Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day! Review of "My First Coach"

Here's a wish for a Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers reading this, including women who are doing both mother and father duties.  On this day, it is only appropriate to review this upcoming book written by a talented sportswriter about the relationships between several NFL quarterbacks and their fathers.  Here is my review of "My First Coach."


Title/Author:
My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads” by Gary Myers
Tags:
Football (American), professional, history, family
Publish date:
August 22, 2017
Length:
288 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review:
There are many stories of fathers playing catch with their sons with either a baseball and mitts or tossing a football back and forth. Many of those catches with a football are mixed with fantasies by the son (and sometimes the father) of that youngster becoming an NFL quarterback.  This excellent book by Gary Myers tells the stories of some of those youngsters whose dreams of becoming a professional quarterback and the experiences they had with their fathers.

The quarterbacks selected for this book are not all Super Bowl winners or even stars in the game. There are plenty of the former (Phil Simms, John Elway and Eli Manning just to name a few) but there are also quarterbacks who are early in their professional careers (Jameis Winston, Derek Carr) or journeymen (Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jim Harbaugh). No matter the level of success or experience obtained, the stories of their relationships with their fathers made for fascinating reading.  Myers is considered to be one of the best football writers in the country and the manner in which he captures the stories shows why.

While the majority of the tales shared do reveal many of the traits expected, such as the many sacrifices and moves made by the fathers to help their sons achieve gridiron success, there are some that took a different path. Simms recalls that his relationship with his father was not a close one during his youth.  Winston tells how his father stressed academics over football, and Harbaugh’s story goes well into his coaching days as well as his playing days.  All of the chapters reveal heartfelt reflections by both the fathers and the sons about their relationships.

There is one more twist to the type of story told and that is the one on the chapter about Joe Montana.  This is because that chapter talks about Montana as the father to his two sons who both played high school and college football but did not play professionally. The pressure they felt as the son of a legend was extraordinary, enough to the point that they put their mother’s maiden names on the backs of their jerseys so they did not have to try to live up to their famous father’s performance. This chapter was my favorite one in the book.
Football fans of all levels, from casual to die-hard, will enjoy reading these personal stories about the most visible players in professional football.  Myers has once again scored a touchdown with a book about quarterbacks and it is one the comes highly recommended.

I wish to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying Links:


Friday, June 16, 2017

Review of "From the Dugouts to the Trenches"

While the baseball season hasn't quite reached the "dog days" of summer, my sports reading reached that point this week. To snap out of the slump, I decided to choose this book that the publisher sent to me just before publication, but did not read yet.  This falls under the "better late than never" category.  Here is my review of a book on baseball during World War I, "From the Dugouts to the Trenches."


Title/Author:
From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball During the Great War” by Jim Leeke
Tags:
Baseball, professional, history, war time
Publish date:
May 1, 2017
Length:
272 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review:
When the United States entered World War I, the country was about to undergo a dramatic transformation. The sport and business of baseball was caught up in these changes as well, and what the game went through is captured in this interesting and well-written book by Jim Leeke.

Using his experience as both a veteran of the Navy and as a sportswriter, Leeke takes the reader onto both the baseball fields and the battlefields as he weaves the stories of the game, the players and the war itself seamlessly. The book begins with the details of each American League team (and some National League ones as well) learning military drill exercises using bats instead of rifles. This was done to show the patriotism of the players and owners and let people know the game supported the military.  This portion of the book was very captivating, writing from several viewpoints – those of the players, the drill instructors and American League President Ban Johnson, among others.

From there, the book weaves nicely between war stories about Major League players, the struggles of the game back home in the States with many minor leagues closing the 1918 season early, and what the Major Leagues had to do with the “work or fight” edict that was set down by the government.  What the sport did was to end the season early, play the World Series that was won by the Red Sox over the Cubs, and then disbanded the teams to either serve in the military or work in military-related jobs.

Lastly, Leeke writes about the armistice that ended the war and the return of the players from the war and the return of many of the minor leagues that struggled in 1918. Stories about players like Hank Gowdy, and Grover Cleveland Alexander were enjoyable reading, as were the stories about owners who supported the war effort as best as they could. Clark Griffith’s contribution of baseball equipment made for a great story, even if the good intentions fell short as the shipment did not make it to the doughboys overseas.

This is a book that is equal parts baseball, business and military history. Readers who enjoy any of these topics will enjoy reading this book.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying Links:


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review of "The Diehard Football Fan's Bucket List Blitz"

While I cannot call myself a "diehard" football fan, this book was intriguing to me when I read the description, so I decided to accept the offer of a review copy.  Some of these sounded interesting enough that I have added them to my own bucket list - and those who are huge football fans will add even more.  Here is my review of "The Diehard Football Fan's Bucket List Blitz/"


Title/Author:
The Diehard Football Fan's Bucket List Blitz: 101 Rivalries, Tailgates, and Gridiron Traditions to See & Do Before You're Sacked” by Steve Greenberg
Tags:
Football (American), professional, college, high school
Publish date:
August 1, 2017
Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review:
No matter what sport one enjoys, there are teams, stadiums and experience that every fan wants to experience at least once in his or her life. For football fans, this book is a guide to which ones to add to that list.  The Diehard Football Fan's Bucket List Blitz” is an all-encompassing list of places, teams and traditions that has been compiled by sportswriter Steve Greenberg.

This book covers all levels of football – from the Texas school that inspired “Friday Night Lights” to the Big House at the University of Michigan and the mammoth AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play home games, this book covers everything.  Want to know the best place for a tailgate party?  How about the best bands for college football halftime shows?  Or how about great traditions like the Lambeau Leap or rubbing Howard’s Rock at Clemson?  These are all included as well.

The best part of the book talks about must-see college football rivalries.  Of course there are some that are well-known (Army vs. Navy, Michigan vs. Ohio State, Alabama vs. Auburn), but this includes some lesser known rivalries as well such as Lafayette vs. Lehigh.  This is not a surprise as Greenburg was a writer on college football for several years and mentions in the book that he is a proud Wisconsin graduate who spent much time at Camp Randall Stadium. 

Because he covers so many areas in all levels of the game, this book is one that football fans will want to review to time and time again to mark items off their bucket lists. What I liked best about this book is that even though I am not a “diehard” fan, I am interested in several of these items and just may have to add them to my own personal list.  A book that can do that and make me aware of many of these treasures is certainly one to read.

I wish to thank Lyons Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)
Buying Links:


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review of "The Streak: Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Baseball's Most Historic Record"

Most baseball fans  will recall the moment that Cal Ripken passed Lou Gehrig and became baseball's "ironman."  It was a celebration of both men and what they meant not only to baseball but to the honorable action of showing up to work every day.  This book is a wonderful tribute to both men and others who have had similar streaks of playing in many consecutive games.  Here is my review of "The Streak."


Title/Author:
“The Streak: Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and Baseball’s Most Historic Record” by John Eisenberg
Tags:
Baseball, history, Orioles, Yankees
Publish date:
July 4, 2017
Length:
320 pages
Rating: 
4 ½  of 5 stars (excellent)
Review:
On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken broke the record for consecutive major league baseball games played. The moment provided the sport with a much-needed boost after a strike wiped out the last six weeks and all of the postseason the previous season. The road to this moment for Ripken, as well as the streak that Lou Gehrig had to set the record broken by Ripken, is chronicled in this well written and well researched book.

John Eisenberg, a well-respected sportswriter who covered the Orioles for the Baltimore Sun, provides insight into Ripken that only one who covered him for most of career would know. Some of the details can give insight into Ripken’s competitive streak and fury - such as his not-so-sterling reputation among umpires - and his unwillingness to keep the streak alive through actions such as pinch-hitting or starting a game in the field and being removed for a pinch hitter before his first at-bat. 

These two actions are ways that some other players kept similar streaks alive and many of those players who had such streaks are discussed in the book as well.  While not as lengthy as the sections on the two main players of Ripken and Gehrig, the information that the reader will gain on other players who had long streaks such as Everett Scott, Billy Williams and Steve Garvey will be valuable as well.  Also, the sections on Gehrig illustrate the detail with which Eisenberg writes as the reader will believe that he covered Gehrig for a newspaper beat as well as Ripken.  Those passages were just as informative for a reader as those on Ripken.

Overall, this book was a very interesting one to read. The chapters alternated between Ripken, Gehrig and the other “ironmen” which made it a bit of challenge to read for me as that resulted in choppiness for me. But that issue was very minor in the overall appraisal of the book and it was one that any baseball fan will enjoy reading.

I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)
Buying Links:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-streak-john-eisenberg/1126178888?ean=9780544107670


Monday, June 5, 2017

Winner of "Pride of the Yankees"

I wish to thank everyone who checked out the review of the book about the making of the classic movie "Pride of the Yankees" and left a comment to have a chance to win a copy of the book. 

Each commenter was assigned a number corresponding to the order of the comments. The random sorting software used selected #1. So congratulations to Gregory, who submitted the first comment. An email has been sent to him to notify and congratulate him. Again, I thank everyone who entered.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review of "Fastball John"

This book is one that falls into the category of being much better than I expected.  It was provided to me by the publisher a few months ago and it was tossed on the TBR (To Be Read) pile. It was then picked for me to read in May for a group challenge and I was dreading it.  BUT...it turned out to be one of the best sports memoirs I have read.  So, the only regret is that I expected so much less.  Below is my review of "Fastball John"

Also, don't forget, there are still three days to enter the giveaway drawing for a copy of "Pride of the Yankees."  Go to the review of that book (the previous review on this blog) and leave a comment before June 4.  The winner will be picked at random from all commenters on June 5.


Title/Author:
“Fastball John” by John D’Acquisto and Dave Jordan
Tags:
Baseball, memoir, Giants, Padres, Angels, Expos
Publish date:
September 13, 2016
Length:
558 pages
Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Review:
John D’Acquisto didn’t have a memorable major league baseball career – as a journeyman pitcher, he compiled a 34-51 record with a 4.52 ERA.  However, many of his experiences in the game were memorable to him, and he recalls them, along with what happened to him after baseball, in this terrific memoir co-written with Dave Jordan.

D’Acquisto was a first round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants and he took a typical route through the minor leagues to reach San Francisco.  He writes about his growing pains, his puppy love feelings for women, especially one he called “Katie” (he kept the real names of women he encountered out of the book), and his chance encounters with major league stars such as Richard “Goose” Gossage.

He keeps up the excellent storytelling through his time in the major leagues, through his surgery, the trades, his release from the California Angels which he attributed to being a player representative during the 1981 players’ strike and even the thrill of being in a pennant race when he pitched for the Montreal Expos during their run to the National League East title, in which they ultimately finished second behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

D’Acquisto brings this same level of great writing when talking about his life after baseball. Whether it was his marital issues (he was married three times), his success and subsequent trouble with a career in finance and the legal issues he faced that earned him prison time for fraud, he spoke with the same candor and humor that he did when talking baseball.  I thought that was quite impressive that he could relieve his time in prison or the double crossing done to him by a former Giants teammate without sounding bitter or angry.

Throughout the book, D’Acquisto uses music of the times to also express how he is feeling or what he is doing at the time. One of the most clever connections to music was the chapter when he wrote about his surgery by Dr. Frank Jobe.  It is now known as Tommy John surgery, but it wasn’t at that time. D’Acquisto compared his negative feeling about needing surgery to the sad thoughts he had about “a new song from a legendary rock group on the cab radio, a sweet ballad, very trendy for the time period. You think it’s sad that this amazing band, who authored so many hard-charging, fantastic tunes during your high school years, is now throwing this soft slop at the pop charts.  You wonder what happened to their fastball.”  He was talking about the song “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, formerly Jefferson Airplane.  While if the song reference was left at that it would be great, the final line of the chapter about his surgery when he steps back on the field for the first time afterward makes the chapter my favorite in the book.  “If only you believe like I believe.”

Because there are so many musical references like this that fit his story, that makes this book very different than the typical sports memoir.  Between the vivid detail, all of clever use of popular music and his frequent sprinkles of humor, this book is certainly one that all baseball fans should read.  It would be easy to compare this book to “Ball Four”, but that really isn’t fair because they project entirely different messages.  This one is quite upbeat despite all the trouble D’Acquisto encounters.  This was a highly entertaining, highly satisfying read.

I wish to thank Instream Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)
Buying Links: