Tag Archives: David Ross

Baseball by the Book or Let’s Play Two

30 Jul

 

 

Just after the All-star Game break in the long slog of the MLB 162 game  marathon and we  are in the beginning of season 2* of the three seasons (the playoffs being season three).*  The fragile state of our republic, whose governance is currently in the hands of a coterie of three-card Monte dealers, carny barkers and generally sleazy types (that have always been part of the deal). This is a disheartening and deflating state of affairs,. There is, of course, baseball to divert us from the Real World. And as an added pleasure, baseball occasions the publication of countless books actually worth reading.  As one of the oldest recreations in American culture, the sport has always been peopled with odd characters and athletes of extraordinary talent. This season there is a plethora of books of focused on some of those—some well known, some from  ‘back in the day’, some with unusual stories…and some displaying heroic character.

 

 Papi: My Story  by David Ortiz with Michael Holley

If I have to introduce the recently retired  Boston Red Sox slugger, you may want to go elsewhere for some edification. Needless to day David Ortiz was one of the most popular players in the modern baseball era. This is his story

 

 Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages   by David Ross , Theo

 

 

 

 

Epstein (Foreword),with  Don Yaeger

Former Red Sox backup catcher David Ross , who stands as the paradigm of the valuable locker room presence was signed by the Chicago Cubs in Deember of 2014 after they acquired former Red Sox  ace lefty Jon Lester and became Lester’s personal catcher . And given the youth of the 2016 Cubs, he quickly assumed the mantle of sage personage with the sobriquet Grampa attached. Ross’s final season as a major league player found him on  a  World Series champion. Ross’s story is a bit of a fairy tale —which in his case is not a bad thing.  

Product Details

Lou: Fifty Years of Kicking Dirt, Playing Hard, and Winning Big in the Sweet Spot of Baseball by Lou Piniella and Bill Madden

The title of Piniella’s baseball memoir is an excellent lead into the fiery Sweet Lou’s persona. He went from a career as  NY Yankee star in the 70’s to managing 5 different teams

Here’s a  signature three-minute temper tantrum by Pinella

 

 

 

 

 

 Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador  by Dennis Snelling

I’m guessing you have never heard of  O’Doul (me neither). He is credited with being the father of  Japanese baseball. In 1949, General McArthur who was charged with overseeing the post war the reconstruction of Jaspan asked O’Doul to bring a baseball team to Japan and the rest is, as they say, history. And having mastered the difficult art of hitting a baseball (4th highest batting average in baseball history), he became, for among others, Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams’s hitting guru. And on a minor note, San Franciscans mourned the closing of the bar O’Doulopened in 1958. Lesser figures have  warranted a hard cover paper and ink biography

 

Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character by Marty Appel 

Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel’ was an important  baseball figure in the by gone era when major league managers had personalities ( a bit of trivia: the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets.) As manager of a dominant New York Yankees, he won ten pennants and seven World Series Championships. New York Yankees’ historian and  author Marty Appel  has assembled what will no doubt stand as the  definitive account of this Hall Of Famers life and  recapped the sense  and spirit of a mid 20th baseball

 

 

 Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane by Tim Raines with Alan Maimon  

Tim Raines (nicknamed ‘Rock’)a former unanimous MVP for Montreal Expos was inducted into the Hall of Fame  on his 10th and final year of eligibility  After seven seasons with the Expos, he played on Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins, ultimately earning three World Series rings. In mid career, Raines overcame a cocaine addiction and returned to baseball, a compelling side bar to his splendid career.

 

 

Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War  by Ron Kaplan

If you think Jackie Robinson had it tough in the racist environment of post-WWII baseball, attend to  Detroit slugger Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg big league career. While a persistent target of anti-Semitism,  Greenberg always did his best to shut the noise out and concentrate on baseball. In the year that this book focuses on, the Jews of the world were keenly aware of the events in Europe and Hitler and the  Nazi’s genocidal program. Greenberg rarely spoke about the anti-Semitism he dealt with, but as world events unfolded,  the slugger he took  a new role upon himself— saying, “I came to feel that if I, as a Jew, hit a home run, I was hitting one against Hitler.”

 

 

Ballplayer by Chipper Jones  with Carroll Rogers Walton  , Bobby Cox (Foreword)

 
For nearly 19 years Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr.(retiring in 2012) manned the hot corner for the perennially contending  Atlanta Braves. A nine time All Star, Jone’s team s were skippered by highly regarded Bobby Cox. and included a dominant trio of arms‚—Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and  John Smoltz. In an addition to recounting his experiences playing on a talent laden winner Chipper freely opines on his sense of baseball in its era of financial opulence.

 

The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life  by Rick Ankiel  with Tim Brown

You won’t find the condition known as Yips in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but as a condition that afflicts athletes, it has attained visibility going back in baseball to at least 1972 with pitcher Steve Blass and later infielder Chuck Knoblauch. Currently, Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester presents with a very challenged ability to throw over to 1st base. Inthe most famous case, and thus the resultant chronicle of his travails, Rick Ankiel was a stud starting pitcher who without any warning lost his ability to pitch (as in throw strikes). He then spent 4 years struggling to return to the major leagues as an outfielder where he played for a few more years

 

Here’s Ankiel relating his  experience

 

 

They Call Me Pudge: My Life Playing the Game I Love by Ivan Rodriguez with, Jeff Sullivan 

 

It would not be a stretch to value position of catcher in baseball equal to starting pitchers. And when you factor in the number of games per season required of the starting catcher, the scales may tip into the stud behind the plate. At the age of  19 Puerto Rican born Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez debuted with the Texas Rangers in, 1991 and retired in 2012. Pudge played for he played for the Texas Rangers (on two different tours,   Florida MarlinsDetroit TigersNew York YankeesHouston Astros and Washington Nationals. He  made14 All-Star appearances, received 13 Gold Gloves, a Most Valuable Player Award, and won a World Series with the 2003 Florida Marlins. This year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Here are two tidbits from his book:

 1978
I started really focusing on baseball at the age of seven. Pretty much my whole family played baseball, and at the time both my dad and my mom were playing in softball leagues. I loved the game from Day One. I actually used to be a pitcher and a third baseman. That’s how I started. But my dad was my first coach, and he noticed pretty quickly that I had a strong arm. So one day he sat me down and told me, “You are not going to pitch or play third base anymore, you’re gonna be a catcher. And I think you’re gonna be a good catcher.” I immediately started crying. I didn’t want to catch. I wanted to be a third baseman and hit home runs. He said, “You can cry as much as you want, but you’re gonna catch from now on.” I was eight years old.I cried for about 15 minutes. But from that point on, I was a catcher.

 

 

1989
I got my nickname on the very first day of camp. People always think I’m called “Pudge” because of Carlton Fisk. That’s not the case. I’m a huge fan of Carlton Fisk. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. But he had nothing to do with me being known as Pudge. Chino Cadahia, who was a Rangers coach at the time, gave me that name. He saw that I was short and stocky, so, from Day One, he started calling me “Pudge.” It caught on, and the rest is history.

 

 

 

Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son by Paul Dickson

Paul Dickson who has done fine work in documenting various aspects of baseball including the very useful. The Dickson Baseball Dictionary has written a long over due biography of  Leo “THE LIP” Durocher. A former big leaguer and manager whose career spanned 40 years,  Durocher rank high as one of the more colorful characters ever attached to the game. The aphorism, “Nice guys finish last” is mistakenly attributed to him. Nonetheless, he was unabashed in entitling his memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last. Reportedly, he actually said,”Look at Mel Ott over there. He’s a nice guy, and he finishes second. Now look at the Brat (Eddie Stanky). He can’t hit, can’t run, can’t field. He’s no nice guy, but all the little son-of-a-bitch can do is win.” **  Nonetheless he was unabashgewdHe was no doubt happy to entitle his memoir, Nice Guys Finish Last. Leo Durocher was a combative player  ( a three-time All-Star) and became a storied manager (in the top five with 95 career game ejections), winning three pennants and a World Series in 1954.

 

Tomorrow the Liges Grandes season begins in earnest as it is the trading deadline when teams add a piece for this year’s pennantstrecth drive or give up and make deals for the future…

 

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*On a personal note the Chicago Cubs are showing early signs of shaking off their season long (to date) lack luster play (and they went out and obtained a first rate starter)

** The 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony is today with Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell this year’s honorees.

*** An alternative attribution “Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” After pacing up and down the visitors’ dugout, the Dodger manager waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout and repeated, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

Books about Baseball Part II

10 Apr

 

 

 

 

 

Remember it was a tight sphinctered guy from St. Louis who opined that April was the cruelest month. Just ask any baseball fan about April. More than most, followers of the hardball understand failure and adversity.and yet… So, the 2017 Liges Grandes season has opened and the World Championship Chicago Cubs have already despoiled a perfect 162-0 season by losing in the Cardinal’s home opener (but eventually taking 2 out of 3). In any case, you will understand my focus on the books that follow below when I tell you that I am an expatriate Northside Chicagoan whose relationship with the Windy City’s National League outpost traces back to the time of Ernie Banks`and a team that never even achieved a .500 win-loss record.

So no surprise that a number of books have taken up some aspect of the Chicago Cubs…

The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-By-Decade History

Until further notice, this tome should serve as the semi-official record of the current MLB Champions. As one of Chicago’s two metropolitan dailies left standing in the 21st century, The Chicago Tribune has a vast archive of information dating back to the Cubs’S origins in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings. The paper’s sports department culled through that archive, assembling a decade-by-decade  history and a paean to the “Friendly Confines” also known as Wrigley Field. A straightforward survey of the Cubs, for what its worth, this 336-page volume includes a good number of photographs never published before.

 

 

 

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The Plan: Epstein, Maddon, and the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty by David Kaplan

The fact that Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein was anointed  “The World’s Greatest Leader ” by Fortune magazine is, on the face of it laughable ( Alibaba’s Jack Ma came in second), but don’t tell that to northside Chicagoans and northern New Englanders. Having engineered the end of the championship droughts of two cities made him  (his religion notwithstanding)him eligible for beatification. Chicago journalist Dave Kaplan ( CSN Chicago and ESPN Radio) chronicles the team tear down, the hiring of an imaginative manager in Joe Maddon and the making crafty trades as well as investing in a farm system that five years into Epstein’s tenure (as in his posting in Boston) yielded a World Championship team built to achieve the exalted status of dynasty.

 

 

 

 

Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross

To anyone who watched the Chicago Cubs last season, 39-year-old, 15-year veteran backup catcher David Ross’s value to a team laden with young talent was obvious. Simply as ace Jon Lester’s personal catcher, Ross’s contribution was significant. Early on in his two-year stint, the young Cub studs Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, dubbed him  Grandpa Rossy”  extolling his positive presence in the locker room as well as on the field. And as is now part of baseball lore, Ross hit a key home run in his career’s final at- bat in the 7th game of the world series… that’s quite a feel good story.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci

Amidst a gaggle of journeymen baseball announcers and reporters, Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated baseball writer and FOX Sports analyst) presents himself as thoughtful and insightful and it is to his credit that he was given full access to the Cubs organization and Theo Epstein’s post-Moneyball team operating manual, The Cubs Way”. This approach was not a dismissal of the sabermetric revolution in sports but an expansion of the understanding and belief  in the value of team chemistry and clubhouse culture. Mix in the unorthodoxy of manager Joe Madden (known for coining prosaic phrases such as “Don’t Suck”) and you have substantial evidence of what a thoughtful blend of statistics and intangibles can achieve.

 

 

A Nice Little Place on the North Side: A History of Triumph, Mostly Defeat, and Incurable Hope at Wrigley Field by George Will

Gasbag 19th century Conservative,  bow tie wearing, pundit and Chicago Cub fan George Will (who has in some ways redeemed himself with his disavowal of the Bedlamite POTUS) had put together what he asserts is a “true, hyperbole-free history” (given his propensity to overblown prose and metaphorical acrobatics) updated to include “bonus material on the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win” Of course he missed a chance to comment  on  the abomination that is the “Budweiser Bleachers” (not even to comment on the irony of  naming rights being sold to the owner of the arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals.)

Here’s some copywritten hyperbole —

In the end, A Nice Little Place on the North Side is more than just the history of a ballpark. It is the story of Chicago, of baseball, and of America itself.

 

Oh my…

 

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