Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review of "Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers"

Earlier I had heard about this book that was written by a teenage author when I was reviewing another book for Summer Game Books.  I decided to keep it in mind for a future review.  Then I received an email request for a review from the author.  Well, who am I to keep the young man waiting?  Here is my review of "Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers."


Title/Author:
“From Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History” by Matt Nadel, foreword by Jim Palmer

Tags:
Baseball, history, professional

Publish date:
September 30, 2014

Length:
112 pages

Rating: 
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
Whether it is about the United States, a major war or baseball, many readers will cringe when they hear that there is a new “history” book published as it usually means a lot of facts to absorb with usually dry text.  That is NOT the case on this introductory book on baseball history by Matt Nadel, a 16-year-old blogger for MLB.com. 

Nadel has acquired much baseball knowledge in his young life and he puts it on display in this book that is formatted in short chapters. The chapters run from A to Z, each with an adjective and the subject of the chapter.  For example, the title contains the names of the first and last chapters. Each chapter contains not only facts and statistics on the subject matter, but also interesting anecdotes. 

It doesn’t matter what time frame he writes about, Nadel shows that he can not only recite baseball knowledge, but share it with a passion. Some of the stories are very brief, so hard-core baseball fans may realize that there is some information that is missing about the player or subject. However, it is clear that this book is intended for newer baseball fans who want to learn more about the history of the game – just enough to whet his or her appetite to learn more.

This book is a very good source for many different baseball stories about many different players and events that spans a time frame of over 150 years.  That is an impressive collection for any writer.  That this author was able to accomplish this at such a young age is a testimony to the quality of this book. 

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

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
It was a very quick read as each chapter is compact and gives a good amount of information in short intervals.

Do I recommend? 
This book is targeted to younger readers, approximately age 10 and up.  However, if a reader of any age wants to learn about various aspects of baseball history in an easy-to-read format that isn’t too detailed, this is the perfect book for that goal.

Book Format Read:
E-Book (Epub)

Buying links:


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TBR Tuesday - Review of "The Machine"

This book, while not on my list of books that I have purchased, has been on my list of books that I wanted to read for awhile.  When it was published in 2009, long before I started reviewing books, I did make a mental note to pick this one up.  Between the usual forgetfulness, everyday life and the passage of time, I had forgotten about it until the baseball book group on Goodreads talked about this one.  Then with a sudden bout of memory, I did recall wanting to pick this up.  So I took the walk to my library and I was able to borrow a copy.  I am glad that the guys and gals at the Goodreads group mentioned it because it was well worth the wait.  Here is my review of "The Machine"





















Title/Author:
“The Machine” by Joe Posnanski

Tags:
Baseball, history, Reds

Publish date:
September 15, 2009

Length:
302 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
During the mid-1970’s, the Cincinnati Reds, nicknamed “The Big Red Machine”, were one of the best teams in baseball, winning four National League titles between 1970 and 1976, including back to back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. The 1975 season stands out as it was considered to be the finest of them by this team and also had a memorable World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox. 

Stories of this 1975 team both on and off the field are woven together in this excellent book by Joe Posnanski.  Using in-depth interviews and extensive research, he not only recaps the baseball season for the Reds that year, but brings the reader into the minds of many of the stars of that team. These include Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and manager George “Sparky” Anderson.

There are some items about the team that may come as a surprise to the reader who was not familiar with the team. One such nuance is that Anderson had a caste system in place and readily stated it to the players and the media. He did play favorites with the stars of the team such as Rose, Morgan and Perez. If a player wasn’t in this category, then he had better do exactly what the manager wants or he will not be happy.  This was very much the case for the third baseman that started the season with the team, John Vukovich.  He was the weak link on the team in Anderson’s eyes and was demoted from the team when it was struggling the first two months. 

The team caught fire after this when Anderson made out his lineup card on July 4 and from that point, the Reds were the best team in baseball.  That is a fitting analogy for the book as a whole, as the stories of the players and their personalities and how they interacted with one another were terrific. Some of the baseball history written may be a little dry for some readers, but it makes for a nice balance and is mingled with the personal stories in an easy-to-read manner. 

What set this book apart from most books on a particular team or season was how Posnanski was able to capture the inner spirit and feelings of the players. There were several passages about the turmoil Johnny Bench was having with an injury and his troubled marriage after only a few months.  The playful insults hurled at each other provided comic relief, especially when Morgan and Rose would be hurling insults as Tony (Big Dog or Doggie) Perez. There were even poignant moments. One especially telling passage was when the author interviewed Morgan at the funeral of owner Dick Howsam.  Morgan spoke about Howsam and the team he assembled, saying that “I don’t think there will ever be a team like us. We cared about each other. We still care about each other.” Posnanski then penned “He (Morgan) looked around the room. He was the only member of the Big Red Machine there.”

This is an excellent book that anyone who likes baseball and wants to learn more about The Big Red Machine should include in his or her baseball library.   

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
This book read very quickly as the good mix of player stories, news of the time and the baseball blended very well. 

Do I recommend? 
Baseball fans, especially Reds fans, will want to pick this one up if they have not already done so as it paints a wonderful picture of one of the best teams in modern baseball history.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying links:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review of "When It Was Just a Game"

Let's face it, even if you are not a football fan, you still enjoy the Super Bowl.  Maybe you don't watch the game - but you still know about the commercials, maybe watch the superstar musician at half time, and go to a Super Bowl party for the food and friendship.  However, the game to decide the champion of professional football hasn't always been like this.  This book that will be published in September is a great way to learn what it was like for that first championship game - before it was known as the Super Bowl and when football, like society, was very different than how we know it today. Here is my review of "When It Was Just A Game."


Title/Author:
“When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl” by Harvey Frommer, foreword by Frank Gifford

Tags:
Football (American), history, professional, Packers, Chiefs

Publish date:
September 9, 2015

Length:
252 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
The Super Bowl has grown to national holiday status in the United States, with the game being one of the top rated television shows every season, parties and gatherings are occurring with many of the people not knowing anything about the game of football, and other entertainment associated with the game such as commercials and the halftime show have taken on lives of their own.  

What can be forgotten, however, is that the game started as the idea of Pete Rozelle, the commissioner of the more established National Football League, as a championship game between the champions of his league and those of the relatively new American Football League. That first game, won by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers 35-10 over the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, has a colorful story of its own. This book by sports historian Harvey Frommer tells that story from oral recollections of many who played in the game and were important figures behind the scenes as well.

Gathering stories from many different sources, the book shares thoughts, insights and anecdotes about all aspects of this first championship game.  It wasn’t called the Super Bowl at first, but was used informally by many at the event.  There are excellent stories about the mindset of the two coaches, Vince Lombardi of the Packers and Hank Stram of the Chiefs.  Some of the stories on Stram came from previously unpublished memoirs of Stram. Most came from players and they ranged from play calls during the game to what the coach was like in the locker room and away from the practice field. 

However, the book is far from one that is just about the sport, the players and the coaches.  There are many entertaining and revealing stories about other aspects of this first “world championship” game.  Broadcasters for the two networks that telecast the game share their experiences.  Staff members of the teams and leagues share many anecdotes about other logistics that had to be addressed, such as ticket sales for a game that did not have the heavy hype that the Super Bowl has today. Getting everyone on board for such a game also took a lot of work. Frommer takes all of these aspects, obtains information and stories from people who were there, and weaves them together in a terrific blend of storytelling and narrative that makes the reader truly understand what it was like to put together that first championship game.  

I wish to thank NetGalley and Taylor Trade Publishing for an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
It will be a fast paced read for readers who are familiar with the teams, the history of the game or have researched football history.  As I did not fit into any of these categories, it was a bit slower for me as I took my time reading many of the stories.

Do I recommend? 
Yes - not only readers who are interested in football history will enjoy this book, but also readers who are only familiar with the phenomenon that the Super Bowl has become today should read this. It will give those readers a sense of what the event was like at that time and appreciate what it has become today.

Book Format Read:
E-Book (Kindle)

Buying links (for pre-orders at time of post):



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of "The Making of Major League"

This movie has been considered one of most beloved baseball movies in recent years.  After reading this book, I can certainly understand why.  While I have not seen it many times like the author and many others, it certainly has produced some memorable lines.  One them you will see on the cover - at least a play on that line.  Here is my review of "The Making of Major League." 




Title/Author:
“The Making of Major League” by Jonathan Knight

Tags:
Baseball, Indians, Movies

Publish date:
May 29, 2015

Length:
255 pages

Rating: 
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
In 1989, there was a film that was released without a lot of fanfare depicting the hapless Cleveland Indians. They were owned by a woman who had a scheme to make sure the team was bad enough so they could break their lease and move to Miami. However, the team overcame a lot so that they became a winning ball club. That movie, “Major League”, has become one of the more beloved baseball movies of a generation. 

This book on the making of the movie and some of the inside stories, written by Jonathan Knight, is a terrific read about making the movie and the principle characters and actors.  Most of them have stories to share, including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Rene Russo, Corbin Bernson, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes and writer/producer David S. Ward.  From the stories, it is obvious that these performers, many of whom have had many more successful movies and television shows, still have fond memories of this baseball movie.

There is even some mention of former baseball players who were inspirations for characters.  Charlie Sheen’s character of Ricky Vaughn was inspired by another relief pitcher who wore thick black rimmed glasses, Ryne Duran. Former slugger Pedro Guerrero was the idea for Pedro Cerrano. The owner, Rachel Phelps, was described as a cross between George Steinbrenner and Georgia Frontierre (former owner of football’s Los Angeles Rams).  These were a nice touch to the book.

Knight’s writing is not like other baseball or sports books in that he certainly wears his fandom of the movie on his sleeve – he admits to have had a “period in my life where I watched Major League every single day” – but that makes reading the book a lot of fun.  The only negative about this is that he seems to try to make a connection between some events in baseball and the movie.  One example, where he doesn’t come out and say it but wants to plant the idea in the reader’s mind, is that the movie led to the ritual of teams playing a certain song when the closer comes out of the bullpen to start the ninth inning.  Did the use of “Wild Thing” for Ricky Vaughn lead to the use of “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman or “Enter Sandman” for Mariano Rivera?  He doesn’t state this directly, but I felt he tried to make the reader believe it.

However, when that is the worst thing I can say about this book, that means it has to be very good, which it was. The writing was crisp; the stories were detailed on many items, such as the filming of baseball scenes in Milwaukee.  The stories of the actors’ “training camp” held by former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager were terrific.  Even when the sequels were described in a later chapter that followed the mood of moviegoers for them – not so enthusiastic – it was entertaining. 

This was a terrific book that should both baseball and movie fans will enjoy. It will leave a reader laughing and wanting to fire up the device used to watch movies and see this one again.  On that score, this book is a winner.

I wish to thank Gray & Company Publishers for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
Much like Wild Thing’s fastball, this book moves along at a very fast speed as I completed it in only about two hours.  Also much like the movie, the entertainment factor was very high as well.

Do I recommend? 
Whether the reader has seen the movie only once or twice and enjoyed it (like me) or is one of those fans Knight mentions frequently who have watched it many times and can recite every line, this book is one that must be added to his or her library.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Epub)

Buying links:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review of "Still Running"

When I saw this book on sale for a great price for the Nook, I jumped on it as I had never heard of Nate Northington or his role in college football history.  While he may not have been a star player, I found it impressive that he was able to be the first African-American player in a conference that was among the last to integrate.  His autobiography is a decent read.  Here is my review of "Still Running." 


Title/Author:
“Still Running” by Nathaniel Northington

Tags:
Football (American), College, Kentucky, autobiography, memoir

Publish date:
September 30, 2014

Length:
258 pages

Rating: 
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Review:
Many African-American players who broke color barriers for their particular sport or team are well known to many sports fans.  Nate Northington was one of these pioneers, becoming the first African-American football player in the Southeast Conference.  He and his friend Greg Page were recruited by Kentucky at the same time and on September 30, 1967, Northington became the first African-American player to appear in a Southeast Conference game.  It was very bittersweet for him, however, because Page died the previous night due to complications from a neck injury suffered 36 days earlier in practice.

Northington writes about his friend with a lot of compassion. It is readily apparent to the reader that he has never fully gotten over this tragedy in his life.  He never forgets his friend – taking it to the extent that when he is honored by Kentucky for this achievement, he would not accept the accolades unless Page was recognized as well.  He doesn’t go into details about Page’s injury or death because he did not witness the accident in practice.

Despite this tragedy and his subsequent departure from Kentucky because he felt the school wasn’t doing enough to continue integrating the program, Northington tells his story in a refreshing upbeat manner.  He never holds grudges or complains about his treatment as an African-American in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  He instead concentrates on the good fortune he had in that the integrated teams and neighborhood in which he played and lived were harmonious.

That, along with his faith, is the continual theme of Norhington as he takes the reader through his athletic career in high school, where he was a three sport star (football, basketball, baseball) as well as Kentucky and Western Kentucky.  He doesn’t talk much about his personal life after college, but enough to see that he lived a fulfilling life after football.  While the book is very typical of most sports autobiographies in format and content, it is an interesting one that readers who want to learn about this pioneer of integration in college football will want to pick up.  

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
It moves along quite well, with Northington not spending too much time on any one topic.  That was good for me while reading the book as I was able to follow his story quite well.  The only topic in which he spent a great deal of time was understandably the death of Greg Page.

Do I recommend? 
I believe that readers will enjoy this book as I found it different than other books, whether biographical or historical, on the integration of a sport or team.  Norhthington’s positive outlook made it a good read.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Nook)

Buying links:


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review of "Hockey Is My Boyfriend" - hockey romance

While I have done reviews of sports romance books before here, this one was certainly different than the others.  First - there are some scenes and words that are only intended for adult readers.  Second - hockey plays a role in the story far beyond just what happens on the ice.  Third - it was a quick read that left me wanting more - something series books don't often do.  So, this will be the first of three posts for this series and I thank the author for sending me this book to give it a shot.  Here is my review of "Hockey Is My Boyfriend."


Title/Author:
"Hockey Is My Boyfriend" by Melanie Ting

Tags:
Hockey, fiction, romance, new adult

Publish Date:
July 20, 2014

Length:
219 pages

Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Two young hockey players, teammates and buddies since pee wee hockey become boyfriend/girlfriend and will be college students. The adventures of Phil and Kelly on and off the ice are told in this first installment of this series. 

It is a sweet story, especially when told from Kelly's point of view.  Her skills on the ice are well described early in the story and less so later as she is also learning what it's  like to be in love, both emotionally and physically.  Melanie Ting writes about both with a skill that will hook readers of both romance and sports. I recommend it for fans of both genres.

The only frustrating part is that the reader is left hanging at the end as Kelly and Phil are heading off to college.  Only one thing left to do...get a copy of the next one!


I wish to thank Ms. Ting for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Format read:
E-book

Buying Links:



Monday, June 8, 2015

Review of "You Can't Make This Up"

Every sports fan has a Al Michaels memory.  Whether is it the 1980 US-USSR hockey game, the 1989 World Series interrupted by an earthquake or a memorable NFL game on Sunday or Monday night, he has been behind the mike for many great sporting events.  His autobiography takes readers back to many of them, plus a whole lot more and is a terrific read.  Here is my review of "You Can't Make This Up." 


Title/Author:
“You Can’t Make This Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television” by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim

Tags:
Broadcasting, football, hockey, baseball, autobiography, memoir

Publish date:
November 18, 2014

Length:
459 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
“Do you believe in miracles?  Yes!” That is one of the most famous lines in sports broadcasting history.  It made Al Michaels, who was already established as a respected broadcaster, a household name in households where sports may not mean much. Of course, the line came at the end of the hockey game between the United States and the USSR in the 1980 Winter Olympics. This was just one of the many highlights and stories Michaels shares in this terrific autobiography.

While there is an entire chapter dedicated to this iconic game, there is much more to Michaels’ career.  He has been a baseball broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants before becoming a network (first ABC, then NBC) announcer.  His baseball resume is also impressive with the networks, with his finest work coming during the 1989 World Series when an earthquake struck the San Francisco area just prior to the start of game three.  His calm demeanor during that time has been well-documented but he is very humble in his recalling of that event – which is typical for all the anecdotes throughout the book.

He is also funny in many parts of the book as well.  One of the best stories is in the chapter about Howard Cosell when Cosell got out of a car to break up a fight among gang members in Kansas City. There is also a great line when he was doing Giants games when he encouraged listeners to come to Candlestick Park so they could see for themselves how badly the team was playing.

His most notable assignment in the last decade has been as the voice of “Monday Night Football” on ABC, then “Sunday Night Football” on NBC is also well-documented.  He doesn’t take the credit himself, however, as he speaks highly of his two partners during most of these football seasons, John Madden and Cris Collinsworth. 

While the book covers his entire life, the bulk of the book is his broadcasting experience.   While there are plenty of times he talks lovingly of his wife Linda and their children, don’t expect to read a lot about his personal life in this book.  It concentrates mostly on his sports career and that made the book flow very well while reading it.

Overall, this was one of the better memoirs that I have read in that the author has a LOT of stories to tell, he tells them in a humble manner and does so in an engaging manner that any reader can enjoy.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book: 
For a fairly long book, it read quite quickly and I was mesmerized by some of Michael’s stories, especially during the Olympics and his brief time as a horse owner.
                                         
Do I recommend? 
Just about every generation of sport fan currently alive has some memory of an Al Michaels broadcast – if so, it is probably mentioned in the book.  Any reader could probably pick out a few of the stories and think, "Oh, I remember that!"  This makes it a good read for many people.

Book Format Read:
E-book (EPUB)

Buying links: