June 2014

If These Walls Could Talk

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

shenkbookLarry Shenk’s first season as the public relations director for the Phillies was 1964. He was the third person in as many years to hold the position. That was also the season when Philadelphia saw a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games to play disappear, a World Series whiff that still lives in franchise infamy.

The Baron, as he is universally known, has more than overcome those inauspicious early omens. Shenk is still going strong as the vice president of alumni relations. Shenk started at Connie Mack Stadium, went to Veterans Stadium and now works out of Citizens Bank Park, where the press box is named after him.

In all those years, Shenk has seen and heard it all. Now, he’s sharing some of those tales in a breezy read called “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From the Philadelphia Phillies Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box.”

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The Yankee Way

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

randolph-theyankeewayIt’s probably fair to say that Willie Randolph has had a better baseball career than most people realize. As a player, he was part of seven teams that went to the postseason, including five pennant winners and three that won the World Series. He made six All-Star teams and was a Yankees co-captain for three seasons.

When Randolph retired, he ranked fifth in Major League history with 2,152 games played at second base. As a Yankees coach, he went to the postseason 10 straight years and added four more championship rings. Randolph became the first African-American manager in New York City when hired by the Mets in 2005. A year later, he led the team to a 97-win season, which is the last time the team appeared in the playoffs.

All of which gives “The Yankee Way: Playing, Coaching, and My Life in Baseball” its authority. Randolph has produced a thoughtful volume that covers everything from growing up in the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn to selecting an All-Star Yankees team from his playing and coaching time in that storied organization.

The title is a dead giveaway that Randolph focuses on his time in pinstripes. But there’s much more here.

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How Baseball Explains America

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

howbaseballexplainsBaseball touches so many aspects of society that most people barely stop to think about it. From the culture to the language to the history, the national pastime has influenced the way people talk, think and entertain themselves.

Veteran journalist Hal Bodley, the senior correspondent for MLB.com, stopped to think about it. The result is “How Baseball Explains America,” a loosely arranged collection of 17 chapters that connects the dots between the game and the various ways it informs our workaday lives.

Some of the territory covered is familiar. Chapter 9, for example, is devoted to the legacy of Jackie Robinson. Of course, it would be impossible to write a book of this nature and omit Robinson’s enormous contributions and how the integration of baseball in 1947 is widely viewed as a spark for the civil rights movement as a whole.

On those occasions, the tone shifts from professorial examination to personal memoir. Bodley is in his sixth decade of covering baseball for a living. He has been fortunate enough to have a front-row seat at many of the important milestones that have occurred in the game since he began his career in 1958.

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