Friday, May 31, 2024

Review of "The New York Game"

Baseball and New York City have been connected in many ways throughout the sport's history. This book is the best illustration of that connection and should be on the shelves of any fan of the game or of the city.  


“The New York Game: Baseball and the Rise of a New City” by Kevin Baker


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: The old cliché of how art can imitate real life can be applied here in this book of the history of New York baseball and the rise of the city by Kevin Baker.  Of course, one would have to consider baseball to be a form of “art”, but even so, this is a great illustration of the rise of baseball from a game scattered across the five boroughs of the city and how it compares to the rise of New York City as a major world metropolis.

The book starts off with an emphasis that is one did not already know this (most do), baseball was not invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York.  Instead, the earliest origins can be traced to various fields and street of the city in the mid 19th century.  From there, the book tells the story of baseball in the city up to World War II with great detail and with emphasis on the three teams in New York during this portion of the 20th century – the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants.  Each team has excellent very good, detailed descriptions of their star players (most notably Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the Yankees, as one might expect) and of the managers.  For the latter, this is especially true for Giants manager John McGraw.

Intertwined with the history of the ballclubs is the history of the city and how it rose in stature to what it was at the time of the end of the book.  Just like the excellent description of 19th century baseball of which many do not know about the New York experience such as the New York Knickerbockers – no, not to be confused with the basketball team. What is also very interesting about including the history of city politics is how they were tied in with the baseball teams.  The best writing about this connection is Baker’s telling of how Tammany Hall politics were involved in the founding of the Yankees.  The story of how they were also squeezed out of the Polo Grounds and ended up building a nice little park called Yankee Stadium also made for good reading.

If there is a problem with any part of the book, it comes near the end, where the stories about the teams, players, and city in the 1940’s doesn’t seem to cover all aspects as well as the rest of the book as well as an ending that seemed abrupt.  But by then, I was so enamored with the rest of the book that it didn’t matter – this was an excellent, albeit lengthy, read on baseball and New York City.

I wish to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

Link: The New York Game: Baseball and the Rise of a New City eBook : Baker, Kevin: Kindle Store

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Review of “Leave While The Party’s Good”

As one who likes reading about the front offices and business side of sports (especially baseball), I had to read this one when offered a review copy. Of course the title helped, too!


“Leave While the Party’s Good: The Life and Legacy of Baseball Executive Harry Dalton” by Lee C. Kluck


5 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: While I am not one who usually picks up a book because of the title, I admit that for this book on Harry Dalton, the unusual title was what grabbed my attention. I’m glad that Lee C. Kluck’s book on the former general manager of three American League teams was just as good as that title as it was one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

For readers who like to read about the business side of sports and the wheeling and dealing inside front offices, this is an excellent read. Kluck describes Dalton’s rise from a ballpark employee to his early time in the minor league offices to his three stints in the American League with the Baltimore Orioles (1966-71), California Angels (1972-77) and Milwaukee Brewers (1978-91). 

Each stint is told from Dalton’s viewpoint as Kluck does an excellent job of illustrating the successful actions done while running each team even if the wins weren’t plentiful. This was especially the case when he was with the Angels and in his later years in Milwaukee, but each place had great stories from Dalton’s “Gang” as they are called frequently in the book.

The trades, drafts, and free agent signings that Dalton made are also recapped and illustrate what made Dalton one of the more respected executives in the game. That didn’t come without some controversy, however. There are two good illustrations of this. One was that during the 1981 players’ strike, Dalton did not take as hard a stance as some of his colleagues which caused some hard feelings. The second involved slugger Gary Sheffield and his difficulties in Milwaukee where he didn’t feel that Dalton was truthful with him. These and many other passages are told in excellent prose by Kluck. It is factually correct but written in a manner that isn’t too dry either. I found it to be very easy and enjoyable reading on a baseball executive whose success is often overlooked today. 

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. 


Monday, May 20, 2024

Review of “Five Banners”

Duke is one those teams in college basketball that one either loves or despises. While I fall closer to the latter category, I still enjoy reading about them and this book on their five championship teams is no exception. 


“Five Banners: Inside the Duke Basketball Dynasty ” by John Feinstein


4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: Men’s college basketball has a few schools who consistently have very good teams year in and year out. One of these “blue blood” schools is Duke University and one of its alumni who has gone on to have a successful journalism and writing career, John Feinstein, has written a book on Duke’s five championship seasons . 

It seems hard to believe, but the was a time when Duke basketball wasn’t very good. While there was a Duke team that made the Final Four in 1978, it is the 1986 team that lost the championship game to Louisville when Feinstein starts his journey into the start of Duke’s rise to basketball royalty.

Feinstein is considered to be one of the best writers on college basketball and for the most part, this book shows the reader why. Feinstein will take the reader inside the locker room and on the bench alongside legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, more affectionately known as “Coach K. While Feinstein writes a lot about Coach K, including the famous “breakfast at Denny’s” after a loss, there isn’t the same level of detail to know the players. That is a hame because other college basketball books written by Feinstein are outstanding in their portrayal of players.

Instead, this book focuses on the results and highlights of Duke’s championship teams and seasons. The writing is still crisp, fast paced and done in a manner that the reader will feel like they are inside the venue. While personally I felt it wasn’t quite as good as other Feinstein books I have read on the sport, it is nonetheless one that any Duke fan will want to add to their collection. 

I wish to thank Duke University Press for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. 


Saturday, May 18, 2024

Review of “Game On”

A book on the history of sports media? Sounds like something that would be the subject of a scholarly work. If it was it sure didn’t read like one but still was as informative as one. Here is my review of “Game On.”


“Game On: How Sports Media Grew Up, Sold Out, & Got Personal With Billions of Fans ” by David Bockino


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: Sports fans today have so many different ways to enjoy sports or associated aspects such as betting and fantasy games. How we got here today from the humble beginnings of a boxing match being broadcast on the radio in 1921 is told in this excellent book by David Bockino. 

This is certainly more than a simple retelling of the history of media. How Bockino makes this so interesting is how he connects the new form of media he is describing with the societal norms of the time. Usually this means something is going to change drastically.

One example is professional football exploding in popularity after the famous televised 1958 championship game between the Colts and the Giants. This is well known to even casual fans, but the way Bockino writes about it and his references to other coverage of the game, especially newspaper writers, makes this even better than the commonly known account of the game and telecast. 

The latter chapters, from the creation of ESPN to sports talk radio to fan “experiences” is also excellent writing. This is mainly due to Bockino’s personalization of the events. The reader will get to know people who took chances, financially and professionally. There are far too many people to name her and it’s difficult to provide a great example because every chapter and every innovation Bockino describes is excellent. It should be noted that even though the topic could easily become dry, it never becomes that. The pages will be turned quickly by a reader, who will be entertained and educated on a topic that has undergone dramatic changes in the century covered in the book.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. 


Monday, May 13, 2024

Review of "World Class"

Like everyone else who follows sports, I was shocked and saddened to learn about Grant Wahl's death during the 2022 World Cup.  When I saw a book that is a collection of his writing was coming out, I requested a review copy and got it!  It lived up to what I expected.  Here is my review of "World Class."


“World Class: Purpose, Passion and the Pursuit of Greatness On and Off the Field” by Grant Wahl


5 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review: When Grant Wahl died suddenly from an aneurysm while covering the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the entire sports world was in shock and in mourning.  He was well known for his passion for writing about soccer and being the voice for those who were not heard.  This book is a collection of Wahl’s writing on those topics from many different sources.  His best known work was writing for Sports Illustrated, and many of the pieces are from the magazine, but there are also articles from Substack, his college classes and other sources.

What struck me the most about this collection was not the quality, as that was expected to be superior in a collection of Grant Wahl writing.  It was not that the topics were varied and not just about soccer and college basketball, the two sports that Wahl covered during his time at Sports Illustrated.  It even wasn’t that his articles would often champion causes like social justice for marginalized groups like LGBTQ+ or migrant workers.  No, what I really liked about this book and each of the articles was the passion that Wahl put into each article.  That was mentioned throughout the book – that a reader could see that Wahl was writing with a purpose.  Often, the forward of a book written by a relative or colleague of the author will state this – but in this case, it was absolutely the truth. 

There are several powerful pieces scattered throughout the book.  One of the best had nothing to do with sports and was a submission of Wahl’s when he was in college.  He wrote an account of a person for whom he held great regard – Vietnam War correspondent Gloria Emerson. It was an assignment for a non-fiction writing class, but it was so good and received so much positive feedback that it was kept amongst his other writings.  Two others that I believe should be noted are his Substack writings on the conditions faced by workers in Qatar preparing for the 2022 World Cup and his portrait of American teenage soccer player Freddie Adu, who did not live up to the hype given to him during his career in Major League Soccer and is now playing for any European team who will sign him. 

One doesn’t have to be a soccer fan to enjoy Wahl’s work on the sport.  The same goes for his other pieces in this book – if a reader simply enjoys excellent non-fiction writing in which the passion of the author is clear, then that reader needs to read this book.  

I wish to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.


Link: World Class: Purpose, Passion, and the Pursuit of Greatness On and Off the Field: Wahl, Grant, Gounder, Dr. Céline: 9780593726761: Books

Monday, May 6, 2024

Review of "Hairpins"

I find fictional books on racing, no matter what type of racing, to be quite realistic in their descriptions of what drivers experience in their cars and this book is no exception.  Here is my review of "Hairpins"


Title/Author: “Hairpins: A Formula 1 Racing Novel” by Wayne Kerr

Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review: Formula 1 racing, much like other forms of auto racing, is mostly a male-dominated sport but there are some women who are breaking barriers and succeeding in the business.  This fictional novel by Wayne Kerr centers around a young woman, Nikita (Niki) Madera, and her races in the highest level in the sport.

Niki, her McLaren teammate Martin LaConte and Alfa Romeo driver Joshua (Shu) Wheeler are characters that are well developed in the story and there is a budding romance between Niki and Shu despite the fact that they are teammates.  There are other important characters to the story, such as Niki’s best friend and manager Lynn and Camryn Cardinal, another female driver.

However, the main selling point of the book is what happens in the racing simulator and on the track.  There is a lot of detailed information on what Niki, Shu and the other drivers are doing.  This includes conversations between the driver and spotter, the strategies made by each team and great detailed explanations on the cars, the tracks and the various hazards that each driver faces.  The reader will really feel like they are part of the team or sitting in the cockpit of the car or simulator through most of the book.  There is enough technical talk that knowledgeable race fans can learn more, but not so technical that novice or non-fans can still understand what is happening.

If one is looking for a dramatic, character-driven story, this is not the one.  But for an excellent description of a driver’s experience during a Formula 1 season, then this is the book for that reader.  Despite the story being fictional, the description of the tracks, cars, and race teams feels very realistic.

I wish to thank the author and publisher for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Review of "Schoolboy"

Even though I read a lot about baseball in the early and mid 20th century, I had never heard of Waite "Schoolboy" Hoyt until obtaining this book.  Learned a lot about his life and some about his baseball career.


“Schoolboy: The Untold Journey of a Yankees Hero” by Waite Hoyt with Tim Manners


3 of 5 stars (Okay)

Review: This is a unique memoir in that the subject of the book died before the book was actually assembled.  Tim Manners took many clippings and notes from former major league pitcher Waite Hoyt and put them together in a manner that reads like a memoir by Hoyt.  Manners deserves a lot of credit for pulling off this project as it does describe Hoyt’s life completely in the first-person narrative.

Maybe it is because of this formatting that while the book mostly describes Hoyt’s life in chronological order, I found it a slog to get through the pages.  Knowing that Hoyt was an important member of one of the greatest baseball teams in history, the 1927 New York Yankees, I expected more about his baseball career and that team.  The parts that do describe any part of his time with that team are mostly about his interactions with teammates, especially Babe Ruth.  However, one of the more interesting parts of the entire book did involve a member of that team, but well after both men had left the Yankees.  When Hoyt was trying to get back into baseball shape one winter, he decided to do so at a local skating rink.  Who did he see at the rink who was also skating as part of his conditioning?  None other than Lou Gehrig!

The encounter with Gehrig, which covers an entire chapter, is an example of how the book reads – some baseball, but mostly topics that are important to Hoyt’s life but are not really part of the game.  There are very interesting events that would not have occurred in Hoyt’s life had he not been a ball player such as meeting Al Capone, but if one is looking for a book on Hoyt’s baseball career, this doesn’t delve into that very deeply.  That is surprising for a memoir, and at times the book does feel tedious to read, but it still deserves some praise just for putting together Hoyt’s complete story.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska for providing a review copy of the book. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

Link: Schoolboy: The Untold Journey of a Yankees Hero: 9781496236791: Hoyt, Waite, Manners, Tim, Costas, Bob: Books