A Few Book Recommendations for Baseball Fans

Sometimes I surprise myself by the predilections that I develop seemingly out of the mist. I have always fancied myself somewhat of a renaissance man who is interested in a wide range of subjects, which I generally consider a positive though I have noticed over the years that truly successful people seem to have tunnel vision and a laser focus on their vocation of choice. At any rate, this “variety is the spice of life” attitude spreads to the bookshelves in The Bachelor Palace as well, where one can find biographies of Founding Fathers alongside the Harry Potter series, books about agricultural science & history on the same shelf as Hemingway, and Shakespeare sharing space with The Hunger Games.

 

bballAt any rate I have…somewhat to my bewilderment…amassed quite a collection of baseball biographies. This is surprising to me because my feelings about baseball have been tepid at best for quite awhile, although as simple as it sounds and as trivial as it may seem to some I think the success thus far of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates has me on the verge of falling in deep like with our national pastime once again. However, I also think it wise to look a bit deeper because you see my bookshelves are not filled with recent biographies about contemporary players like Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, or RA Dickey. Cheating scandals & rampant drug use still cause me to be a bit jaded about the modern game of baseball. Instead what you’ll find lining the walls of The Bachelor Palace are tomes about hallowed names of yesteryear…Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Maris, Musial.

If I could hope in the ol’ DeLorean and go back in time I think one of the places I might like to visit would be the world of baseball during its golden age. I’d like to catch some games at places like Ebbets Field or The Polo Grounds, see teams like The Gashouse Gang & The Whiz Kids, and watch Hall of Famers like Dizzy Dean, Pie Traynor, & Pee Wee Reese. Why?? That’s an excellent question that I may address more in depth at some other time. For now it will suffice to say that our collective bromance with this bygone era and the quintessential American game that helped define it seems eternal and that’s okay with me.

Which is all a longwinded precursor to me endorsing three excellent baseball biographies that I have read in years past and that are likely to be enjoyed by any baseball fan. There will be sequels on this particular topic, but I think it best to just whet your appetite right now with a few recommendations:

 

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero

Unfortunately one of the most beloved Pittsburgh Pirates of all time died in a tragic plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 when I was just 2 months old. However, growing up as a Pirates fan and living just a couple of hours from Pittsburgh means that I have heard a lot about Roberto Clemente my entire life. The Pirates organization has done an excellent job of keeping his memory alive over the past 40 years and recognizing what a truly special talent he was. However, one need not be a Pirates fan to enjoy this first-rate biography about Clemente written by David rcMaraniss, whose biography about Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi called When Pride Still Mattered is still one of the best books of any genre I have ever read. That combined with my admiration for what I’d always heard about Clemente were what prompted me to purchase this book about 5 years ago. This is a well written & engrossing story that is reverent & respectful yet honest about its subject. Clemente was somewhat neurotic & sensitive and felt the weight of being a black latino superstar. He was often treated shabbily by the press but could give as good as he got. In other words Clemente was a flawed human being just like the rest of us. That being said, his nobility & kindness shines through as well. And the author doesn’t shortchange the baseball aspect of things. I sometimes feel as though Roberto Clemente is overlooked in discussions about the greats of the game, with only long time Pirates fans willing to reserve for him his proper place among the baseball immortals. The fact is that not only should Clemente rank right up there with the best that ever played game, but he could have been even better if not for various physical ailments that plagued him throughout life. This is a book that should be read not only by anyone who calls themselves a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, but also by everyone who loves the game of baseball.

 

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

When I was in college I had the opportunity to take a class about sports movies. Yes that really is a thing…and it was gehrigawesome. We watched Knute Rocke: All American (with future President Ronald Reagan as The Gipper), The Natural, and Rocky…among others. But I think my favorite may have been Pride of the Yankees starring Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. Most people know two things about Gehrig. They know that he was baseball’s “Iron Man”, having played in 2130 consecutive games between 1925 & 1939 (a record that stood for 56 years until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995), and they know that he died at age 37 from the debilitating muscle disease that now bears his name. But there is so much more to Gehrig and this book tells the story well. Many who have seen Pride of the Yankees may attribute the perception we have of Gehrig as a soft spoken, humble, down-to-earth guy to Gary Cooper’s wide-eyed, aw shucks, boy-next-door portrayal, but what the reader of Luckiest Man begins to understand is that Cooper’s portrayal was an extremely accurate representation of who Gehrig truly was. That’s not to say that Gehrig was perfect. He was a timid momma’s boy that didn’t mesh all that well with outgoing & gregarious teammate Babe Ruth and was caught in the middle of a lifelong tug-of-war between his mother and his wife that many more…forceful…men might have put the kibosh on pretty quick. But hey…we all have our issues, right?? The best endorsement I can give this book is that I am a lifelong hater of everything NY Yankees and because of the movie and this book I actually respect Lou Gehrig. You will too.

 

Joe DiMaggio : The Hero’s Life

dimaggio08_1_41Another Yankee?? Hmmm…maybe it’s just the modern day Yankees that I hate. If I had been around 60 years ago I might actually be a Yankee fan. Anyway, I remember when this biography came out about 13 years ago it was pretty controversial. Joltin’ Joe had always been a national treasure…a hero to Italian Americans, the apple of every girl’s eye, and the envy of every red-blooded male because of his graceful athletic skill and later his marriage to goddess Marilyn Monroe. Even in retirement he became the folksy pitchman for Mr. Coffee in the 1970’s & 80’s. But author Richard Ben Cramer lays waste to the DiMaggio mythos and exposes our hero as being yet another very flawed individual (I’m sensing a theme). The DiMaggio we read about here is an often petty, usually vain, sometimes bitter, frequently materialistic, largely unhappy man with an overinflated ego and a suspicious nature that had a negative impact on most of his personal relationships. The Hero’s Life is a stark reminder that just because someone can run fast, hit hard, or handle a ball with deft skill doesn’t mean they are a nice person. I suppose with guys like Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Kobe Bryant, & Alex Rodriguez around we are all well aware of that fact, but it is interesting to realize that such phonies have been around for many many decades and fascinating to compare & contrast how joe-dimaggiotechnology doesn’t allow such individuals to hide their hypocrisy too well these days, whereas in DiMaggio’s time he & a complicit media were quite successful in creating a graceful, classy, refined image. Some may think Cramer’s book to be harsh or even malicious, but I generally found it to be insightful & fair. It is most definitely a page turner and a must read for every baseball fan.

Heroes & Heels…..January 2013

Back when I used to do a Person of the Month at the old site on MySpace I had…for some strange reason…a real issue with getting the darn thing published on time, which in a perfect world would be on the last day of the month. When I decided to revive the idea here in 2013 I promised myself I would do better, but I guess old habits die hard. The truth is that I have been in a little funk the past several days and got lazy. I believe that atleast part of it is weather induced as I do not like this cold, icy, snowy time of year and tend to go into a self-induced hibernation. At any rate I am doing my best to push thru which in part means fulfilling my own self-imposed promises here at The Manofesto.

Our new feature is called Heroes & Heels. These are the people & stories that either dominated the news or for some reason caught my eye during the past 30 days. They are presented in no particular order and I am sure my dear citizens of The Manoverse will be able to tell the bad guys from the good. Enjoy.

 

 

JJ Abrams

Yes yes yes…I am well aware that Abrams…currently helming the Star Trek revival…was chosenThumbs_up recently to direct a new Star Wars trilogy. I have already expressed my ambivalence about that. But Abrams deserves kudos for another reason. Early in January Abrams found out about a terminally ill New York man’s dying wish to see the new Trek film before he died. The director is notoriously secretive about his work, preferring to keep spoilers to a minimum. However, he made an exception in this case and sent a DVD of the unfinished film to the house of 41 year old Daniel Craft, who apparently watched it with his wife and some popcorn. A few days later Craft passed away. It may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of life, but JJ Abrams’ gesture was classy & fundamentally decent…something we’re not used to seeing out of Hollywood types. Kudos Mr. Abrams.

 

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

I am sure you’ve heard about this idiot recently. He’s the mental giant who perpetrated the hoax on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o, making him believe that he was in a 2 year long phone/cyberfrowny-face “relationship” with a girl that never actually existed. I am not willing to absolve Te’o of all responsibility yet because it still isn’t clear exactly when he found out the truth and how long he continued to perpetuate the fraud for his own purposes, and at the very least he is an extremely naïve & gullible young man who could probably use a good dose of therapy. However, it has become clear that Tuiasosopo is the one who came up with the sick joke in the first place. I don’t watch Dr. Phil, who I consider to be only slightly less of a charlatan than Oprah, but from what I read Tuiasosopo is now saying that he was molested as a child and he may be gay & in love with Te’o. Isn’t that convenient?? There’s always an excuse.

 

Terry Lee & George Burnett

Terry Lee is the owner of a forensics firm in Cedar City, UT. George Burnett owns a juice bar in Salt Thumbs_upLake City. Both decided to handle the new costs of Obamacare in a unique…and perfectly legal…way. Lee had to trim the fat a bit so he decided to “downsize” two liberal employees who had openly supported Obama, saying that “They wanted the idiot in the White House, they reap the benefits.” Burnett’s actions were a little less dramatic and more…dare I say…democratic. He simply charges libs a dollar more for a smoothie. I am not sure how effective his honor system is, but it’s the thought that counts. Now I realize that some may think that these actions are wrong, but personally I find them absolutely hilarious. Your mileage may vary.

 

Bob Schieffer

I have a feeling media types will find themselves on the bad end of the deal a lot here. Schieffer’sfrowny-face particular brand of stupidity recently was equating the reinvigorated mission of liberals to crap all over our 2nd Amendment right to keep & bear arms to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the WWII effort to defeat Nazis. Yes friends…that is exactly what the publicity wing of the Democrat Party thinks of you, and they aren’t even making much of an effort to hide it any more.

 

Sheriff Denny Peyman

Sheriff Peyman of Kentucky is just one of several law enforcement types that have publicly stated their intention to not enforce any non-Constitutional gun laws that Congress & Obama may try to Thumbs_upram thru in the wake of recent tragedies in Connecticut & Colorado. Normally I am a law & order guy who believes in upholding the rule of law no matter what, so at first this story made me cringe a little bit. I expect the police to do their job. But upon further review Sheriff Peyman & others are clear that they will not enforce any new laws that violate our rights. That doesn’t mean that they will allow folks to go around waving guns willy nilly in their towns…it is just an indicator that if the time ever does come when the federal government takes things a bit too far they are likely to have a heck of a fight on their hands, which is kind of the point anyway.

 

Lance Armstrong

Do I really have to explain this one?? I will assume you haven’t been completely oblivious to the frowny-faceworld around you the past few weeks and know about recent events involving Armstrong. Needless to say he’s just not a very good person.

 

SMUG

Which stands for Sexual Minorities Uganda. I guess their reach extends far beyond frowny-facethe land of Kamala’s birth though, as they are suing a Massachusetts pastor. Rev. Scott Lively actually preached from The Bible (Gasp!! The horror!!) during a mission trip to Uganda in 2009, and The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is an abomination. Evidently this didn’t please everyone. Not surprisingly SMUG’s legal battle is being funded by liberal kingpin George Soros. This type of lawsuit is potentially very dangerous because if it is successful it essentially limits the Constitutional rights of Christians to freely worship how they choose & speak feely about their beliefs.

 

Red Robin

Red Robin is a Colorado based “gourmet burger” chain that is unfortunately not in my local area. Thumbs_upHowever, a franchise in North Carolina did a good deed recently that deserves recognition. A couple was dining at the restaurant with their two year old son. Mom was very pregnant. When the family got their bill the price of Mom’s meal had been deducted by the manager, with a simple note wishing her good luck. Evidently Red Robin employees nationwide are given the latitude to do such things at their discretion, which is awesome and makes me want to give them my business if I ever get the opportunity.

 

Professor James Tracy

You’ve heard of 9/11 “truthers”…the wackjobs that believe that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were a government conspiracy?? Well this moron is a communications professor at Florida frowny-faceAtlantic University in Boca Raton and is not only one of those but is also a Sandy Hook ‘truther”. He believes that the tragic events in Connecticut that led to the deaths of over two dozen people…many of them 6 & 7 year old children…may have been a drill involving actors. Really dude?? This guy is a college professor?? If I had a kid at Florida Atlantic University I’d seriously be making them transfer. Afterall, if this guy is employed there it is hard to tell just how many other insane nuts may be there indoctrinating students.

 

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.13

Not a lot of stories to cover today, but alot to say about the few big stories that there are…..

 

 

What a long strange trip it has been for Lance Armstrong. I didn’t watch the show because I would rather soak my private parts in scalding hot vinegar while simultaneously being beaten in the face with a bat made of thumbtacks rather than provide Satan’s favorite talk show host Oprah with the 021323-lance-armstrongratings for her “network” that she so desperately craves, but one would have to have been hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan this past week not to know that after years of vehement denials Armstrong finally admitted to using illegal performance enhancing drugs. The strange dichotomy with Armstrong is that he cannot so easily be discarded into the trash heap of shunned former athletes who have been proven to be megalomaniacal cheaters. ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who continues to fight cancer to this day, offered a passionate defense of Armstrong on Mike & Mike in the Morning this week, saying in essence that the things that have been accomplished & the people who have been helped by Armstrong’s Livestrong charity are far more significant than the fact that he cheated to win a meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) bike race that few armstrong-lance-110609-8colpeople in America care about anyway. It strikes me that it is a contradiction that applies…to varying degrees…to nearly all of us. Very few people are all bad or all good. I know lots of good people who have some major flaws, and I have been acquainted with people in my life that I didn’t particularly like for one reason or another who nevertheless had families & friends who I am sure wouldn’t hesitate to enumerate the person’s vast array of positive traits. Right now it is easy to dump on Lance Armstrong, but just like other famous folks that we love to hate…Barry Bonds, the Kardashian twits, Lindsay Lohan, etc…I suspect that if we met him or them in person they’d make a generally favorable impression. Such is the everlasting complexity & imperfection that is humanity.

 

 

Now that the NFL coaching carousel has stopped spinning it is time to make a snap judgment about what each of the teams who fired & hired were able to accomplish. Of course no one ever knows exactly how these things are going to play out because there are so many variables that go into building a successful football team. It is difficult to gauge if a retread will be more or less effective in their new job as compared to former gigs and it is nearly impossible to forecast whether or not a fresh face will be a great coach or a complete bust. It is all just a big ol’ shot in the dark that can go one way or another based on countless things big & small. But hey, we’ll give it a shot anyway.

Grading the recent NFL coaching hires:

Arizona Cardinals          Bruce Arians          B

As a Steelers fan I have an appreciation for what Arians was able to accomplish as offensive coordinator fromLouisville_Cardinals 2007-11 and one also cannot underestimate his role in guiding the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs this season while head coach Chuck Pagano was battling cancer most of the year. The Cardinals must get a legitimate starting QB and either Beanie Wells or the oft injured Ryan Williams has to seize the primary RB role. If those things happen Arians could have tremendous success down the road.

Buffalo Bills                    Doug Marrone       B-

This isn’t Marrone’s first rodeo in the NFL, as he spent several years as an assistant with the NY Jets & New BuffaloBillsRedOrleans Saints before being the head coach at Syracuse the past few years, a program which looked like it might be on its way back to respectability in 2012 after a decade as a bottom feeder. It isn’t a sexy hire for the Bills, but it just might be effective, especially if they can grab a franchise QB in this year’s draft.

Chicago Bears               Marc Trestman       B-

Trestman has been on & off the NFL radar for years. He’s had effective stints as an offensive bears2coordinator/quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, & Miami Dolphins…among others…stretching back over two decades. More recently he has won two Grey Cups as a head coach in the CFL. The general consensus is that if anyone can help QB Jay Cutler fulfill his potential it is Marc Trestman. We’ll see.

Cleveland Browns       Rob Chudzinski      C-

To be perfectly honest the grade was initially a D. The Browns really needed to make a splash with the hiring of 365752their 7th coach in 14 years and, with all due respect, Chudzinski doesn’t even come close. However, he scored a major coup by snagging Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner is one of those guys who doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to be a head coach but he is an excellent assistant. I don’t know if anyone can really turn around the lowly Browns, but if the new ownership & management has some patience and maintains consistency instead of changing coaches like people change socks then maybe this thing has a puncher’s chance of working.

Jacksonville Jaguars    Gus Bradley        C+

Who?? Bradley was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, a group which allowed their opponents only a nugget more than 15 points per game in 2012, making them one of the league’s top defenses. Jacksonville_JaguarsKudos to the Jags for going with a fresh face rather than a tired old retread. However, it’ll all be for naught if they don’t have the balls to pull the plug on the Blaine Gabbert failure ASAP and either trade for a young QB with potential (names like Matt Flynn, Ryan Mallett, & Kirk Cousins immediately spring to mind) or make the right selection with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. A note to the Jags: if the KC Chiefs pass on QB Geno Smith you should probably follow suit. FYI…the + is because the dude is named Gus. I like guys named Gus. It’s a solid, tough, manly name…unlike Blaine.

Kansas City Chiefs      Andy Reid          B

I am of the opinion that a confluence of events lined up juuuust right (or wrong I guess) to sabotage Reid’s last couple of years with the Philadelphia Eagles. By no means do I believe he is a bad coach. The untimely death of his son during training camp due to a drug overdose seems to have been completely glossed over, but in hindsight kc-chiefs-logomaybe he would have been wise to take this past season off to deal with that loss, and no one can convince me that it did not have a deleterious effect. I think the change of scenery will be a good thing, and because the AFC West is a weak division there may be rapid dividends. Everything hinges on the quarterback situation. It might not be a bad idea for the Chiefs to sign a veteran band-aid (Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Kellen Clemens, Rex Grossman, & Matt Moore are all available) in addition to drafting a rookie QB. Now the question is should they use the top overall pick for that purpose. My answer would be no. I’d grab a big time left tackle with that choice and take a QB in the 2nd round.

Philadelphia Eagles        Chip Kelly           A-

The minus is only because of the poor way the hire was handled, with Kelly initially saying he was going to stay at Oregon then changing his mind 2 weeks later after the Eagles had interviewed practically everyone but Jerry eaglesGlanville and the reanimated corpse of George Allen for the job. The history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL is hit & miss. Guys like Jimmy Johnson, John Robinson, Jim Harbaugh, &  Bobby Ross pulled it off. Others…Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, & Dennis Erickson just to name a few…not so much. My money is on Kelly being successful. The Eagles are a solid organization with good support from ownership who have been a perennial playoff team until the past couple of seasons. Kelly isn’t exactly starting from scratch. If he can turn Nick Foles into a decent starting QB and take advantage of the considerable talents of players like RB LeSean McCoy & WR DeSean Jackson then we might just see a fairly quick turnaround. The NFC East is traditionally a tough division, but the Cowboys are a mess, the Redskins don’t know what the immediate future holds due to the knee injury to RGIII, and the NY Giants seem to have plateaued.

San Diego Chargers         Mike McCoy           C

McCoy spent the past few years as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, which means his potential is difficult     to gauge. Before this year he had to rely on guys like Kyle Orton & Brady Quinn as his QBs and was San_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3forced to endure the Tebow circus in 2011. Then in 2012 Peyton Manning came along, and who in the world could possibly screw that up?? Having said all that, this is, like the situation in Jacksonville, another case where a newcomer is being given a shot rather than hiring some failed harbinger of mediocrity. I have to give props to San Diego for rolling the dice, but there just isn’t enough data to offer a proper evaluation just yet.

 

 

I have been searching for the right words to assess the Manti Te’o story at Notre Dame. It seems to me that there are two possibilities. Either he was in on the whole thing, which makes him a filthy liar, or he was made a fool of by a few tricksters who perpetuated this joke for no apparent reason other than boredom & cruelty since there doesn’t seem to be any tangible gain to be gotten. After much consideration I am leaning toward the latter probability. And while that would absolve Te’o of any responsibility in regards to straight up lying to the American public, it still leaves one with the inescapable impression of him as an emotionally crippled 12 year old masquerading as a man. teoEither way he appears to be a rather pathetic human being with some curious mental issues who is under the delusion that a woman you’ve never met can be considered your girlfriend. What is almost as amazing to me is that I’ve heard multiple talking heads…football “experts”…say that all this is unlikely to have any significant negative impact on his NFL Draft status. Really?? I’m sorry, but linebackers aren’t that tough to find. I’d rather take some unknown kid out of a small school in the 4th or 5th round, sign him for peanuts, and give him an opportunity to shine than guarantee this wackjob big bucks just because he played for almighty Notre Dame. I am sure that won’t happen though. I sure as hell pray that the Steelers don’t take him because if they do I will lose all faith in the intelligence of their front office.