maandag 24 juni 2013

Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodger Dugout: Review

Carl Erskine’s ‘Tales from the Dodgers Dugout’ is exactly what the title promises us. Erskine’s tales are, more often than not, less than a page long so you can read some of the many put the book away for a while. On the other hand, the 230 pages can all be read on a rainy day. The short impressions, stories are written in an easy way and when you finish one, you want to read the next one.

One of the fun things is that Oisk doesn’t stop with the stories when his active career ended. He recalls meetings of old-timers games as well. I learned about statistics and players I never knew. Which is always nice! I liked this collection of personal observations by one of the Dodgers’ legendary pitchers.
There are so many fun stories, but it’s not easy finding that story you liked because there is no index, so that’s about the only negative point. A final positive point, at least in this copy, is Erskine's autograph on the title page.

zaterdag 22 juni 2013

Miracle Men: Review

Miracle Men by Josh Suchon... It took me some time to decide if I wanted to read this or not. Suchon is a big A's fan, as a kid he cried when the Dodgers won the world series in 1988, he's been a beat writer for the Giants and has written a book about Barry Bonds. But I really liked him on 790 KABC Dodger Talk. Most Dodger home evening games are over just when I go to work, so I listened to quite some of the post game shows. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
The cover of the book is awful! It has too many fonts and pictures and color. Looks like a 90's webpage (those with animated gif's) or was made with a'Fun with Fonts' computer program. But I learned not to judge a book by it's cover.
The title is a bit generic: Miracle Men! They should have used a term out of Scully's call during Game 1 of the World Series. Something like: Impossible Men or the 1988 Improbable Dodgers.
My last complaint: someone should have proof read this thing. There are quite some weird sentences in the book. Now for the good stuff...
The foreword is by Orel Hershiser. The Bulldog gets a special treatment in this book. Every chapter chronicles some of the important games of one month. Chapters about Hershiser's streak alternate those chapters. Besides an out by out description of his climb to 59 scoreless innings we get a cliffs notes version of Orel's autobiography 'Out of the Blue'.
As for the 'regular' chapters, rather than just summing up some important plays and games, every chapter gives us some background of one or two of the players. Read about Belrcher's yoyo-like career, why Guerrero was traded for Tudor and much more. For me the highlight of the book is the 36 page chapter about game 1 of the World Series. Goosebumps!
It's a great book about a rag tag bunch with some big names and some lesser ones, but everybody contributed that year.
If you want to (re)live that improbable season and learn some forgotten or never known facts about players and games, pick this one up and you'll agree with Lasorda and say: "what a fucking team!"

donderdag 13 juni 2013

Gil Hodges: Review

Gil Hodges' biography by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary tells us about the guy born in Indiana, son of a miner. A guy who grew up playing sports and wanted to play basketball and later in his life be a basketball coach. He got famous in another sport: baseball. Not only as a player of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, but also as the coach of the World Series winning 'Miracle' Mets.
I found it hard to get into the book at first because the writers use a lot of people to describe Gil as he was in his childhood and high school years. Many people's names I could care less about are printed and there is too much 'recalls', 'remembers', 'tells us', 'according to'.
But after a few chapters it gets better and it's fun to read about that silent, hard working guy with the big hands. How everybody in Brooklyn learned to love him and even during his slumps cheered him. Also interesting is to read about the move to LA and the years they played in the Coliseum.
Hodges' last few playing years with the Mets and his first managerial job with the Senators is a bit sad. It's obvious he had problems with players who didn't give it 100% like he did when he played. It's interesting as well because that quiet, hard working and obeying player turned into a coach who would be ejected more than once.
The march to fame of the Miracle Mets is great to read. The World Series win in 1969 was the crown of a great life in baseball. I agree with the writers: it's weird Hodges has never become a Hall of Famer. Maybe 2014 is his year? I certainly hope so!

maandag 10 juni 2013

Collecting the Dodgers: Baseball Cards

One of baseball’s surest ‘can’t catch ‘em all’ collections is baseball cards. Nowadays all kinds of card sets from numerous brands flood the market. Some of them are okay, some of them really awesome with autographs, pieces of game used bats or even pieces of jerseys. But baseball cards have been around for nearly as long as the game itself. You got them with cigarettes, candy, gum or even meat! Since baseball cards are small and flat they're great to collect, but where to begin and where to end?
First of all I only wanted older Dodgers cards, so that made it easier, but not a whole lot. Then I decided I wanted a set from one brand and I always had a weak spot for Bowman. I think it’s the name… and I like gum. The Bowman card series ran from 1939 to 1941 (Play Ball sets) and from 1948-1955. In 1956 Topps bought out Bowman. That narrowed it down considerably! Still, if I wanted to collect only Dodger players from 1948 to 1955, I’d be spending lots of time and money on Ebay. One Dodger player then! I decided to go with Roy Campanella only. Campy has been one of my favorite Dodgers ever, so the choice wasn’t very hard. The fun in collecting baseball cards is that everybody can do it. There are loose cards that don’t cost a lot and even graded cards won’t cost you an arm and a leg when you buy lower graded ones.
Now I knew what I wanted: Campanella Bowman cards and since his rookie card came out in 1949 there would only be seven cards to collect. That seemed to me as a pretty narrowed down set. I got lucky and scored my first three cards in one deal. The 1950, 1952 and 1953 cards. All graded by PSA and all in EX-MT (which is a 6 in grades) condition. I'll talk about the cards later on.
Since all the cards were PSA graded I decided on another limiting factor. I would get this set complete with only PSA cards in EX-MT condition or higher. I visited the PSA site and listed my cards. 'Would you like to begin a set?' was one of the questions that popped up. Sure, I thought. I clicked on a set option that said: Campanella Basic Set. Yes, the Bowman cards were there but... so were four Topps cards. This was a point where I could easily have decided to go over my limit and collect the set including the cards by Topps, I did not. I was stong! Just the Bowman's!
I got me a 1954 Campy in the next deal and right about that time I realized I had kind of broken one of my rules: 'collect what you think is worthy to collect'. Sure, I think these cards are worth it, but some of them just aren't great visually.
A few weeks later I saw a Campanella rookie card (the Bowman card is the only recognized rookie card of the legendary Brooklyn Dodger catcher) for way to much money, but I decided to do a 'best offer' and to my amazement got the card. It's a GAI rated card and I'm not too sure about GAI so at the time I write this it's on it's way to PSA for a crossover. I gave them carte blanche so I might get a lower rated card back, but I got a pretty good feeling about it. The corners are crisp, the image is pretty much centered. So, fingers crossed.
Now, about the images... I still have to get the '51 and '55 card, but I know what they look like. I like the simplicity of the rookie card. Campy looks a bit like 'I made it to the bigs'. There is no 'B' on his cap. Just plain old (or young, at that time) Campanella. The 1950 card is perhaps my favorite one. You see the team name on his jersey and he smiles. The only other card in this series he smiles on is the last one from 1955.
In 1951 they went with an action shot. I don't think the guy on the card looks like Campanella, but this time his name is on the front of the card, so I think it's him after all. It's a bit of a sad card. Look in the background... there is only one spectator.

The 1952 card is Campy at bat, he looks very serious and to my surprise, looks like Babe Ruth on his 1933 Goudey card. Maybe every batter looks like that after a hit (or was it a miss?).
The 1953 card is a photograph, a serious looking Campy, again. I like the size of the card.
The 1954 is my least favorite, it's almost like he's caught and is now posing for a police photo.
The last Bowman card is the 1955 one. Campy looks happy, like he knows he's gonna win the World Series, finally! I like the image but the tv border is something I could do without.
All in all a very diverse set, in size and in depiction.

dinsdag 4 juni 2013

Dodgers Past & Present: Review

Dodgers Past & Present is a book by Steven Travers. It caught my eye in the first place because of it's slimness. At only 144 pages it seems like an easy way to get the fan's bucks but once you open it up Dodger history comes alive, mostly in the way of big color and black&white photos, but also because of the accompanying text. Photos of the Brooklyn Atlantics, Superbas and Robins, World Series program covers, the Boys of Summer in action, Zach Wheat, Ebbets, LA Coliseum and Dodger Stadium. You name it, it's there. A word of caution, since this book was published in 2009, there is a photograph of Frank McCourt in it as well. The chapters are Logically arranged. Dodger rivalries, managers, outfielders, ballparks, to name a few. It makes the reading and viewing very pleasant. What I like most about this book is it's size. It's an 11.2 inch high hard cover that asks to be leafed through again and again. If only it had a bit more than 144 pages.