Results tagged ‘ Paul Hagen ’

The Baseball Whisperer

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

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 / MLB.com

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 Fightin’ Phillies

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

thefightinphilliesBaseball was different during World War II. How different was it? Well, did you know that in 1943, the Phillies played a stunning 43 doubleheaders? And that eight of them were split gates, with one game at 10 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m. for the benefit of war workers on swing shifts?

That’s just one of the tidbits included in Larry Shenk‘s latest book, “The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits.” And nobody is better positioned to tell these tales than Shenk, who worked for the team for more than 50 years.

What he’s produced in his second compilation — “If These Walls Could Talk” came out in 2014 — is another relaxed stroll down memory lane, a smorgasbord of all things Phillies from an author who has had an inside look at so much of the franchise’s history.

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God Almighty Hisself

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

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 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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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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A Way Out

By Paul Hagen / MLB.com

awayoutIn 2010, Billy Wagner saved 37 games for the Braves. His ERA was 1.43. Wagner was with a playoff team, the team he rooted for growing up in southwest Virginia. And he walked away at the end of the season.

Wagner had announced it was going to be his last season. He stuck to the decision, perplexing many. He resisted overtures to change his mind. Wagner retired at the age of 38 even though he had another guaranteed year on his contract that would have paid him $6.5 million. Even though he was fifth on the all-time saves list with 422, just two behind John Franco for the most by a left-handed reliever.

No, Billy Wagner was never just another ballplayer. And not just because he had a rare tendency to say what was on his mind. Although that’s a quality that came in handy when composing “A Way Out: Faith, Hope & the Love of the Game” with the able assistance of Atlanta journalist Patty Rasmussen.

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