Category Archives: books
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.
The Roles We Play
An excerpt from Step Out of Your Story by Kim Schneiderman
Some authors start out thinking they know where a story is going to go, only to discover that the main character’s natural unfolding takes the plot somewhere else. Suddenly, it’s as if the protagonist’s drives and need for expression usurps the author, and the writer can’t help but move in the direction that the protagonist insists on going. The challenge is, of course, being able to let go.
The same is true in real life. Once you have a sense of where your character arc is headed, you might realize that if you continue following the current trajectory, you won’t end up where you want to be. When this happens, you need to be willing to let go of your attachment to who you think you are in order to step into the person — or in this case, the character — you were meant to become.
For example, you may be a marketing professional with an interest in photography. And you may have a sense that your character arc involves developing your creative side by taking a digital photography class. But you might not expect where this will lead: that the photography teacher, seeing “real talent,” will invite you on a photography expedition to the Galapagos, and that on this trip, you’ll meet your soul mate, who will invite you to live with him in Santa Fe, where you become a wife, a stepmother, and a freelance photographer who occasionally shows in galleries. Of course, this is not what you ever envisioned; it’s better.
Naturally, letting go of who you are, and how you expect your narrative to read, is sometimes easier said than done. Once you’ve built a world around the people, activities, practices, and roles that define you, it can be very difficult to disengage when circumstances change, even for the better. But by closely examining the roles we play, we can determine whether they support or undermine our flourishing.
One of the challenges of being human is giving everything we’ve got to the characters we’re playing, knowing that eventually we may have to let go of the roles we think define us. In fact, once you create your character sketch, you may notice that your protagonist fits, and probably embraces, a number of roles, such as spouse, parent, daughter, and artist. Some roles we eagerly pursue because they provide us with a sense of identity, self-esteem, and perhaps a venerated status, like a doctor or a lawyer. We choose these roles consciously and unconsciously, and for both altruistic and self-serving reasons — to express our unique skills and talents, to improve our financial prospects, to fulfill societal expectations, to win other’s admiration, and sometimes to put our values into action. Hence, roles provide a sense of purpose, love, security, status, or a steady paycheck while suggesting certain competencies and intrinsic values — for example, that research scientists are intelligent and mothers are nurturing. Over the course of our story, we are constantly adding roles, which themselves evolve: for example, we all start as children, but we may also become a spouse and a parent, and with each addition the previous roles can shift in nature.
Some roles can feel intrinsic to our identity, and we can have a hard time letting them go or making necessary adjustments when they change. Consider your own story. When has this happened with you? Was it when you realized that you were no longer a child and needed to support yourself financially? Or was it the moment your youngest child left for college? Such transitions can feel daunting.
Yet when we confuse the essence of who we are with the roles we’re playing, we run the risk of getting lost when life circumstances change, as they do all the time. In fact, people often seek my counseling services when the roles they identify with are threatened, changing, or taken from them. Sometimes these transitions are welcome, despite some ambivalence, and people simply require time to become acclimated to their new status, such as when parents, after the kids leave home, become empty nesters, or when retirement arrives. More difficult to accept are lost roles due to tragedy or other difficulties — divorce, unemployment, the death of a loved one.
When people take charge of their narrative and become protagonists of their own story, I encourage them to regard these role transitions as important parts of every narrative — it’s what characters in stories do. Our stories are constantly changing, and our roles along with them. The important thing to remember is that we don’t cease to exist simply because the roles we thought defined us are no longer relevant.
# # #
Kim Schneiderman, LCSW, MSW, is the author of Step Out of Your Story. She counsels in private practice and teaches as a professor and guest lecturer at venues including New York University. She also writes a biweekly advice column for Metro Newspapers and blogs for Psychology Today. Visit her online at http://www.stepoutofyourstory.com.
Excerpted from the book Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life ©2015 by Kim Schneiderman. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com.
Writing History: A Guide for Students
by William Kelleher Storey
Oxford University Press, 2015
Writing History, described as “a practical guide for beginning historians” by the author, arms students with the tools necessary to research and write historical essays. The book concisely covers several topics, including plagiarism, organization, and how to remain faithful to historical facts. Storey focuses on research essays, but his guidance can help those who are writing shorter pieces as well. Particularly helpful are the seventh and eighth chapters, “Writing Sentences in History” and “Choosing Precise Words,” which contain advice applicable to all writers (including bloggers). Writing History is highly recommended for those delving into historical research.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris (2015)
The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History
by Jon Morris
Quirk Books, 2015
“Some (superheroes) have regrettability baked in; others have regrettability thrust upon them.” Author Jon Morris does his best to immortalize some of the biggest comic book blunders, while conceding that some were simply victims of poor timing. On the cover of the book, we see Fatman, Doctor Hormone, Fantomah, Bozo the Iron Man, the Eye, and Amazing-Man; inside are the biographies of Funnyman, Kid Eternity, Captain Marvel (but not that Captain Marvel), Squirrel Girl, and the unfortunately unforgettable NFL Superpro.
It was a blast reading through these profiles, and imagining what they might look like on the big screen with the Avengers and the Justice League. The answer is that they would look ridiculous, and the studio executives would likely regret inserting them into such franchises, but it is still fun to imagine the Ferret and Ravage and Mr. Muscles joining the ranks of Iron Man, Captain America, Superman, and Batman. My personal favorite is Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, and I would be thrilled to try out for the role; I certainly fit the body type.
Comic book lovers young and old will enjoy reading Morris’ The League of Regrettable Superheroes. And who knows, it might even inspire someone to resurrect and reinvent one of these long-forgotten crime fighters.
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse by Howard Sounes (2015)
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix,
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse
by Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 2015
Drugs, drunkenness, and depression all too often lead to one conclusion: death, especially if you are a famous musician aged 27. From blues legend Robert Johnson to Grateful Dead keyboardist Pigpen McKernan, the list of “27 Club” members is long and varied, but drugs and mental illness played a part in a large number of deaths. There are, of course, some who are more famous than others, and they are the main focus of Howard Sounes’ book, 27: A History of the 27 Club. Sounes examines the life, ascent to fame, descent into madness, and ultimate death of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.
The in-depth look at these six individuals, their disposition to addictive behaviors, their frantic mood swings and deep depressions, creates a sort of sympathy for them in the reader’s mind. They had the faculty to alter their course, but for whatever reason could not bring themselves to change in time. I have read quite a bit about Hendrix and Morrison in the past, but this was my first real exposure to the rise and fall of the other four musicians and the similarities they shared with each other. I can still remember hearing of Cobain’s demise on the radio in 1994; though I was not a fan of the grunge scene, the significance of the singer’s age was not lost on me.
Sounes does a great job profiling each of the rockers, without offering a solution for future superstars to avoid death, other than perhaps to steer clear of intoxicants and surround yourself with positive people that can help combat bouts of depression. 27: A History of the 27 Club is a worthy addition to the library of classic rock bookworms.
The Making of Major League:
A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy
by Jonathan Knight
Gray & Company, 2015
One of the most enduring comedies of the late 1980s—at least for sports nuts—is Major League. There is perhaps no other baseball film as widely quoted and embraced both by fans and players in the history of Hollywood. In his latest book, Ohio sportswriter Jonathan Knight takes readers behind the scenes of the movie, showing how difficult it was for writer/director David S. Ward to initially get the green light. Knight weaves together information gathered from interviews with Ward and the stars of the show, including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes, telling the story of how the film came to be made and the excitement on the set while filming.
Those familiar with the movie are well aware of the raunchy language, and Knight does not hesitate to quote both lines from the movie and interviews without censorship. Readers who are able to look past the salty language will enjoy reliving the first time they saw Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Sheen) strike out Clu Haywood (played by major leaguer Pete Vukovich). Knight also touches on the ill-fated sequels, and the proposed fourth installment that has failed to gain any traction so far.
I love Major League, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the highlights and hijinks of making the movie that ranks up near the top of my all-time favorite baseball flicks.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore (Images of America)
by David F. Gaylin
Arcadia Publishing, 2015
Many cities can stake a claim to a major part of Edgar Allan Poe’s life—Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Richmond, Virginia, among them. In Baltimore, the city of the author’s death and burial, Poe has attained cult-like status. Fans from all over the world visit Baltimore to see the Edgar Allan Poe house on North Amity Street and his gravesite at the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery. The professional football team even uses Poe’s most well-known character—the Raven—as its mascot. But what was the city like during the writer’s life? David F. Gaylin answers that question in Arcadia Publishing’s latest pictorial history, Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore, with fascinating photographs and artwork of the people and places contemporary with one of America’s premiere mystery authors.
In addition to the images that depict Baltimore in the 1800s, several modern-day photographs of the locations are also featured in the book. Perhaps the most interesting pictures, however, are those of Poe himself. While there are some that feature his trademark mustache and disheveled hair, including the most recognizable photo of the author, Gaylin also includes a daguerreotype from 1842 with muttonchop sideburns and no mustache.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore is thorough, with approximately two hundred images reprinted in its pages, and those interested in Poe’s life and death while in Mob City will find it quite educational.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Balitmore, $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.
Split Season: 1981
by Jeff Katz
Thomas Dunne Books, 2015
I graduated high school and started college in 1994. There was also no World Series that year. To a baseball fan, it was the highest crime that could be committed, and the owners and players were equally at fault. Both groups were greedy, manipulative, and unappreciative of the high status they were given in society. At that time, I knew little about baseball history. I was aware there had been a strike in 1981, but did not know the issues that caused it, the people involved in the negotiations, or the ramifications it had on the season. I was just a little boy in 1981, and had never even been to a major league baseball game. I was blissfully unaware of the great players that were nearly within walking distance of my house.
Labor issues are never a pleasant subject to think about. Both sides of such disagreements have valid points, but neither are willing to budge or compromise too much. In 1981, over the issue of compensation for players lost to free agency, the owners forced the players to strike. Jeff Katz, the mayor of Cooperstown, relives the events of that year—both on the field and at the negotiation table—in Split Season: 1981. Fernando Valenzuela, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and Billy Martin were some of the most memorable characters on the diamond; Doug DeCinces, Bob Boone, Mark Belanger, and Steve Rogers (along with Marvin Miller) were the major players that went up against Ray Gerbey, Bowie Kuhn, and the owners behind the scenes.
Split Season: 1981 is a very detailed account, nearly to a fault. The sections dealing with the strike negotiations are tedious at times, and I found it difficult to stay focused on the words on the page. The chapters are long; the 336-page book is divided into ten chapters. Had it been broken up a bit more, it could have made some of the negotiation passages more palatable. Overall, though, Split Season: 1981 is a good historical account (though certainly written in favor of the players) of one of the most controversial and unique years in baseball history.
Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder by Steven K. Wagner (2015)
Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek,
Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder
by Steven K. Wagner
Breakaway Books, 2015
[Review by TWJ contributor Jim.]
Can you imagine having the chance to play in the Major Leagues for just one day? Could you imagine being perfect at the plate and in the field for that one game? No one has…except John Paciorek (pronounced puh-SHORE-ick). He was a low A ball minor leaguer for the Houston Colt .45’s who was called up on the last day of the 1963 season and went 3 for 3, with 3 R.B.I and scored four times. He also was perfect in the field as well, never misplaying a ball hit to him.
So now that I have given away part of the ending, why should you read this book? Perfect is a well written, easy to read account of Paciorek and his life, and also why he only played in one game in his big league career. It was an unforgettable performance that had been forgotten by so many, but thanks to Steven K. Wagner, sports fans everywhere can hear the remarkable story of John Paciorek.
Heard But Not Seen
by Denny Dressman
ComServ Books, 2015
In the Cincinnati area, it is one of the most talked about plays in Reds history: Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game to secure an extra-inning victory for the National League. The exhibition contest was hosted by the Reds in their brand new Riverfront Stadium just two weeks after the team played their first game there. President Richard M. Nixon was in attendance, throwing out the first pitch and causing extra security measures which caused some members of the media, including Denny Dressman, to miss seeing the final innings.
Award winning author Dressman’s Heard But Not Seen: Richard Nixon, Frank Robinson and The All-Star Game’s most debated play is an excellent look back at that night from a different point of view. Dressman and other members of the media who were assigned to interview players in the locker rooms had to leave the press box in order to use the elevator, which was going to be shut down by the Secret Service for the President’s use.
When they arrived underneath the stadium, however, there was a technical glitch allowing only audio of the game to reach the reporters. Many of the stories filed in the papers the next day were not eyewitness accounts, but crafted from interviews with the players after the game. Dressman followed Baltimore outfielder Frank Robinson around the clubhouse, listening to him talk to other players, including Fosse, bringing together divergent opinions to write his story for The Cincinnati Enquirer headlined “Robby Raps Pete.”
While the original article is not reprinted in this book, there is plenty to entertain and educate the reader. Dressman gives a history of All-Star Games in Cincinnati prior to 1970, the transition from Crosley Field to Riverfront Stadium, the intensity of Rose, the baseball fandom of President Nixon, and other famous plays at the plate. Heard But Not Seen is a unique look back at one of the most famous baseball plays ever, short and sweet and highly entertaining.
Napoleon Wasn’t Short and St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish: When History Gets It Wrong by Andrea Barham (2015)
Napoleon Wasn’t Short and St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish:
When History Gets It Wrong
by Andrea Barham
Michael O’Mara, 2015
If you haven’t already forgotten all the history you learned in high school, you can forget it now. Andrea Barham takes a number of historical “facts” to task in her latest offering, Napoleon Wasn’t Short and St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish: When History Gets It Wrong. This neat little book offers short discussions on such varied topics as women gladiators, women popes, and the wives of Henry VIII. Did Abraham Lincoln really write the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope? Did Paul Revere cry, “The British are coming!” on his way to Concord? Was Captain James Cook really eaten by cannibals in Hawaii? These questions are examined by Barham, but sometimes a definitive answer is still just out of reach.
History buffs will get a kick out of Napoleon Wasn’t Short and St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish, though I doubt the myths that have been propagated—sometimes over the course of centuries—will be disbelieved by many now.
by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Growing up, Pedro Martinez was always an underdog. He was smaller than the other kids, shorter, not as strong. His brother Ramon Martinez was a dominant pitcher, a highly prized prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pedro was often seen as nothing more than Ramon’s little brother. Despite success in the Dodgers’ farm system, he never got the respect he believed he deserved. It was not until he was traded to the Montreal Expos that Pedro was finally seen as his own man, as he dominated National League hitters north of the border.
In his autobiography, written with Michael Silverman, Pedro relates his experiences as a young man in the Dominican Republic who looked up to his big brother Ramon, wanting to follow in his footsteps to the major leagues. Pedro surpassed all expectations by becoming a Hall of Famer.
Pedro is not a game-by-game breakdown of his career, but a general overview of his seasons with some highlights sprinkled in. He deals with his reputation as a headhunter, sometimes referred to as “Senor Plunk.” He also talks about how he felt overlooked in the the 1999 MVP race and the 2002 Cy Young voting, though he does admit Ivan Rodriguez and Barry Zito had stellar years as well.
In a short chapter dealing with steroids, Pedro expresses disappointment but not resentment toward those who used performance enhancing drugs. He says he was tempted in 1992 when he was in the minor leagues, calling himself “the perfect candidate to take steroids,” but declined after learning the side effects, and states that once he reached the major leagues he was never offered steroids. For those looking for dirt on formerly unnamed users, Pedro does not go there. All of the names mentioned in the chapter are already widely known.
There is so much more that Pedro writes about: learning from Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, “fighting” with Don Zimmer, his gameday routine and the art of pitching. Pedro is an entertaining autobiography, as the pitcher does not hold back in sharing his opinions of teammates, managers, and opponents. Fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes look that Pedro offers, though it is not a dirt-digging, tell-all book.
On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys
by Joseph S. Bonsall
Harvest House Publishers, 2015
I fondly remember listening to the Oak Ridge Boys with my sister as she drove me around in her Mercury Lynx when I was a little kid. Songs such as “Elvira” and “American Made” remind me of a simpler time. Tenor Joseph S. Bonsall reminisces about some of the Boys’ biggest songs, best fans, and blessed moments in his recently released memoir, On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys.
Bonsall covers a number of topics in the memoir, from the Boys’ non-musical interests and the state of country music today to the viral nature of their 1981 hit “Elvira” and the group’s friendship with the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush. He relates interesting anecdotes about playing in the Astrodome in Houston, and singing the National Anthem before a variety of sporting events.
On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys is a light read and will be of special interest to fans of the group.
The 50 Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History
by Robert W. Cohen
Taylor Trade Publishing, 2015
Every baseball team with a substantial amount of history behind it has those players who are undeniably great. Usually the top five or ten players can be generally agreed upon, even if the order of ranking them causes some debate among fans. The Yankees lay claim to Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. The Reds rest on Bench, Rose, and Robinson. Boston boasts Williams and Yaz. The Pirates, Clemente and Stargell. Likewise, the St. Louis Cardinals have their fair share of all-time greats, including Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Albert Pujols, and Bob Gibson.
The further down the list you go, though, discussions become more heated and forgotten stars of the past are brought back into the spotlight. Robert W. Cohen presents a case for his rankings in The 50 Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History, referencing a player’s season-by-season dominance in the league, as well as their statistical fortitude when compared to other Cardinals throughout history. Only a player’s time with St. Louis is considered in the rankings, but Cohen does not ignore their contributions to other teams in his short biographical sketches.
Everyone who has been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a Cardinals cap on the plaque is mentioned, and ranks highly in Cohen’s book. There are also players whose Hall of Fame cases were built in other cities, such as Steve Carlton and Orlando Cepeda, but their contributions as Cardinals were significant enough to warrant inclusion among the top fifty. Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, John Tudor, Edgar Renteria, and Terry Pendleton are just a few of the other names included among the fifty best.
Cohen’s style is a bit dry, relying on statistics to tell the narrative rather than examples of why the players should be considered. There are exceptions to this, such as the case of Joaquin Andujar, who checks in at number forty-nine. The author displays Andujar’s eccentricity through quotes such as, “You can’t worry if it’s cold; you can’t worry if it’s hot; you only worry if you get sick. Because then, if you don’t get well, you die.”
The 50 Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History is well-researched and informative, and Cardinals fans will enjoy it. Readers whose fandom lies elsewhere, however, might struggle to make it through some of the chapters that lack entertaining anecdotes.
500 Words You Should Know
by Caroline Taggart
Michael O’Mara, 2015
Do you ever get bored with your vocabulary? Perhaps you want to express your thoughts in a more powerful fashion. In either case, Caroline Taggart’s 500 Words You Should Know is indispensable to logophiles. Most of the words should be familiar to readers, but Taggart does challenge some modern-day usage of words such as decimate and kudos. It is interesting to learn the history of such words, and decide whether we should become inured to their incorrect usage.
Taggart divides the entries into seven themed sections to help the reader locate the perfect word for whatever situation he finds himself. In the first section, the author warns that overuse of these words “become boring or annoying if taken too far.” In other words, as you aspire for a burgeoning vocabulary, take care not to become ostentatious.
The author states the book is not “intended to teach or to preach.” Rather, “it hopes to stop you briefly in your tracks as you flick through its pages and say, as I have done, ‘Ooh, that’s a nice word.’” Certainly, those who like nice words will enjoy 500 Words You Should Know.
How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions)
by Duff McKagan
Da Capo Press, 2015
In 2011, Duff McKagan’s first autobiography, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) hit the bookshelves. In it, the bass player recounts the highs and lows (because of being high) with Guns N’ Roses, and his journey to recovery from drug addiction. On Friday, McKagan’s story continues in How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions), touring with a new band (Walking Papers), playing shows with Axl Rose in South America, being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sitting in with Slash for one song when the guitarist opened for Aerosmith, and raising two teenage daughters.
In between tales of his life, McKagan throws in nuggets that he thinks every man should know, such as one hundred essential albums and more than forty books you should read. He explains the rules of sharing a hotel room (or other small space) with another person. He gives tips on international travel. And he explains the importance of loyalty, using the example of his BlackBerry.
McKagan is an entertaining character, and his second memoir made me chuckle several times as I read it. While he has sobered up, he has not cleaned up his language, so the book is not recommended for younger readers. McKagan briefly reminisces about his time in Guns N’ Roses while discussing the South America gigs with Axl, but the majority of this volume deals with 2012 to the present. Fans of McKagan’s columns on ESPN.com and SeattleWeekly.com will enjoy the witty banter of How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions).
The League of Outsider Baseball
by Gary Cieradkowski
Gary Cieradkowski is well known as the creator of the Infinite Baseball Card Set blog, and now many of his illustrations are available in hardback form in The League of Outsider Baseball. Subtitled “An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes,” readers will find little-told stories of some of the game’s most famous stars, such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente, as well as the players that have faded from modern memories, such as Pete Reiser, Russ Van Atta, and Jimmy Lyston. As a Reds fan, I paid special attention to the pages dedicated to Ryan Freel, Willard Hershberger, Harlan Pyle, and Kitty Burke.
There are seven categories in the book: Bush Leaguers, featuring stories of the all-time greats before they were great; Could-Have-Beens, telling of players that never reached their full potential because of tragedy; International Game, showing the game outside the United States; Bad Guys, with an excellent run-down of the players implicated in the 1919 Black Sox scandal; People’s Game, featuring people who were famous in other arenas of life like George Bush and Frank Sinatra; Race Game, showing some of the best players that were barred from the majors like Josh Gibson; and Odd Balls, “the characters that make the game’s history so rich and interesting.”
Each entry is beautifully illustrated and brings the history of baseball to life for the reader. Cieradkowski set out “to create the book I always wanted to find in the bookstore,” but he ended up with a book that anyone would be happy to find. The League of Outsider Baseball is not only one of the best baseball books of 2015, it is one of the best non-fiction books of 2015. Highly recommended for fan’s of our national pastime, and anyone else who just likes to read interesting stories about interesting people.