The story of He-Man is well-known to children of the eighties, but author Brian C. Baer is able to dig even deeper into the beloved franchise in his recent book, How He-Man Mastered the Universe. Baer examines every aspect of the Masters of the Universe, from the toys to the cartoon to the movie to the reboots and more recent collectible action figure releases. The author looks at the groundwork laid for the success of He-Man by the marketing behind Star Wars, and the influence He-Man had on many subsequent pop culture franchises such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What impressed me most about Baer’s book is the attention paid to the big screen adaption of the Eternian hero in 1987. The toys and original cartoon have been widely covered over the years, with little more than a passing mention to the live-action film. A good bulk of Baer’s book, however, is devoted to how He-Man was brought to life by Dolph Lundgren. He breaks down the movie with an in-depth review, discusses the financial woes that hamstrung the ending, and even includes conceptual drawings for He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Skeletor, and She-Ra, who unfortunately was written out of the script.
Baer also discusses the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon that aired in the early 1990s, the 21st century reboot by Mike Young Productions, and the new line of toys that came with that. Baer wraps up How He-Man Mastered the Universe with a look at what many of the film’s actors are doing today, as well as others who were involved with He-Man through the years.
How He-Man Mastered the Universe is a highly enjoyable book; children of the eighties and He-Fans in particular will love it.
Purchase How He-Man Mastered the Universe by Brian C. Baer on Amazon or directly from the publisher at www.mcfarlandpub.com or via the order line at 800-253-2187.
The Hunt for a Reds October: Cincinnati in 1990
by Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb
The 1919 World Series has received its fair share of coverage, though more because of the scandal than the actual baseball played. Much has been written about the timeless “Big Red Machine” teams of the 1970s. But the wire-to-wire championship team of 1990 has been largely overlooked by authors and baseball historians. Now twenty-five years removed from that historic season, authors Charles F. Faber and Zachariah Webb have delved into the magic season of 1990, profiling the players involved and examining the season month-by-month, hitting several highlights along the way.
The first seventy-three pages are devoted to the history of baseball in the Queen City up to 1989, giving a foundation and setting the stage for the 1990 season, which saw a lockout that forced the Reds to open the season on the road for only the third time in the team’s history. Many of the players and staff are given a brief biographical profile, from the superstars like Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, and Eric Davis, all the way down to the bench players like Billy Bates, Herm Winningham, Terry McGriff, and Luis Quinones.
On more than one occasion, a fact or anecdote is repeated, giving the reader a feeling of déjà vu. There are also some minor errors, such as the statement that “Keith Brown never played a game in the majors” (Don Brown was the intended player), and that Paul O’Neill “had been a Reds fan since childhood and did want to leave Cincinnati” (rather than “did not want to leave”). The statements can be properly understood in the context of the book, though, and are not enough to distract from the overall value of the work.
The appendices at the end cover some of the things you might expect, from the game-by-game results to the individual player statistics. Perhaps the most interesting is Appendix E, which examines how the players from the 1990 roster left the Reds, beginning with Ron Robinson’s trade in June (for Glenn Braggs, who later left via free agency), through Barry Larkin’s free agency (and subsequent retirement) in 2004.
The Hunt for a Reds October is an excellent, in depth book that gives an inside look at the last World Champion in Cincinnati, and will be enjoyed by Reds fans who remember this underappreciated ballclub.
Purchase The Hunt for a Reds October by Charles F. Faber and Zacahariah Webb through Amazon or through the McFarland order line (800-253-2187).
Baseball Prodigies: Best Major League Seasons by Players Under 21
by Charles F. Faber
There have been 284 men who have played major league baseball as a regular before their 21st birthday; 192 of those players lasted five or more seasons in the big leagues. In Baseball Prodigies, the latest offering from baseball scholar Charles F. Faber, the top ten hitting seasons and top ten pitching seasons by players under the age of 21 are explored in depth, while brief profiles of the remaining 172 players are included.
Many of the hitters are a “who’s who” of baseball immortality: Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, and the like. There are a couple of nineteenth century guys and one current player, as well as a special “star of the future” tag applied to Mike Trout, who is not included in the top ten as he does not yet qualify to be ranked, though he will once he reaches five years of big league service.
On the pitching side, only two of the top ten are Hall of Famers: Bob Feller and Christy Mathewson. The tragedy of injury befell many of the others, such as Bret Saberhagen and Don Gullett, while drugs derailed Dwight Gooden‘s route to Cooperstown. There is one current pitcher ranked, CC Sabathia, who could one day join Feller and Mathewson. But Matt Kilroy, Icebox Chamberlain, and Willis Hudlin will only be rembered—if at all—as examples of “what could have been.”
The other prodigies who are discussed briefly include both Hall of Famers (Robin Yount, Jimmie Foxx, Roberto Alomar) and those who will never be seriously considered for baseball immortality (Rick Monday, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool).
Certainly an interesting study on youth in baseball, Faber does an excellent job of detailing each player’s career and life after baseball, recommending resources and biographies to learn more about them.
Purchase Baseball Prodigies: Best Major League Seasons by Players Under 21 by Charles F. Faber by clicking here or by calling 1-800-253-2187.
Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski
by William A. Cook
McFarland Books, 2012
One of the best first baseman of the 1950s, Ted Kluszewski is often forgotten when discussing the greats throughout history. He didn’t have the longevity to warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration, but for a brief stretch he was one of the most intimidating hitters in baseball. In Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski, author William A. Cook takes the reader not only through Kluszewski’s reign as a star in Cincinnati, but also the time he spent at Indiana University on the gridiron before signing with the Reds, as well as his years in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Anaheim. Cook also talks about Ted’s post-baseball career in the restaurant business, and the time he spent as a coach for the Big Red Machine under Sparky Anderson, working with superstars Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, and George Foster.
Big Klu is a quick read, but it is packed with facts and anecdotes. Long-time fans of Cincinnati baseball will cherish the memories that are brought back while reading the book, and baseball historians will appreciate the references to other stars who were contemporary with Kluszewski, including Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Duke Snider, and Klu’s teammate Gus Bell. Cook wraps up the book with several charts showing football standings and baseball statistics, including how Kluszewski stacked up next to other home run hitters from 1953 to 1956.
This book would be a welcome addition to any Cincinnati Reds fan’s library.
Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix
and the Greatest Game Ever Lost
by Lew Freedman
Many games throughout history have been called “the greatest game ever played,” but in most of those contests, the winning team receives the biggest headlines. In 1959, however, “the greatest game ever lost” was played, and the losing Pittsburgh Pirates with Harvey Haddix on the mound received all the attention. The story has been told of how Haddix mowed down his opponents in order for twelve consecutive innings in Milwaukee: no hits, no walks, no errors. The Pirates offense, however, was unable to score a run, and in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, a Braves batter reached on an error. Another was intentionally walked. And then Joe Adcock stepped to the plate and hit a home run to end it, with Haddix on the losing end. The home run was later changed to a double because of a baserunning blunder, but the lead run still scored and the Pittsburgh Pirates still lost.
Author Lew Freedman recounts the game in Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost, published in 2009 by McFarland. Freedman offers some background on Haddix’ laid-back personality, his habits on and off the field, and his friendly reputation among teammates. The writer further educates the reader on each player in the game, with biographical anecdotes on both the Pirates (Don Hoak, Bill Virdon, Smokey Burgess) and the Braves (Hank Aaron, Andy Pafko, Lew Burdette). Front office executive Branch Rickey, manager Danny Murtaugh, and broadcaster Bob Prince are each examined in their own chapters. Even Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who did not play in the game, is given quite a bit of attention by the author. But the star of the book is, without a doubt, the humble Haddix, who repeated the same refrain throughout the years: losing the perfect game was disappointing, but not as disappointing as losing the game.
Freedman does an excellent job of recreating that gem of a game throughout the pages of this book, a book designed not solely for the Pirates fan but for the baseball fan. Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost is a worthy addition to any sports library.
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