Monthly Archives: June 2007

White Sox game to support Reach out and Read of Illinois

This was passed on to me – if you are in the Chicago area, I hope you will be a part of it and support this great cause:

WHITE SOX GAME TO SUPPORT REACH OUT AND READ OF ILLINOIS

Watch the Chicago White Sox play the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 7pm and raise money for Reach Out and Read (ROR) of Illinois!

Tickets are available in both Lower Reserved ($30) and Bleachers ($25)
sections.

Not only are these prices discounted, but each ticket you purchase means a
donation of between $10 and $13 for ROR, an organization dedicated to
increasing literacy by ensuring that all Illinois children have access to
books at an early age. Download the order form at
http://www.illinoisaap.org/ROR/SoxOrderForm.pdf.

For more information, please contact Christina Boothby at 312/733-1026, ext 204 or cboothby@illinoisaap.com.

Tickets must be ordered by July 25 to ensure delivery in time for the game.

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The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History – by Jayson Stark

What does it mean to be overrated? How about underrated? And who in baseball falls into that category? ESPN’s Jayson Stark tackles that question with his new book The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History.

 

Stark uses statistics to compare just who are the most overrated and underrated players at each position – as well as top three for each team in baseball.

 

For instance – the top overrated left handed starting pitcher? Sandy Koufax. Most underrated left handed starter? Babe Ruth. Think about that for a moment.

 

Stark will open your eyes to the battle between perception and reality when it comes to rating ball players. He uses statistics to place players not only in comparison to their era, but to other players at their position throughout history.

 

A blend of humorous writing meshed with a good usage of stats makes this a well balanced book – and while I don’t think it will clear the air about who was the best at their position, it should definitely add some fuel to the fire. And Mariners fans – just wait until you see what he has to say about Edgar.

What do you think about The Start Truth? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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The Entitled by Frank Deford

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of fiction – but when I heard about Frank Deford’s new book The Entitled, I decided to put my bias to the side – and I’m very glad I was.

The Entitled is the tale of Howie Traveler, a manager who struggled up the ladder and finally landed a major league job – only to be on the hot seat because he has lost his touch with his Jay Alcazar, his megastar outfielder.

It’s when Howie sees something at Jay’s hotel room door, he is challenged with making an ethical decision between protecting his player and the team or admitting what he saw when a woman  brings a rape charge against the slugger.

Complimenting this conflict is the development of both Howie and Jay as individuals – particularly Jay, who returns to Cuba, where he was born but taken away from as a young child, where he goes in search of his mother only to have his foundation shaken about who he is. 

The Entitled is a brilliantly written novel meshing old-time baseball values with the current climate of multi-million dollar contracts and superstar players.

Deford is a six time National Sportswriter of the Year and a contributor to Sports Illustrated – and he takes you inside today’s game better than most non-fiction books I’ve read. His ability to illustrate the real-world climate of modern baseball shines through as you see that both manager and player are much deeper and broader characters than a stereotypical ballplayer.

The Entitled by Frank Deford should be on your must reads this season – it made me a fan and I think it will make you one too.

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Level Playing Fields – by Peter Morris

It’s easy to assume that the perfectly manicured ballfields we see today have existed throughout the history of the game. But as recently as the mid-1900s, the quality of fields varied greatly from team to team – sometimes to the point where the batters box was actually above the pitcher’s mound, or the third baseman could only see the first baseman’s head because the field was on a significant slope.

We take for granted the work that goes into preparing a baseball field – but a new book aims to change that. In Level Playing Fields, Peter Morris introduces us to brothers Tom and Jack Murphy – who lived at the turn of the 20th century and helped shape baseball as much as any player or coach.

The Murphys are credited with being the game’s first real groundskeepers – and creating home field advantages for some of baseball’s earliest dynasties and pioneering things that are staples of baseball today – the pitcher’s mound, the infield tarp, and irrigation techniques that helped spread baseball into the south and laid the foundation for modern spring training sites.

Level Playing Fields is a look at turn of the century baseball through the eyes and influence of a groundskeeper. It’s a different way to look at the game – showing how two brothers contributed to the development of the game through their knowledge and love of caring for a ballfield.

It successfully meshes baseball’s history with American history at key points – particularly, the understanding that the reader must have regarding the point in time when industry had allowed humans to manipulate the land to his liking. It wasn’t simple work to create a ballfield; most times you took the best plot of land you could find, that wasn’t being claimed for other purposes – either industrial or residential.

Likewise, baseball wasn’t as embraced in the late 1800s as it is today — in numerous cities, government frowned upon the sport and refused to grant teams permits to use fields to play baseball on.

I really appreciate the connections that Morris helped me to see while further developing the rich history of baseball, this time by adding the story of the groundskeeper to the mix.

What do you think about Level Playing Fields? Post your comments and join the discussion!

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7: The Mickey Mantle Novel – by Peter Golenbock

After it was dropped by its original publisher, many thought this fictional portrait of Mickey Mantle wouldn’t make it to store shelves. But thankfully it has!

Golenbock takes on the task of writing a biography of The Mick with creative license – placing Mantle in heaven and in need of a way to unburden himself from the mistakes he made during his life. Mantle enlists the help of former sportswriter Lenny Shecter – the co-author of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four – to help lay it all out.

What results is a fictional conversation between Mantle and Shecter that is based in conversations the author had with Mantle, his teammates, friends, and acquaintances, and paints a picture of the untold personal life of Mickey Mantle – which bounces between eccentric, hilarious, and often times painful to imagine.

It’s easy to see why this book got snuffed by its original publisher. If I’m the Mantle family or someone who is fearful of lawsuits, I can’t say I’m in support of this book seeing the light of day. Mantle maintained a fairly private life, and while you can debate the merits of that, there is a certain comfort knowing that your dirty laundry isn’t in the public awareness.

Along the same lines – Golenbock essentially throws out a whole bunch of “what-ifs” that the public – at least at this point in time – doesn’t know how seriously to take them. The book is rooted in a real person who played a real game during a real time in history, but the information that colors in the lines comes from interviews and recaps of events that happened some 40-50 years ago. As any writer who has done interviews with former players can tell you, their memories are often sketchy and skew the results in their favor.

Be warned – this is an R-rated book – lots of adult language and situations. But it is also a fascinating attempt at telling the story of one of baseball greatest players. I think you’ll find that the pages almost turn themselves. Reading 7 is kind of like going to the movies — allow yourself to become engaged and immersed in the book, but when the lights come up and the final page has turned, realize that it’s still a work of fiction.

What do you think about 7: The Mickey Mantel Novel by Peter Golenbock? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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