewson soon after coming home, which was attributed to his exposure to gas during the war.  Leake’s work on lesser known players like Eppa Ripley is just as good throughout the book as well. Readers who enjoy military literature or baseball books will want a copy of this book.

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


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Review of “Cardinal Dreams”

 While there are plenty of books on the stars of baseball and some on minor league life, this was a book on a prospect who had a taste of the big leagues then suffered an untimely death - a very good read. Here is my review of “Cardinal Dreams.”


“Cardinal Dreams: The Legacy of Charlie Peete and a Life Cut Short” by Danny Spewak


4 of 5 stars (very good)


Charlie Peete is probably a player that most people, even hard-core St. Louis Cardinals fans, wold not recognize. He only appeared in 23 games for the 1956 Cardinals, hitting .192 in 59 plate appearances. So why would author Danny Spewak write a book on this player? Because he was a Black player with a promising future whose life was tragically cut short when he and his family dies in a plane crash in November 1956. 

More than just that tragedy, the story of Charlie Peete is one worth sharing because of his struggles that he and many Black players faced during the early days of the integration of Major League Baseball. It is also notable because despite many of their National League competitors integrating already, the Cardinals were among the last of the National League teams to welcome Black ballplayers. Thischanged when August Busch bought the team and wanted to have the best players on the team, no matter their skin color. 

At the time, Peete was in the minor league system for the Cardinals and was getting antsy to get his chance. Having already proven to be a fine player in the Piedmont League where he was a local favorite, playing for the Portsmouth (Virginia) team which was his hometown, he was moving up the ranks all the way to triple A Omaha, finally getting the call in July 1956.

There is more to Peete’s story as he was also a member of the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League as well as organized baseball. The shameful acts of racism Peete faced were not discussed in great detail but enough that a reader will understand what Peete and other Black ballplayers faced at that time. 

Like the rest of the book, Spewak uses many sources of information when writing about the doomed flight to Venezuela where Pete, his wife and their three children perished. It was common for ballplayers who were on the cusp of making the Major Leagues to play winter ball in Latin American countries and Peete was about to play for a Venezuelan team for the 1956-57 winter. This section, like the rest of the book, is very informative and an easy read. Telling stories about players like Charlie Peete is something that should be done as well as the pioneers like Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. 

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