Sunday, April 20, 2014

Baseball, Baseball, Baseball, Indy 500 and Happy Easter

When it comes to sports, I’m a somewhat typical girl – I don’t really care that much for it. (Sorry for the gender hypothesis.) I can watch the various types of sporting events and sometimes even get interested in it. But, I’m not what you would call a big diehard fan that has to watch every game. Well, maybe that not completely true. I do enjoy football and have been known to follow some teams pretty close.

Anyway, I’m getting away from the topic at hand – baseball and Indy racing. These are two sports that strike fun and pride in many a heart. Fans follow the players and racers with much enthusiasm. Today I have four books I want to tell you about that every sports fan should have in their library. I found the historical aspects of the books quite intriguing.

St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St. Martin’s Press) are gearing up for the baseball season with three intriguing books dealing with major players and how the game is played. In addition, Thomas Dune Books is offering a fascinating look at a dark day in Indy racing history. Let’s start with that.

Black Noon coverThe 48th running of the Indianapolis 500 took place 50 years ago on Memorial Day weekend, 1964. It would prove not to be a celebration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but rather, the darkest day in the event’s history.

A.J. Foyt was the winner of the race that day, but as acclaimed writer Art Garner details in his terrific narrative history of the events of May 30, 1064, BLACK NOON: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500, tragedy was the tone set early in the race and remained throughout.

A fiery, seven-car crash, along the straight-away on the second lap of the race took the lives of racers Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. The result was that for the first time in the nearly-half century of the race, the Indy 500 was stopped. It was obvious to all that day that this crash was truly horrendous. When the announcement came from the track announcing that Sachs had died in the crash, it inspired an impromptu on-air eulogy from radio announcer Sid Collins. When MacDonald died a few hours later from the terrible burns he suffered, the true magnitude of the day was forever etched in the minds of all in attendance.

BLACK NOON brings readers behind the scenes of the events leading up to that fateful day. Informed by extensive interviews including six of the seven surviving racers, Garner brings to life the greatest names in racing – A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, and Bobby Unser. Readers will learn of the car designs and manufacturers, the race strategy of the teams, and the psyche of the men who lived for a need for speed. MacDonald, for instance, drove a Mickey Thompson designed rear-engine car that other drivers were leery of getting behind the wheel.

The conclusion of the tragic race saw sweeping reforms to all of racing and Indy in particular. In a sport where the specter of death looms on every curve there really is no way to make the race completely free of risk. The events of May 30, 1064, cast a spotlight on how suddenly the tragic side of auto racing can rear its ugly head. 

Unique aspects of the 1964 Indianapolis 500
· Winner A.J. Foyt was the last driver to win Indy in a front-engined roadster.
· Foyt went the entire race without once changing tires.
· The 1964 race was the first one shown live, flag-to-flag, on closed circuit TV in theatres around the U.S.
· Since 1965 all Indy race cars are rear-engined formula-style cars.
· The 1964 Indy 500 was the last race before the switch from gasoline to methanol.

BLACK NOON: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500
By Art Garner
On Sale: May 6, 2014
Price: $27.99
Pages: 352 plus 8-pages black and white photo insert
ISBN: 978-1250017772

Brooks coverFrom 1955-1977, opponents of the Baltimore Orioles knew that they were at the plate, the crack of the bat and a sharp hit ball down the third baseline, invariably meant … an out. Many a stand-up double died in the vacuum glove and pinpoint arm of third baseman and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.

In an era of baseball heroes that truly could be looked up to with respect, Brooks Robinson stood out among the crowd. Doug Wilson, a member of the Society for Baseball Research (SABR), and lifelong fanatic of the game, returns to baseball’s Golden Era to pen what is truly the first complete biography of the Orioles quiet gentleman superstar in BROOKS: The Biography of Brooks Robinson.

Robinson grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, to a family that instilled a sense of hard work and appreciative accomplishment in him. From the beginning of his career he never took anything for granted and was devoted to improving every facet of his game. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and played his entire 23 year career with the Orioles retiring as a Baltimore legend. In this day and age of free agency and salary-dump trades, that achievement alone by Robinson may never be seen again. While this loyalty is unheard of today there are so many other accomplishments as well that stand out in one of the great careers in MLB history.

BROOKS covers how the start of Robinson’s illustrious career aligned simultaneously with the birth of a franchise that would become a model of greatness in its own right. Having moved from St. Louis in 1954, the Orioles were in need of identify. When the following season saw them select a young kid from Arkansas in the player draft hopes were high he could become a building block for the franchise. What a building block he became. More than two decades later and 2 world championships (coupled with 18 All Star game appearances, 16 straight Gold Gloves, a league, World Series and All Star MVP award, and the friendly face of a franchise), it’s safe to say the Orioles were well rewarded for picking Robinson.

BROOKS takes readers back to an era when player’s salaries were hardly astronomical, often putting many players in the position of having a second job in the off season. Wilson also takes into account the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, the dawn of free agency, and labor unrest that would change the game and the perception of the fans. Through it all, though, Brooks Robinson remained a model of professional decorum and a player all fans could look up to.

Wilson’s efforts, through the life and career of Brooks Robinson, reminds up there is a right way for a man to go about his job both in the public eye and behind the scenes. Playing the game the right way and honoring what it means to wear a major league team’s uniform has been the hallmark of the life and career of one of the game’s greatest players and greatest gentlemen: Brooks Robinson.

BROOKS: The Biography of Brooks Robinson
By Doug Wilson
On Sale: March 4, 2014
Price: $26.99
Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-1250033048
A Thomas Dunne Book

Throwback coverTHROWBACK is an inside look at big-league baseball and how the game is actually played – as opposed to how we think it’s played – from the perspective of three-time All Star major league catcher Jason Kendall.

Written with the Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge, whose website, ‘Judging the Royals,’ has an enormous following, the book shows baseball fans what to look for when they watch a game. In talking with Jason Kendall, Judge discovered that despite a fan most of his life, and covering the game for many years, there are enormous differences in how ballplayers see the game from sportswriters and fans.

Kendall and Judge take the reader through all the details the manager and his coaching staff have to pay attention to including game preparation for pitchers, catchers, infielders, and outfielders. They discuss the strategy of calling pitches, advancing the runner, how hitters and runners have to prepare and focus.

The language of the game vividly comes to life for the reader. Most fans know that coming after a hitter means the pitcher is aggressively throwing fastballs to the batter, but what does squeezing refer to when players say it? Station to station is easy – advancing a base runner one base at a time, but what do the players mean when they say getting big? And then there’s the non-verbal side of the game the players and coaches use like their own foreign language. All the answers and inside tips to this secret signage are all told with great humor, care and respect for the game by the authors.

THROWBACK is loaded with all the insider signs and lingo of the game, as told by one of the straightest straight shooters to play in the majors. After devouring this book you will feel like a major leaguer, even if you might never get the bat head around on a big league curve ball. This is one of the more unique and fun baseball books to come along in ages and fans of all levels of the game will love every page.

THROWBACK: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game is Really Played
By Jason Kendall and Lee Judge
On Sale: May 13, 2014
Price: $25.99
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1250031839
A St. Martin’s Press Book

Stars and Strikes coverWhen our nation celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976, it marked a year in which the United States hadn’t been involved in an active war for over 12 years, the radio airways saw an overflow of songs dedicated mostly to carnal pleasures, TV comedies started getting a little more daring, clothes became more outrageous with disco on the horizon, and baseball saw a re-birth like it hadn’t experienced in decades. Award-winning journalist and esteemed pop culture chronicler Dan Epstein takes the reader back in time to an amazing year of baseball – amazingly wonderful and amazing crazy – in STARS AND STRIKES: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76.

By the 1976 season, baseball was beginning to be defined by big afros and long hair, by cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums that truly did look exactly alike, and by more than one team donning some of the most hideous looking uniforms the game has ever witnessed. Oh, and Astroturf, way too much Astroturf. The ’76 season also saw a clash between the last feel-good moments and outrageous personalities of the game as well as the looming labor angst and the full onset of wide open free agency. Change had subtly been taking place, but by the end of that 1976 season much of the game’s innocence would be lost forever and baseball would never be the same again.

Each chapter of STARS AND STRIKES is titled for a famous song of that year and the baseball exploits covered therein truly follows the theme of the songs themselves. Along with baseball coverage, Epstein also highlights the events of the world around the game of baseball: Olympic exploits, a new President signaling the end of the Watergate era, busing riots, the trial of heiress Patty Hearst, the tragic Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Philadelphia, and so many more.

STARS AND STRIKES: Baseball and American in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76
By Dan Epstein
On Sale: April 29, 2014
Price: $ 28.99
Pages: 400 plus an 8-page black and white photo insert
ISBN: 978-1250034380
A Thomas Dunne Book
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you are having a safe and joyous holiday (whether you celebrate Easter or not). If you’re a sports fan, I hope these books grab your attention. If you’re not a sports fan, maybe the history aspect will draw you in. Do you think baseball (and sports in general) has changed for the better or worse?


  1. Mason - What a great idea, to have a sports-themed post. I'm not the most sports-obsessed person, but there are a lot of people who do love sports. It's good to know these books are there. Happy Easter to you!

    1. Margot, I'm not a big fan of sports either. The history aspect, especially in DARK NOON, was interesting. Happy Easter to you too.

  2. I don't do sports either, Masy! Wishing you relaxed and nice Easter

  3. Every sport has is tragedy and its triumph.
    Have a great Easter, Mason.

    1. Alex, so true about the tragedy and triumphs. Wishing you a great Easter too.

  4. I am not the least bit interested in most sports, either, although I occasionally enjoy watching basketball, since I used to play. Thanks for sharing the stories behind the sports.

    And thanks for visiting my blog. Enjoy your week.

    1. Laurel-Rain, I didn't know you played basketball, how neat. Thanks for stopping back and have a great week.

  5. I'm not a big sports fan, but I love books about sports. This is a great lineup to add to my TBR list. I can't get into Nascar races, but I became a diehard Indy 500 fan during the years I live lived in Indiana although I've never seen the race live.

  6. Thank you so much for your lovely comments today! HAPPY HAPPY EASTER!! We just adore you! Will have to share this post with my husband who is a HUGE sports fan! I am too but not as big of one as he is!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.