Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TBR Tuesday - Review of "Summer of '49"

This book is one of those that I picked up awhile ago when it was available for a very cheap price and "would get around to it."  It took me nearly three years to "get around to it" as I have had it on my Nook since late 2012, but oh, man was it worth the wait!  Here is my review of "Summer of '49"


Title/Author:
“Summer of ‘49” by David Halberstam

Tags:
Baseball, history, Yankees, Red Sox

Published:
December 28, 2012 (electronic version – original publication date May 1989)

Length:
304 pages

Stars: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
In 1949, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox engaged in a memorable pennant race that was not decided until the final day of the season.  Because this was in the time before divisions in Major League Baseball, the winner of this race went to the World Series while the loser would have to dwell on falling just short for the winter.  This fascinating season is retold from many different viewpoints in this terrific book by the late David Halberstam.

Originally published in 1989, the title of this book may be a bit misleading to a baseball historian as only the two top teams of the American League that season are discussed.  But HOW they are portrayed is a wonderful read that is engaging, entertaining and sure to bring a smile or two while being read.  Stories on players from both teams are told, mostly about the stars but with some little known-information as well.  Of course, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams get the most publicity here, but other such as Ellis Kinder and Joe McCarthy for the Red Sox and Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat for the Yankees are discussed.

The crowning achievement of the book for me, however, is that while reading it, I felt like I was back in 1949 even though I had not been born yet.  To get baseball information, I had to read the papers.  The players traveled by train and seemed to be bound together more tightly than teammates of today.  Their personal lives, while still published to a degree, did not seem splashed all over like in today’s social media.  I felt I was transported back to a different time in the history of the game.  Halberstam was well-respected for this type of writing and it is what makes it one of the more enjoyable baseball books I have read on that era of the game.


Pace of the book:
Like other books by Halberstam that I have read, both baseball and other topics, the book grabs your attention and will not let go.  I read this in about four hours on train rides to and from a baseball game.

Do I recommend?
Baseball history aficionados as well as fans of both the sport and Halberstam will enjoy this book.  It simply is another winner by the late author.

Book Format Read:
Ebook (Nook)

Buying Links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-of-49-david-halberstam/1102260280?ean=9781453286111

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review of "The Gospel According to Casey"

A fellow blogger who reviews another genre of books sent my contact information recently to a person representing a publisher of baseball e-books. I am very glad that this happened as this site is a wonderful treasure trove of upcoming baseball books to be publishes as well as some others that have recently been published in electronic format.  The woman who received my information was kind enough to send me this book recently published as well as two ARC's for future reviews.  So, for my first review of a book from summergamebooks.com (www.summergamebooks.com) here is one on Casey Stengel. 


Title/Author:
“The Gospel According to Casey: Casey Stengel’s Imitable, Instructional, Historical Baseball Book” by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan

Tags:
Baseball, humor, instruction, Yankees, Mets

Published:
March 28, 2015

Length:
205 pages

Stars: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Casey Stengel is one of those men who was successful in every job he had in baseball, whether playing, coaching or managing. He became legendary with his success as the manager of the New York Yankees and just as legendary for some memorable and funny quotes while managing the New York Mets in their early years.  This book captures not only those quotes, but also tells of his vast knowledge of the game and some of his strategies.

Some of these ideas born from Stengel’s sharp mind are common in the game now.  One of these is platooning players depending on the opposing pitcher.  If the opposing team started a left-handed pitcher, Stengel may change one or more of the players in the starting line-up.  The change would be putting a right-handed batter in a position where normally a left-handed batter would play. This is not uncommon in today’s game for a manager to do this, but it wasn’t back when Stengel was managing the Yankees.  He took this strategy and made it into part of his regular work. He also was one of the early pioneers of selecting certain relief pitchers to finish games. This eventually led to the role of closers in the modern game.

The chapters of the book are broken up into specific topics – one just for memorable quotes and stories, one on pitching, one on hitting and so forth. These come from other sources such as former players who played under Stengel, other coaches and managers or sports writers.  I felt this format was very good as it was easy to read and hearing all of these stories from so many sources illustrated just how revered and respected the man by all involved in the game.  This is a solid book that anyone who enjoys baseball will enjoy reading.

I wish to thank Summer Game Books for providing a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
Because the book is a series of short stories or quotes from Stengel or his players, teammates or colleagues, this book is a quick read. It can also be stopped and started again at any point

Do I recommend?
Readers who immediately think of Yogi Berra when it comes to a baseball legend who had some memorable quotes should read this book to discover another quotable baseball legend.  Stengel’s thoughts on the strategies of the game make it a good book for hardcore fans as well.

Book Format Read:
Ebook (PDF)

Buying Links:



http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-gospel-according-to-casey-ira-berkow/1003216373?ean=9781938545177

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review - "One Night in October"

I received a review request from this author for his debut novel, set during the night of one of the most exciting World Series games ever.  Intrigued, I accepted the offer and am very glad I did. Here is my review of Chad Cain's novel "One Night in October."

Title/Author:
“One Night in October” by Chad A. Cain

Tags:
Baseball, fiction, Cardinals, family

Published:
April 14, 2014

Length:
242 pages

Stars: 
41/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
Game 6 of the 2011 World Series is considered to be one of the best World Series games ever played. Twice the St. Louis Cardinals came back from the brink of elimination to not only defeat the Texas Rangers in that game, but also in game 7 to win the World Series.  The epic game 6 is the background event for the story of a man who is returning home to see his dying father one last time.  This would be difficult in any situation, but for Paul, seeing his father Johnny, with whom he had a falling out, is even more difficult.  The struggles of both men are chronicled in this debut novel by Chad Cain, a lifetime Cardinals fan.

There were many instances where the relationship between father and son are tested, but no matter what they may be, they both share the love of Cardinals baseball.  Many of the father-son moments (or mother-daughter, mother-son, father-daughter, whichever may be appropriate) that make baseball such a unique experience are captured here.  Those include the first time that father and son go to a major league game or when the two of them share memories of great victories or heartbreaking defeats. 

However, the book is also taut with emotional struggles and some drama as Paul is confronting not only Johnny to understand why things went the way they did, but also some other inner demons.  He finally decides to allow his son Jack to see his grandfather for the first time during this encounter.  How this family drama plays out and eventually get addressed is an engrossing tale. There are so many issues that Paul and his father have to resolve that nearly every reader should be able to understand how the characters feel about this in at least one of these situations.

The chapters are broken up by each half-inning of the game and the action on the field is captured in the chapter as well as what is transpiring with the main characters.  There is also plenty of Cardinals history from the past 30 years illustrated in the book as well because as Paul recalls what was happening between him and his father at that time, he relates it to how the Cardinals were performing on the field.  As one who often will remember events in my life by remembering them in relation to what happened that year or time in baseball, I can understand why Paul does this.

Overall, this was a very good debut novel that will bring out all of the reader’s emotions and will entertain the reader as well.  Baseball fans, especially Cardinals fans, will enjoy this captivating story.

I wish to thank Mr. Cain for providing an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
The story moves along at an excellent pace with smooth transitions between the current setting and flashbacks to past events.  The reader will follow this story easily.

Do I recommend?
Baseball fans who want to learn more about this game and its significance might want to read this.  Also those who want to learn more about the two pitchers, although there are more complete biographies on both of them available. 

Book Format Read:
Ebook (PDF)

Buying Links:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TBR Tuesday - Review of "My $50,000 Year at the Races"

This book was offered as a freebie for my Nook a LONG time ago - sometime in 2012 I think - and I never got around to reading it.  But that means it is the perfect book for TBR Tuesday - and it wasn't too long either.  Here is my review of "My $50,000 year at the Races."




Title/Author:
“My $50,000 Year at the Races” by Andrew Beyer

Tags:
Horse Racing, memoir, handicapping, gambling

Published:
April 1, 1980

Length:
163 pages

Stars: 
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Review:
Andrew Beyer was already established as a respected writer on horse racing and on handicapping the sport in order to have regular success on betting.  During the 1977 racing season, he had a very good year and chronicles this season in this book that was originally published in 1980.

Beyer highlights his successes and failures at four tracks – Gulfstream Park in Florida, Pimlico in Maryland, Saratoga in upstate New York and Berkshire Fair in Massachusetts.  During his tales at each venue, Beyer talks about the methods he used to bet, what was working at the time and what wasn’t, and also how inside information is crucial to being able to win consistently.  This is not just from reading the daily racing programs, but also obtaining whatever information can be received from trainers, jockeys and owner.  He also talks about different methods of studying and analyzing statistics such as the times for each horse at different distances. 

However, this book is not simply a manual, a how-to book or one that promises to make someone rich by betting on the horses.  This is a memoir and recounting of that magical year of 1977 for Beyer when he was able to earn a nice wage for an entire year (keep in mind this is in 1977 and he earned over $50,000).  He spins tales of his interactions with various people, including a “kid” who was learning how to hone his handicapping skills.  The book is entertaining as a whole, and those readers who are horse racing fans or bettors will especially appreciate these stories. For readers like me who are not as invested in this type of gambling, it is still worth the time to read as it is fairly short, entertaining and some of the tricks Beyer uses are explained in layman’s terms.  If a reader is looking for a change of pace that will be a fairly quick read, this will do the trick.

Pace of the book:
As someone who does not bet on horse racing regularly, I found parts of the book a little slower to read, but the overall story of Beyer’s season is a good read.

Do I recommend?
I would recommend this book to anyone who is seriously considering trying to improve his or her success on betting at the track. The author mentions regularly throughout the book that this is not a how-to manual but instead a compilation of recording and sharing his success in 1977.  That advice should be taken and the book read as a story, not a manual.

Book Format Read:
Ebook (Nook)

Buying Links:


Friday, April 10, 2015

Musinig - Montreal Expos fever

This week has brought me to Plattsburgh, NY near the Canadian border.  While the occasion was a sad one - the funeral of my wife's uncle was today - I found out that here in this small town about one hour from Montreal that the spirit of the Montreal Expos is still very much alive.

Montreal Expos (1992 - 2004)I have seen several people decked out in Expos gear and at the local mall that sells sports apparel, Expos shirts and hats were plentiful.  I got in this spirit and picked up a Pedro Martinez Expos shirt - and I plan on wearing it this summer when my wife and I will be attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, NY.

I also was talking sports with a young woman at the front desk of our hotel.  While she is first and foremost a hockey fan (Montreal Canadiens, of course), we also talked baseball and she had fond memories of her and her parents going to Olympic Stadium and watching the Expos.  I thought it was great to just listen to someone who enjoyed being a fan of that team, even though it was apparent that even though it has been more than 10 years since they left for Washington she still pines to attend another game. 

Another example of what I always believe about baseball fans - they are the most loyal fans to a team, no matter what happens to that team in either the won-loss record or thier geographical location.   Once a fan, always a fan. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review of "Muscle"

One goal I had when I started blogging nearly two years ago was to read and learn about some of the lesser-publicized sports.  That was the case with this book - when the publisher sent me an email asking if I would be willing to review this book on bodybuilding, I said yes and am glad I did.  Here is my review of "Muscle." 


Title/Author:
“Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder” by Samuel Wilson Fussell

Tags:
Bodybuilding, memoir

Published:
March 31, 2015 (digital edition) – originally published 1991

Length:
272 pages

Stars: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Samuel Wilson Fussell stepped from the University of Oxford into the world of bodybuilding and its quirks when he arrived in New York City. Little did he realize where this adventure would take him and he recounts his days in New York and California living the life of a professional bodybuilder in this autobiography that is being republished in digital format.

Even though I knew nothing about the sport of bodybuilding aside from the fact that a certain actor-turned-politician was a famous participant in the 1970’s, I decided to accept the offer for a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.  I am very glad that I did so, because I found this book a fun read.  It was much like reading a comedy-drama fictional story as there are elements of both humor and horror wrapped into one book. I felt connected to Sam as his story progressed even though I would never imagine living that type of lifestyle.

A reader does not have to understand the sport or know anything about its history in order to understand or enjoy this book. The workouts that he endures are spelled out in a manner that anyone can clearly understand the strength and endurance a bodybuilder must have in order to last through these workouts.  The diets and steroids that he or she must do as well as a look at the competition are also covered and the reader will be both entertained and informed as these are described.

This is one of the better memoirs that I have read recently as it clearly shows that Samuel didn’t regret this choice, and covers all the reasons that he may have done so earlier.  I also enjoyed learning about this sport and thought Samuel was quite the character once he truly became part of this club.  This is certainly a book to pick up if the reader enjoys an entertaining autobiography.

I wish to thank NetGalley and Open Road Media for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Pace of the book:
Good stories are usually fast paced reads and this is certainly the case with “Muscle”.

Do I recommend?
Even if the reader knows nothing about bodybuilding aside from a certain former California governor being a former participant, this book would be an enjoyable read for anyone who likes a good story. 

Book Format Read:
Ebook (Kindle)

Buying Links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/muscle-samuel-wilson-fussell/1121203812?ean=9781504002059

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TBR Tuesday - Review of "The Greatest Game Ever Pitched"

Continuing to slowly whittle away at the large pile of older books I have yet to read, I picked this one that I have had in my Nook library since 2012.  Just from the title, I was anxious to read this, as a good pitching duel is my favorite type of baseball game.  Here is my review of "The Greatest Game Ever Pitched."


Title/Author:
“The Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn and the Pitching Duel of the Century” by Jim Kaplan

Tags:
Baseball, history, Giants, Braves

Published:
February 1, 2011

Length:
256 pages

Stars: 
3 of 5 stars (okay)

Review:
On July 2, 1963 two future Hall of Fame pitchers, Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves, took the mound at Candlestick Park in San Francisco for a regular season matchup that would become a historic game for many reasons.  Sixteen innings later, the Giants won the game 1-0 on a Willie Mays homer – hit off of Spahn.  He and Marichal pitched all 16 innings, each throwing over 200 innings.  There has not been a pitching duel quite like this before or after.  Given the status of pitchers in today’s game with relief specialists and pitch counts for starters, it is very unlikely we will see another game like this again.

Given this synopsis, I was very interested to read about such a historic game.  The accounts of the game are woven into a duel biography of both pitchers.  The information on Spahn and Marichal, while well-written, was not terribly in-depth as there are more complete biographies for both pitchers, as well as books on Marichal’s famous incident with Dodgers catcher John Roseboro.  In this book, Kaplan gives it some attention, but not as much as other books. 

There are also stories interwoven throughout the book about other famous games that featured great pitching performances on both teams, including game 7 of the 1991 World Series, a double no-hitter in 1917 and Harvey Haddix throwing 12 perfect innings in 1959 only to lose the game in the 13th inning.

While these and the biographies were interesting and showed good writing and research, I felt they took away from the main theme of the book and that was the terrific game on July 2, 1963.  There were times I had to go back to a previous chapter because there were long stretches between mention of the game accounts and what Spahn and Marichal did to get this far.  I don’t think it was a totally bad read, but I would have liked to have seen these each have their own section instead of interwoven like they were.  Especially the other game accounts – those would have been better listed after the main book in an addendum or appendix.  As a result, this book was at best three stars since it wasn’t a nice clean read. It did have good writing and as such, it doesn’t deserve an overall negative rating, but I believe it could have been organized better.  

Pace of the book:
Because of the jumping between the game, biographical information on the pitchers and the frequent stories of other pitching duels in baseball history, I felt that it was a slow read.  Had these all been placed in separate sections, I believe the flow of the book would have been much better.

Do I recommend?
Baseball fans who want to learn more about this game and its significance might want to read this.  Also those who want to learn more about the two pitchers, although there are more complete biographies on both of them available. 

Book Format Read:
Ebook (Nook)

Buying Links: