BOOKSHELF: Baseball Books Are Plentiful For Summer Reading
Compiled by Jamie H. Vaught
This is the first of a two-part series about recently-published nonfiction books, beginning with several volumes on baseball, that you may enjoy this summer.
--“The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record” by John Eisenberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) is basically a well-researched story about two baseball legends who held the incredible record for consecutive games played. Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” who starred for the New York Yankees, had the famous record of playing 2,130 straight games for over five decades until Ripken, the “Iron Man” for Baltimore, passed him in 1995. Ripken currently holds the record of 2,632 consecutive games played. Both are members of Baseball Hall of Fame. The author was an award-winning sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun for many years and has written several books.
--“Lou: Fifty Years of Kicking Dirt, Playing Hard, and Winning Big in the Sweet Spot of Baseball” by Lou Piniella with Bill Madden (Harper, $27.99) is an entertaining memoir about his long career as a player and as a manager. Piniella also shares never-before-heard inside stories about Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, George Steinbrenner, Alex Rodriguez, Marge Schott, among many baseball personalities. As the Reds fans will tell you, Piniella was the manager who helped Cincinnati capture the 1990 World Series. “Sweet Lou” discusses how Reds owner Schott’s eccentricity and insensitivity prompted him to leave the Queen City after only three years.
--“Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s” by Jason Turbow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) chronicles how the colorful Oakland teams of the 1970s won three consecutive World Series titles and knocked baseball into the modern age. The revolutionary Athletics were one of the most – if not the most -- transformative franchises in baseball history. The organization basically traumatized baseball’s establishment with its outlandish behavior and business decisions. The author, who wrote best-selling “The Baseball Codes,” said controversial Oakland owner is the focus of this new 386-page book. “Charlie Finley dominates these pages,” said Turbow. “Were he still alive, of course, he wouldn’t likely appreciate his portrayal here.”
--“Papi: My Story” by David Ortiz with Michael Holley (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28) is a “behind-the-scenes” memoir about his lively journey from his poor upbringing in the Dominican Republic when he had big baseball dreams to his unlikely arrival in Boston. The 10-time All-Star also talks about several topics, including the courtship of his future wife and their good and bad times, performance enhancing drugs and the appearance of his name on that infamous list, his tense relationship with the Minnesota Twins, and his struggles in the game as well as criticism and how he overcame them.
--“Teammate: My journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages” by David Ross with Don Yaeger (Hachette Books, $28) is an inspiring look at recently-retired catcher’s storied career in major league baseball. It was 39-year-old Ross who slammed a home run in the final game of his career to help the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series. Ross reveals that he once thought his career was over after being cut from the Reds in 2008, and how a conversation with his future boss at Chicago, Theo Epstein, changed his life. Another interesting tidbit involves a very generous teammate by the name of Jason Heyward, who paid for a hotel suite for Ross and his family on every road trip during the 2016 season, allowing the catcher to spend more time with them.
--“The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball” by Aaron Skirboll (Chicago Review Press, $15.99) tells the shocking story of the biggest drug trials in baseball history, involving many well-known players. Sadly, the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials ranked among one of the sport’s biggest scandals exposed along with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal and the Steroid era. The 2010 book now has been reprinted as a 275-page paperback, which was issued in February.
--“Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Grand Central Publishing, $29) is a part memoir and part inspirational that is filled with untold stories about the famous UCLA duo. They came together at the height of the civil rights era, and the legendary coach made sure that every player on his team got the same opportunity and was treated equally. Even when Kareem adopted the Muslim faith and changed his name, Wooden was there to support him. Kareem is NBA’s all-time leading scorer and Wooden won 10 national titles in 12 years at UCLA. The coach died in 2010 at the age of 99.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.