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Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s by Jason Turbow (2017)

Dynasty, Bombastic, Fantastic Jason Turbow

Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s
by Jason Turbow
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 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.

Learn more about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Purchase Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s by Jason Turbow.

Becoming Mr. October by Reggie Jackson with Kevin Baker (2014)

Becoming Mr October Reggie Jackson New York Yankees

Becoming Mr. October
by Reggie Jackson with Kevin Baker
Anchor Books, 2014 (paperback)
320 pages

Before Derek Jeter, the Yankee most associated with postseason glory was Reggie Jackson. Nicknamed “Mr. October” for his offensive prowess in the World Series, particularly with the Yankees (8 home runs, 17 RBI, .400 batting average in 15 games), Jackson epitomized superstardom in the Big Apple. In his memoir Becoming Mr. October, the slugger recounts his 1977 and 1978 seasons in New York, including his feuds with teammate Thurman Munson, manager Billy Martin, and owner George Steinbrenner, and the infamous interview with Robert Ward that set him at odds with his teammates right off the bat.

Jackson begins his memoir as a college athlete at Arizona State University, then quickly moving through his time with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles to set the stage for his debut with the Yankees. The first four chapters of the book deal with his pre-New York baseball career, while the final twenty-one chapters recall the events of just two seasons; there is no mention of playing for the California Angels or returning to Oakland at the end of his career. The writing style is extremely casual, almost to the point of distraction. This includes the use of text lingo such as “LOL” in some instances.

Overlooking that flippancy, though, Becoming Mr. October is a valuable resource as it presents Jackson’s side of the story. He had been villainized by the press and Yankee management, but was mot at the time afforded the opportunity to present his version of events. Further upset with his portrayal in The Bronx Is Burning (“the whole way they portrayed ‘Reggie Jackson in New York’ was a huge disconnect for me”), the Hall of Famer offers his take on what really happened during his first two seasons in pinstripes.

Learn more about Anchor Books.

Purchase Becoming Mr. October by Reggie Jackson with Kevin Baker.

Dave Kingman belongs in the Hall of Fame, obviously!

Dave Kingman belongs in the Hall of Fame obviously

Since the exposure of the inflated statistics of the steroid era, it is high time to re-examine the case of Dave Kingman for the Hall of Fame. The first 400-home run hitter to be denied entry into Cooperstown, Kingman shared his talents on the baseball diamond with fans in seven cities. Instead of writing several lengthy chapters to convince you of Kingman’s obvious worthiness, I’m going to go with simple bullet points. All of these could easily be expounded upon. Feel free to disagree. It’s your choice if you want to be wrong.

  • 442 home runs, 40th on the all-time list. But if you remove all the ‘roiders, he moves up to 31st, and if you remove all the guys that passed him after he retired, that puts him around 22nd at the time of his retirement. The 22nd-best clean home run hitter of all-time at the time of his retirement definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
  • He made the All-Star team in three different seasons. That’s more than Babe Ruth, and Babe Ruth is in the Hall of Fame. If you’ve done something more than Babe Ruth, you’ve really done something there.
  • He received MVP votes in five seasons, four times in the NL and once in the AL. If you will recall, Frank Robinson was the first player to ever win the MVP in both leagues. Frank Robinson is in the Hall of Fame. Do I need to go on? OK, I will.
  • Hit thirty or more home runs seven times in a sixteen-year career; five other times he topped twenty. In the pre-steroid era, that’s spectacular.
  • Some try to put a negative spin on Kingman’s status as a legend by pointing to his strikeouts. You know who had more strikeouts than Kingman? Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
  • He had a 1.167 OPS for the Yankees. 1.167!
  • He was a Diamond King in 1982. So were nine Hall of Famers, including Gary Carter, Rod Carew, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Ivan De Jesus. Wait, forget that last one.
  • He was a Super Veteran in 1983. Not just a Regular Veteran, a Super Veteran.

Some solid bullet points, right? I thought so too. Let’s get Kingman in the Hall! Download the badge, resize it to your heart’s content, and display it proudly on your blog!

Too big for a binder: Donruss All-Stars

I love the oddball sets of the 1980s, from the 33-card boxed sets you could find at Kmart, Toys R Us, and just about everywhere else, to the cards you had to cut out from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese boxes. But these cards absolutely drove me insane: the big Donruss All-Star cards from 1983 through 1987. Sure, there were plenty of great players included in these issues, but they were too big for a binder and difficult to store. I still haven’t figured out exactly what to do with them.

The 1983 version was horizontal, such as this Reggie Jackson:

Mr October 1983 Donruss

Donruss flipped the card right-side-up in 1984 and kept them that way the rest of the run, as this 1985 Don Mattingly shows:

Donnie Baseball 1985 Donruss

But they were still too big at 3.5×5. There were also the “pop-up” cards featuring the starters from the game, such as this 1986 Jack Morris:

Morris Donruss All Star

In 1988, Donruss finally wised up and shrunk the cards back down to regular size and they fit nicely into standard baseball card pages.

1983 Donruss and the search for a Hall of Fame rookie card

pack 1

pack 2

I picked up two rack packs of 1983 Donruss last night at the Redsfest for $1 each. I thought surely they were just in the wrong place on the table, but no…$1 each. And with a Reggie Jackson Diamond King showing on top, how could I resist?

Of course, the only real reason to buy packs from 1983 is to find a rookie card of Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, or Ryne Sandberg. So did I do it? Find out after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry

Who is the greatest right fielder of all-time?

Hammerin Hank

The only real surprise in right field may be the order of the rankings, as nine of the top ten right fielders are already enshrined in Cooperstown. Two players topped the 300-point mark, with Hank Aaron (362.05) beating out Babe Ruth (331.13) for the #1 spot. Even when removing the awards and All-Star appearances, Aaron still edges out Ruth for the top spot, though only by a mere .42 points.

Triple Crown Frank

I feel that Frank Robinson (#3, 289.8) is one of the most under-appreciated ballplayers in history, and his spot on this list supports at least the notion that he was a great right fielder. The man won two MVP awards and was a Triple Crown hitter, but is almost never mentioned among the all-time greats.

Reggie

Continuing down the list: Mel Ott (#4, 268.80), Al Kaline (#5, 265.82), Roberto Clemente (#6, 264.23), Andre Dawson (#7, 247.13), Reggie Jackson (#8, 244.48), and Dave Winfield (#9, 234.04). That’s right, all you Hawk haters, Dawson beats Mr. October. Granted, it’s because of Reggie’s less-than-stellar fielding; if offense were the only thing considered here Jackson would win the head-to-head battle.

Vladdy

The last name on the top ten list is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame: the recently retired Vladimir Guerrero (#10, 233.95). While there is little doubt Guerrero will eventually have a plaque hanging in the Hall, he may not make it his first time on the ballot considering recent elections. If Craig Biggio, a 3000-hit club member, can’t make it his first try, how can you elect a player who didn’t hit any magic numbers on his first ballot appearance? Only time will tell.

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #19-27

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. This week, we’re looking at the cards in the set; today we have cards 19-27…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 19-27

Another fine group of players, featuring six Hall of Famers, including 2011 inductee Bert Blyleven and two of the greatest third basemen to ever play, Wade Boggs and George Brett.

This page features 1985 AL Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen and Rookie of the Year Ozzie Guillen. Neither are in the Hall of Fame, nor should they be. The only other non-Hall of Famer in the group is Darrell Evans, one of the few pre-steroids era players not in Cooperstown with more than 400 home runs. The knock against Evans was his batting average; he finished his career with a .248 mark and never reached the .300 mark in a full season. Should he be in the Hall of Fame? I would not vote for him, but I don’t think Cooperstown would be harmed by his admittance.

What makes a Hall of Famer?

Fortunately, not Reggie Jackson‘s opinion. I’m not talking about players involved with the steroid scandal, but guys who are already enshrined in Cooperstown. Jackson said the following to a Sports Illustrated reporter:

I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.

So you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Puckett, a catcher who is considered by many to be among the best ever in Carter, and two pitchers who reached the 300 win and 3000 strikeout plateaus in Sutton and Niekro, and none of them are Hall of Famers? This isn’t a discussion of who isn’t in that should be (Don Mattingly says hello), but of who is in that shouldn’t be, according to Mr. October himself. And that even includes the pitcher who is in fifth place on the all-time strikeouts list, Bert Blyleven. Reggie says, “No. No, no, no, no. Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.” Alright, I’ll agree that Morris belongs, but his omission should not distract from Blyleven’s accomplishments.

While the voting process isn’t perfect, requiring a 75% consensus is a pretty lofty standard and one that is hard to achieve. For the most part, the BBWAA has done a pretty good job on their end of keeping the riff raff out of the Hall. The Veterans Committee hasn’t done so splendidly, but most of their choices can at least be rationalized to some extent. If the BBWAA has failed at all, it has failed by its omissions (see also: Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso). Reggie is simply wrong on this point.

Retired Numbers: #43 & #44

Another group of solid Hall of Famers, all first ballot selections for immortality.


Willie McCovey, San Francisco Giants

McCovey was “the other Willie,” overshadowed by the legendary Willie Mays. However, McCovey accomplished plenty on his own. Rookie of the Year in 1959, MVP in 1969, three other top 10 finishes, 500+ homers and 1500+ RBI. This same photo was used on the Cards That Never Were blog for a custom ’81 Donruss card.


Dennis Eckersley, Oakland A’s


Hank Aaron, Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves


Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Brewers


Reggie Jackson, New York Yankees

Retired Numbers: #9

Two players among the six #9’s retired are not in the Hall of Fame, though there are some who believe at least one of them should be immortalized.


Minnie Minoso, Chicago White Sox

Minoso was a Negro League star before coming to the majors in 1949 and was named to seven All-Star squads during his big league career. After his retirement from the majors in 1964, Minoso played several seasons in Mexico, and made a brief comeback with the White Sox in 1976, appearing in three games, and another in 1980, playing in a pair. He also made appearances with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League in 1993 and 2003, becoming the first player in history to play professionally in seven decades.


Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates


Enos Slaughter, St. Louis Cardinals


Reggie Jackson, Oakland A’s


Roger Maris, New York Yankees


Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox

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