A Book Review: Who’s on First?

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“Who’s on first. What’s on second. I Don’t Know’s on third.” This classic comedy routine by Golden Age comedians, Abbott and Costello has been illustrated by artist John Martz in a book. This sketch is well known and loved by baseball fans alike and I make no exception for myself. What got me excited about this book was reading it to my five year old son, who’s just starting to take an interest in learning more about baseball. We play catch and hit balls fairly often and he’s really taking a shine to doing that. Continue reading

Willie Mays Aikens: Hard Living, Hard Times and Hard-Cover Books

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Willie Mays Aikens once had a promising major league baseball career that came to a premature end in 1985 because of his personal demons. Although his problems robbed him of his career and led to serving a 14-year prison sentence, he pushed through and is finally back on track after a detour that lasted more than two decades.

Aikens grew up in difficult circumstances in South Carolina. He attended South Carolina State University, but when the school dropped its baseball program after his freshman year, he wound up playing semi-pro ball. His talent saw him through, and in 1975 the California Angels made him the second overall selection in that year’s draft.

A left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing first baseman, Aikens made his MLB debut in 1977 and went on to have an eight-year major league career with the Angels, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. He hit a combined .271 in 774 career games with 110 home runs and 415 RBI. His best season came in 1983, when he hit .302 with 23 home runs and 72 RBI for the Royals.

Aikens was also the star of the 1980 World Series, hitting .400 with four home runs in a six-game loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the great numbers, 1983 ended horribly for Aikens. Following the season, he and teammates Jerry Martin and Willie Wilson pled guilty to attempting to buy cocaine, and were sentenced to three months in prison. Continue reading

Another Sip of a Bitter Cup of Coffee

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In 2010, Douglas Gladstone wrote A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 974 Retirees a Curve (ISBN: 978-1-59571-512-8). It’s a book outlining the plight of former major league players who lack the service time to qualify for a pension. He brought immediate attention to a subject that has been swept under the proverbial rug for years. Some progress has finally been made and small temporary payments have been issued to some of the men detailed in his book.

The lack of true pensions for the short-term players is a subject Gladstone is still passionate about. He believes that MLB and the Players Association can do even more than the recent developments.

I had the opportunity for Gladstone to elaborate on how he came to the project and what he thinks about what has transpired since the publication of his book. Continue reading

Game Recommendation: iOOTP Baseball

If you are like me you are nothing more than a big, grown up kid, who still likes to play video games. Come on, don’t kid yourself, you know you do. But, as a grown adult, life has become busier and I have found it very difficult to fit video games into my life.

I was a big fan of the MLB The Show games for PS3, and still am, but almost two years ago I was blessed with my first child and my video game playing days have become obsolete. And it’s not as if I played a lot of games. I played MLB The Show and a few games on the Wii. No Call of Duty, Halo, or World of War Craft. But what little time I did have for video games before is now used to clean, feed, and simply rest my brain. I absolutely love my love now but I do miss playing my baseball video game.

It wasn’t simply pitching and hitting that I missed from the game but being able to manage a team like an owner. That was always my favorite part. Luckily, Out of the Park Baseball went out and made the perfect game for a guy like me and it is iOOTP Baseball. Continue reading

The Yankee Way: A Review of Pinstripe Empire

As a Red Sox fan I thought I had heard it all when it came to the glory of the New York Yankees and their 27 World Series titles. It’s a refrain frequently presented in a matter of fact tone to anyone with the audacity to challenge the place of the Yankees at the top of the baseball world. As it turns out there is a treasure trove of fascinating stories behind the successes (and occasional failures) of baseball’s preeminent franchise, and they have been marvelously captured by Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss (ISBN 978-1608194926), the most recent book by Marty Appel. Continue reading

Bruce Spitzer Brings Teddy Ballgame Back to Life

Ted Williams remains as much of a mythic figure in death as he was as a player. His stubborn personality and astonishing ability to hit a baseball made him an object of curiosity, admiration, and occasional scorn. This only grew in the wake of Williams’ death in 2002 when news leaked that he had been cryogenically frozen by two of his children; a shocking state of purgatory for such a legend. Author Bruce Spitzer has just released a new book, Extra Innings, which adds a new chapter and then some to the ongoing saga of Teddy Ballgame. Continue reading

The Juju Rules: A Review

The dictionary defines juju as “an object venerated superstitiously” and “the magical power attributed to such an object.” Despite the lack of scientific evidence, scores of baseball fans swear that they have successfully used juju to impact the performance of players and teams; from their favorite to their most hated. One of the foremost adherents of this practice is journalist and New York Yankee diehard fan Hart Seely, who has written The Juju Rules: Or How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company), one of the most pleasantly surprising baseball books I have read in some time. Continue reading