Currently one of the better teams in baseball is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans of the game know that the Dodgers have a rich history and this book describes one of their championship seasons, 1981, with great prose. Here is my review of "They Bled Blue"
“They Bled Blue: Fernandomania, Strike Season Mayhem and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers” by Jason Turbow
1981 has been remembered as one of the strangest baseball seasons in the history of the game. The season was split in two due to a player’s strike and the division winners in each half made the postseason, even though that meant the two best overall teams in the National League missed the playoffs. A rookie pitcher who had a body that was closer to resembling a keg than a six pack took baseball by storm. Four infielders who had played together for nearly eight years were on their last quest together. The link for the last two points was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who ended up as the champions in three exciting postseason series. Their quest to the championship is documented in this breezy, fun-to-read book by Jason Turbow.
While the book reports on the 1981 Dodgers season in chronological order, it is not the typical “this happened, then that happened” type of season recap. It actually starts in 1978 when the New York Yankees defeated the Dodgers in that year’s World Series, winning the last four games after Los Angeles won the first two. That plays as motivation for many of the players who were on that team, including the four infielders who had been on the team and playing nearly every game since 1973. Along the way the reader will learn a lot about all four of them – first baseman Steve Garvey, second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell and third baseman Ron Cey.
However, the best personal story in the book was also the best baseball story of that year. Turbow does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the world of Fernando Valenzuela, a 20 year old rookie pitcher with a portly body, a lack of ability to speak English and a devastating screwball. He won his first eight decisions with an ERA under one and took the baseball world by storm. Being of Mexican heritage, he became a hero to the Mexican population in Los Angeles, which makes up a significant portion of the city’s residents. How he handled this fame, especially when he was a guest of President Ronald Reagan at the White House, was the best reading in the book, along with stories about manager Tommy Lasorda.
The book was capped off by providing an excellent account of the Dodgers’ postseason run. In the Division Series (only made possible by the split season) they fell behind the Houston Astros two games to none in the best of five series, only to win three straight to capture the series. Then, in another best of five series, they defeated the Montreal Expos in thrilling fashion with Rick Monday hitting a homer to win the game for Los Angeles in the ninth inning of game five. Then the Dodgers made the three year wait to face the Yankees again worth it, defeating them in six games in the same manner as New York won in 1978 – lost the first two games, won the next four. The description of the games, the players’ emotions and the joy of the entire city was well written.
Dodger fans will want to add this book to their collection as it is very likely the best source of information on that crazy championship season for them. Baseball fans and historians who are interested in that team should pick it up as well.
I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
While this book is not extremely long at 368 pages, it nonetheless is a heavy read because it is jam packed with details of the 1999 and 2000 New York Mets, a team that never deprived its fans of controversy, drama and exciting baseball. Here is my review of "Yells for Ourselves"
“Yells for Ourselves: A Story of New York City and the New York Mets at the Dawn of the Millennium” by Matthew Callan
Baseball, professional, history, Mets
March 12, 2019
4 of 5 stars (very good)
For most of their history, the New York Mets have been playing the part of second fiddle to New York City’s other baseball team, the New York Yankees. At the start of 1999, as a new millennium was about to begin, this was still the case, especially since the Yankees had just come off one of the most successful seasons in baseball history and won their second World Series title in three years. The Mets, meanwhile, were also starting to make waves and capture the attention of New York baseball fans and media. The Mets’ adventures in 1999, as well as 2000 when they got to face the Yankees in the Subway Series. This book, mainly a collection of writings by the author, Matthew Callen, from blog posts is a very good account of those two seasons.
The most impressive aspect of this book is the minute detail in which Callen writes about the Mets for those two seasons. Not only does he capture the highlights of the best of the team those years, he writes about the agony of some of the losses, all of the controversy and all of the front office maneuvers. While many of the more controversial statements and actions involve manager Bobby Valentine, there isn’t a person involved with the Mets those two seasons that escapes being noticed by Callen.
While the detail of so many games and so many press conferences with the New York media can get tedious to read (at least if the reader is not a serious Met fan), it gets very entertaining without Callen needing to insert his own brand of humor or opinions. There is very little that the reader will learn about Callen’s views because he lets the players, manager, general manager and reporters tell the story themselves and he simply reports it. That proved to be a winning formula for this book.
Every great Mets memory from those two seasons is captured here – the thrilling come-from-behind victory at Shea in the 1999 series against the Yankees, the tie-breaking game against Cincinnati to give the Mets the wild card spot in that same season. Then in those playoffs, the epic National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves is covered in its full glory. The Braves winning the first three games fairly easily, then the Mets storming back in games 4 and 5, capped off in that latter game by Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single”, and finally the heartbreak of the loss to the Braves in game 6.
Then when the new millennium starts, Callen writes about 2000 with just as much gusto as 1999, although this time, he adds some Yankees text as well since the two teams met in the World Series to give the World Series a complete New York flavor for the first time in 44 years. This is also where the book finally gives a more thorough picture to the reader of the pulse of New York City and how they feel about their baseball teams and the Subway Series. This aspect of that time is what drew me to the book and while this was very good, it left me slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more of this material written throughout the book. Keeping in mind that this was most a collection of blog posts that were weaved together to make the book, I felt the author did a very good job of putting them together in a fluid story instead of simply throwing them together because they spoke on a similar topic – the Mets.
Die-hard Mets fans will really enjoy this book, and fans of other teams, even the Yankees, would be wise to take a look at this as well for a complete picture of the Mets for those two seasons when New York truly did capture the lions’ share of attention from the baseball media.
I wish to thank Quill for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw the cover of this book on NetGalley, I thought this would be about one of the best football rivalries from the 1970’s. While that was a good portion of the book, it was much more than just the Chiefs vs. the Raiders - a great book on the two cities as well as their football and baseball teams. Here is my review of “Kansas City vs. Oakland.”
“Kansas City vs. Oakland: The Bitter Sports Rivalry That Defined an Era” by Matthew C. Ehrlich
Baseball, Football (American), professional, politics, Raiders, Chiefs, Athletics, Royals
Publish: September 16, 2019
Length: 256 pages
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
One of the best professional football rivalries from the 1960’s through the 1970’s was the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. While their rivalry was the most notorious and visible, that was certainly not the only rivalry or sports connection the two cities had. There was a bitter history between the two cities in baseball as well and how these two sports connect with the local politics of both cities is told in this excellent book by Matthew C. Ehrlic.
While the book is geared more toward readers who prefer scholarly works, the narrative is not like that format at all - indeed, it is a quick and easy read that all readers will easily digest. Ehrlic explains what each chapter will encompass in the introduction and there are plenty of endnotes to illustrate the extensive research he performed about not only the sports teams but the civic atmosphere in both Kansas City and in Oakland.
The coverage of the rise of the rivalry and also the fortunes of both football teams is very good, with most of the detailed passages describing games between the two teams. Both the Chiefs and Raiders were considered to be the model franchises for the upstart American Football League and both represented the league in the first two Super Bowls, losing to the Green Bay Packers in both. What really stood out in the chapters about these football teams was the fact that both of them had shaky beginnings in the AFL and nearly didn’t exist. Oakland was awarded a team only after Minneapolis broke its promise to the league and instead accepted an NFL expansion team (who became the Vikings) and Kansas City got the Chiefs only because Lamar Hunt had experienced poor attendance and financial difficulties in Dallas after that city was awarded an NFL expansion team, the Cowboys. After such inauspicious debuts, it was interesting to read about how both franchises rose to success.
As for the baseball, the early connection between the two cities is more familiar as Kansas City was home to the Athletics in the American League. In 1968, after a very acrimonious relationship between the city and A’s owner Charley Finley, the team moved to Oakland, where after the very brief honeymoon between that city and the team was over, the same type of attendance and financial problems still were present. This was the state of the franchise even though the team won three consecutive World Series from 1972 to 1974, with players who were signed by Finley while still in Kansas City. That city was awarded an expansion franchise in 1969 to offset the loss of the A’s and while that team, the Royals, experienced the usual growing pains associated with expansion teams, they too became a good ball club and soon were battling Oakland for the Western Division title in the American League every year.
However, what really makes the book a fantastic read is how all four teams are connected to the civic and political issues of those times for both of the cities. Both cities had to construct new stadiums for the teams. In Kansas City’s case, Municipal Stadium that housed the A’s was deemed too decrepit for the new Royals franchise, while Oakland had to build a stadium for both the Raiders and A’s from scratch. Both cities constructed new sports complexes, despite protests from city residents about using tax money that could be better spent on things such as schools. Because these were not built in the respective cities, these were also seen as catering to the suburbs instead of the inner cities, where the population was mostly African American. Both cities had the same types of problems addressing these issues. The connections between them were numerous, and Ehrlich covers them all, right down to the fact that both teams were awarded NHL franchises that failed as well. These sections were so well researched and written that this is the rare book that while the emphasis is on sports, the passages on other topics are even better reads.
One doesn’t have to be a fan of Kansas City or Oakland teams to enjoy this book. History and sports buffs who enjoy reading about those topics from the 1960’s and 1970’s will love this book. Highly recommended for those readers with those interests, as well as fans of those four teams.
I wish to thank University of Illinois Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It usually isn't easy to find decent books on current star players in any sport, mainly because there will be so much more to the player's complete story. Even so, this book on Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors is a fantastic read and highly recommended for every basketball fan. Here is my review.
“KD: Kevin Durant’s Relentless Pursuit to Be the Greatest” by Marcus Thompson II
Very few athletes who are stars in their sport, no matter which one, escape some type of controversy in their careers. Kevin Durant is no exception as his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 to join the Golden State Warriors set off a furious reaction not seen since LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Miami Heat in 2010. The story behind Durant’s decision, as well as a look into his complicated world, is told in this excellent unauthorized biography by Marcus Thompson.
Having already penned one best-selling book about a Golden State star, Stephan Curry, Thompson writes about Durant’s ascent to stardom from Prince George County in the Washington DC metro area, or DMV for DC/Maryland/Virgina as the region is called throughout the book, where he was not only competing but thriving in games against boys older than him. The book then follows Durant to the University of Texas for his one spectacular season for the Longhorns which vaulted him to being the #2 pick in the NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. He had a fine rookie season, being named the Rookie of the Year and followed the team when it moved to Oklahoma City. This time in Durant’s career was my only negative takeaway from the book – there was far too little written about Durant’s time in Seattle almost like it never happened. That is ironic because later when the Warriors and Sacramento Kings played an exhibition game in Seattle, Durant was the recipient of much love from the Seattle fans.
While the reader will learn about Durant’s rise to superstar status while he was on Oklahoma City, what the reader learns about Durant’s personality and the conflict between Durant’s inner feelings and the public off-court persona he portrayed makes for some of the best reading in the book and why it is a compelling read. In public, Durant never showed any tattoos for a long time, but he had a lot of ink with significant personal meaning on areas of his body where they would be hidden by clothing in public appearances. Through interviews with other players and research, Thompson achieves something difficult to do – providing the reader with an insightful look into an athlete who is still in the prime of his or her career without interviewing the subject. Of course, it has to be taken that this is the viewpoint of Thompson, but it still comes across as a very interesting topic.
Thompson also discusses at length the most controversial part of Durant’s career – his decision to leave the Thunder two years after declaring he would never go elsewhere and sign with the Warriors, who were already a championship team. There are many reasons that have been discussed in the media before, and Thompson addresses every one of them. Much like Durant’s versatility in his game – a seven footer who has a great shooting touch and an explosive first step – Thompson writes about this controversy with much skill as the reader will finish this part of the book with an understanding of what Durant did. That doesn’t mean those who were angry with this move will accept it – they will just become more informed. A great look inside the career of one of the best in the game today as well as a compelling read, fans of today’s NBA will want to add this one to their libraries.
t iI wish to thank Atria Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book was another Goodreads discussion and was a very interesting story. Here is the Sports Book Lady's review of "The Catcher Was a Spy."
As a baseball fan, I have always bled Cubbie blue without a doubt; yet, my favorite non Cub players have always been Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg. As a Jew with few Jewish stars to cheer for, I get excited every time a Jewish athlete makes headlines. The team Israel entry to the World Baseball Classic two years ago? My son and I woke up diligently at 4:00 to watch their games? Watching the Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman turn into a bonafide star has me kvelling, not to mention seeing Ian Kinsler get traded to the Boston Red Sox last season and then win a World Series ring with the team. Known as people of the book, Jewish stars are few and far between, so I keep my feelers out any time a Jewish athlete does something special, on or off of the playing field. That is why the Moe Berg, a back up catcher during the 1920s and 1930s has always been an intriguing character to me. Recently, there had been a movie produced about Berg’s life, so I jumped at an opportunity to read the book first, The Catcher Was a Spy by Nicholas Dawidoff.
Moe Berg was born in 1901, the third child of Bernard and Rose Berg. Although the Bergs were ethnically Jewish and all who knew them could easily tell by their physical features, Bernard Berg tried to distance himself as much as possible from any Jewish acquaintances. An immigrant, pharmacist, and self made man, Bernard Berg moved his family to the Roseville section of Newark, New Jersey as soon as he had the means to leave the Bronx, a neighborhood that had too many Jews for his liking. His children Sam, Rose, and Morris, all common Jewish names during the generation, attended public school, had few Jewish acquaintances, and did not attend religious school. Bernard pushed his children to achieve, instilling in them that they could make something of themselves in America if they studied and became a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or nurse. Sam and Ethel followed their father’s advice and became a doctor and teacher respectively, but Morris, known as Moe, the most precocious of the three, although a stellar student from an early age, decided that he would achieve great heights by playing baseball.
Although Bernard Berg distanced himself from Jews, he could not understand why his son would rather play a kids’ game than be a scholar. Yet, Moe Berg was a scholar, earning a place in the National Honor Society in high school and earning admission in Princeton University. Bernard Berg wanted his son to be a lawyer yet by the time Moe attended Princeton, he was both a top baseball player and excelling at learning foreign languages. He was also a loner having no close friends and learned how to make himself scarce. One minute, Berg could work a crowd, regaling party goers with his exploits on the baseball diamond, and the next he would have disappeared. By the time Berg graduated Princeton with high marks in 1923 and had offers to play ball from multiple teams, he had already had an eye on his future profession, a spy during World War II. Upon graduation, Berg first played for the Brooklyn Robins, later the Dodgers, as the team sought a Jewish star to appeal to Brooklyn’s population. Yet, Berg could not decide whether to pursue baseball or the law, and, as a result, his ball playing skills fell off.
Moe Berg eventually received his law degree by attending courses at Columbia during off seasons. Yet, his passion was baseball. It was the only profession, he reasoned, where he could travel the country, play a game for three hours a day, and explore cities at his leisure while the rest of his teammates pursued other, unwholesome activities. Berg shattered his knee in 1929, and during the 1930s stayed on major league rosters for the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox as a third string catcher turned bullpen coach. He established a habit of reading a minimum of ten newspapers a day, walked everywhere, and spoke seven languages well and understood countless other. Berg became known as Professor Berg to sportswriters and developed lifelong relationships with John Kieran of the New York Times and Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Tribune. Both writers realized that Berg possessed a combination of knowledge and intelligence rare in a major league ball player, and these relationships, as well as his flare for spinning stories kept Berg in the league with Red Sox well after his talents diminished.
Following off season trips to Japan and the Far East after the 1932 and 1934 seasons that allowed Berg to travel the world, he became relatively proficient in Japanese. When the United States entered World War II, Berg enlisted and gained admission into the Office of Secret Service once officers discovered his penchant for languages and secrecy. Moe Berg was born to be a spy, yet, according to Dawidoff, he was not necessarily an adept one. Berg’s key assignment during the war was to engage axis power physicists to see if Germany had learned how to split an atom and develop a bomb. Berg was likable and developed relationships with all the scientists he met, yet also wrote excessively and failed to keep expense accounts. Because all of Dawidoff’s interviews were second hand, as a reader it is tough to know whether Berg’s stories or Dawidoff’s opinions are closer to the truth. Was Berg a key player in the OSS who was denied a career in the CIA or a man on the fringes who the government wanted to rid themselves of once the war years ended? The truth was probably somewhere in between given Berg’s idiosyncratic behavior, yet like the spy he wrote about, Dawidoff’s readers will never know the full truth of Berg’s wartime exploits.
Nicholas Dawidoff wrote The Catcher Was a Spy more than twenty years after Moe Berg’s passing. Most of his family and acquaintances were also dead so the author repeats himself and uses the last hundred pages of the book to mention anecdotes of Berg’s postwar travels. These last hundred pages dragged a bit, and at the essence paint a picture of a man denied the job of his dreams who could not reintegrate into civilian life. Moe Berg was the rare scholarly ball player who was a sportswriter’s dream and spoke more languages than most people could even imagine. Yet, with average ball playing skills and a penchant for being a loner, Berg faded from society until Dawidoff published this volume. While today Jewish kids can look up to Alex Bregman, nearly one hundred years ago Jewish kids were kvelling over the ball playing skills of Moe Berg, a Jew and person who chose to live life on the fringes. 3.5 stars
As a teenager, I loved to see the Minnesota Kicks in the old North American Soccer League. When I saw a book had been written about the league, I immediately requested a review copy - sadly, my request had been declined. However, patience was a virtue as five years later, I found the book on sale and immediately snapped it up and it was very good. Here is my review of "Rock 'n' Roll Soccer."
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League” by Ian Plenderleith
Tags: Soccer, professional, business
September 1, 2014
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Soccer fans who enjoy Major League Soccer may not be aware that there was another professional soccer league in North America that also saw success at the box office and on the pitch, albeit for only a brief time. The history of this league, the North American Soccer League (NASL) is captures in this very objective and factual book by Ian Penderleith.
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the NASL brought the sport’s international superstars to American shores and the public loved it – at least for a few years. The New York Cosmos were the glamor franchise of the league, achieving that crown when they signed Pele, considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. However, the Cosmos weren’t done as they added other superstar players such as Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia. Given this, it would be easy to have the book and league’s history focus on just the Cosmos.
Fortunately, Plenderlieith didn’t do that. Instead, he pieces together stories and information on other teams that may not have had the glamour of the Cosmos, but nonetheless contributed to the culture of the league. The appropriately-named Tampa Bay Rowdies, who had their own flamboyant star in Rodney Marsh, brought entertaining soccer to the fans. Offering free parking for their fans who often preferred the tailgating parties to the soccer inside the stadium, the Minnesota Kicks also were one of the more successful franchises in the league both in attendance and on the pitch, despite the fact that they never won a championship and appeared in the Soccer Bowl (the NASL championship game) only once, during their first season in 1976. By including passages about teams like the Kicks and Rowdies, and their players such as Alan Merrick and Marsh respectively, Plenderlieth paints a complete picture of the league to the reader – at least of those successful franchises.
The demise of the league and the reasons have been well-documented elsewhere – the league expanded to too many teams too fast amd the ownership groups did not have the capital to invest in a losing business for the long haul. Plenderlieth takes a level headed approach at these issues and doesn’t lay a lot of blame on any one person, but doesn’t make excuses or sugar-coat the problems that the league faced. Instead, he simply reports what happened.
The NASL also was at odds with the governing body of the sport, FIFA, over several rule variations it made to make the game more entertaining to fans. Correctly believing that American sports fans would not take to a game that had very little scoring, the league made two radical rule changes. One had to do with standings and the points awarded. The usual point allocation for a match was three points for a win, one point for a draw and none for a loss. Instead, the NASL awarded six points to the winning side, three for a draw and win or lose, a bonus point for each goal scored up to three per match. This gave teams incentive to try to keep scoring throughout the game. Also, the pitch had a 35 yard line on each side – offiside could not be called on the offensive team until it was past that line instead of midfield as was the case elsewhere. While these rules went by the wayside when the league disbanded in 1984, the offensive style of play it encouraged is still felt today as clubs realize that more goals mean more fans in the stands.
The meteoric rise and spectacular crash of the NASL is a compelling story and this book is one that anyone who has memories of the league, as this reviewer does (a Minnesota Kicks season ticket holder for two seasons), will want to add this book to his or her library.
While it is not uncommon to see books written by sons about their fathers, it isn’t often one will be written by a former major league player written about his father who is beloved by many, including non-baseball fans. Here is my review of “My Dad, Yogi” by Dale Berra.
“My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball” by Dale Berra
Whether or not one is a baseball fan, it is likely that person knows who Yogi Berra is. Many remember him as a Hall of Fame baseball player for the New York Yankees who also managed both the Yankees and New York Mets to the World Series. Maybe the person knows Yogi from his famous quotes that are humorous and still repeated by many now, more than three years after his death. Whatever the reason, people still love the man. One of his three sons, Dale, also became a major league player and has written a memoir about the entire Berra family that will tug at heartstrings and also show a side of Yogi that many people may not know.
Dale writes about his father during his childhood years as a man who, while he didn’t say it often, would know that his children are loved by him. Dale and his brothers Tim and Larry were all fine athletes but only Dale made it to the big leagues. If there is a downfall to this book, it is that Dale will write long passages about himself instead of Yogi, Carmen and his brothers, especially about his battle with drug addiction. That will be a disappointment to readers like myself who wanted to read only about the entire family.
However, what he DOES write about his parents is excellent. The story of how his father met Carmen, who would become Yogi’s wife (Yogi felt he married up by wedding Carmen) was beautiful as well as the exchange between Yogi and Dale that the latter said was what would get him through another day:
“You all right, Kid?”
“Yeah, Dad, I’m all right”
“That’s all I want to hear, Kid.”
While this was the best of the stories, there are plenty of other fine stories about Yogi and the family as well. The day that Yogi decided to end his self-exile from Yankee Stadium 15 years after being fired as Yankee manager is one. The intervention called by Carmen after Dale was arrested for drug possession and usage years after they thought he was over his addiction was eye-opening. Even in Dale’s younger days when he would be excited to be in the same clubhouse as star players on the Mets that his dad was managing such as Tom Seaver and Willie Mays, the stories would be fun to read.
This book does give a reader insight into the Berra family that other books don’t and when that insight comes from a family member, it gives it even more credibility. Despite the long passages about Dale himself, this book nonetheless is a worthwhile addition the library of anyone who is a fan of Yogi Berra.
I wish to thank Hachette Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
After my recent review of Luis Tiant’s memoir, I remembered that in my growing backlog of books to review, I had one on the final seasons of baseball in Cuba. So, before putting this book aside again, I picked it up and in bits and pieces, I finally finished it. It was worth the extra effort to finish. Here is my review of “Last Seasons in Havana.”
“Last Seasons in Havana: The Castro Revolution and the End of Professional Baseball in Cuba” by Cesar Brioso
Baseball, professional, politics, minor leagues
Publish: March 1, 2019
Length: 304 pages
4 of 5 stars (very good)
In the 1950’s, baseball was at the height of its popularity in Cuba, in both terms of spectator attendance and the quality of baseball played. However, once Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista and took control of the island’s government, the fate of the sport changed. These changes which led to the end of the Cuban League and the presence of minor league baseball in Cuba are captured in this interesting book by Cesar Brioso.
Writing in equal amounts about the revolution by the 26th of July Movement led by Castro and about the teams in the Cuban League as well as the Havana Sugar Kings, Brioso brings the reader to the island nation and its main stadium, Gran Estadio. The details in which both subjects are presented, especially the revolution and Castro’s subsequent takeover, shows the depth of research done by Brioso.
While the details about the revolution are very good, the writing about the baseball is even better. The Havana Sugar Kings were a triple-A minor league team of the Cincinnati Reds in the International League. They would draw large, enthusiastic crowds until the revolution as not only fans, but players would not want to risk being caught up in any military fighting. Shooting was common at this time at not only Sugar Kings games, but also during games in the Cuban League. The latter had games in the winter and many major league players would keep their skills sharp by playing alongside natives of the island in this league.
Some of the best stories in the book are told either by or about former major league players such as Tommy Lasorda, Carl Yazstemski and Camilo Pascual. The latter was one of several Cubans who found success in the major leagues, becoming an All-Star pitcher for the Washington Senators (later the Minnesota Twins). The Senators were noted for signing several Cuban players. However, once the Sugar Kings could not remain financially solvent in Havana and moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, it was the beginning of the end of baseball on the island nation. If it is possible to feel bad for Castro, a big fan of the game (although he was NOT a baseball player, a myth proven to be false by Brioso) then this book will make the reader do so. Baseball fans and history fans alike will enjoy this book as both topics are covered with good detail and good stories.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
When I ride the train to a sporting event, I like to read a book about the sport that I will be seeing. I picked this book up to read on the train to a hockey playoff game between the Islanders and Hurricanes, and while the game was excellent, this book was even better. Here is my review of "A Team of Their Own."
“A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History” by Seth Berkman
During the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, some of the most memorable moments were made by a hockey team that didn’t win a medal or even a single game, but made the most powerful statement of unity that could be made. The Unified women’s hockey team of North and South Korea, together for just over two weeks, showed the world what a unified Korea can look like. The story of this team and many of the inspirational women playing on this team is told in this excellent book by Seth Berkman.
The women’s hockey team of South Korea had been struggling to compete in international competitions. After years of losing by scores that were more common in American football instead of hockey, South Korean sports leaders decided to open up spots on the team to players who are of Korean decent but live elsewhere. Players such as Randi Griffin, Danelle Im and Marissa Brandt, who were American citizens through either emigration or adoption but of Korean descent, were added to the team. Sarah Murphy, a Canadian woman, who was the daughter of a legendary NHL and Team Canada coach, had the formidable task of integrating these players with the veteran players of the team such as goalie Shin So-Jung, who was in net for many of those blowout losses but was clearly the most talented player on the team.
Berkman does a wonderful job of portraying these players, the coach and others as the team prepares for the 2018 Winter Olympics, in which they had to prove they would be competitive in order to receive the spot in the tournament that is given to the host nation. This included games in the United States against high school and college teams in which the team grew closer, both in terms of chemistry and scores on the ice.
Then, two weeks before the start of the Olympics, with a berth in the tourney secured, the government of both North and South Korea along with the International Olympic Committee, announced that players from North Korea would also be joining the women’s hockey team and they would play as a Unified Korea team. This led to even more confusion and frustration for the players who have already trained and played together. For veterans like Shin, this meant they would now have to acclimate to new players twice, having already accepted the “imports” like Griffin, Im and Brandt. They somehow made it work and even though the team did not win a match during the Games, they were the main story of the Olympics with the support they drew from all Koreans and the emotions they left both on the ice and through their interactions with the fans. Berkman shines in this portion of the book, making the reader feel like he or she is right there with the team, not only on the ice during the games, but also when they are receiving all the support and adulation from the Korean fans. At times, it may make readers get emotional themselves.
This book was just as good as was the story of the Unified team. Any reader who likes hockey, especially Olympic hockey, will need to read this book. One will feel quite inspired after reading the adventures of these young women.
I wish to thank Hanover Square Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This review will be a little different for two reasons. One, it is the first memoir I have read about running. Second, I am trying out a new tablet with a keyboard so (hopefully) I will be able to post without having to wait for when I am at a computer. This was a very good memoir - here is my review of “Life Is a Marathon.”
“Life Is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance” by Mark Fitzgerald
Running, memoir, amateur
Publish: March 26, 2019
Length: 288 pages
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Becoming a world-class marathon runner takes a lot of sacrifice, dedication and love for the sport. The same qualities are present in people who support family members with mental health issues. Mark Fitzgerald, who has written several running books, shares his life experiences in both of these topics in this compelling memoir.
The most striking feature about the book is the ending of each chapter. Fitzgerald will make a personal discovery on how the experiences he shared in the chapter help him realize a new realization about what that meant to him in the bigger picture of life. Whether it was him assisting a woman in the last few miles of a marathon to help her finish at the sacrifice of his own time or how he feels when he has to call authorities after his wife Nataka attacks him yet again due to her bipolar condition, his realization of what he has discovered is always touching and will make a reader pause to consider.
Each chapter is filled with good detail about what Fitzgerald is experiencing and what is most telling and sets this one apart from many sports memoirs is the emotion that will be felt by the reader. Whether it is the terrifying moments when his wife is attacking him with a knife, the sadness he feels when she is yet again involuntarily hospitalized, the agony of an injury during a race or the elation at winning or beating personal bests, this book is one that tugs at the heart in every imaginable way.
Runners and non-runners alike will want to read this one as it covers a wide range of topics and emotions. Many of the stories will be ones that readers can relate to, and even if not, they will be enjoyed.
I wish to thank Da Capo Lifelong Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.