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L. Smith "L. Smith" RSS Feed (Upstate New York)

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Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues
Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues
Price: $13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on the Negro Leagues, September 18, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Bob Motley was an umpire for the Negro Leagues starting in the late 1940’s for over a decade. He considers himself fortunate to be able to have called games involving some of the best players in baseball history and he shares some wonderful stories about those years in this entertaining and humorous memoir. Along with his son Byron and author Larry Lester, Motley recalls his time as an arbiter with reverence and entertains the reader with stories of life in the Negro Leagues and his views on the quality of baseball played in those leagues.

Motley grew up in Alabama during the era when racism ran rampant in the Southern part of the United States. He also was one of the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marines and serve in World War II. Despite the struggles of his childhood, he never comes across as bitter or angry about that time in the country’s history. Of course, he believes that it was not fair to people of color but instead of writing about the bad times, he concentrates on the good times he had in that era. This is evident throughout the book as he tells his stories in a manner that will make a reader smile and laugh, whether it is about his high school dance, calling balls and strikes for a game in which Satchel Paige is pitching, or just thinking about his family.

Speaking of Paige, that is the player for whom Motley has the most respect. He devotes an entire chapter to the legendary pitcher, even claiming that he might have been even faster than modern fireball pitchers like Randy Johnson. Even his tale about making sure his “STRIIIIKKKEEE” call on the first pitch he saw Paige throw was told in reverence.

While stories about other players don’t have quite the same bravado, Motley does speak fondly of other legendary players who played in the Negro Leagues such as Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. Motley comes across as a person who loved baseball and the history of the game. Not just with his stories of players, but also with his tales about ball parks. He recalls his first time at Comiskey Park when he “rolled around on the grass like a little kid making snow angels.” I couldn’t help but smile to read a book written by a man who simply loved the game this much.

Much like the attitudes of many of the Negro League players who were just happy to have the chance to play the game, Motley does the same with this book. He loves talking about his umpiring career and how the Negro Leagues produced some very competitive and entertaining baseball. This book is a winner that should be read by all baseball fans.

Did I skim?
No – this was a wonderfully entertaining book and I wanted to enjoy every story.

Pace of the book:
Excellent – Motley never drones on too long during any one story and because he tells the stories in a very cheerful manner, the reader will be moving quickly through each chapter.

Do I recommend?
Anyone who is interested in baseball history, Negro Leagues history or just a good collection of interesting and funny tales will enjoy this book.


The Wives of Beverly Row 4: Lust Has a New Address
The Wives of Beverly Row 4: Lust Has a New Address
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars More fantasy stories, September 16, 2014
The saga of Zola, Ariel, Trudy and Veronica continues in the 4th installment of this series by Abby Weeks. In this segment, Becky goes a little farther with her boyfriend, Trudy continues her pursuit of younger guys with a very hot conquest, Zola suffers more humiliation for her husband and Veronica is having some troubling thoughts. In other words, Abby is just continuing to write the stories and characters that have have made this series a very fun and sexy read. Two cliffhanger endings will leave you eagerly awaiting the next installment. I am really enjoying this series.


Bad Football Saturday's 50 Worst Teams Ever!
Bad Football Saturday's 50 Worst Teams Ever!
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not much depth - but a fun subject, September 14, 2014
This list of the 50 worst college football teams ever was an okay read. It didn't go deeply into any of the teams - a brief recap of the season, saying that either the offense or defense was really bad (or both if applicable.) Then the basic team stats and the losses for the season by each team was listed. It was that same format for all 50 teams. The introduction did say it would be in this format and it was correct. A quick list that can generate some barroom discussion, but not much else.


A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports
A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book on an important part of baseball history, September 14, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
In early 1970, Curt Flood, an all-star outfielder, was part of a multi-player trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Having established himself in the city with both business and on the Cardinals, Flood refused to report to the Philles and wanted to remain with the Cardinals. However, because of baseball’s reserve clause that tied a player to a team until he was traded, released or sold to another club, Flood had to report to Philadelphia if he wanted to play baseball in the 1970 season.

Instead of doing so, he sought legal advice and also financial backing from the players’ union and decided to sue Major League Baseball. By doing this, he knew he had little to gain ( he was giving up a $90,000 annual salary, one of the highest in baseball at that time) and a lot to lose. But he was willing to take that risk in order to stand up to a principle.

The resulting legal case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Flood’s life both in and out of baseball are portrayed in this excellent book by former attorney Brad Snyder. Ironically, Snyder also quit HIS job in order to research and write this book. While it is not known if Snyder had the same professional and financial difficulties that Flood faced after quitting baseball, his knowledge of the legal system aids in making this book a good detailed account without legal language or compound sentences making it harder.

The book is at its best when it portrays Flood as a man with principles who just wants to end the practice of binding players to one team unless the owner sees fit to discard him in whatever manner is best for the owner. In addition to the court cases, Snyder recaps much of Flood’s baseball career and how it hardened him so that he was prepared to face the risks of suing Major League Baseball. In one excellent chapter on Flood’s minor league playing days in the South, the prejudice Flood faces is not unlike that which Jackie Robinson endured when he broke the color barrier. Robinson was an inspiration for Flood in both baseball and civil rights matters and it is stated so several times in the book.

Flood’s life falls to pieces after his baseball playing days are done and the Supreme Court rules against Flood. His financial problems, drinking problems and relationship issues are documented well, but not too much in order to preserve the main focus of the book – how Flood opened the door toward the eventual demise of the reserve clause in 1975.

Snyder’s legal expertise was also evident in his excellent coverage of the actual hearing in front of the Supreme Court. Snyder is especially critical of Flood’s attorney Arthur Goldberg’s presentation in front of the justices by basically saying that the true reason that the reserve clause should be abolished was never truly expressed by Goldberg. That part is by far the best of the legal writing in the book.

This book should be read by not only fan, but modern-day baseball players in order for them to truly appreciate what Flood did and sacrificed for them. The multi-million dollar contracts that are common for even regular players today would not have been possible without one man challenging the sport not for selfish reasons, but just because he felt it was the right thing to do.

Did I skim?
No, because skipping over any portion of this book would mean the reader would miss key facts or elements crucial to Flood’s case against baseball.

Pace of the book:
I found the first third of the book rather slow and hard to concentrate as it mainly concentrates on Flood’s case in the lower court. However, once it gets to the Supreme Court, the book reads much faster for all topics – the legal matter, Flood’s baseball career and his life.

Do I recommend?
An absolute must-read for any sports fan who wants to understand the background of how players were able to obtain the freedom to go to any team – not just in baseball but for all team sports.


NFL Football: A History of America's New National Pastime (Sport and Society)
NFL Football: A History of America's New National Pastime (Sport and Society)
Price: $11.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on non-football issues of the NFL, September 7, 2014
Rating:
4 ˝ of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
There is no doubt that professional football is the most popular sport in America now and the National Football League is one of the most successful enterprises in the world. How the sport and the league arrived to this point is chronicled in this well-researched and well-written book by Richard C. Crepeau. It is a wide ranging book that covers mostly the business of the league and related topics such as media coverage and labor relations.

The book mentions very little about the game itself. It could be considered more of a business book, but in a historical context. The references for the author’s research are both from academic and media sources, which leads to very interesting writing. It is mostly serious, but Crepeau shows some humor as well. One of my favorite passages in the entire book is near the end in the chapter about how the Super Bowl has turned into a national holiday. When talking about the ever-growing popularity and hype of the event, he states that “there are only two things that can stop it: a massive economic collapse or a hysterical wave of sanity sweeping the country.”

Crepeau is careful not to show opinions in the book, but he does make clear the strengths and weaknesses of the league’s commissioners during the period of exponential growth of the league, which is considered to be roughly the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st century as well. The passages on labor relations under Pete Rozelle, during which there were three player strikes, and Roger Goddell, under whom there was a lockout in 2011, were especially balanced. This was true not only about praise or criticism of the leadership, but also in the writing style. Crepeau wrote about this and other business matters in a way that the average fan who does not deal with business language would understand, but advanced enough so that those readers who do work in this field would not consider it too simple.

No topic related to the business of the NFL is ignored. Franchise relocation, drug testing for both illegal substances and performance-enhancing drugs, pension benefits, and post-concussion health problems are all addressed in the book. The sheer amount of topics that are covered in depth make this book worth reading for anyone interested in the business side of the NFL. Crepeau’s work makes that topic that sounds boring a very good read for football fans.

Did I skim?
No as the book shows the fascinating history of the league, especially off the field as both a business and as an enterprise.

Pace of the book:
It took awhile to get through the book. It is not one that can be read quickly. Reading it slowly and methodically is best to understand all the intricacies of the league.

Do I recommend?
There are so many different aspects of the NFL that are covered, especially since the 1960’s, that any football fan should be able to enjoy the book. This is especially true for those readers who enjoy reading about non-football issues with the league.


Wire to Wire: Inside the 1984 Detroit Tigers Championship Season
Wire to Wire: Inside the 1984 Detroit Tigers Championship Season
Price: $9.39

3.0 out of 5 stars A historic team deserves a book with more depth - but worth a look, September 5, 2014
Rating:
3 of 5 stars (okay)

Review:
The 1984 Detroit Tigers got off to the best start in baseball history for the first 40 games. They had an incredible 35-5 record at that time and went on to win the World Series in five games over the San Diego Padres. It was a special season for the Tigers and their fans. George Cantor’s book “Wire to Wire” recaps that season by sharing stories from many of the players and relieves some of the best games of the season.

Cantor was a long-time Detroit sportswriter who covered the Tigers in two of their championship seasons, 1968 and 1984. The knowledge he gained by covering the team shows in his writing as he recaps some insights about the players and owner that only a writer who regularly covered the team would know. However, the book never goes deep into the sprit or details of that season.

Most players on that team share some thoughts on that season for the book. Not only the stars like Kirk Gibson and Willie Hernandez talk, but some reserves such as Rusty Kunz, Tom Brookens and Ruppert Jones also are interviewed. I was hoping to get some great insight on this historic team from these players, but the stories were fairly short and predictable. The same could be said for the writing about the games on the field. While Cantor does a decent job describing the highlights of the great start to the season, this portion also lacks the depth I was hoping to read. After those first 40 games, the reader doesn’t learn much else about the season until the playoffs, when he again switches into more detail about the wins against Kansas City in the American League Championship Series and then the World Series win.

He also compares the 1968 Tigers championship to this team and that made good fodder for debate. It reads much like those types of comparisons one would read in a newspaper. There is also a good story on how Tom Monaghan, the Domino’s Pizza maverick, became owner of the Tigers.

Alas, in depth and entertaining stories like that are few and far between in this book. While it was a quick and decent read, if you are looking for a book on this team that covers a lot of ground, this isn’t that book.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book:
While hoping for more details about this team, the writing style did make this a quick read. It read it in two sittings of about one to one and a half hours each.

Do I recommend?
Tiger fans will certainly enjoy this recap of one of the single seasons in baseball history. A casual baseball fan who has heard about this team may also like it. However, hard core fans who want to learn more about this historic season will be disappointed with the lack of depth.


The Men Who Made the Yankees: The Odyssey of the World's Greatest Baseball Team from Baltimore to the Bronx
The Men Who Made the Yankees: The Odyssey of the World's Greatest Baseball Team from Baltimore to the Bronx
by W. Nikola-Lisa
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.96
7 used & new from $11.11

4.0 out of 5 stars Good read on the early history of a famous franchise, August 27, 2014
Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The origin of the New York Yankees is a story that is not often told as it has very humble beginnings and the franchise was lacking stability in not only the ownership, but also retaining its best players and even its home ball park. It wasn’t until Babe Ruth was bought in 1920 and Yankee Stadium was erected in 1923 did they become the iconic sports team they are known as today. This book by W. Nikola-Lisa describes those early days of not only the franchise, but also tells of the origins of early professional baseball leagues as a backdrop to the beginning of the Yankee empire.

The writing is compact as Nikola-Lisa does not describe the origins of the leagues (National League, American League, American Association, and Federal League to name a few) in great detail. However, there is enough information in the book that readers who may not be familiar with the early history of professional baseball will enjoy learning some new information.

There are a lot of people who are an integral part of the story, from the founder of the American League, Ban Johnson, to John McGraw to the various owners of the Yankees. At times it was hard to keep all of these people straight but the book does a good job of describing the importance of each man as he relates to the franchise. There are sidebar stories that are just as informative as the main book. Of course, the longest dissection is that of Babe Ruth and how he came to the Yankees. Most people know of the story of how he was sold so the Red Sox owner could bankroll a show. Nikola-Lisa explains that there was a lot more to the transaction than that.

I enjoyed reading this short but informative book. Readers who are looking for a more thorough dissertation of the early history of the team should pass on this, but for those who were like me and just wanted to learn a little bit about that time in baseball history, this should be put on the list of books to be read.

I wish to thank Mr. Nikola-Lisa for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No.

Pace of the book:
For a short book, it is actually a slow read as there was a lot of information and people with whom I was not familiar. As a result, I slowed down from my usual reading pace in order to fully learn about the story.

Do I recommend?
Baseball history buffs will enjoy this book, as will Yankee fans who want to learn a little more about the early history of the franchise. It doesn’t dig too deep, but tells enough to give a good history lesson.


The Wives of Beverly Row 3: Lust Has a New Address
The Wives of Beverly Row 3: Lust Has a New Address
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The series just keeps getting better..., August 27, 2014
I wasn't too sure about some of the themes in this series, but as it continues, I find myself enjoying it even more. I find myself becoming attached to the characters, especially Zola (I really feel for this gal - she is putting herself through all this just to show her love to her jerk of a husband) and the couple of Veronica and Hank. Even though so far it has been frustrating for the two of them in the bedroom, as a reader I just can't help but root for them to pull through and both be happy.

Characters that are so well developed that the reader has a strong attachment is what makes this series worth reading, and I plan on continuing to do so through the end. It is why I have become a fan of Ms. Week's work.


Counterpunch: Ali, Tyson, the Brown Bomber, and Other Stories of the Boxing Ring
Counterpunch: Ali, Tyson, the Brown Bomber, and Other Stories of the Boxing Ring
Price: $9.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book on the "sweet science", August 27, 2014
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Covering more than seven decades, this collection of columns from the New York Times by Ira Berkow tells readers about many of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier and Evander Holyfield are just a few of the many boxers who were the subject of this prize-winning author’s stories.

A nice touch to this book is that Berkow not only writes about the champions, but also some other boxers whose names will not be familiar to the casual fan, such as Charlie Nash and Marcel Cerdan. No matter whom the boxer is, each column is written in a manner that when the reader finishes it, he or she will stop and pause to think about that boxer. Whether the story was about a particular fight, the journey of how he reached where he did in the sport, or a reflection on the life of a recently deceased fighter, Berkow’s writing does justice to each man he portrays.

While reading each column, I was impressed with the knowledge that Berkow had not only for the fighters but how he was able to capture the emotion of the fighter featured. One very poignant column was about Du Koo Kim, the fighter who died from injuries suffered in a fight with Ray Mancini in 1982. That was during the time many boxing matches were still featured on over-the-air television networks and was considered a fight that was too brutal to be shown on TV. It was a controversial fight, but this story ignored that aspect and focused on the type of man Kim was and how he lived his life. Stories like Kim’s made this book a fascinating and enjoyable read for me.

If there is anything that can be considered a negative, it would be that a reader may want to learn more about the fighters. It has to be remembered that most of these columns were written during the heyday of newspapers and this medium was the way to learn this information. Space was at a premium and Berkow used every word to paint a wonderful picture of the fight or the people participating.

This book should be read by any boxing fan from any era. A great collection of anecdotes about the sport of boxing, Ira Berkow shows why he was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Did I skim?
No.

Pace of the book:
It reads quickly as each story is no longer than two to three pages. Remembering that this is a collection of newspaper columns, each chapter should take no longer than a few minutes to read.

Do I recommend?
Boxing fans and those who like to read about boxing history will enjoy this book. The variety of stories, fighters and eras that are mentioned in this book will ensure that there is something for everyone.


Battery Brothers
Battery Brothers
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story of a young baseball player, August 23, 2014
This review is from: Battery Brothers (Kindle Edition)
Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Andy Lembo is a high school baseball catcher who is trying out for the team at a new high school in his senior year. His younger brother Daniel is a pitcher who has caught the eye of scouts who hope to sign him when he completes school. Andy and Daniel have shared a lot in their young lives – broken home, dysfunctional parents but baseball was their passion. They dreamed of winning a championship together.

Their journey toward this goal and the awful detour that occurred is the basis of this terrific young adult novel by Steve Carman. The story is told from Andy’s point of view and it is one that is filled with trouble. Andy was abused by his mother when she applied a hot iron to his face when he was toddler. She soon left the boys and their father. As for the father, he is shown to be a parent who favors one child, Daniel, because he has the talent to go far. Andy believes that his father doesn’t hold him in the same regard. Add anxiety attacks and self-doubt on his ability to obtain good grades and socialize and you have a good picture of most of the issues that trouble Andy.

Baseball is Andy’s escape from this, but even that didn’t go smoothly. Andy was among the final cuts to the varsity team, but ended up on the team later when the starting catcher was injured. Daniel continued to pitch well and also bond with his older brother. The love shared between the two of them is evident and when a freak accident occurs during a game, Andy’s world is shattered – both in baseball and more importantly, in his life. He doesn’t think he has the strength to continue either baseball or school. What he eventually decides to do is a heartwarming story that will leave the reader cheering and maybe even in tears. I had both emotions flowing through me as the story progressed. Some parts were predictable, some weren’t but it is one that must be read by anyone who loves a good story about young adults who are learning what life will be like as a grown-up.

The baseball portions of the book are well-written and describe the action of the game in vivid detail. These, along with the rest of the book, are accurately described as they would be by a 17 year old boy as there is youth slang and short sentences throughout the book. Because the book is focused on Andy, we don’t know a lot about the other characters, including Daniel. The reader will only know these characters through Andy’s vision. For me, that still gave me enough insight to get a feel for what these people were like and how they all helped shape Andy into the person he is.

Any reader who loves a good story of a young man coming of age, especially when that young man has to deal with many different issues, will want to read this book. Baseball fans will enjoy the account of Andy’s exploits on the diamond. Fans of the young adult genre will cheer on Andy throughout the book. It is simply a book that I believe any reader will enjoy.

I wish to thank Mr. Carman for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No, because I wanted to make sure I enjoyed every word of this story.

Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes. I especially related to Andy’s anxiety when he took the mound during each game and the excitement as well as the nervousness that all players at that age feel when they are on the field. It doesn’t matter the level of play or the type of field – all players feel this on the field.

Pace of the story:
Excellent – the reader is really connected to Andy and Daniel in the book without slowing down the pace of the story. Because it is written in Andy’s POV and language, I felt that kept the story moving as well.

Do I recommend?
Yes – for anyone, any age who simply enjoys a good book. While having knowledge of baseball helps with those passages, any reader who wants to read an uplifting story should grab this one.

Book Format Read:
Paperback


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