30 baseball books in 30 days of ’10: Day 25 — The Triumphs of Scooter, Stan The Man, Mr. Tiger and Michael Jack Schmidt


The book I: “Scooter: The Biography of Phil Rizzuto”

The author: Carl DeVito

The vital stats: Triumph, 384 pages, $24.95

Find it: The publisher’s website (linked here)


The book II: “Stan The Man: The Life and Times of Stan Musial”

The author: Wayne Stewart

The vital stats: Triumph, 256 pages, $24.95

Find it: The publisher’s website (linked here)


The book III: “Al Kaline: The Biography of a Tigers Icon”

The author: Jim Hawkins (forward by Ernie Harwell)

The vital stats: Triumph, 256 pages, $24.95

Find it: The publisher’s website (linked here)


The book IV: “Mike Schmidt: The Phillies’ Legendary Slugger”

The author: Rob Maaddi

The vital stats: Triumph, 256 pages, $24.95

Find it: At the publisher’s website (linked here)

The pitch: And now, four Hall of Famers who need no introduction ….

The four things that these books have in common are their publisher, Chicago-based Triumph books, which trumpets itself as “the leader in sports publishing.”

So, if you’re thinking of what could have been discussed at a recent strategy session, imagine editors sitting around a table throwing out ideas for new titles: What do baseball readers today want?

How about “real” heroes.

Rob Kaplan, whose website RonKaplansBaseballBookshelf (linked here) keeps up with all that is the sports’ literary directions, made the observation when surveying the list of baseball bios that were coming out this year — starting with the impressive one already done on Willie Mays, another on Roger Maris, and one coming soon on Hank Aaron: There seems to be a need to go back and find the non-steroid stars of yesteryear. What made them be who they were without the help of PEDs? Why did their fans embrace their playing ability as well as their character?

Not to purposely lump these four together, but in that context, it makes a lot of sense. And, if you’re trying to survive as a publisher, consider: Who wants to read another story about Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire?


(Although it must be noted: Triumph did go that route, releasing the book, “Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball’s Worst-Kept Secret,” by Jay McGwire (linked here), which we decided not to include in this year’s series because, frankly, we question the motive of the author — like Jose Canseco’s “Juiced” — and really aren’t that intrigued any more in trying to find out more about what makes a player want to get “all yoked up.” Maybe another day.)

With “Scooter,” DeVito does the more exhaustive research of the four, which forces it to beyond the “traditional” 256-page template and bust out an expansive 40 more pages of notes and index. And of the four subject, Rizzuto is the one who’s gone to the baseball diamond in the sky, so he’s not around to dispute, endorse or be interviewed for it. No problem. Enough’s already been written about him to supply DeVito with enough material — both from Scooter’s playing days and that as a broadcaster.

With “Stan the Man,” Stewart, who was born and raised in Musial’s hometown of Donora, Pennsylvania, there are references to 1977 book, “The Man Stan: Musial, Then and Now,” that Musial co-authored with Bob Broeg, and to Ray Robinson’s 1963 (the year Musial retired) book, “Stan Musial: Baseball’s Durable ‘Man’.” Stewart’s update look at Musial’s life is noteworthy because of how “The Man” stays in the public eye, one of those people whose legend continues to grow. Could he be the game’s greatest living legend? To many in the Midwest, sure.

With “Kaline,” this seems to be the first real attempt to capture him in book form. The book jacket even includes the note: “Featuring Exclusive Interviews with Al Kaline.” For a bio on a person, you’d like that access. But the first line of the book — Page 1, Chapter 1 — kind of sets a wrong tone: “They don’t make baseball players like Al Kaline anymore. That is what is wrong with the not-always-so-grand game today.”

And with “Schmidt,” Maaddi can at least dive into a few more controversial areas — but those have been covered by Schmidt himself in two previous books — the 2006 “Clearing The Bases” where he pontificates on today’s game, and the 1982 “Always On the Offense.” Plus, Schmidt has been writing opinion pieces for the Associated Press, which are noted here. What made Schmidt “misunderstood?” We’re not sure we really care that much to go deeper into it.

How these go down in the scorebook: Go back to our review of the autobiography (which started as a biography) on Tim Salmon book (linked here). The point is: You’ll see these bios on the shelf, and if you already have an attachment to the player, you’ll buy it. If not, you’ll likely pass. In these four instances, passing isn’t a wrong thing. If they were meant to have a 600-plus page book written about them, they’d be Willie Mays (a review of his bio, released earlier this year, is coming soon), and that’s the best measuring stick this time around. Not to take away the greatness any of these four possessed. But we find nothing new here in book form to get excited about. For those who know baseball from the 1940s to the ’80s, you already know pretty much all you need to about Rizzuto, Musial, Kaline and Schmidt.

Also: Triumph also planned to have a bio called “The Judge: The extraordinary life and turbulent times of Frank Robinson” come out this spring, but it didn’t happen.

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