Results tagged ‘ books ’

The Seventh Year Stretch

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

seventhyearstretchTiming is everything in sports. It can also be crucial in writing about sports.

When Greg Prato conceived “The Seventh Year Stretch: New York Mets 1977-83,” his latest oral history of a Big Apple franchise, the team was in the doldrums, suffering from both losing records on the field and an image of a team in the country’s largest market unwilling to spend what it took to compete.

As it was coming out, the Mets were coming on strong in the second half, creating drama with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes and the drama surrounding how many innings Matt Harvey would pitch, that culminated in a surprise trip to the World Series.

What’s interesting is that the author chose to feature another unsuccessful period in team history, a time frame during which the Mets had nothing but losing records. One reason is that it also was a time during which several moves were made that led to the 1984-90 epoch during which the club finished first or second every season and won the 1986 World Series.

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Baseball Maverick

By Will Leitch / SportsonEarth.com

baseballmaverickBack in April, I reviewed Steve Kettmann’s biography of Sandy Alderson, “Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets,” for The Wall Street Journal. The book was well-researched and well-written, but also struck me as strangely worshipful of Alderson — in a way that even Alderson would resist — occasionally dismissive of modern analytic baseball thinking and, more than anything else, a little presumptuous of just how great a job Alderson had done with the Mets. The first sentence of the review: “There is a chance the New York Mets will not be terrible this season.” The presumption was clear: Why write a book about this team?

So! Here we are, with Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, with the Mets two games away from their first World Series in 15 years. So perhaps it was in fact worthwhile to write a book about this team and this general manager after all. Kettmann, graciously (considering how I panned his tome), agreed to answer some of my questions about this year’s team and Alderson’s legacy.

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Position to Win

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

As the title implies, the memoir by veteran broadcaster Dewayne Staats is more than an autobiographical collection of baseball memories and career highlights. It is positive and uplifting, even when he discusses topics that are anything but.

positiontowin“Position to Win: A Look at Baseball and Life From the Best Seat in the House” chronicles everything from his Midwestern upbringing, to his nearly two decades of calling the action for the Rays, to everything in-between. And while there’s plenty to tell — he worked with Hall of Fame announcers Gene Elston and Harry Caray and for George Steinbrenner, after all — this formula is common enough in memoirs.

What sets this work apart is the unifying theme throughout. Staats relates the concept of positivity to his own career, to baseball and to the world at large.

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The Little General

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

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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In Pursuit of Pennants

inpursuitofpennants

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

There’s not much in baseball these days that isn’t measured, computed, analyzed, collated, compared, studied, crunched and entered into a database. But as analysis has reached an increasingly granular level, one element missing is a big-picture view of why some teams win and some don’t.

Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt have addressed that in “In Pursuit of Pennants.” It is both scholarly — featuring charts, graphs and references to WAR — and eminently readable.

While there is obviously no single foolproof blueprint that guarantees winning the World Series every year, the authors have identified the areas in which successful teams have tended to excel over the last 100-plus years.

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The Game Must Go On

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

thegamemustgoonMajor League games these days often include tributes to the military, a fitting way of thanking our service men and women for their sacrifices.

Neither should we forget that, during World War II, many star players did more than figuratively tip their caps to the troops. Some of the biggest names of that era gave up significant portions of their careers to serve their country.

In “The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray and the Great Days of Baseball on the Homefront in WW II,” author John Klima uses broad, omniscient brush strokes to look at the players who departed, the impact on the game they left behind and how it was all interconnected to the ferocious fighting overseas.

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Cal Ripken, Jr. to throw out first pitch, sign his new book on March 5 at Ed Smith Stadium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

outathomeThe Orioles today announced that Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. will visit Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday, March 5 for the Orioles’ 7:05 p.m. game against the Toronto Blue Jays, where he will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sign copies of his new children’s book, Out At Home, on the lower concourse beginning at 8:00 p.m.

The visit is part of a national book tour for Out At Home, the fifth installment in the New York Times best-selling “Cal Ripken, Jr.’s All-Stars” series. Ripken will autograph the first 300 books, which will be available for purchase at the game for $16.99. Due to time constraints, Ripken will be unable to sign additional items.

Tickets for the Orioles-Blue Jays game are available and can be purchased at the Ed Smith Stadium Box Office, via www.orioles.com/spring, or by phone at 877-222-2802.

Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

tonyolivaTony Oliva is undergoing a sort of post-career revival. Back in December, the Veterans Committee came one vote shy of electing him to the Hall of Fame. Now comes Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend by Thom Henninger.

The timing is both coincidental and fortuitous, and there’s another parallel between and present and past at work here. With the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, which was preceded by the instant impact of stars like Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, the subject of Cuban players in the Major Leagues is back in the headlines.

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Up, Up, & Away

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

up-up-and-awayJonah Keri grew up an Expos fan, attending as many games at Stade Olympique as he could. Which helps explain how he ended up writing a book about a team that played its last game a decade ago.

Fortunately, he is also an accomplished journalist and author, which definitely explains why “Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-Fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos” is such an enjoyable work.

Keri is no fanboy. But he admits to being one as a kid, and when he writes about those days with an endearing wonder at his youthful foolishness, it touches the inner child in all of us. The backbone of the story rests on dozens of interviews with former players, front-office members and media types that lend now-it-can-be-told perspective and help recreate the joyous atmosphere of a franchise that was unique in so many ways.

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Ted Williams, My Father

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

tedwilliamsmyfatherTed Williams was one of the best hitters who ever lived. He was also a famously did-it-my-way sort known for, among other things, saying whatever was on his mind and to heck with the consequences.

In “Ted Williams, My Father,” Claudia Williams demonstrates that she is very much her father’s daughter. She has written a memoir that is tender and tough, poignant and heartbreaking, sweet and raw. And so honest that at times it feels like peeping into a stranger’s window.

Claudia was a product of her father’s second marriage, born a decade after he retired. She was largely raised by her mother. One theme that runs through these pages is her overwhelming need to be accepted by a father who doted on her brother John Henry and, if not a misogynist, held old-fashioned attitudes toward women. “You wouldn’t believe how many times during my young years I wished I had been born a boy,” she observes early on.

There’s a revealing story about an invitational cross-country race when she was in sixth grade. She had a chance to be the first girl to win it. Making the outcome even more crucial, her father was there. She was third going into the home stretch but, summoning every bit of determination she had, she ended up winning. It was a wonderful moment that she wanted to bask in with her dad. But the other parents came up and started asking him for autographs and she was gradually pushed aside.

Claudia is a talented writer. Example: “Although my father spanked me only once, he tested me on numerous occasions. His words could penetrate even the toughest armor, and many times his words stung for days — sometimes months. A few are still with me, like embedded splinters.”

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