The pitch: By all accounts, fair or foul, Leo Durocher was baseball’s beast of burden.
As a player, manager, a player-manager, a Hollywood wannabe and general sweet-and-sour pain in the horse’s ass.
With apologies to Mr. Ed.
It basically says so on his Hall of Fame plaque with the first two word that refer to him as “colorful” and “controversial.”
And that’s just finding a label for him as a manager, primarily for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s — minus the year of Jackie Robinson’s debut season of ’47 because, ahem, Durocher was serving a suspension. Which gave him time to pen his own ghostwritten book.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Everything you think you know about Durocher — and if you’re connecting historical dots, it’s not a stretch to put him and Pete Rose in the same sort of baseball social hardnose-to-a-fault category — the esteemed author Paul Dickson gives you so much more, the book is worth reading twice just to see what you may have missed the first time.
Like the story about what happened in January, 1976, as Durocher was recovering from heart surgery and a couple years removed from his last big-league managing job in Houston. He had burned so many bridges that any time he was offered a front-office position with a team, there was some hitch involved with who he would have to work with, it usually didn’t happen.
But somehow, a team from the Japanese Pacific League announced it had hired him to manage its squad, a six-figure deal that would make him the highest-paid skipper in the world.
“A disdainful Vin Scully said of the move, ‘It took the U.S. 35 years to get revenge for Pearl Harbor’,” Dickson notes on page 291. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 20: Durocher’s good, bad and noteworthy nastiness” »
The pitch: Larry Wayne Jones Jr., really didn’t need to give us his life story.
Especially with the somewhat snobbish title “Ballplayer,” which kind of gives us reason to shug in the same way when we hear a name like “Kid Rock” or “Lady Gaga.”
Could you dumb it down any more for us, whatever your real names might be?
Chipper the Ballplayer, a chip off the old block, is a product of his father, as this book very much explains. Dad wanted his rock-solid kid to be the next Mickey Mantle, so everyone would go gaga.
Ballplayer Jones took his switch hitting talents about as far as one could for someone born to be a baseball player, endured a few troublesome injuries that may have hurt his overall numbers, but not enough to be included in the Hall of Fame starting with his first year of eligibility in 2018.
All the numbers add to a probable first-ballot election based on HOFm, WAR, JAWS, Jpos and whatever other jumbled letters you choose to use. A book like this also doesn’t hurt the cause when you’re trying to get into the voters’ heads.
Already labeled a “best seller” in baseball biographies from Amazon.com, there must be something “there” there.
On a scale of 1-to-Chipper’s No. 10, we’ll log it in at his position on the scorecard: E5. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 19: Hello, Larry” »
The pitch: One very small part of the Rick Ankiel story that has already circulated and made headlines prior to the book’s publication is how he once drank vodka before a game to calm his nerves.
It’s not quite along the lines of Dock Ellis taking LSD before pitching a no-hitter, but it’s on that same sort of soft sensationalized narrative that takes away from what’s really going on with this self-exploration of a pitcher who once, all of the sudden, in an MLB playoff game, wasn’t able to pitch.
A piece on Ankiel that also aired on HBO’s “Real Sports” got into the drinking aspect as well, but was wise not to make that the main hook. What that HBO piece eventually alluded to was, yes, there’s a book coming out about all this. We’ll just make it look as if we’re really doing all the heavy lifting in this story — interviewing Ankiel’s mom, former Pirates pitcher Steve Blass, etc., — and then it’ll look as if the book is following up on our story.
It’s the complete opposite.
So, Ankiel once was self-medicating and trying to fool his mind into divert attention from the real problem.
“One moment, I was a pitcher,” he writes. “The next, I was a patient. A project. A cautionary tale. A lab rat. A fairly miserable human being … a casualty of the game, of a broken family, of a heartless world, of all that stuff that may or may not have been swirling around in my head.” Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 18: How Rick Ankiel came out on the other side of ‘The Monster’” »
The pitch: “Lyman Bostock will never grow old,” Powell writes on page 298.
“He may not have had time to become a Hall of Famer, but he will always be remembered as an elite ballplayer having died during his peak. Age never had a chance to catch up to Lyman. At the same time, how much would anyone give to reverse the past – to stop what happened from happening? To give Lyman a chance to live the long, happy life he deserved?”
That’s assuming an awful lot, but we understand the sentiment.
The details of how and why the Angels outfielder out of South Central L.A. and San Fernando Valley State ended up dead in a car shooting on Sept. 24, 1978, an innocent victim at the intersection of Fifth and Jackson Streets in Gary, Indiana, have been presented over various media platforms in the past 30-some years.
Why we come around to it again, we aren’t completely certain, except for what seems to be a need for Powell, a licensed real estate broker in North Carolina who has been in the sports writing business for 15 years as a freelancer and author of three other books that have focused on college sports, to tell the complete story of Bostock from start to finish.
Rockies Senior VP of scouting and player development Bill Geivett watching as Walt Weiss is introduced as the team’s new manager in Nov. 2012. (The Denver Post)
The book: “Do You Want to Work in Baseball?: Advice to Acquire Employment in MLB and Mentorship in Scouting and Player Development” The author: By Bill Geivett The vital statistics: Self published at Book Baby, 354 pages, $24.99, released Feb. 4
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Easter Sunday might be a day off in the normal business world. But things don’t stop in Major League Baseball. A full slate of 15 games will be played today, and decisions go into that before, during and after.
So maybe a better working title for this book might be: Are you tough enough to want to try to have a career in baseball?
Give Geivett a few moments of your time, and you’ll find out.
After 21 years in the game as a front office executive and scout with both the Dodgers (assistant GM) and Angels, as well working for the Yankees (scout), Expos (farm director), Devil Rays (assistant GM) and a 14-year run with Rockies, in addition to time invested as a college baseball coach at Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount University, Geivett decided to self-publish this guidebook from his home in Arizona where he works now as a baseball and business consultant (office website: www.insidebaseballoperations.com)
He started this project soon after leaving the Rockies as their senior vice president of major league operations in 2014, where he started as the director of player personnel.
As a third-team All-American third baseman at UC Santa Barbara who signed with the Angels and played in their organization from 1985-88 (and also drafted by the Dodgers when he was at Sacramento City College, but he declined to sign), Geivett first saw things from the player side.
But since gaining a masters in education from Azusa Pacific, he has decided it’s worth trying to educate any prospective baseball employee about just what happens, down the minute details and practical applications. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 16: Putting in the work, even on a holiday” »