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 book

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.

Purchase Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of by J. David Herman.

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Random Awesomeness (part 2019.8)

Random Awesomeness

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.
 


Purchase Reckless & Me by Kiefer Sutherland!
(Yes, that Kiefer Sutherland, a.k.a. Jack Bauer,
a.k.a. President Tom Kirkman, a.k.a. David Powers.)
 

The Return of Random Awesomeness (part 2019.1)

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

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Steelheart: The Reckoners, Book One by Brandon Sanderson.

Purchase Star Wars music by John Williams.

Inspirational Hits from MLB’s Best: Dugout Devotions by Del Duduit (2019)

Dugout Devotions

Inspirational Hits from MLB’s Best: Dugout Devotions
Del Duduit
148 pages
Iron Stream Books, 2019

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.

Click here to purchase Dugout Devotions by Del Duduit.

Off-season reading material

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.
Edgar

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:

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.

Christmas gift ideas for bookworms

Darth Vader reads to Luke Skywalker

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?

Books

Christmas gift ideas for Thundercats fans

ThundercatsI mentioned Thundercats yesterday, so I might as well throw a few ideas out there that the Thundercats fan in your life will love.

Visual Media

Music

Thundercats Superman comicBooks

Toys and Collectibles

Feline Rhapsody Queen parody ThundercatsAttire

Other odds & ends

Coming Soon…

Thunderbrats Garbage Pail Kids parody

Christmas gift ideas for fans of old-school Hanna-Barbera cartoons

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:
Herculoids

Scooby-Doo has had a number of reboots through the years, so many that the gang warrants its own separate list:

If you want something that is specifically geared toward the holidays, consider Yogi Christmas these Christmas specials:

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… Huckleberry Hound you just want to play? Funko has you covered! Check out all these Funko POP Hanna-Barbera figures available:

Christmas gift ideas for your Force-sensitive friends

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.

Visual MediaStar Wars DVD Blu Ray

Music

BooksStar Wars Shakespeare

Toys and Collectibles

Attire

Other odds & ends

Christmas gift ideas for the Bible scholars in your life

Guy N Woods Robert R Taylor JrStudying 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.

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