Category Archives: books
Silver Screen Fiend
by Patton Oswalt
For four years, comedian/actor/author Patton Oswalt faced a serious addiction that affected both his work and social life. He was not addicted to alcohol or drugs, but to film. In his quest to become a director, and his belief that absorbing the works of others would help him achieve that goal, he watched hundreds of films (maybe thousands; I didn’t count, but he does include a list of every movie he viewed on the big screen, and it takes more than thirty pages to list them all). He finally realized, after four years, that he was not accomplishing anything toward his dream. The last movie he watched during his four-year binge was George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. His disgust at what he thought would be a great film, and the time he spent discussing it with his friends (who were also appalled at its underwhelming story), showed him that his time could have been better spent.
Oswalt still goes to the theater occasionally, but with a different mindset. He writes, “My love of watching movies has turned into a love of savoring them. And the flirtation with becoming a filmmaker abides, and has stayed fun.” This book must have been a cathartic experience for him, hashing out his shortcomings during this four-year stretch. He writes some about his standup, and a little about his time as a writer at MADtv, and briefly mentions his role on The King of Queens, but the focus of Silver Screen Fiend is his time spent at theaters such as the New Beverly.
Silver Screen Fiend is interesting and entertaining, but will be quickly forgotten. Some readers might relate to Oswalt’s obsession, and some might see some of his habits in their own lives as they Netflix themselves to death (because who can afford that many movies at the theater?), and perhaps it will encourage some of those who are waiting for the right moment to follow their dreams, to actually create the moment and follow them now. But for the most part, the book will be read, chuckled over, and placed on the bookshelf to be forgotten. Perhaps Joss Whedon said it best, “This is a book for anyone who strives to be great, or is bored in an airport.”
Writing Fantastic Fiction
by Jennifer Joline Anderson
There are countless books about writing on the market today. Each book addresses the subject in a slightly different way, but all ask the same general question: “How do you write a good story that keeps readers interested?” Jennifer Joline Anderson’s Writing Fantastic Fiction is no different in the question, but approaches it from a middle school grade level. This short book, only five chapters and 56 pages, offers simple suggestions to get your story started and develop an interesting plot, whether the aspiring author is shooting for a novel-length work or a short story.
Information boxes scattered throughout the book offer advice and examples of successful, published authors, new and old. Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and Veronica Roth are a few of the authors featured. Writing Fantastic Fiction explains the differences in points of view, describes how to storyboard, and even advises how to find ideas for stories. It is a good starting place for a young person who wants to try his hand at writing, and can point them in the right direction as they begin.
Writing Fantastic Fiction is geared toward grades six through eight, but even older students and adults that are testing the waters may find some gems in this volume.
Little Miss and Mr. Me Me Me series
by Dan Zevin
Three Rivers Press, 2015
32 pages each
Growing up, I always looked forward to the Scholastic book order forms, and I would beg my mom to order more Mr. Men/Little Miss books. I loved those short little stories and simple illustrations, and the morals and manners they slyly taught were beneficial. They have been around for more than four decades, and have taught countless kids the proper way to act.
Now, there is a series for adults who did not experience the originals. The parody series, Little Miss and Mr. Me Me Me, features annoying adults that don’t have it all together, though they think they do. The first four books in the series and Mr. Selfie, Little Miss Basic, Mr. Humblebrag, and Little Miss Overshare. Four more books are scheduled for publication in March, 2016. I guarantee you know some of these people. Hopefully you, yourself, are not found in these pages.
These are books for a grown-up audience. There is no foul language, but some of the topics are risque and not appropriate for younger readers. After reading them, you may want to share with your ridiculous friends who emulate these very attributes, hoping they get the hint. But they probably won’t.
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part the Third by Ian Doescher (2015)
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part the Third
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2015
Ian Doescher’s adaptation of Star Wars’ episodes IV through VI into the Victorian language of William Shakespeare was a brilliant idea, and the execution was tremendous. When it came to the prequels, however, Doescher suffered from inferior source materials. Episodes I and II simply did not match the originals in quality, and the adaptations, while there were some clever twists, were not as enjoyable as the first three. Fortunately, The Revenge of the Sith was a return to form for Lucas and, subsequently, for Doescher.
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge follows the events of the movie, replacing modern language with that of Shakespeare’s day and utilizing such devices as narration from “Rumor.” Doescher continues to employ rhyming quatrains for the lovers, Padme and Anakin, though the rhymes are imperfect as Anakin’s path to the dark side separates him from Padme’s love. Mention must be made of Nicolas Delort’s illustrations throughout the series, a perfect mixture of the futuristic looks of Star Wars with a touch of traditional English garb and culture.
Doescher has brought to fruition a fantastic idea, and this reviewer hopes he is able to continue this series with the new Star Wars films that begin releasing later this year.
My book Ironology 2015: The Iron Writer Challenge is now available on Amazon! Ok, it’s not technically “my” book. It’s an anthology of flash fiction, and one of my pieces, entitled “Red & White Stripes,” is included in it. So buy this book featuring my story (and about sixty others)!
Essential Horror Movies
by Michael Mallory
Universe Publishing, 2015
This is the time of the year that books about horror movies get more attention, with the leaves turning and the pumpkin spice flavoring everything and the greatest holiday of all right around the corner. Michael Mallory’s Essential Horror Movies looks like the book to get this year, measuring 9.4 x 12.4 and full of bloody details about the most important horror films in the world, from the Universal classics Dracula and Frankenstein to the more recent Scream and Friday The 13th. Mallory delivers a brief synopsis of each film or series, making mention of remakes and reboots, and reproducing iconic scenes from the silver screen.
Mallory also includes some interesting sidelines, spotlighting Japanese horror, the makeup artists, and made-for-television horror films. He will remind you of movies you had forgotten, that you need to watch again, and that you never knew existed. He wraps up with an article about the future of the genre, and a list of fifty additional films that all horror buffs should check out. Surprisingly, Creature From the Black Lagoon did not receive an entry into the “essential” or the “additional.” Aside from that, there is little to complain about in this impressive volume.
Baseball Immortal: Derek Jeter
by Danny Peary
Page Street Publishing, 2015
He was one of the most humble, yet most exciting players to watch over the past couple of decades. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter redefined what a player could do under the pressure—and despite the constant attention—of the media in the Big Apple. Everything he accomplished was handled with poise and character, and he retired as one of the most respected players in the game. Looking through the pages of quotes by Jeter, and by others about Jeter, a reader can get a sense of what a special player he was going all the way back to high school.
Danny Peary’s collection of quotes does not bring much to light that was not already known. Despite being a highly private person, Jeter’s exploits on the field were widely reported. However, bringing all the information together into one place is an invaluable resource to fans of #2. Jeter’s family members, teammates, coaches, and opponents are all quoted in this extensive volume. Perhaps the best line comes from former Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon, who said, “They created the Hall of Fame for players like him. Never a doubt. Totally earned. He may be the first 100 percenter.”
Derek Jeter fans will treasure this book about one of the most loved figures in recent Yankees history.
The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray
by Robert Schnakenberg
Quirk Books, 2015
Bill Murray turns 65 years old today. He is one of the most beloved comedic actors of the past four decades, and his legend grows with each photobomb and impromptu kickball game. Robert Schnakenberg’s The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, subtitled A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor, examines the enigmatic entertainer’s professional career through all the ups (Ghostbusters) and downs (Where the Buffalo Roam). All of his film appearances are listed with an overall movie rating and a Bill Murray score to guide the diehard fan in what to watch first, and what to watch only if you have nothing else to do. There are also anecdotes (styled “Tales from Murrayland”) and tidbits about movies Murray didn’t appear in. For instance, Murray was apparently considered for the roles of Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Forrest Gump.
Obviously, in a book this size, there is a lot of information about what Murray did not do. He could have been Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, and Sully in Monsters, Inc., and the titular character in Shrek. But for one reason or another, he wasn’t. There are also several facts included in this book that seem extraneous, such as the fact that Murray does not find Adam Sandler funny, he doesn’t like e-mail, he prefers Mexican Coke, and he usually dressed up as either a hobo or a ghost for Halloween when he was a child.
Schnakenberg wraps up the book with some quotations by Bill Murray, and others about Bill Murray. Among the wise words of the Murricane is this gem on art: “It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be anything. It’s hard to be.” Murray has done an excellent job of entertaining millions with his art, and Schnakenberg does a fine job capturing those moments in The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray.
The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball’s Power Brokers
by Jon Pessah
Little, Brown and Company, 2015
[Review by TWJ contributor Jim.]
As sports fans there is so much we see and then we draw conclusions based on what we observe. This book will show you all that you didn’t know. Centered on three men, Don Fehr, George Steinbrenner, and Allan “Bud” Selig, you learn how these three men played a big role in how the game of baseball is today, at least professionally. You will get a behind the scenes look at labor negotiations, the running of the Yankees empire and the egocentric, selfish ways of Major League baseball’s ninth Commissioner.
In The Game by Jon Pessah, readers get a unique inside view of how Selig and the owners forced out former Commissioner Fay Vincent until Selig decides to retire. Selig is a man obsessed with his own image and legacy and doesn’t care who gets in the way of improving his perceived image and legacy. Steinbrenner is ruthless and cut throat, but as you see how his life ended and how many of the men who worked and played for him adored him, your heart will soften towards him. Fehr is portrayed as the stubborn union leader who is ultimately and incorrectly blamed for baseball’s steroid problem. This book is an easy and entertaining read, good luck trying to put it down.
The Voices of Baseball
by Kirk McKnight
Rowman & Littlefield, 2015
Some young boys dream of hitting a home run in the big game, while others want to tell the world about it. Baseball fans all have their favorite broadcasters, whether they were the radio play-by-play guys or the television color commentators. The Hall of Fame presets the Ford C. Frick Award every year to a broadcaster for his contributions to baseball. The sport depends upon the commentary provided by these men to drive the water cooler conversation the next day and generate interest among young fans.
In The Voices of Baseball, author Kirk McKnight talks to a representative voice of each major league team, and shares their stories and insights on great moments at the team’s current ballpark. After thirty chapters, McKnight shifts focus to the former ballparks, then to the voices that have been silenced by death.
Of special note to this Reds fan, obviously, is the chapter devoted to Great American Ballpark and Marty Brennaman’s recollection of Homer Bailey‘s 2013 no-hitter. In the chapter on defunct stadiums McKnight and Brennaman make mention of the Big Red Machine and the 1990 Wire-to-Wire champs. Then, in the chapter entitled, “A Seance from the Booth,” tribute is paid to the ol’ left-hander Joe Nuxhall, who shared the broadcast booth with Brennaman for 31 years.
The Voices of Baseball is an excellent collection of memories from the men who witnessed history on the diamond. Baseball fans young and old will treasure this book.
AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History
by Phil Sutcliffe
Voyageur Press, 2015
The most popular rock group to ever come from Australia is no doubt AC/DC. But the group was not an overnight sensation; it took years to break into the United States, though now their sound is so distinct one can recognize them usually by the first few notes. In AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History, Phil Sutcliffe presents a history of the band through photographs, beginning with the Dave Evans era. Several photos show the band in clubs during the early days, while the later images display the rockers on larger stages, playing to massive crowds.
Album reviews written by various people are scattered throughout the book, and the afterword is penned by Def Leppard‘s Joe Elliott. Sutcliffe’s treatment of the band’s history takes the reader all the way up to the modern day and Malcolm Young’s recent health struggles and Phil Rudd’s run-ins with the law.
AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History is a fantastic book that covers the Aussies’ entire career, shedding light on how the group was viewed during the 1970s before they achieved their massive success with the Back in Black record. Classic rock fans will dig the photographs of the band playing on grand stages with a sea of young metalheads watching their every move.
Ballparks Then and Now
by Eric Enders
Thunder Bay Press, 2015
Baseball is and always will be America’s game, and baseball celebrates America’s diversity more than any other sport. Football fields are always 100 yards; basketball courts are always 94 feet by 50 feet. But baseball? While the basepaths are the same in every stadium, the distance to the outfield wall varies. Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is only 395 feet to center field, while Minute Main Park in Houston boasts the longest distance at 435 feet. The playing surface is almost exclusively grass now; only Toronto and Tampa still use artificial turf. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, AstroTurf was the norm. And then there are the quirks of each stadium, such as the Green Monster in Boston, the ivy on the outfield walls at Wrigley Field, and the hill in center field in Houston. An outfielder cannot play the same way in every park; he has to adjust to each park’s personality.
In Ballparks Then and Now, author Eric Enders looks at how the major league parks have changed over the years, city by city. Enders gives basic facts about each stadium: opening date, capacity and greatest moment. For example, Cincinnati’s Palace of the Fans opened on April 17, 1902, with a seating capacity of 10,000 and featured an exhibition of night baseball in 1909 between two local Elks Lodge teams. Contrast that to the Reds’ home since 2003, Great American Ballpark, which holds 42,319 fans and saw Homer Bailey pitch a no-hitter in 2013.
The greatest feature of Ballparks Then and Now is the photographs, showing the evolution of each city’s house of the greatest game on earth. Originally published in 2002, this new edition is updated to include more recent stadiums such as Marlins Park in Miami and Citi Field in New York. It is a visual feast for baseball fans with a wealth of information on the history of each ballpark, then and now.
Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games
by Brian C. Engelhardt
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
The “Images of Baseball” series has featured some of baseball’s best major league teams, from the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates to the 1975 Boston Red Sox. In the latest entry in the series, a minor league town is the focus. Reading, Pennsylvania, is currently the host to the Philadelphia Phillies’ AA franchise. Prior to their affiliation with the Phillies, Reading served as a farm team for the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Cleveland Indians. A number of big-league stars made a stop in Reading before ascending to the top level of professional baseball, including Carl Furillo, Roger Maria, and Mike Schmidt.
The main thrust of this book, however, is not the minor leaguers who became stars, though they are certainly mentioned throughout. The main subject is the exhibition games featuring major leaguers. From 1874 through 1964, seventeen different franchises came to the town to play a semiprofessional or minor league club. From 1967 through 2000, the Philadelphia Phillies and Reading Phillies played 22 times, both teams winning ten and losing ten, while two games ended in a tie.
The photographs featured in Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games come from four principal sources: the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, Berks County History Center, Society for American Baseball Research member T. Scott Brandon’s personal collection, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Also included are box scores lifted from the pages of the Reading Eagle. The oldest box score is from May 21, 1875, when the Boston Red Stockings rolled over the Reading Actives, 27-11.
The final big league exhibition in Reading was played in 2000 between the AA team and the big league Phillies. Reading won 5-2 on a grand slam by Pete Rose Jr. The seven-inning game took an hour and 36 minutes to play, and drew a crowd of 9,307, according to the box score.
Though many of the photos featured in Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games were not actually taken in Reading, the collection is nicely put together with interesting commentary by author Brian C. Engelhardt.
Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway and Chris Hodenfield (2015)
Before Alice Cooper the man came Alice Cooper the group. Formed by high school buddies in Arizona, Alice Cooper originally referred to five men playing together as a unit: Vince Furnier, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith. Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! tells the story of the Alice Cooper group from bass player Dunaway’s perspective, from the hardships of finding fame to the rush of being superstars, to the devastation of breaking up. It was not until the band’s third album, Love It to Death, and the successful single “I’m Eighteen,” that Alice Cooper finally realized the dream. Dunaway writes of hearing the song on the radio, “(W)e always knew we were famous. We were just glad to know the world had caught on to our way of thinking.”
While Dunaway does discuss the immoral excesses that often plague the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, he also examines the bond of friendship that the five members of Alice Cooper shared during the early years. He shows how drugs and alcohol contributed to the downfall of the group by inflating egos and hindering performances. While Dunaway does not seem bitter anymore about the breakup that occurred in the mid-1970s, it is clear there were hard feelings at the time.
Dunaway treats Buxton, who passed away in 1997, with an enormous amount of respect, though it appears that the guitarist’s demons may have forced him out of the band even if they had not all gone their separate ways. There is sadness in the face that Buxton was not around to participate in various recent reunions, including the group’s 2011 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact that the remaining four members were able to come back together, though, shows how strong the bonds of friendship were.
Most people are familiar with Alice Cooper’s biggest hits, from “School’s Out” to “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” but to get a behind-the-scenes look at the group during the time those songs were written and recorded, there is no better source than Dunaway’s Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! This book is highly recommended for fans of one of the greatest theatrical rock acts of all-time.
We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
by Caseen Gaines
The Back to the Future films took viewers on a fantastical ride, and now, thirty years later, fans can go behind the scenes thanks to author Caseen Gaines’ We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy. Gaines does not just give us a recap of the plots with a few anecdotes sprinkled about; he takes us all the way back to the beginning of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s original vision. The story of Eric Stoltz’s part in the original film is told in detail, as well as how Michael J. Fox became involved. During his research, Gaines conducted interviews with several of the key players, from Zemeckis and Gale to Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, as well as many other individuals involved that are not household names.
Half the book is dedicated to the original film, and rightly so. Without that foundation that was laid thirty years ago, the hover boards and self-lacing shoes of Back to the Future Part II would never have been dreamed up. For Part II, Gaines delves into stories about phone calls from fans about the availability of the hoverboards in stores, the tragic accident that nearly killed a stunt woman, and the treatment of actor Jeffrey Weissman, who replaced Crispin Glover as George McFly. Part III is relegated to one chapter, which makes sense as it is the most forgettable of the trilogy.
We Don’t Need Roads is a fun look back at one of the most endearing time travel movies of all-time. It is well written, and packed with information from front to back.
William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2015
A parody is only as good as its source material. When Ian Doescher’s first installment of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series was released two years ago, it was hailed as brilliant—and it was. Equally as fun were The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. Then came The Phantom of Menace this April, and while Doescher did his best to shoehorn that mess of a story into the Shakespearean style, it fell flat. Unfortunately, he was not able to rebound with The Clone Army Attacketh, through no fault of his own. While he does employ some interesting literary devices in the work—Jango Fett speaking in prose, Anakin and Padme speaking in rhyming quatrains—the story itself is lacking.
The sixth installment, Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge, is due out in September. That film was the best of the prequels, and hopefully Doescher’s Elizabethan treatment will prove to be stellar as well.
You’re Making Me Hate You
by Corey Taylor
Da Capo Press, 2015
There is a saying, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” This quote kept running through my mind as I read Corey Taylor’s latest offering, You’re Making Me Hate You: A Cantankerous Look at the Common Misconception that Humans Have Any Common Sense Left. Taylor, best known as the frontman for Slipknot and Stone Sour, rants for more than 200 pages against people at airports, people in cars, people raising kids, and more, but really does not say much of anything at all. Near the end of the book, it is clear why there are so many curse-riddled declarations. Taylor writes about eating his own boogers, “I need[ed] the word count. It’s getting harder and harder to space these…books out to the appropriate length.”
While I can agree with much of what Taylor writes, the tone with which he shreds those who irk him is over-the-top and irksome itself. Henry Rollins already pulled off most of this bit years ago, and did so with much more precision and clarity. You’re Making Me Hate You was unfortunately a chore to read.
Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses
by Dick Flavin
William Morrow, 2015
Red Sox fans rejoice as Fenway’s finest are immortalized in verse by “Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate” Dick Flavin in Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses. Singing the praises of Pedro Martinez, Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and more, Flavin combines his flair for words with his love for baseball and creates some memorable lines about Boston’s major league franchise. There are eight themed sections in this hardcover book, covering the glorious and the inglorious, the players and the management, and a handful of personal, biographical verses.
Included in the section about the Splendid Splinter and his teammates is a re-working of the Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s classic, “Casey At The Bat.” Originally recited privately to Williams, Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio, during a visit to Williams in Florida while he was ill, Flavin was asked shortly thereafter to recite “Teddy At The Bat” during the memorial service held at Fenway Park for the Boston legend. It is a wonderful tribute to the man, and alone is almost worth the purchase price of this volume. But there is so much more inside.
Should Joe DiMaggio‘s brother Dom be in the Hall of Fame? Flavin thinks so, and lists numerous reasons to support that belief in “The Little Professor.” There are parodies of the Christmas classics, “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and tributes to Pedro Martinez and Carl Yastrzemski. There are even a few lines written for non-Sox, such as Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jackie Robinson.
A thoroughly enjoyable book of poems about the country’s most poetic sport, Red Sox Rhymes is a must-have for any baseball buff.
1975 Red Sox: American League Champions (Images of Baseball)
by Raymond Sinibaldi
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
The Images of Baseball series from Arcadia Press never fails to impress. With this installment, author Raymond Sinibaldi has compiled an impressive collection of photographs from the almost-storybook-ending 1975 season of the Boston Red Sox. Carlton Fisk‘s home run in Game 6 of the World Series that year is one of the most memorable walk-offs in the history of baseball. Though the Cincinnati Reds were crowned the champions of baseball that year, Fisk has been quoted as saying that Boston won the Series “three games to four.” Sinibaldi takes a look at that team, starting in 1967 and the players of that pennant winner that would stick around to play a major role on the ’75 squad.
For the 1975 team, future Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and Fisk played major roles. Rice, who was a rookie, joined Dwight Evans (who has a strong Hall of Fame case himself) and another rookie Fred Lynn in the outfield. Lynn was named the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 1975, the first time in history that happened. In addition to photos from the regular season of 1975 and the postseason against the Oakland A’s and Cincinnati, Sinibaldi turns his attention to another player that he believes should be honored along with Yaz, Rice, and Fisk in Cooperstown: Luis Tiant. Fifteen pages are devoted to “El Tiante,” from his early years in Cleveland and Minnesota, to his later career in Pittsburgh and the Yankees, with an obvious emphasis on his years in Boston.
It is absolutely wonderful to see all these images from 1975 collected into one volume, including several photographs of Fisk hitting that dramatic blast in Game 6. Red Sox fans will cherish this book, and baseball historians will relish in the memories of the 1975 Red Sox: American League Champions.
1975 Red Sox: American League Champions, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing and the History Press at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend
by Thom Henninger
University of Minnesota Press, 2015
Nearly every team has a player like Tony Oliva: immensely popular among both fans and players, yet forgotten by the world at large outside of their “home” city. Oliva’s career in Minnesota as a player and coach saw him spend time with Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett. Author Thom Henninger’s new biography, Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend, covers all the bases, starting with his initial failed tryout with the Twins and the young player’s inability to return to Cuba afterward because of the Bay of Pigs operation. Henninger’s follows Oliva’s career, the ups and downs and personal, non-baseball highlights, interjecting memories of his teammates in with the statistical record.
That statistical record plays a major role in the author’s epilogue, “The Hall of Fame Question.” Despite Oliva’s popularity and success in Minnesota, he has not yet been rewarded with the ultimate honor bestowed upon baseball players. Henninger breaks down Oliva’s career, comparing his peak years of 1964-1971 to other men who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, both contemporary and those who came later, making the case that Oliva does belong among baseball’s immortals. It is a compelling case, but still short of a slam-dunk for the Cuban-born player.
Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend is an enjoyable book, one that Twins fans and baseball history fans will relish. Whether or not you believe Oliva belongs in the Hall of Fame, his story is worth reading.