In the Ballpark: Ten New Titles Present Views from the Mound

Alou, Felipe & Peter Kerasotis. Alou: My Baseball Journey. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9781496201522. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496207937. SPORTS

Cowritten with journalist Kerasotis, this book provides a harrowing look into the risks and prejudice Alou (b. 1935) faced during his baseball career. It begins with Alou’s childhood in the Dominican Republic where he dreamed of becoming a doctor. Everything changed when he stood in for an injured player at the 1955 Pan American Games and was soon offered $200 to play baseball in America. Alou not only had to deal with racial discrimination but also needed to learn English, which he did by watching TV and reading newspapers. He broke into the majors in 1958 with the San Francisco Giants. Eventually, he would become manager of the Montreal Expos in 1992; the first Dominican manager in the league. Overall, Alou is open about his past, including losing his 16-year-old son and managing during the steroid era. There is wonderful description of game action that does not take away from the personal stories. Includes a forward by Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. VERDICT The authors give a full picture of Alou’s arduous and, at times, lonely experience in MLB. Highly recommended for public libraries where baseball is followed, particularly for those who serve Latin American communities.—Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY

redstarCarleton, Russell A. The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking. Triumph. Apr. 2018. 368p. illus. ISBN 9781629375441. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781641250139. SPORTS

A “shift” in baseball refers to a defensive realignment in which players deviate from their standard positions based on a hitter’s percentage-proven tendencies. Here, clinical psychologist Carleton presents a further move in our perception of the game by balancing analytics-heavy sabermetrics—popularized by Michael Lewis’s Moneyball—and the idea that baseball is purely a numbers game with psychological concepts such as thought, culture, ritual, and language. The result is a holistic consideration as well as a necessary bridge between baseball purists and those obsessed with data. This data-heavy book explains concepts such as on-base percentage (OBP), wins above replacement (WAR), expected run tables, and hidden stats. Yet the telling is contextualized and brought to life with a bright mix of personality and humor, creating a fun read. ­VERDICT Carleton’s refreshingly insightful, witty, and deceptively breezy exploration details the false sense of security that statistical methodology can offer. By highlighting the “human” aspects of the sport, Carleton succeeds in writing a “love poem (with decimal points)” that belongs on the shelf of every baseball fan.—Benjamin ­Malczewski, ­Toledo Lucas Cty. P.L.

Castro, Tony. Gehrig and the Babe: The Friendship and the Feud. Triumph. Apr. 2018. 304p. bibliog. ISBN 9781629372518. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781641250047. SPORTS

Journalist and sportswriter Castro (DiMag & Mick) looks at two of the most popular legends of baseball: Lou Gehrig (1903–41) and Babe Ruth (1895–1948). They were synonymous during the creation of the original Yankees dynasty, and many assume that they were friends both on and off the field. That may have been the case early on, but their drastically different personalities caused the relationship to deteriorate. In his latest work, Castro details the background of each man, including their upbringing and major influences in adulthood. The individual accounts of Gehrig and Ruth are compelling enough on their own; weaving them makes the successes more exciting and the tragedies more potent. VERDICT A number of facts and elements of the story are repeated more than necessary, so the flow of the narrative sometimes feels disorganized. Still, this remains an intriguing read for baseball history buffs. Babe Ruth’s early career off-field debauchery is not described explicitly but may make this title inappropriate for adolescent readers.—Matt Schirano, Univ. of Bridgeport Lib., CT

Guidry, Ron & Andrew Beaton. Gator: My Life in Pinstripes. Crown. Mar. 2018. 240p. index. ISBN 9780451499301. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451499325. SPORTS

Guidry’s first book since his 1983 eponymous memoir, coauthored with sports writer Beaton, offers an exploration of his life on and off the baseball field, including an inside look at the sport’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees. A Louisiana native who grew up idolizing the iconic players on the Yankees, Guidry (nicknamed Gator) spent his entire career (1975–88) with the organization. During this time, he became an all-star pitcher, accumulated numerous awards, and eventually became a pitching coach for the organization. This volume recounts his two World Series championship seasons (1977, 1978), his historic 18 strikeout game, as well as his early years in the game. Attention is also given to his relationships with Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and others; the culture of the organization; and Guidry’s perspective on the evolution of baseball. VERDICT A worthy contribution to the many works by and about former New York Yankees. Baseball and sports lovers will enjoy this page-turning memoir.—David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC

Hernandez, Keith. I’m Keith Hernandez. Little, Brown. May 2018. 352p. illus. ISBN 9780316395731. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316395762. SPORTS

Hernandez (coauthor, If at First) was a two-time World Series champion and a ten-time Gold Glove first baseman. In this memoir, he honestly explores his career from the minor leagues to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970s and the New York Mets in the 1980s. Hernandez does not shy away from his transgressions—including experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a young ballplayer—and honest opinions. He shares details of the trying relationship with his persistent father and the pressures of making it to the Major Leagues. His time as a TV broadcaster for the Mets provides perspective; how he sees the game now versus when he was a player. Today, Hernandez describes himself as a dinosaur who believes the game is too focused on home runs and strikeouts and not enough on the fundamentals. The book is not without faults, however; the prose is riddled with incoherent tangents. But anyone who has seen a Mets broadcast in recent years knows that this is exactly who Hernandez is. VERDICT Hernandez’s unique analysis of the immense pressure to succeed in an unforgiving game will be well received.— Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY

Lockwood, Skip. Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer. Sports: Skyhorse. Mar. 2018. 248p. index. ISBN 9781683581758. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683581765. SPORTS

For most, being a professional baseball player is just a dream; for Lockwood (b. 1946), that dream turned into a reality. This memoir shares the author’s personal perspective of his adventures in Major League Baseball. Starting off as a hitter, he eventually became a successful closer from 1965 to 1980 on teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, and Boston Red Sox. Lockwood takes readers directly onto the field, vividly capturing what it was like to pitch in the majors during the mid-20th century. His stories are not legendary but will hold dear to the hearts of baseball fans who have or had dreams of being a pitcher. It will interest all with a deep love of the sport, who have imagined what it feels like to be in that moment. His baseball journeys also provide insight into legendary players such as Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, and more. Though he was never an elite superstar, Lockwood’s story will resonate with baseball hopefuls. VERDICT Casual baseball fans young and old will greatly enjoy this book.—Gus Palas, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL

Rapp, David. Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America. Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2018. 336p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780226415048. $27.50. SPORTS

Most sports fans know that the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship was that franchise’s first since 1908. Significantly fewer know about the 1906–10 Cubs dynasty that captured the previous championships, or its three most famous players: Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance. Here, former Congressional ­Quarterly editor Rapp seeks to amend this by telling the stories of how three remarkable Hall of Famers contributed to America’s enthusiastic embrace of baseball as its national pastime at a time when the game was on the verge of degenerate ­collapse. The title comes from a throwaway verse in a New York newspaper that eventually came to be known as “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” arguably the second most famous poem ever written about baseball (after “Casey at the Bat”). Significantly, Rapp connects these baseball stories to larger cultural themes such as social and economic class, the New York–Chicago rivalry, and the emerging media technologies during this period. VERDICT Highly recommended for baseball fans and those interested in early 20th-century American history.—Brian ­Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY

redstarRoberts, Randy & Johnny Smith. A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle. Basic: Perseus. Mar. 2018. 304p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465094424. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780465094431. SPORTS

During the 1950s, it was a baseball player from a tiny Oklahoma hamlet who transcended America’s largest metropolis. In their second collaboration after Blood Brothers, coauthors Roberts (history, ­Purdue Univ.) and Smith (history, Georgia Inst. of Technology) explore Mickey Mantle’s (1931–95) Triple Crown season of 1956, which ensured Mantle’s spot in the ­Parthenon of Yankee greats. This is more than a sports book filled with accolades, as Roberts and Smith use their historical training to frame how Mantle fits within the transformation of the American cities and the rise of mass marketing during the 1950s. This cultural context adds deeper understanding to the myths surrounding the sports star. Further, the authors show the dark undertows of the myth by investigating Mantle’s personal choices. But those demons do not overshadow his historic season. Also highlighted are Mantle’s competitors for the Triple Crown Al Kaline and Ted Williams, along with the Yankees redemptive victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of sports, Americana, and those seeking an informative historical read.—Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio

Tewksbury, Bob & Scott Miller. Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball. Da Capo: Perseus. Mar. 2018. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780738233789. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780738234939. SPORTS

Former journeyman pitcher Tewksbury is among the pioneers of professional sports mental conditioning; a field that was in its nascent stages when he retired after a successful MLB career in 1998 and pursued a graduate degree in sports psychology. Mental performance counseling was barely considered by most professional sports teams in the 2000s; now 22 of the 30 MLB teams employ a mental performance coach, and players such as Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs and Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians credit their success to such guides. Tewksbury’s first book, coauthored with sportswriter Miller, discusses his work with these players in a narrative poised both as an overview of Tewksbury’s professional life and as a self-help book with personal recommendations. The book is most compelling as a memoir, providing insight into how the field has grown, along with how it has been part of some of the greatest events in the game. VERDICT While not quite practical enough for self-help, readers interested in how professional athletes mentally prepare for big (and little) games will enjoy the stories shared.—Brett Rohlwing, Milwaukee P.L.

redstarWestcott, Rich. Biz Mackey, a Giant Behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher. Temple Univ. Feb. 2018. 160p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439915516. $27.50. SPORTS

Few baseball fans will recognize the name of Biz Mackey (1897–1965), and fewer still know he is enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame. However, according to his teammates, he was one of the greatest catchers. Mackey toiled (and managed) for more than 20 years in the Negro League and played on barnstorming tours, most notably in Japan. Westcott (Shibe Park-Connie Mack Stadium) captures Mackey’s role in baseball history in this concise biography. To tell Mackey’s story, the author relies on teammates and contemporary newspapers, with a special focus on Mackey as a tutor to catchers such as Roy ­Campanella. ­Westcott captures Mackey’s legacy behind the plate in addition to being a career .300+ hitter. In a chapter on Americans in Japan in 1927, he attributes the growth of baseball’s popularity there to Mackey and other players. His final chapter on Mackey’s and other African Americans’ induction into the Hall of Fame is a fitting conclusion. VERDICT An excellent addition to works on the history of baseball.—Boyd Childress, formerly with Auburn Univ. Libs., AL

This article was published in Library Journal's April 1, 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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