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.
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.
At The Old Ballgame: Stories from Baseball’s Golden Era
edited by Jeff Silverman
Lyons Press, 2014
As a fan of baseball history, I love to immerse myself in books about the players and teams of the past. Rarely, though, do I see a book that goes all the way back to the turn of the twentieth century. At The Old Ballgame, edited by Jeff Silverman, does just that. Silverman presents a number of stories, poems, and articles from 1867-1921, both fictional tales and actual accounts of games.
On the fictional side, you can’t get any better than “Casey At The Bat,” the epic poem penned by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and Grantland Rice’s sequel, “Casey’s Revenge.” Ring Lardner’s satirical “My Roomy” is also included, and I found myself laughing several times as the author claimed he would be happy to sign for the coming season as long as he could pick his own roommate.
The historical pieces are fascinating as well, a snapshot of different aspects of the game. Christy Mathewson writes about jinxes. Grover Cleveland Alexander explains his performance in the 1915 World Series. Candy Cummings describes his discovery of the curveball. A Chicago reporter opines that the 1919 World Series was won fair-and-square, despite the rumors.
There will be a great deal written and talked about this world’s series. There will be a lot of inside stuff that never will be printed, but the truth will remain that the team which was the hardest working, which fought hardest, and which stuck together to the end won. The team which excelled in mechanical skill, which had the ability, individually, to win, was beaten.
Twenty-two old-time pieces gives us a glimpse into the game as it was played during simpler times. At The Old Ballgame is perfect for baseball lovers of all ages.
The Ax Murders of Saxtown
by Nicholas J. C. Pistor
Lyons Press, 2014
Nothing titillates the imagination more than unsolved crime, and the more gruesome the better. In 1874, a terrible event occurred to a German family in Saxtown, Illinois—a heinous murder that took out not only the adults, but two very small children. With no witnesses and no reliable evidence, investigators were forced to rely on suspicion to formulate theories and make arrests. They were unable, however, to obtain a confession, and the case has remained unsolved for over a century.
Author Nicholas J. C. Pistor, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, digs into the history of the Stelzriede murder in The Ax Murders of Saxtown. He paints a picture of the crime scene, the bloodied bodies, and the mob awaiting justice on the property outside. The prominent figures are profiled, both on the side of the law (educator Isaiah Thomas, Sheriff James W. Hughes) and under the cloud of suspicion (George Schneider, George Killian, and others). Pistor gets no closer to the truth today than Thomas and Hughes did in the nineteenth century, but gives a very detailed account of the various theories surrounding the case.
For those who enjoy tales of true crime and unsolved mysteries, The Ax Murders of Saxtown is a good read.
Doctor Who: A History
by Alan Kistler
Lyons Press, 2013
Fifty years is a long time, especially when it comes to television. For a program to last that long—through changes in cast and culture—is quite a feat. Doctor Who debuted in November, 1963, and enjoys more popularity now—fifty years later—than ever before. Children and adults adore the program, and it is finally more than just a cult hit in America.
Comic book historian Alan Kistler examines the classic British program from its very genesis, including the original pitch and evolution of the premise and characters. Each of the first eleven personalities to take on the role of The Doctor are profiled, with background information on the actors and the mannerisms they brought to the role. Special attention is given to the companions and other supporting characters, and of course the TARDIS. The behind-the-scenes players, from Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert to Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, are given their proper due.
From beginning to end, this is a comprehensive look at one of the most beloved television shows in history. Any fan will absolutely love Doctor Who: A History.
Swinging ’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season
by Matthew Silverman
Lyons Press, 2013
Richard Nixon. The Yom Kippur War. The Atkins Diet. The Mets, Yankees, A’s. Rollie Fingers’ handlebar moustache (and the subsequent facial hair of his teammates). Willie Mays’ retirement. George Steinbrenner’s foray into major league ownership. 1973 had it all, and Matthew Silverman helps recreate the events in Swinging ’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season.
The books follows three of the most colorful franchises in baseball history while mixing in tidbits about pop culture and other notable events. The teams: Charlie Finley’s Oakland A’s, led by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Fingers; Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees, with Thurman Munson, the first DH Ron Blomberg, and the wife swapping Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson; the New York Mets with Willie Mays’ final days and the legendary Yogi Berra at the helm.
In a season when controversies were commonplace, Silverman hits all the high notes. The most interesting is obviously the decision made by Kekich and Peterson to swap families, and the author reports the situation professionally without passing judgment. Pete Rose’s altercation with Bud Harrelson in the NLCS is also retold in detail, as well as the “firing” of Oakland second baseman Mike Andrews during the World Series (a move overruled by commissioner Bowie Kuhn).
Swinging ’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season is a book that should be in every baseball fan’s personal library.