Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s by Jason Turbow (2017)
Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic is the story of the Oakland A’s, a team stocked with some of the best players in baseball in the early 1970s. Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Dave Duncan, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers…they all played a key role in the team’s dominant run of three straight World Championships from 1972 through 1974. None was a bigger star—in his own mind, at least—than owner Charlie O. Finley. The businessman moved the A’s from Kansas City shortly after securing the team, and shrewdly managed his personnel until baseball’s labor laws broke down, causing an exodus of not only the A’s but many major league rosters in the late 1970s. Finley’s first major loss came when his star pitcher Hunter jumped ship, just a few years after the owner stood his ground against another young pitcher (and kept him, at the time).
But Hunter’s departure came later; from 1972-1974, nothing could stop the Oakland powerhouse. Their three-year reign saw them defeat the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was not all smooth sailing. Contract disputes, poor attendance, arguments over playing time, and Finley’s manipulation of players play a major role in by Jason Turbow’s historical account. The author freely admits that Finley, if living, “wouldn’t likely appreciate his portrayal here.”
Besides the verbal clashes with the front office, there were a number of physical fights in the clubhouse as well. Turbow says, “I detail the major dustups in the book, but omitted many others that didn’t fit into the narrative. I had a recurring experience during my interviews: Player says that it was all overblown and the team didn’t fight as much as the media made out; I recount to a player a litany of the most prominent skirmishes; player goes quiet, shakes head and grudgingly agrees that maybe there’s something to it after all.”
Dynastic. Bombastic, Fantastic is a great way to get your blood pumping for another great season of baseball.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
by Kate Clifford Larson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Much of the Kennedy legacy has been well-documented, the ups and downs of the political machine that boasted some of the most powerful people of the twentieth century. For many years, one of the greatest tragedies the family faced was kept a secret. Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest daughter of Joe and Rose, was intellectually challenged and struggled to keep the pace of her siblings. Never progressing past the mental age of about twelve, she was lobotomized at age 23. The botched surgery rendered her incapacitated, and the family remained quiet about her condition and whereabouts for decades. The horrendous things that happened to her inspired the family to get involved in organizations that helped mentally disabled people.
Author Kate Clifford Larson, intrigued by Rosemary’s brief obituary in 2005, set out to uncover the truth and impact of her life. Larson’s conversational style of writing makes Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter and easy read, despite disturbing details of the young woman’s life. Larson utilized resources that were previously unavailable to biographers, including a collection of Rose Kennedy’s diaries, letters, and scrapbooks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. These sources help to present a fuller picture of the Kennedy family, for better and for worse.
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.