Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"THROUGH A BLUE LENS" and other Special Reads

Harvey Frommer on Sports
The Book Review

If you love a beautiful book, if you are a baseball fan, if you are a fan of prized archival photographs, if you have a special affection for the old Brooklyn Dodgers - if you are any of these "Through a Blue Lens" is just the book for you.
Sub-titled "The Brooklyn Dodgers Photographs of Barney Stein 1937-1957" by Dennis D'Agostino and Bonnie Crosby (Triumph Books, $27.95, 162 pages), the book is a real page turner. Ms. Crosby is the daughter of the late and great official photographer of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mr. D'Agostino is a highly respected author and sports public relations executive especially know to many for his sparkling stint at Madison Square Garden. The two make a terrific team serving up words from such bleeding Dodger blue types as Vin Scully, Johnny Podres, Ralph Branca) and images (nearly 200 taken over 21 seasons by Barney Stein.
The result is a fabulous book, re-living the world and time of the Brooklyn Dodgers. For browsing, for gift giving, for treasuring -- make this your next sports book purchase.

" Ted Williams At War" by Bill Nowlin (Rounder Books, $24.95, 352 pages) is a sterling look in words and pictures focused on not only a terrific ball player but an authentic American hero. The "Kid" is the only Hall of Famer who served in two wars. A flight instructor with the Marines in World War II, Williams flew 39 combat missions in the Korean War. Nowlin, the author of 15 books and Vice President of the Society for American Baseball Research, knows his stuff and struts it in page after page in this important tome. The prolific and energetic Nowlin interviewed more than 40 pilots who flew with the Splendid Splinter and more than 100 who knew Williams during his military service.

This August Cal Ripken, Jr. will be officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In anticipation of that event we have "Get in the Game" from the baseball legend and Donald T. Phillips (Gotham Books, $26.00, 247 pages). The major focus of the work are "eight elements of perseverance that make the difference" and that surely made the difference in Ripken's career as he honed in breaking the Lou Gehrig consecutive games played record and setting the new one at 2,632. If you are a Ripken fan, if you want some sage advice on getting into any game - this is the book for you.

From Thunder Bay Press comes two engrossing picture book: "Ballpark: Then and Now" by Eric Enders and "Chicago: Baseball in the City" by Derek Gentile. The former is a roundup of parks then and now in words and pictures; the latter focuses on the national pastime in the windy city.
Coming soon: "You're Still Away" by Robert Sullivan (Maple Street Press, $19.95) is a on the drawing board and coming to bookstores very soon. Father's Day? It is a delightful and ranging work about so many facets and thrills that the world of golf contains as seen by a man who is the editorial director of LIFE books and accepts the game for what it is, which is much more than a game. Go for it. Highly recommended for golfers and those who like a wonderful read.

BACKLIST: "Great Baseball Films" by Ron Edelman (Citadel Press) is still a page turner and still very relevant. If you are a movie buff and a baseball book lover - Edelman's effort is your cup of tea.


Coming in fall 2007 YANKEE CENTURY AND BEYOND - an updated and enhanced version of my book A YANKEE CENTURY. Look for it where all Yankee Books are sold.

The cover is the reprint for my A YANKEE CENTURY book new edition.

Monday, May 21, 2007


(An excerpt from the forthcoming book FIVE O’CLOCK LIGHTNING (Wiley)

It was rare for more than two days to pass when a Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig home run was not being described in detail in one of the New York newspaper’s sports pages. Daily pools were organized in the press box by the reporters covering the Yankees. Nine slips of paper, each one with a number signifying an inning, were deposited in a hat. Nine dollars were collected, and then the slips were picked out of the hat.
Home run, Ruth!
Bam 'em, Babe!
Home run, Gehrig!
Bust 'em, Lou!
The entire pot would be collected by the happy scribe who had the correct home run inning. There would be cheering and grumbling. And the game would start out all over again.
"I’d rather see Babe Ruth than Lou Gehrig in a tight place," Manager Dan Howley of the Browns said.

"Sometimes you can figure out what the Babe is going to do. But you can never tell about Gehrig. He is likely too hit any kind of ball to any field." There were the casual and professional observations from such as Howley and there were the pseudo scientific comments made by such as Austen Lake in the Boston Evening Transcript: "The Bambino does not wave it (his bat) as others do when addressing the pitcher. He flicks it with a switching motion, in his hands it becomes as responsive as a baton. . .. "His combined leg, shoulders, arms and wrists motion is almost 100 per cent efficient as far as it concerns getting weight behind the swing. Ruth’s bat on a missed strike usually fills a full circle and three- quarters of another. … "Ruth also has that famous "brown eye" which oculists say is unrivaled for sharpness of vision. . . . And lastly comes his co-ordination of eye, mind, and muscle, and action that is so synchronized as to be instant and accurate. " The stride of Gehrig was short, out of a stance that was like a man standing at attention. Using a compact, tight swing, holding the bat down near the knob, swinging with much force, his homers were line drives straight to the seats or out of the park. Early in that magic season of 1927, he attempted to adjust his swing to make it similar to Ruth’s. But he gave up on that saying: "I’m going back to just try and meet the ball. " Gehrig’s was more a business- like swing, much less fluid than that of the "Colossus of Clout." Ruth’s swing was graceful, corkscrew-like. Pulling power came into it from the Babe twisting his skinny ankles. His home runs generally took a longer time to get out and had more air under them, making for high rising home runs.

"I use a golfing swing, loose and easy with a slight upward movement," the Babe compared his approach to that of his home run twin in Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball. "Lou hits stiff-armed. Lou stands with his feet farther apart, and takes a comparatively short stride with his swing. I stand with my feet fairly close together, the right foot a little further in than the left, and take a long stride with the swing. Lou hits with his shoulders. I hit with my entire body coming around on the swing.

Swinging stiff arm, too, Lou usually hits a ball on a line. The hardest balls he hits are those which travel twenty or twenty-five feet above the ground and on a line to the outfield. Any time he lifts a ball into the air (a fly ball) he loses some of the power. The balls I hit most squarely and with most power are apt to go high into the air. My home runs, for the most part, are usually high flies that simply carry out of the park. That's because I take a loose swing with a slight upward angle.

"I’m paid to hit home runs," the Babe continued. "In a way that’s a handicap. I’ve got to swing from the heels with all the power in my body. Which isn’t a good batting style." The batting style of Ruth and Gehrig and the other Bombers was on display Memorial Day in Philadelphia. Connie Mack’s Athletics made a batch of money from that display in a doubleheader at 18-year-old Shibe Park, the major league’s first concrete-and-steel stadium. There was a morning game and a later game. Mack, always looking for the extra buck, charged separate admission prices for each game. The total attendance was 80,000.

Philly took the opener, 9-8. In that game chunky Walter Beall saw his only action of the year for the Yankees, one inning, pitching to four batters, giving up one run. The Yanks won the second game, 6-5, and the mighty Ruth, despite his claims that he did not have such a good batting style, swung with such gusto at a pitch that he ripped the horsehide cover off half of the baseball’s circumference.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


We have got your number if you are a number cruncher, a stat guy, a fan or the Yankees or just into baseball trivia.
Single digits, double digist, triple digits and on and on - the world of baseball is one that lives and dies with numbers.

So for your perusal and reading pleasure . . .

1,995 - Most career RBI''s, Lou Gehrig.

2010 ­ Expiration year of Derek Jeter's contract.

2,120 ­ Number of games Babe Ruth played for the Yankees.

2,130 - The number of consecutive games Lou Gehrig played in.

2,401 - Most games played in by a Yankee, Mickey Mantle, 1951-1968.

2,584 ­ Career hits, Reggie Jackson.

2,597 - The record number of career strikeouts by Reggie Jackson.

2,721 - The Yankee record number of hits recorded by Lou Gehrig.

3,654 ­ The number of home runs Yankees hit at old Yankee Stadium,1923-1973

$6,595.38 - The amount payable in 1927 in bi-weekly checks to Babe Ruth that added up to the record salary he earned of $70,000.

$18,000 - Cost of purchasing the franchise of Baltimore and transferring it to New York City.

$50,000 The New York Giants offered that unheard of amount to the Yankees for Yogi Berra.

64,519 - The number of people in attendance at Yankee Stadium in 1956 when Don Larsen pitched the Perfect Game.

$65,000 ­ Gillette and Ford paid this amount for the exclusive sponsorship rights to the first televised World Series shown only in New York City, 1947. Liebmann Brewery had offered $100,000 for the rights, but baseball Commissioner Chandler rejected the offer claiming it wouldn't be appropriate having the Series sponsored by the producer of an alcoholic beverage.

211,808 -The New York Highlanders attendance, 1903

2,561, 123 - Shea Stadium attendance for Yankees, 1974-75

3,451,542 - Hilltop Park attendance 1903-1912

6,220,031 -Polo Grounds attendance 1913-1922

$12,357.143 ­ Annual salary of Bernie Williams in 2001, more than the entire Division play-off opposition Oakland infield and two of its outfieders.

$12.6-million - Annual salary of Derek Jeter that began in 2001.

64,188,862 -Yankee Stadium attendance 1923-1973

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Keepers from Bison Books and other Reads


The hits keep coming from University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books - fine sports books given a new package and a new life. There is much to savor, to enjoy and to definitely keep in your sports bookshelf. All are a bit pricey for paperbacks, but they are nicely produced.

"Invisible Men" by Donn Rogosin ($24.95, 283 pages) originally published in 1983 is still relevant, perhaps more relevant than ever as it recounts in telling detail life in baseball's Negro Leagues."

"Paper Tiger" by Stanley Woodward originally published in 1963 ($17.95, 286 pages) is not as relevant as the Rogosin tome but if you are into the sporting scene as recalled by an old sportswriter and editor of the "New York Herald-Tribune" - this is a book for you.

"Players and Pretenders" by Charley Rosen ($18.95, 324 pages), originally published in 1981, is as its sub-title states about "the basketball team that couldn't shoot straight." If you are into college sports and a well told humorous narrative, pick up this book.

And finally from University of Nebraska Press comes a new title "Level Playing Fields" by Peter Morris ($24.95, 184 pages). This slim volume focuses on the family Murphy, groundskeepers and their unique contributions to the shaping of the national pastime.

"Professor Baseball" by Edwin Amenta (University of Chicago Press, $25.00, 231 pages) is all about the competitive and insular world of softball as played for real in New York City's Central Park. The title is a tip of the cap to the author's status as a real life prof.

From Dutton there is "The Baseball Economist" by J.C. Bradbury ($24.95, 336 pages) a book that gives Bill James a run for his money and all of us new awarenesses and insights into baseball treating as it does "the real game exposed" and looking at the game behind the game.

Recommended reading.
MOST NOTABLE: Beautifully produced, carefully crafted, priced right for the package one gets, this is the ultimate gift book for the golfer - - "CLASSIC SHOTS: THE GREATEST IMAGES FROM THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION: by Marty Parkes (National Geographic Books, $35.00, 345 pages). Pulled from the USGA's archive of more than half a million images - the range and style and substance of the images is something to savor.