Category Archives: books
Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of by J. David Herman (2019)
Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and
the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of
by J. David Herman
University of Nebraska Press, 2019
Labor disputes should never happen in baseball, but they do. In 1981, the sport faced a work stoppage in the middle of the season, forcing Major League Baseball to cancel games and reconfigure the playoffs once the dispute was settled. However, the big league strike didn’t affect the Minor Leagues, and the Yankees’ talented AAA affiliate took advantage of the spotlight. Armed with a pitching staff that was, in the mind of pitching coach Sammy Ellis, “better…than half the teams in the Major Leagues,” the Columbus Clippers took the baseball world by storm by virtue of being the best team anyone could watch when the Major Leaguers walked out.
Author J. David Herman recounts the Clippers’ 1981 season and the magic that it brought local fans in Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of. The team, managed by Frank Verdi, was full of guys who would go on to enjoy varying degrees of success at the MLB level like Dave Righetti, Steve Balboni, and Pat Tabler. There were also names that are not as well-known to modern fans, such as John Pacella, Tucker Ashford, and the author’s hero, Marshall Brant.
Herman runs down the list, entertaining readers with stories from the players’ careers but focusing mostly on their 1981 adventures. He also writes about journalists Jack Torry (Citizen-Journal) and Jim Massie (Columbus Dispatch), trainer Mark “Rookie” Letendre, and the Yankees’ broadcast team of Phil Rizzuto, Bill White, Frank Messer, and Fran Healy. Interspersed in all of this are brief memories from the author’s youth, memories of him listening to games on the radio and receiving advice from his dad: “Take life where you find it.”
The Columbus Clippers headed to the International League’s postseason Governor’s Cup, but after six playoff games were called for weather, the IL declared the Clippers champions and ended the season. Herman turned his attention to the bigs, where the Yankees were battling opponents in the American League Division Series, AL Championship Series, and finally the World Series. He fast forwards in his own life to 1999, the Mariners’ first game at Safeco Field in Seattle. To 2007 and the passing of his mother as the Giants play the World Series. To 2013 and a visit with his dad in a nursing home, where he “recalls the feeling of the ballpark and of spending time there with his son,” singing the Columbus Clippers fight song. To 2017 and a more important game to the author than any the Clippers played in 1981—a game featuring his eight-year old son.
Baseball is magic, and Herman masterfully brings that magic to the page. If you want to revisit the innocence of falling in love with the game, read behind-the-scenes stories, learn about the guys that may have been household names in other organizations, pick up a copy and read Almost Yankees.
- These Should Exist: The Karate Kid Edition [Branded in the 80s]
- Kentucky Is Home to the World’s Only Ventriloquism Museum [Mental Floss]
- Joe Schlabotnik: My Favorite Player [Infinite Baseball Card Set]
- The Art of the Trim: Practice of Cutting Baseball Cards Began Earlier Than You Think [Pre-War Cards]
- What if? A look at Eric Davis, Nomar Garciaparra and Grady Sizemore, three Cooperstown careers cut short [Sporting News]
- In Classic Children’s Books, a Window to Childhood in Past Centuries [The New York Times]
- Sony Pictures sets a March 2021 release date for Masters of the Universe! [He-Man.org]
What I’m Reading Right Now: Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of by J. David Herman.
It has been nearly three years since my last “Random Awesomeness” post. Partly because I don’t blog as much as I used to, and partly because I don’t spend as much time on the internet as I used to. But there is still a lot of cool stuff to be found around the web, and things that I want to share with you that don’t naturally fit into my own blogposts. Each “Random Awesomeness” entry will feature seven or more links to some pretty rad stuff, so (obviously) I recommend checking them out. I usually include a music video of some sort and a link where you can buy the music (or something related to the video). New in 2019 is “What I’m Reading Right Now.” No spoilers, just a link to where you can buy the book I’m reading.
I don’t know how often I will publish a new list “Random Awesomeness”…maybe weekly? I’m really not sure. Be awesome, and you’ll probably end up on the list. Since this is the first post in almost three years, I decided to change up the top-of-post image as well, so without further ado…
- Rock star Jack White is helping restore a Detroit-area Negro Leagues Stadium [Cut 4]
- Luke Perry was in a Twisted Sister Video that MTV Banned [Ultimate Classic Rock]
- 1979 Alt-Topps [Cards That Never Were]
- We Got Our Hands on 73,000 Never-Before-Seen MLB Scouting Reports. Here’s What We Learned. [The Ringer]
- 2019 Donruss Baseball Checklist, Team Set Lists and Details [Beckett]
- Baseball Cards of Spring Training Celebrities [Beckett]
- Bryce Harper Phillies cards by Gummy Arts and The Phillies Room (1), (2)
- Uni Watch Readers Catch Flaw in Bush Memorial Patch [Uni Watch]
- Mark Hamill Once Again Expresses Unhappiness With New ‘Star Wars’ Sequels [/Film]
What I’m Reading Right Now: Steelheart: The Reckoners, Book One by Brandon Sanderson.
Baseball’s regular season is right around the corner, and no other sport seems to lend itself to spiritual applications than America’s pastime. In this collection of thirty devotionals, Del Duduit and others collect stories from the diamond and relate them to one’s faith journey. The devotions are encouraging, and many of them would work well as illustrations in sermons.
Like any book, there are positive and negative aspects in Dugout Devotions. There is a proper emphasis on the importance of relying on the Word rather than just feelings (2 Timothy 3:16-17). However, there is the contradictory mention of a player who thought the Lord “tapped…him on the shoulder.” In another place, a devotional makes reference to the reader “really feel(ing) God calling you to go on (a mission) trip,” and another talks of a player “receiv(ing) a divine call” about human trafficking.
Many of the entries end with a section called “Step Up To The Plate,” offering suggestions how one might apply the lessons from the devotion. Bible study, prayer, and attendance to worship services are often among the recommendations.
While there are several devotions that discuss a player’s decision to give his life to Christ, there is no mention of how that is done. When one reads the book of Acts and the epistles, the conversion process is on display: one becomes a Christian by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17), believing it (Romans 10:9-10), repenting of sin (Acts 3:19), confessing one’s belief (Acts 8:37), and being immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). With so much confusion in the religious world, it would be prudent to include such information in any religious book. One cannot decide for himself how he comes to God; only God can tell us how to do that, and He does tell us in His Word.
For readers who are grounded in the truth, these devotions can be encouraging. One must always be careful, though, regardless of the writer, to consistently verify what man writes with what God has revealed. There are a lot of people with good intentions that will end up on the wrong team in eternity because they trusted in man without turning to God’s Word (Matthew 7:13-23).
The writers of the devotions are Del Duduit, Michelle Medlock Adams, Ryan Farr, Beckie Lindsey, Scott McCausey, Clint Rutledge, and Cyle Young. The major leaguer players, coaches, and executives featured are Brian Dozier, Albert Pujols, Ben Zobrist, Clayton Kershaw, Francisco Lindor, Aaron Judge, Andrew McCutchen, Andy Pettitte, Michael Lorenzen, Tony Graffanino, R.A. Dickey, Mike Sarbaugh, Adam Wainwright, Cody Allen, Jim Morris, Mike Matheny, Blaine Boyer, Mike Rikard, Tim Martin, Matt Carpenter, and Adam Frazier.
Baseball greats get book deals, right? With the Hall of Fame class now set for 2019, I thought I would take a look at books that focus on those players’ careers. I was surprised to find that only on of the six has an autobiography already in print, and only one other has an announced release date for later this year.
- Mariano Rivera (out now): The Closer (a Spanish edition, El cerrador: Mi vida is also available, as well as a Young Readers Ediiton)
- Edgar Martinez (coming June 11): Edgar: An Autobiography
I’m not sure there would be much demand for a Lee Smith tell-all, or even a Harold Baines bio (although I would be interested in that one). Mike Mussina‘s humble disposition will probably prevent an autobiography from him. I heard an interesting story, and I don’t remember if it was on MLB Network’s coverage or elsewhere. Mussina tanked a grade in school so he wouldn’t be valedictorian. He didn’t want the spotlight.
There are a handful of Roy Halladay books geared toward younger readers:
- Roy Halladay: Superstar Pitcher (Playmakers)
- Roy Halladay (Amazing Athletes)
- Roy Halladay (Robbie Readers)
- Four Aces, One Expectation (focuses on Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels)
Time will tell if a fuller examination of Halladay’s life will be offered, or if biographies of Smith, Baines, or Mussina will pop up.
I’m glad I can read. So many books published over the years have made an impact on me, both as a child and as an adult, it would be impossible to list them all. I recommend starting a library, however small, of books that you love and add to it at least once a year (more if possible). If you have small children, start a library for them with Dr. Suess and Curious George and Little Golden Books. If you have grade school kids, grab some Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books. For high schoolers…well, good luck. I’m blessed with children who love to read, but I know others really struggle getting teens to sit down with a book.
Take a look at the list below. Some of these suggestions are for younger readers, while others are intended for more mature minds. What is missing from your library? What books would you add to the list?
- The Ralph S. Mouse Complete Set: The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway Ralph, and Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
- Falling Up by Shel Silverstein
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- The Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Box Set by Alvin Schwartz with illustrations by Stephen Gammell
- The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
- The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft edited by Leslie S. Klinger
- Night Gallery and Night Gallery 2 by Rod Serling
I mentioned Thundercats yesterday, so I might as well throw a few ideas out there that the Thundercats fan in your life will love.
- Original Series: Season 1, Volume 1
- Original Series: Season 1, Volume 2
- Original Series: Season 2, Volume 1
- Original Series: Season 2, Volume 2
- 2011 Reboot
- A Cat’s Tail (One-Shot Comic)
- Reclaiming Thundera
- The Return
- Dogs of War
- Hammer Hand’s Revenge
- Enemy’s Pride
- Thundercats/Battle of the Planets (One-Shot Comic)
- Superman/Thundercats (One-Shot Comic)
- Origins: Heroes and Villains (One-Shot Comic)
- Origins: Villains and Heroes (One-Shot Comic)
Toys and Collectibles
- Funko POP! [Most of these are retired figures and insanely expensive. If you buy these for people on your list, tell me how to become your friend!]: Lion-O, Lion-O (flocked, 2014 SDCC Exclusive), Panthro, Cheetara, Tygra, Snarf, or Mumm-Ra
- Funko Savage World [Beware of the quality of these figures, as several reviews state they break as soon as they are taken out of the package!]: Lion-O, Panthro, Mumm-Ra, or Slithe
- Funko Vynl: Lion-O + Mumm-ra or Panthro + Cheetara
- The Loyal Subjects Blind Box
- Series 1 (2012 SDCC Exclusive), Series 2, Series 3, or Series 4
- Thundercats Logo T-shirt
- Thundercats Characters T-shirt
- Mumm-Ra Logo T-shirt
- Lion-O Infant Onesie
- Feline Rhapsody T-shirt
- Thundercats Logo Baseball Cap
Other odds & ends
- Sword of Omens
- Sword of Omens (Dagger-sized)
- Lion-O’s Claw Shield
- Panthro’s Nunchucks
- Tygra’s Whip
- Light Switch Cover
- Sword of Omens Keychain
- Logo Keychain
- Snarf Keychain
- Perfect for fans of parodies like Garbage Pail Kids: Thunderbrats Trading Cards
Today’s cartoons just don’t have the same soul. I loved Saturday mornings as a kid, filled with cartoons before heading to the park to play baseball. While He-Man and Thundercats were some of my favorite shows growing up (and still today, to be honest), neither came from the powerhouse of kids’ cartoons Hanna-Barbera. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were responsible for some of the most memorable animated shows, from Scooby-Doo to the first ever primetime cartoon, the Flintstones. But there were so many others that don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Here are a few that filled me with nostalgia as I scrolled through Amazon.com:
- Atom Ant
- Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
- Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines
- The Herculoids
- Hong Kong Phooey
- The Huckleberry Hound Show
- The Jetsons
- The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show
- The Secret Squirrel Show
- Shirt Tales
- Thundarr the Barbarian
- Top Cat
- Wacky Races
- The Yogi Bear Show
Scooby-Doo has had a number of reboots through the years, so many that the gang warrants its own separate list:
- Scooby-Doo Where Are You! (Seasons 1 and 2 from CBS) and (Season 3 from ABC)
- The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies (these are the ones with guest stars like the Harlem Globetrotters and Batman and Robin)
- The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour
- The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo
- A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (Season 1) and (Seasons 2-4)
- Ultimate Scooby-Doo 15 Movie DVD Collection with Bonus Lunchbag & Mini-Figurine
- Scooby-Doo Laff-A-Lympics
- Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo
- What’s New Scooby-Doo?
- Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
- Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!
If you want something that is specifically geared toward the holidays, consider these Christmas specials:
- A Flintstone Christmas Collection
- Yogi’s First Christmas
- Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper
- Hanna-Barbera Holiday Triple Feature (with the Flintstones, Smurfs, and Yogi)
- Hanna-Barbera Christmas Classics Collection (A Christmas Story, The Town Santa Forgot, Casper’s First Christmas)
If you don’t feel like gluing yourself to a television set for all those cartoons, maybe you would like to read instead. DC Comics did a special crossover featuring some of their biggest superheroes teaming up with the likes of Dyno-Mutt and Space Ghost. DC Meets Hanna-Barbera was released last year, and Volume Two will be available on Christmas Eve this year!
So you don’t want to watch, and you don’t want to read… you just want to play? Funko has you covered! Check out all these Funko POP Hanna-Barbera figures available:
The original trilogy is classic. The prequel trilogy, not so much. J.J. Abrams’ first entry into the third trilogy restored the faith for fans of the classics, but Rian Johnson shredded that renewed fandom in less than three hours. Ron Howard’s Solo was excellent (ignore the negative reviews from so-called “fans” who never even bothered to see it). Abrams is back in the driver’s seat for the ninth and final episode of the Skywalker saga, due next year, and I am hopeful and optimistic that he will finish well.
While the Star Wars bandwagon has slowed considerably, there are still many gifts suitable for those who have not abandoned that galaxy far, far away. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
- Episodes IV-VI: The original trilogy
- Episodes I-III: The prequel trilogy
- Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Clone Wars
- Ewok Adventures
- If you already own the movies, you may want to grab the John Williams soundtracks for use in the car or office.
- William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part the Second by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part the Third by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s Verily, A New Hope: Star Wars Part the Fourth by Ian Doescher (I cannot recommend books 4-6 highly enough. Easily some of my favorite Star Wars books ever. The prequels suffer from the lack of quality of the source material, while the novelty may have worn off a bit by “Part the Seventh.” But parts 4-6 are must-reads.)
- William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back: Star Wars Part the Fifth by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return: Star Wars Part the Sixth by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher
- William Shakespeare’s Jedi the Last: Star Wars Part the Eighth by Ian Doescher
- Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3
- Star Wars: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3
- Star Wars: Droids & Ewoks Omnibus
- The Star Wars Cook Book: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes
- There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Star Wars books to choose from. DOn’t click here until you can spare a few hours to go down the Jaxxon hole.
Toys and Collectibles
- The Art of Star Wars Comics: 100 Collectible Postcards
- Lego Sets
- Action Figures
- Funko POP!
- Funko Vynl
Other odds & ends
Studying the Word of God is one of the most rewarding things a person can do in this life, as it prepares one for the next. I generally don’t delve into religious matters on this blog, reserving that for Handling Aright, which contains sermon outlines and studies for Bible classes. However, when thinking of Christmas gift suggestions, what better than some materials related to Bible studies? Below are some of my favorite books in the realm of religion.
- The Gospel for Today by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
- God’s Prophetic Words by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
- Questions and Answers: Open Forum by Guy N. Woods
- Questions and Answers: Open Forum – Vol. 2 by Guy N. Woods
- Shall We Know One Another In Heaven? by Guy N. Woods
- How to Read the Greek New Testament by Guy N. Woods
- The Bible Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Robert R. Taylor, Jr.
- The Bible Doctrine of Jehovah God by Robert R. Taylor, Jr.
- The Bible Doctrine of Final Things by Robert R. Taylor, Jr.
- Family of God: A Study of the New Testament Church by Batsell Barrett Baxter
- Balance: A Tried and Tested Formula for Church Growth by Ira North
- The Treasure Chest of Grace: Following God’s Map to Untold Riches in Christ Jesus by Wes McAdams
- Grace: Simply Incredible, Incredibly Simple by Dan Winkler
- Forgiven, Forgiving, & Free by Dan Winkler
- Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank
- Commentaries on the entire Bible by James Burton Coffman
- Gospel Advocate Commentaries on the New Testament by various authors