All-Star Baseball Books to celebrate the All-Star Break

This week in North Philly Notes, we highlight nine of Temple University Press’s All-Star baseball books to celebrate baseball’s All-Star Break.

The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennantby Robin Roberts and C. Paul Rogers

The 1950 Phillies unexpectedly captured the hearts and imaginations of Philadelphians. A young upstart team—in fact, the youngest major league baseball team ever fielded—they capped a Cinderella season by winning the pennant from the heavily favored Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field on the last day of the season. It was the first National League pennant for the team since 1915. With that dramatic victory the 1950 Phillies went into the history books, known forever as the Whiz Kids.

This inspiring era in Phillies history comes alive with the personal reflections of Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer and arguably the best right-handed pitcher in Phillies history.  Rich with anecdotes never before published from players like Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn, Bubba Church, Andy Seminick, Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Russ Meyer, and many others, this book relives the success of the Whiz Kids in all their glory.

Bill Giles and Baseballby John B. Lord

Bill Giles oversaw one of the greatest eras of winning that the Philadelphia Phillies ever enjoyed and helped guide major league baseball through the most turbulent era in its history. In Bill Giles and Baseball, John Lord deftly chronicles Giles’ remarkable career—which includes 44 years with the Phillies—to provide an insider’s view of the business of the sport. He addresses the often controversial, sometimes ill-advised, moves by baseball’s hierarchy that have nonetheless propelled the game to unimagined economic growth.

The Phillies Reader Edited by Richard Orodenker

The Phillies Reader features essays on the athletic achievements of such legendary players as Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Dick Allen, and Mike Schmidt; the political turmoil surrounding the “ok” from manager Ben Chapman to “ride” Jackie Robinson about the color of his skin; the bizarre shooting of Eddie Waitkus; the heroics of the Whiz Kids; the heartbreak of ’64; and the occasional triumphs and frequent travails of controversial managers Gene Mauch, Frank Lucchesi, and Danny Ozark. It asks why fans boo great players such as Del Ennis, but forgave Pat Burrell for his horrendous 2003 slump.

Featuring essays by Red Smith, Pete Dexter, Roger Angell, and James Michener, among others, The Phillies Reader presents a compendium of Phillies literature that reveals what it is that makes legends.

Dominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice by Alan Klein

Outstanding Book Award from the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, 2015

In his incisive and engaging book, Dominican Baseball, Alan Klein examines the history of MLB’s presence and influence in the Dominican Republic, the development of the booming industry and academies, and the dependence on Dominican player developers, known as buscones. He also addresses issues of identity fraud and the use of performance-enhancing drugs as hopefuls seek to play professionally.

Dominican Baseball charts the trajectory of the economic flows of this transnational exchange, and the pride Dominicans feel in their growing influence in the sport. Klein also uncovers the prejudice that prompts MLB to diminish Dominican claims on legitimacy. This sharp, smartly argued book deftly chronicles the uneasy and often contested relations of the contemporary Dominican game and industry.

Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball by Lincoln A. Mitchell

Major League Baseball is a beloved American institution that has been a product of the economic, social, and media structures that have evolved in the United States over the last century. In his shrewd analysis, Will Big League Baseball Survive?, Lincoln Mitchell asks whether the sport will continue in its current form as a huge, lucrative global business that offers a monopoly in North America—and whether those structures are sustainable.

Mitchell places baseball in the context of the larger, evolving American and global entertainment sector. He examines how both changes directly related to baseball—including youth sports and the increased globalization of the game—as well as broader societal trends such as developments in media consumption and celebrity culture will impact big league baseball over the next few decades.

Suicide Squeeze: Taylor Hooton, Rob Garibaldi, and the Fight against Teenage Steroid Abuseby William C. Kashatus

In his urgent book Suicide Squeeze, William Kashatus chronicles the experiences of Taylor Hooton and Rob Garibaldi, two promising high school baseball players who abused anabolic steroids (APEDs) in the hopes of attracting professional scouts and Division I recruiters. However, as a result of their steroid abuse, they ended up taking their own lives.

In Suicide Squeeze—named for the high-risk play in baseball to steal home—Kashatus identifies the symptoms and dangers of steroid use among teens. Using archival research and interviews with the Hooton and Garibaldi families, he explores the lives and deaths of these two troubled young men, the impact of their suicides on Major League Baseball, and the ongoing fight against adolescent APED use that their parents have been waging.

A passionate appeal to prevent additional senseless deaths by athletes, Suicide Squeeze makes an important contribution to debates on youth and sports and on public policy.

Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law, by Roger I. Abrams

In Legal Bases, Roger I. Abrams has assembled an all-star baseball law team whose stories illuminate the sometimes uproarious, sometimes ignominious relationship between law and baseball that has made the business of baseball a truly American institution. Along the way, Abrams also examines such issues as drug use and gambling, enforcement of contracts, and the rights of owners and managers. He does not limit himself to the history of baseball and the legal process but also speculates on the implications of the 1996 collective bargaining agreement and those other issues—like intellectual property, eminent domain, and gender equity—that may provide the all-star baseball law stories of the future.

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcherby Rich Westcott

National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey’s professional career spanned nearly three decades in the Negro Leagues and elsewhere. He distinguished himself as a defensive catcher who also had an impressive batting average and later worked as a manager of the Newark Eagles and the Baltimore Elite Giants.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey as well as providing an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Mackey also mentored famed catcher Roy Campanella and had an unlikely role in the story of baseball’s development in Japan.

Rookies of the Year by Bob Bloss

Baseball players only have one opportunity to be named “Rookie of the Year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Although some recipients of this prestigious award such as Orlando Cepeda have become league MVPs, or Hall of Fame honorees, others, like Joe Charboneau, failed to live up to their initial promise. Rookies of the Year profiles 116 winners-from Jackie Robinson (the first Rookie of the Year in 1947), to Rod Carew, Derek Jeter, and the 2004 honorees. Each player’s initial major league season and subsequent career achievements are included. Featuring interviews with dozens of baseball stars, this is the most comprehensive book ever written on Rookies of the Year. It provides indispensable information on some of baseball’s greatest athletes.

Reflections on the AFL and its merger with the NFL

This week in North Philly Notes, Charles Ross, author of Mavericks, Money, and Men, blogs about the AFL and the growth of the NFL.

As I sat watching the NFL draft I couldn’t help but think about the AFL and its merger with the NFL in 1970.  Pro football is clearly the most popular sport in America and that popularity is largely due to the rival leagues calling a truce and becoming one.  The last two teams to win the Super Bowl were original AFL teams–New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, and interestingly they struggled to achieve success as members of the AFL.  They never won an AFL Championship but the Patriots have won four Super Bowls and the Broncos three.  Maybe more importantly Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams probably didn’t anticipate the teams that made up the so called “foolish club,” being valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, when the original franchise fee was $25,000.

Mavericks_smEvery original AFL team including the two expansion teams have played in the Super Bowl, however, there are two NFL teams that have never had that experience, the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Again the Browns and Lions picked early on Thursday night, both teams since the merger have arguably struggled to field strong teams led by great quarterbacks and solid defenses, the usual ingredients necessary to reach the pinnacle of a successful pro football season.  The draft was virtually parallel to the percentage of African American players in the NFL, in essence the overwhelming majority of players selected were black.

The two universities that I owe much of my professional success had a historic night.  The Ohio State University where I received my Ph.D. had five players selected in the first round and the University of Mississippi where I have spent the last twenty years since leaving OSU, had three players selected in round one for the first time in school history.  Three of the five players from Ohio State were African American and all three from the University of Mississippi, of course having five players selected in round one for perennial power OSU was not necessarily a surprise.  But for the University of Mississippi to have three players chosen was, unfortunately the controversy that surrounded offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s fall to the Miami Dolphins because of posts on his social media page dominated the media’s focus and took the spotlight off what both programs had achieved.

Arguably the growth of the NFL since the merger is a real testament to pro football’s marriage to television.  The medium of television helped to increase the value of franchise’s, players contracts, coaches contracts, and profits from owners.  Large amounts of money fuel these relationships and ultimately the same relationships at the collegiate level.  Billy Cannon signed his contract to play for the Houston Oilers instead of the Los Angeles Rams after the Sugar Bowl in 1960, on New Year’s Day.  Cannon had agreed to contracts with both the Rams and the Oilers which was a NCAA violation, and he signed his contract on television under the goalposts when the game ended.  This was great publicity for the AFL and set the tone for the next six year war between the AFL and NFL.  The saga of Tunsil also played out on national television but like Cannon many fans will want to know more about this young man and his ability to be successful on the football field during this upcoming season.  The Miami Dolphins think he will be successful and so do I.

A lot has changed since the merger but one thing has not, the success of teams will be established on the field.  Publicity both positive and negative will continue to characterize aspects of what is now America’s favorite sport, in many ways the NFL has reached a zenith where the only competition is itself.  Pro football is not competing against the NBA or even major league baseball, its chief competition now is its own public perception.

 

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