Gene Mauch, right, with Fidel Castro. In Cuba. In 1959. Yes, it happened (from “The Little General”)
The book: “The Little General: Gene Mauch, A Baseball Life” The author:Mel Proctor The vital statistics: Blue River Press, 360 pages, $22.95. Released Publisher, pages, price. Released spring, 2015 Find it: At Amazon.com, at Vromans.com, the publishers website
The pitch: Gene Mauch’s name came up as a piece of Dodgers’ trivia history recently.
Corey Seager was the Opening Day shortstop on April 4, at 21 years, 343 days.
Did that make him the youngest to do it in franchise history?
That distinction still belongs to Mauch, who started and played in the first five games for the 1944 Dodgers at age 18 years, 152 days. Key members of that Dodgers’ infield, including Pee Wee Reese, were off to World War II. Manager Leo Durocher admired the grit and headiness of the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Mauch, whom Branch Rickey had signed after his junior year at L.A.’s Fremont High and brought to spring training. Durocher was to be a player-manager, putting himself at second base, but a mishap in spring training – a botched throw from Mauch to Durocher caused him to break a finger – ended that experiment. On April 18, 1944, with the Dodgers at Philadelphia, Mauch started, batting eighth. Lloyd Warner pinch hit for him in the sixth. The next day, Mauch got his first hit. Eventually Durocher had veteran Billy Hart play shortstop, and Mauch went back to the minor leagues with just 15 at bats.
It’s all there in Chapter 2 of this tribute book to Mauch written by Proctor, and if all you somewhat know about Mauch was how his managerial reign in 1964 with the Phillies and in 1982 and 1986 with the Angels got to the doorstep of the World Series but never crossed the threshold, then you’re missing out so much on a man that Proctor rightfully frames as someone more misunderstood than not. Continue reading →
The book: “The Dodgers and Me” The author: Leo Durocher The vital statistics: Pathfinder Books, 302 pages, $12.95. (Re-released Feb. 23) Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: The original version of this tome from Ziff-Davis Publishing landed in 1948 – the year after Durocher needed something to do as he was stuck gardening at home in Santa Monica because of an MLB suspension, unable to work as the Dodgers’ manager in the season that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.
Original first editions sometimes show up in online auctions going for more than $150, if signed. The great online used book site, Abebooks.com, will show one or two for $190.
A copy might surface on eBay.com in the $75 range.
So why did we gravitate toward this one?
Because of the affordability, the availability and the enjoy ability.
And we’re not even sure who to thank for this. The book publisher listed in this copy is Pathfinder Books. On online book sellers, its CreateSpace Independent Publishing, implying someone prints and sends these out once they’re ordered.
Imagine the kind of shelf life books like this could continue to have, and might this one inspire, if baseball fans continue to rediscover more oldies but goodies like this and show a willingness to buy not only hardbound, but softbound and kindle versions (at $2.99 a pop)?
Durocher has not been with us since 1991, living out the last year of his life golfing in Palm Springs. But bringing this diary back to life is pretty cool. On this revised cover, the “The Inside Story” subtitle is missing. An illustration of those Dodgers doesn’t even include Durocher.
All the original black-and-white photos are included (if not in the same order as the original editions) as well as the muddy typeface that makes the reader feel as if he needs to wash his hands after handling it.
Our first memories of Durocher came in the 1960s, when we saw him on an episode of “The Munsters,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “Mr. Ed,” playing himself, but often playing himself off as the Dodgers’ manager (when he was actually a coach on Walter Alston’s staff).
We were familiar with him later as a manager with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros until the early ‘70s.
But outside of a shaded reference to Durocher as played by Christopher Meloni in the 2013 movie “42,” where Durocher is suspected of being associated with known gamblers, we aren’t really told why Durocher had to serve a season-long suspension.
This book, as it turns out, does nothing at all to help. Continue reading →
Our midpoint in the annual 30 baseball book reviews for the month of April, and the tip of the cap to those in the literary world who annually honor Jackie Robinson, a man who the Society for American Baseball Research refers to as “perhaps the most historically significant baseball player ever, ranking with Babe Ruth in terms of his impact on the national pastime. Ruth changed the way baseball was played; Jackie Robinson changed the way Americans thought.”
The back of Jackie Robinson’s 1949 baseball card could have been quoted in this new book. It isn’t. (And really, is his home New York City?)
The book: “Jackie Robinson in Quotes: The Remarkable Life of Baseball’s Most Significant Player” The author: Danny Peary The vital statistics: Page Street Publishing, 432 pages, $19.99. To be released April 19 Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: “Without a doubt, the most important person in the history of baseball is Jackie Robinson.”
That’s what documentarian Ken Burns said last January to a group of TV writers in Pasadena when talking about the two-part film he had put together for PBS, which then debuted this week. He likely repeated the line over and over to reporters afterward because it is so concise and headline worthy.
But in an interview posted this week on SI.com, Burns expanded: “We have turned Jackie Robinson into shorthand for our own wishes and desires when the real person is so interesting and contemporary. Do you want to know him in his full dimension, or would you rather it just be the superficial, syrupy, sugarcoated Madison Avenue version of the past?”
That’s the quote that gets to the heart of this compilation of what could be label “Robinson’s greatest hits.” It points out the inherent flaw in a culled collection of quotes, book excerpts, press releases and interview snippets that attempt to sum up a person’s life, when it really can’t, specifically in this case.
Bob Miller gets some Staples Center video screen time during his appearance in the owners suite at Thursday’s Kings-Sharks playoff game.
Coming up for Sunday’s media column:
Bob Miller talks to KCBS Channel 2 reporter Jim Hill prior to Thursday’s game.
Bob Miller’s continued comeback from quadruple bypass heart surgery in February means he won’t be strong enough to call games for the Kings during the Stanley Cup playoffs that started this week.
But he and his wife, Judy, were still able to make it out to Game 1 of the Kings-Sharks series on Thursday night.
“On a scale of 1-to-10, I’m about a 7,” Miller admits.
We’ll have more an update on how he’s looked at life a little differently these days as he plans to return to broadcasting the Kings’ 50th season in 2016-17.
What’s worth posting now:
A view of “Dodgerland” from the new documentary “Moneyball Too” (screen grab)
Aside from a need for city-wide grief counseling, what can be done for the masses as the Dodgers/SportsNet LA/Time Warner Cable/DirecTV fallout continues?
It has been pointed out that the antiquated MLB blackout policies, which for some insane reason couldn’t be circumvented to allow ESPN to carry the Dodgers’ 2016 season opener to the L.A. market back on April 4, will again lead to confusion and despair this weekend in L.A.
The MLB Network has planned coverage of Friday’s Dodgers-Giants game from Dodger Stadium, on Jackie Robinson Day. Bob Costas will be there on the play-by-play, with Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds. Alas, it’s blacked out in L.A. because it impinges on local SportsNet L.A. territorial rights.
Is that really what Jackie Robinson would have wished for? (Sorry, just got a JR in our bonnet watching the Ken Burns’ PBS two-night special — somehow not blacked out in L.A.)
Then Sunday night, ESPN wheels its trucks into the Ravine with its A-team of Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Jessica Mendoza for an exclusive nabbing of the Dodgers-Giants series finale, a 5 p.m. airing. And there are some understandably upset with this as well — it knocks Vin Scully off the air from his SportsNet L.A. job (and three innings on the KLAC-AM radio simulcast). If this is Scully’s final year, why would be endorse eliminating appearances already from his limited slate?
Emotions drive readership to draw conclusions that sometimes aren’t accurate, but have a lot of truth as a baseline.
And because of that Tom Wilson wants to help make it more understandable, if not tolerable. Continue reading →
The pitch: The upcoming celebration of Jackie Robinson Day seems to be something not all that momentous an occasion for for Branson, the University of Pittsburgh’s chair of law who has written 19 previous books on subjects we have not really looked up yet has decided he’ll try to do something with the legacy of Larry Doby.
If this is to be tried in the court of public opinion, we’re not sure if Doby would have done better with a court-appointed defender.
In a repetitive, error-filled and a presumptuous effort, not just to give Doby credit for having to go through as much as Robinson did in breaking the major league color barrier in 1947 but also to speculate as to why Doby may have been overlooked, Branson comes up with that he calls his “thesis.”
So, the question here isn’t to chronicle Doby’s career (even though that’s what the title implies) but to really “explore just why Larry Doby remains so obscure or, if not obscure, so much in the shadows” of baseball history.
This could have been done in a chapter, maybe two, if this was a true biography, which Branson also contends this is not.