Category Archives: books
Baseball Myths: Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond
by Bill Deane
Rowman & Littlefield, 2015
Baseball is the most romanticized of all the sports, with legends growing more legendary with each passing season. In the days before the internet, unbelievable stories were told among friends and incredible feats were reported in newspapers…but how many of those stories and feats were embellished? The truth behind some of the game’s most enduring tales, while based on actual occurrences, are uncovered by author Bill Deane, former senior research associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and managing editor of Total Baseball.
Legends surrounding Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jeter, Pete Rose, and Babe Ruth are all examined and for the most part soundly refuted. Some issues may still be left to speculation and disagreement, but Deane has done a remarkable job with his research and explanation of his findings. The book is divided into four sections: “Baseball’s Infancy,” “The Truth About Ruth,” “The Lively Ball Era,” “Timeless Myths,” and “The Expansion Era.” In this paperback edition, two additional myths are disproved about Cool Papa Bell (scoring from first base on a bunt) and Harry Chiti (the player traded for himself).
Each myth is clearly marked and swiftly dealt with; the reader can take in one or two at a time, or delve into larger chunks of text and learn more about baseball’s history in a short amount of time. Baseball Myths: Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond is excellent for young fans as well as old, and everyone who picks up this book will be able to start separating fact from fiction in the national pastime.
Jim Morrison is one of the most enigmatic figures in rock and roll history, and in the four decades since his death, there is as much myth as there is fact believed about the singer of The Doors. British music journalist Mick Wall sets out to separate fact from fiction and clear up the misinformation that has been widely accepted as accurate history. One such area of confusion deals with Morrison’s death: Wall refutes the long-standing notion that the singer died in a Paris bathtub, and presents the truth of Morrison’s demise.
Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre—which is subtitled “A Biography of The Doors”—is about Jim Morrison. The other members of the group—Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore—are each given a brief biographical sketch, but after that are generally only mentioned in relation to the singer. Make no mistake, this is a biography of Jim Morrison more than it is of The Doors, because without Morrison, The Doors would not have existed. That is not to discredit the musicians that provided his backdrop; Wall is very respectful toward them and gives them as much ink as is possible. But even after his death, they are simply overshadowed by Morrison.
Wall was able to secure some reluctant interviewees for his book, including Jac Holzman, Bruce Botnik, and Bill Siddons. Along with interviews with Manzarek, Kriger, and Densmore, and others who knew Morrison during his days with The Doors, Wall paints a picture of a larger-than-life individual who was made even bigger than that by posthumous biographies such as No One Here Gets Out Alive and Oliver Stone’s 1991 film. Wall tries to reign in some of the legend that is so ingrained in the minds of the fans, but it will be interesting as time goes on how much truth wins out over the more tantalizing tales that have been told.
Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre is a necessary work to understand who The Doors—and specifically Jim Morrison—really were. There are obviously sensitive themes and crude language throughout, so it is not recommended for younger readers, but adults should find it entertaining as well as enlightening.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 Season
by David Finoli
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
Nearly every franchise has that one season that is etched into the minds of hardcore fans—one season that stands above all others. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, that season is 1960. Third baseman Dick Groat was the MVP, while 20-game winner Vern Law won the Cy Young Award. Young right fielder Roberto Clemente was coming into his own, while Roy Face was one of the most successful closers in the game. More than a half century later, Danny Murtaugh is still revered for his tenure as manager of the team. Baseball history will never forget Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic Game 7 home run to win the World Series against the New York Yankees.
In Arcadia Publishing’s latest release in the “Images of Baseball” series, author David Finoli recalls the magical season at Forbed Field through vintage photographs featuring the players, the front office, and the park. In addition to the stars, Finoli examines the lesser-known players, from Rocky Bridges to Bob Oldis to Gino Cimoli. The photographs are a mix of portraits, candid, and action shots. There are a couple of unfortunate instances when the photo extends past one page, and part of it is obscured in the binding between the two pages. The most glaring example is on pages 66-67; Face and Mazeroski can be clearly seen, but Smoky Burgess is lost in the fold. Fortunately, there are very few instances of the photo taking two pages.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 Season is a great way to learn about one of the best teams the Steel City has ever fielded, with a fine selection of photographs collected for posterity.
Much like the movie it was based on, Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the weak link in this series of books. It would be difficult for anyone to dress up George Lucas’ greatest misstep, but Doescher does his best and remains true to the filmmaker’s vision, Jar Jar Binks and all. Doescher does some interesting things with the characters, such as giving Jar Jar more intelligence than most would. When speaking in asides to the audience, Binks speaks Shakespearean English, fully in iambic pentameter just as the other characters; when conversing with the other characters, however, the last syllable drops off. Conversely, the other Gunguns receive the full ten syllables, even with their native dialect.
There are other deviations from the iambic pentameter with other characters: Yoda speaks in haiku, while Valorum tacks on an eleventh syllable at the end of his lines. Another quirk with the language includes the two-headed podrace commentator, who uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” Qui-Gon Jinn has a Julius Caesar moment during his final battle with Darth Maul, and tribute is paid to Samuel L. Jackson’s long career in Hollywood in several stanzas.
One of my favorite parts of William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the conversation Doescher inserted between two unnamed Jedi in Act IV, Scene 5, foretelling the regression of technology and Jedi skills that would be seen in Verily, A New Hope. A weak explanation, but a nod to the lack of consistency between Lucas’ original trilogy and the prequels.
William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is a step back for the series, but Doescher should be able to right the ship with the next installment (scheduled for a July release) as he will have better source material from which to work. Still, for the completist, this tale is necessary as it tells the innocent beginnings of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars saga.
I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back:
30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever
by Ben Blatt & Eric Brewster
Grove Press, 2015
If you have ever dreamed of visiting all thirty major league stadiums in a single summer, read this book first. Especially if you want to make the trip in an even more cramped period of time, such as thirty days. Harvard graduate Ben Blatt devised a schedule using a computer-generated algorithm that would take him to every stadium in a 30-day period in the most efficient way possible. His friend, Eric Brewster, agreed to tackle the journey with him, even though he didn’t like baseball. A missed first pitch, a rainout, and three speeding tickets later, the pair accomplished what they set out to do.
This is the ultimate road trip book for baseball fans, even though it doesn’t delve into the baseball much. It is more a story of friendship, of helping each other execute a task that seems crazy and impossible. Along the way they got to hang out with Theo Epstein, do laundry with David Lough‘s father, and eat lunch with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back is an entertaining read from start to finish, and might cause the reader to wonder how much he really loves baseball.
Cincinnati Reds Legends by Mike Shannon, illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard (2015)
Cincinnati Reds Legends
by Mike Shannon
illustrated by Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard
Black Squirrel Books (an imprint of The Kent State University Press), 2015
There are countless books that rank the best players for each team, and each list has a different set of standards and a different outcome. Mike Shannon’s recent release, Cincinnati Reds Legends, is no different in that regard, except it doesn’t rank the top forty Reds against each other. Rather, it lists them chronologically, starting with the Wright brothers (who count as one) of the 1869 Red Stockings to Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi to several Big Red Machine teammates to current Reds Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. The book is divided into four sections, each representing a time period and each containing ten players. The one-page biographies are well-written with nuggets of information that readers will enjoy, but the real value in this book is the artwork.
Each player is featured in a full-page illustration by one of three renowned sports artists: Chris Felix, Scott Hannig, and Donnie Pollard. The author himself admitted that art would “carry this book,” and it does. Without the artwork, Cincinnati Reds Legends is simply another book about Reds players, a listing of some of the most famous names to wear the Cincinnati uniform. And as interesting as Reds fans would find such a book, the art sets it apart and makes it more accessible to non-Reds fans as well.
As for the players included, it is far from an exhaustive list of Cincinnati greats. Those excluded include Roy McMillan (though his portrait is featured before the title page), Leo Cardenas, Jack Billingham, Chris Sabo, and Johnny Cueto. Shannon writes, “If you want to tell us whom we shouldn’t have left out, you also have to say which included player you’d take off the team.” A difficult task, as Shannon concisely demonstrates why each included player should be considered a legend in the Queen City.
Reds fans will go crazy for this book, while baseball fans and sports art fans will treasure the illustrations found within. Hands down, this is my new favorite Reds book.
Willie & Me
by Dan Gutman
Most baseball fans are familiar with “the shot heard ’round the world.” Bobby Thomson launched a Ralph Branca pitch for a home run in 1951 to win the pennant for the New York Giants, while rookie Willie Mays watched from the on-deck circle. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Thomson walked, and Mays came to bat? Dan Gutman explores that possibility in his latest “Baseball Card Adventure” book, featuring time-traveling fourteen-year old Joe Stoshack.
Those familiar with Gutman’s previous “Baseball Card Adventure” books know that Stosh always has the best intentions when he travels to the past, looking to right some wrong or prevent some tragedy. He has visited Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ray Chapman, Roberto Clemente, and Jackie Robinson, among other legendary characters in the story of baseball’s history. Willie & Me is the twelfth and (unfortunately) finally installment in the series, and for the first time a living player is the titular character. However, Mays does not play a major role in this book himself, unlike former “Baseball Card Adventures.” He is featured very briefly, but because of Stosh’s interference with the game in 1951, history changes when Stosh returns home. Distraught by the changes, he decides he must change history again, returning to 1951 a second time.
The series is written for a younger audience, primarily boys aged 8-12, but adult baseball fans who enjoy time travel fantasy will get a kick out of these books as well. Gutman does an excellent job in describing the era to which his young character travels, and is faithful (for the most part) to baseball history in his stories. I am sad to see this series end, but have truly enjoyed traveling through time with Joe Stoshack on his adventures.
Baseball: Great Records, Weird Happenings, Odd Facts, Amazing Moments & Other Cool Stuff by Ron Martirano (2015)
Baseball: Great Records, Weird Happenings, Odd Facts,
Amazing Moments & Other Cool Stuff
by Ron Martirano
Imagine! Publishing, 2015
Baseball is full of colorful characters and silly superstitions, and author Ron Martirano does an excellent job of sharing some of the more entertaining stories in Baseball: Great Records, Weird Happenings, Odd Facts, Amazing Moments & Other Cool Stuff. From Germany Schaefer‘s theft of first base to the epic “you’ve been traded to Japan” prank played on Kyle Kendrick, Martirano covers a wide spectrum of baseball oddities.
Each entry is a quick read, short enough to tackle in between innings while ESPN goes to commercial. Stories are divided into four sections: unusual, magical, painful, and traditional. Readers are sure to learn a few things while being reminded of others. In either case, Martirano presents the events in an accessible and entertaining fashion. Baseball fans young and old will enjoy Baseball: Great Records, Weird Happenings, Odd Facts, Amazing Moments & Other Cool Stuff.
by Michael Baumann
Sports Publishing, 2014
Every city that fields professional sports teams takes pride in the greatest players on those teams. Some cities, such as Philadelphia, are fortunate enough to have professional teams in multiple sports. Michael Baumann makes it his task to identify the “most amazing athletes to play in the city of Brotherly Love” in Philadelphia Phenoms. Whether wearing the uniform of the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, or Flyers, there is no shortage of athletic prowess in Philadelphia.
There are some very obvious selections: Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving, Reggie White, and Wilt Chamberlain are all present. Older stars that may be overlooked by younger fans, such as Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, and Chuck Bednarik are also discussed. The most interesting chapter, however, focuses on the Phillies’ current second baseman, Chase Utley.
Baumann makes a compelling argument for including Utley rather than his contemporaries Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard. According to Baumann, Utley is among the ten best athletes in Philadelphia history, one of the ten best second basemen ever in all of baseball, and the second-best Philadelphia position player behind Schmidt. Part of the author’s argument stems from the fact that Utley does everything well, but does not particularly stand out in any one area. However, from 2005-2009, Utley has the second-best WAR in the National League (five points behind Albert Pujols), and is a full 12.3 points ahead of third-place David Wright. Baumann writes that “it’s utterly bizarre for a player like Utley, someone who played for good teams in a big media market, got his jersey dirty, played hard, and posted spectacular seasons to be underrated, but here we are.” It will be interesting to see how Hall of Fame voters deal with Chase Utley’s career when it comes time to decide whether he belongs in Cooperstown.
Philadelphia Phenoms is, first and foremost, a book for fans of the teams and players in that city. However, general sports fans will also find some interesting anecdotes and conversation starters in Baumann’s writing.
Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets
by Mookie Wilson and Erik Sherman
Highly entertaining and brutally honest, Mookie Wilsonâs autobiography stands as a testament to the legendary status of the 1986 New York Mets team. Wilson fills several pages with stories of his upbringing, his early years with the Mets, his trade to Toronto, and his post-baseball pursuits, but the majority of Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the â86 Mets is understandably devoted to the domination of the 1986 team, the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, and the famous Bill Buckner error of Game Six.
Wilson has developed quite an interesting relationship with Buckner since their playing days, often appearing at autograph shows together to sign the famous photograph showing Wilson hustling down the first base line as Buckner turns around to find the ball that went between his legs. They have had many opportunities to work together at signings, and have almost worked together on the baseball diamond a few times, but those situations never worked out.
Wilson is upfront with his opinions and observations about his teammates throughout the book. He expresses his disappointmentâand even anger, he saysâat Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and their drug abuse. He reveals the clubhouseâs true feelings about the late Gary Carter, who was seen as selfish and camera-hungry by many of his teammates. He also praises Keith Hernandez for the leadership he displayed after coming to New York from St. Louis in 1983. Very few players escaped Wilsonâs pen, whether good or bad; the highs and lows of playing with George Foster, Lenny Dykstra, Lee Mazzilli, and Kevin McReynolds are all discussed.
Wilson also addresses the role his faith plays in his life, and the moral struggles athletes often face. In the final chapter, Wilson writes about his decision to become a minister. While I disagree with the doctrines his church teaches, I do applaud him for his commitment to morality and desire to spread his faith. The new paperback edition of Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the â86 Mets contains a new afterword in which Wilson talks about the book tour and the reaction of former teammates and the media to the content of the book.
I first became a baseball fan during the Metsâ rise to dominance in 1986, and while they were not âmy team,â I did enjoy watching them. Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the â86 Mets brought back a lot of good memories, and I would recommend it to baseball fans without reservation.
The Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal
Rock Point, 2015
The new Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal comes with ten illustrated quote cards and 128 lined pages, some with quotes on them, to inspire writers. Poe is one of the most famous American authors in history, known for his mysterious tales, short stories of horror, and poetry such as “The Raven.”
The 7.5×9.8-inch journal seems to be designed for aspiring female writers, with a purple color scheme, but the quote cards may have more universal appeal. The quotes within the journal come not only from Poe’s stories and poems, but also from his letters. One such quote from a letter to James Russell Lowell reads, “My life has been whim—impulse—passion—a longing for solitude—a scorn of all things present, in an earnest desire for the future.”
My favorite of the quote cards shows an illustration of Poe, with a raven above his head, and the quote, “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” These cards are nicely done and would look nice framed or even taped or sticky-tacked to the wall around one’s writing station.
Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002
by Dick Trust
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
One of the latest offerings from Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of Modern America” series, Dick Trust’s Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 is a superb collection of photographs featuring the “Splendid Splinter” after his playing days. Many photos from Old Timers Days at Fenway Park are featured, showing “the greatest hitter who ever lived” along with former teammates and opponents such as Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmy Piersall, Jackie Jensen, and Bobby Doerr.
Other photos show Williams at his Hall of Fame induction in 1966, at Jimmy Fund activities, and at the 1999 All-Star Game with Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. Trust ends the book with a reproduction of a personal letter Williams wrote to a young fan in 1943. The Hall of Famer said he didn’t answer many letters, but decided to respond to this fan “because you sounded like you wasn’t one of those meathead wolfs that howl there lungs out when they get to the ballpark.”
Ted Williams and Friends: 1960-2002 contains a fantastic assortment of photographs, and baseball fans will appreciate the historical significance of this volume.
More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies (And the Phillie Phanatic Too) by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne (2013)
More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies
(And the Phillie Phanatic Too)
by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne
Sports Publishing, 2013
[Review by TWJ contributor Jim.]
The 1993 Phillies were one of many good teams to fall short of winning a title but they were truly one of a kind. They didn’t have any superstars, just a bunch of guys who played the game hard, with heart and left it all on the field. In More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps, authors Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne take a behind the scenes look at the 1993 Phillies, a team that lost the World Series that year in heartbreaking fashion. Readers also get a unique behind the scenes look at the Phillie Phanatic, the most popular mascot in the game.
The Phanatic has been pulling pranks and making fans laugh—or making them angry—since April 25, 1978, and you get to hear all about what went into making the Phanatic successful from the men who brought life to the green suit. As you read through the stories of the 1993 Phillies, stories about the Phanatic keep popping up when you least expect it, just like real life! The players had just as much fun as the Phanatic, from John Kruk, Darren Daulton and Curt Schilling to Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, you will learn about the players’ approach to the game and that season and how it led to their success. Even if you are not a Phillies fan, More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps is a great read—not just for baseball fans, but for anyone who likes to laugh and can relate to people who have been written off by others but are able to rise to success.
The Little Book of Jack the Ripper
by the Whitechapel Society
The History Press, 2015
More than a century after his heinous crimes, Jack the Ripper still demands an audience unparalleled by any other serial killer. The nature of the crimes, the identity of the murderer, and his ability to avoid detection all feed the interest of true-crime enthusiasts across the globe. Volumes upon volumes have been published, detailing each crime, examining each suspect. The latest offering from the Whitechapel Society is another entry into the large bibliography related to Jack the Ripper.
More than ten members of the Whitechapel Society contribute to The Little Book of Jack the Ripper, with five chapters dedicated to the victims and another two chapters focused on the suspects. Much of this information has been available in other publications, though recent research has contributed some new information. There is no mention of James Carnac, the supposed author of the 2013 The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, though other fairly recent suspects are included among the names.
One of the most interesting chapters in The Little Book of Jack the Ripper deals with the letters sent to the police and the press. Some of those letters were purportedly sent by the killer himself, though the veracity of their claims is dubious. Others were sent by well-meaning individuals, such as “A Country Doctor” who suggested the police round up “all cases of ‘homicidal mania’ which may have been discharged as ‘cured’ from metropolitan asylums.” Some of the writers, though well-intentioned, were downright unintelligent. One woman opined that the killer “may be a large animal of the Ape species belonging to some wild beast show.” Certainly entertaining to us today, but the original recipients of such letters must have been frustrated at the time wasted reading them.
The quality and organization of The Little Book of Jack the Ripper makes it a worthy addition to any true-crime or Ripper collection. The Whitechapel Society has done an excellent job with this publication.
Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction
by Bob Weintraub
Yucca Publishing, 2014
Baseball is, more than any other major sport, a game of numbers. Statistics play a greater role and hold more importance to fans in this sport than they do in football, basketball, or hockey. Pitching match-ups are analyzed, fielding metrics are scrutinized, hitting trends are studied, and all of this information is readily available to players, coaches, broadcasters, and casual fans with a few clicks of the computer mouse.
At the same time, however, baseball lends itself to art. Former Kansas City pitcher Dan Quisenberry wrote poetry about the game, and the late Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote an impassioned essay entitled “The Green Fields of the Mind” about the national pastime. The sport is a favorite backdrop for Hollywood as well, serving comedies and dramas as well as biographical films. It is no surprise, therefore, to find a collection of short stories involving the diamond.
Bob Weintraub’s Painting The Corners: Off-Center Baseball Fiction is a fine collection of eleven tales mixing humanity, irony, and humor with our favorite game. Whether it is an elderly man signed for the express purpose of bunting runners over or an old-timer getting a second chance to make a play he flubbed during his career, Weintraub not only infuses just enough realism to make each story plausible, but enough imagination to make them enjoyment.
The way the stories are crafted will allow the reader to forgive the author for any predictability in the plots. If you can’t wait for Opening Day, or if your team falters out of the gate, Painting The Corners may help cure your baseball blues.
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.
Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.
101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out
by Josh Pahigian
Lyons Press, 2015 (2nd Edition)
Everyone has a bucket list, even if it is not written down. Many baseball fans’ bucket lists are full of places to see, be it stadiums, museums, or other exhibits. Author Josh Pahigian gives baseball bucket listers a leg up with the second edition 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out. There are ballparks—major league, minor league, and amateur—and museums, but Pahigian goes a little deeper with some out-of-the-ordinary stops as well.
The Beyond the Vines Columbarium located at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago has to be one of the most interesting entries. Although I would not rank it as high as Pahigian (who places it at #9), I am intrigued by the site and plan to make it a part of my next trip to Chicago, along with the Batcolumn (#32 on his list). I would personally replace several of the minor league and amateur parks with museums and major league stadiums, but that’s the beauty of bucket lists. Everyone has different goals and different destinations.
101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out is a must-have for the baseball traveler, a handy guide to alert yourself to baseball attractions in the vicinity of your next family vacation.
You Can’t Make This Up
by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim
William Morrow, 2014
[Review by new TWJ contributor Jim. We are excited to have Jim as a part of the TWJ team, and look forward to future reviews!]
When I saw Al Michaels had written a book, I knew I would have to get my hands on a copy to hear all the great stories he had to tell. I was not disappointed in the least. Al was flawless in relaying hundreds of stories over his career and beforehand as well. Born to a loving mother and father in Brooklyn, Al never had to eat vegetables and grew up watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field after attending school n the morning because the school was too crowded for him to go all day. Then he moved to Los Angeles and attended Arizona State University to develop his broadcasting skills.
Of his many stories, one of the highlights for me was him talking about his first impression of Cincinnati when he arrived. He was the broadcaster of a minor league team in Hawaii before he came to Cincinnati, so he was taken aback by the winter scenery. He also felt that living in the great state of Kentucky was a little too much of a step back from Hawaii. He tells of a time when Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall cussed out some players who were playing a joke on him and it went out on the broadcast. Growing up listening to Nuxhall, I laughed, picturing him doing something like that. All in all, You Can’t Make This Up is a great book for any sports fan. Al has experiences in many different sports, so there is something for everyone.
100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons (2015)
100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball
by the Staff of Who’s Who in Baseball and Douglas B. Lyons
Lyons Press, 2015
Who’s Who in Baseball debuted in 1912 with a cover price of fifteen cents. There were no new editions until 1916, when it became a yearly publication. Boasting lifetime records of star players originally, Who’s Who in Baseball now chronicles career statistics and photos of every major league ballplayer. This volume, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball, is not a collection of all those records, but rather a collection of the covers of each previous Who’s Who, along with brief biographical sketches of the cover boys—from Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth to Miguel Cabrera to Mike Trout—and happenings in the big leagues.
If you are familiar with Who’s Who in Baseball, and simply want to see every black-and-white (with a red background) cover through the years, you will not be disappointed. However, if you are looking for in-depth discussion of the players and events, you might find 100 Years lacking. Many of the biographies barely reach a half page, at least until the 1960s, when more than one player is consistently featured. There are also some editorial oversights throughout, such as listing Tom Browning‘s perfect game among the 1998 highlights rather than 1988.
As a history book, 100 Years of Who’s Who in Baseball will leave the reader wanting more. As a celebration of the annual publication, though, it is adequate.
Henry Aaron’s Dream
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2010
When Hank Aaron was young, there were no black men playing baseball in the major leagues. Jackie Robinson‘s debut in 1947 paved the way for players like Aaron to show the world their talents. Author Matt Tavares writes about a time in Aaron’s life many ignore: his early years in Mobile, Alabama, and his brief time in the Negro Leagues with the Mobile Black Bears and Indianapolis Clowns. There are also several pages devoted to Aaron’s life in the minor leagues, both on and off the field, and finally his ascent to the majors in 1954. Though he was not the first black baseball player, Aaron still faced a great deal of racism as he played the game he loved.
Much like There Goes Ted Williams, the best part of Henry Aaron’s Dream is the artwork. Written for third through seventh graders, Tavares’ artwork makes the story come alive for youngsters who are being taught about the legends of baseball as well as important social issues. There is nothing new here for long-time fans of the great home run hitter, but the beautiful illustrations easily make it worth the purchase price.