Results tagged ‘ book reviews ’

The Baseball Whisperer

By Paul Hagen /

baseballwhispererThere is baseball. There is Iowa. There are corn fields. The parallels to the novel-turned-movie Field of Dreams are remarkable and unmistakable and acknowledged in the very first sentence of the foreword.

And yet, The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams by Michael Tackett expands on some of the themes in that classic work and explores others. And it is unmistakably a work of non-fiction.

Tackett, an editor in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, has written a book built around the singular life of Merl Eberly, who managed the summer college league Clarinda A’s for nearly 40 years. Its core lesson is how one man can have an outsized impact on the lives of others and, if that was all, there would be sufficient value in the project.

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Fall from Grace

By Paul Hagen /

fallfromgraceTime has only added to the mystique of Shoeless Joe Jackson. There have been movies, a Broadway play, books and documentaries featuring his role in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. There is a museum dedicated to his life in his hometown of Greenville, S.C.

Despite that, Jackson exists in most memories as a one-dimensional, almost cartoonish caricature. The unschooled farm boy who may or may not have been hoodwinked by crooked teammates and big-city gamblers to help throw the World Series.

“Fall from Grace: The Truth and Tragedy of Shoeless Joe Jackson” helps flesh out that portrait and add context to the actions of a player who was banned from baseball for life for his part in the scheme. Nearly a century later, there are periodic grassroots movements to reinstate the .356 lifetime hitter and make him eligible for the Hall of Fame.

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The Cardinals Way

From Cardinals Insider

thecardinalswayFor baseball fans who want an in-depth look at what makes the St. Louis Cardinals a successful franchise, a new book called, “The Cardinals Way” traces the team’s legacy from its humble beginnings a century ago to the impressive postseason runs of this era.

Journalist Howard Megdal joined Chairman and CEO of the Cardinals, Bill DeWitt and Senior Vice President and General Manager, John Mozeliak for a panel discussion at Cardinals Nation Restaurant and Bar in Ballpark Village. Cardinals broadcaster, Dan McLaughlin moderated the panel.

For the book’s author Howard Megdal, what stands out about the Cardinals organization is the legacy of Bill DeWitt.

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God Almighty Hisself

By Paul Hagen /

godalmightyhisselfDuring the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Golden Era Committee met to consider a list of candidates for the Hall of Fame. When the results were announced, Dick Allen (and former Twins great Tony Oliva) had fallen one vote short.

That brought renewed attention to one of the most prodigious sluggers in history. Also one of the most complex, enigmatic and controversial.

“God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen” by Villanova law professor Mitchell Nathanson is the first biography of the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner and the 1972 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner. It’s also a work of impressive scholarship and gracious prose that attempts to untangle the myth from the reality and, even more ambitiously, to explain why such a magnificently talented player clashed repeatedly with front office personnel, managers, the media and fans throughout his career.

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The Little General

By Paul Hagen /

littlegeneralMention Gene Mauch to most fans, and one-dimensional portraits will likely emerge. A stern, cold, old-school manager. The manager who misused his rotation down the stretch in 1964 as the Phillies squandered a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play. Or the guy who managed the most years in the big leagues, 26, without taking his team to the World Series.

In “The Little General: A Baseball Life,” Mel Proctor introduces the more well-rounded human being who is widely considered to have possessed one of the best baseball minds of his era.

Proctor, who has done play-by-play for the Rangers, Orioles, Nationals and Padres, got to know Mauch in 2002 while working for a small television station in Palm Springs, Calif. Proctor reached out to the former skipper during the World Series — won in seven games by the Angels — to see if he’d be interested in working as a studio commentator before and after each game.

Proctor wouldn’t have been surprised, he wrote, to find a “bitter, old man.” Instead, Mauch was a delight.

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Long Shot

By Paul Hagen /

piazza-longshotHere’s what outsiders saw: Mike Piazza hit more home runs than any catcher in baseball history. He batted .308 for a career during which he made the All-Star team 12 times, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award and finished in the top three of the NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting three times. In short, he was one of the best catchers in history.

Here’s what Piazza saw: a world that questioned whether he was good enough from the first time he picked up a bat until this very day. “I’ve been the object of so much controversy, resentment, skepticism, scrutiny, rumor and doubt,” he writes.

It’s that conflict that provides the backbone for this unusually candid book. “Long Shot” by Piazza with Lonnie Wheeler, provides an unvarnished glimpse behind the cardboard-cutout image that most fans have of baseball stars.

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