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

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Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer
Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer
Price: $15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book on the first Japanese player in the major leagues, April 22, 2015
Jackie Robinson was not the only baseball player who was a pioneer for his race in the game. In 1964, a nineteen-year-old pitcher named Masanori Murakami, known as “Mashi”, was sent by his Japanese team to the minor leagues’ class A Fresno Giants. Later that season, the parent club, the San Francisco Giants, called up the young left-hander as a relief pitcher. As a result, Murakami became the first Japanese player in the major leagues. His journey to the major leagues and the subsequent squabble between the Japanese and American clubs is chronicled in this wonderful book by Robert K. Fitts.

This book doesn’t read like the typical biography of an athlete. The reader is taken into the life of Murakami in both Japan and the United States. Mashi’s experiences in the Japanese baseball leagues and its training camps and methods are well researched and written in a manner that will inform the reader as well as entertain him or her. There are many stories that illustrate the passion that Murakami had for the game and yet he never wavered in his loyalty to family, even while pitching in the United States.

The dialogue in the book about Mashi’s experience learning the culture and customs in America reads much differently than that in books about the struggles of African-American players in the early days of baseball integration. While there are a few instances of this type of discrimination documented, the focus is how he interacts with people while struggling to learn English. There are many more humorous stories about this than ones that will anger or upset the reader.

One of the best ones told of Mashi’s teammates giving advice to him on what to tell the manager when he came out to the mound to take Mashi out of the game. When manager Herman Franks took the ball, he was greeted by some very colorful language from Mashi. Immediately Franks realized the prank played by Mashi’s teammates and everyone had a good laugh over it.

However, this story doesn’t have a happy ending for Mashi, as a contract dispute between his Japanese team and the Giants will result in an ugly exchange that became a major sticking point for future opportunities in major league baseball for Japanese players. The Japanese baseball officials believed that they simply loaned Mashi to America in order to sharpen his game. Major League Baseball, concerned that the reserve clause would be threatened if they let Mashi return to Japan, claimed that he was under contract with the Giants and therefore was obligated to pitch for them. Like every other conflict he encountered in his baseball career on both continents, Mashi gets anxious to have it resolved but eventually makes the best of his opportunities, no matter where they occur.

If a reader wishes to learn more about Japanese baseball and the differences in the way the game is run between the two countries, this book is a very good source for that. If the reader just wants to read a good story filled with humor and inspiration, this book does that too, thanks to the excellent writing by the author.

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


How To Get Better At Boggle - A Strategy Guide: Strategies, Tips, & Word Lists to Win at Boggle, Ruzzle, and Scramble With Friends
How To Get Better At Boggle - A Strategy Guide: Strategies, Tips, & Word Lists to Win at Boggle, Ruzzle, and Scramble With Friends
Price: $4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good book for this game, April 19, 2015
A book on the game of Boggle should not be too complicated and fortunately this fits the bill. The reader will learn the object of the game, some strategy tips and a LOT of words that will help the player. I enjoyed reading about the game but felt too much of the book was simply word lists.

I wish to thank the author for provding a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


Summer of '49: The Yankees and the Red Sox in Postwar America
Summer of '49: The Yankees and the Red Sox in Postwar America
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Halberstam baseball book., April 19, 2015
Stars:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
In 1949, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox engaged in a memorable pennant race that was not decided until the final day of the season. Because this was in the time before divisions in Major League Baseball, the winner of this race went to the World Series while the loser would have to dwell on falling just short for the winter. This fascinating season is retold from many different viewpoints in this terrific book by the late David Halberstam.

Originally published in 1989, the title of this book may be a bit misleading to a baseball historian as only the two top teams of the American League that season are discussed. But HOW they are portrayed is a wonderful read that is engaging, entertaining and sure to bring a smile or two while being read. Stories on players from both teams are told, mostly about the stars but with some little known-information as well. Of course, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams get the most publicity here, but other such as Ellis Kinder and Joe McCarthy for the Red Sox and Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat for the Yankees are discussed.

The crowning achievement of the book for me, however, is that while reading it, I felt like I was back in 1949 even though I had not been born yet. To get baseball information, I had to read the papers. The players traveled by train and seemed to be bound together more tightly than teammates of today. Their personal lives, while still published to a degree, did not seem splashed all over like in today’s social media. I felt I was transported back to a different time in the history of the game. Halberstam was well-respected for this type of writing and it is what makes it one of the more enjoyable baseball books I have read on that era of the game.

Pace of the book:
Like other books by Halberstam that I have read, both baseball and other topics, the book grabs your attention and will not let go. I read this in about four hours on train rides to and from a baseball game.

Do I recommend?
Baseball history aficionados as well as fans of both the sport and Halberstam will enjoy this book. It simply is another winner by the late author.


The Gospel According to Casey: Casey Stengel's Inimitable, Instructional, Historical, Baseball Book (Upper Deck Books)
The Gospel According to Casey: Casey Stengel's Inimitable, Instructional, Historical, Baseball Book (Upper Deck Books)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Casey as you may not know him, April 19, 2015
Stars:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Casey Stengel is one of those men who was successful in every job he had in baseball, whether playing, coaching or managing. He became legendary with his success as the manager of the New York Yankees and just as legendary for some memorable and funny quotes while managing the New York Mets in their early years. This book captures not only those quotes, but also tells of his vast knowledge of the game and some of his strategies.

Some of these ideas born from Stengel’s sharp mind are common in the game now. One of these is platooning players depending on the opposing pitcher. If the opposing team started a left-handed pitcher, Stengel may change one or more of the players in the starting line-up. The change would be putting a right-handed batter in a position where normally a left-handed batter would play. This is not uncommon in today’s game for a manager to do this, but it wasn’t back when Stengel was managing the Yankees. He took this strategy and made it into part of his regular work. He also was one of the early pioneers of selecting certain relief pitchers to finish games. This eventually led to the role of closers in the modern game.

The chapters of the book are broken up into specific topics – one just for memorable quotes and stories, one on pitching, one on hitting and so forth. These come from other sources such as former players who played under Stengel, other coaches and managers or sports writers. I felt this format was very good as it was easy to read and hearing all of these stories from so many sources illustrated just how revered and respected the man by all involved in the game. This is a solid book that anyone who enjoys baseball will enjoy reading.

I wish to thank Summer Game Books for providing a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
Because the book is a series of short stories or quotes from Stengel or his players, teammates or colleagues, this book is a quick read. It can also be stopped and started again at any point

Do I recommend?
Readers who immediately think of Yogi Berra when it comes to a baseball legend who had some memorable quotes should read this book to discover another quotable baseball legend. Stengel’s thoughts on the strategies of the game make it a good book for hardcore fans as well.


Calculator Plus Free
Calculator Plus Free
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great calculator app, April 10, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Calculator Plus Free (App)
This calculator app is just right in many ways. The buttons are large enough to easily enter the number wanted. The calculator can be basic or scientific just by turning your device and it works as well and as fast as the calculators we had in school. Very handy when working on my tablet.


On the Clock: The Story of the NFL Draft
On the Clock: The Story of the NFL Draft
by Barry Wilner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.61
20 used & new from $11.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent book on the NFL draft, March 27, 2015
Review:
For some professional football fans, the day when all 32 pro teams hold the annual draft of college players is just as big a day as Super Bowl Sunday. The television ratings for the draft are higher than basketball and hockey playoff games on that day. The action is really non-existent – just men talking about the players interrupted by walks to the podium so a player just chosen can shake hands with the commissioner and show off his new team’s jersey.

So why is this event so popular? The answer to this and other questions about the NFL draft is revealed in this entertaining book by Barry Wilner and Ken Rappaport. The book starts off with drama at the 2014 draft – who is going to select Johnny Manzeil? What are the Cleveland Browns doing with these trades? Not only did the authors take the reader inside this draft, they presented the comings and goings in a manner that would make the reader think he or she is reading about a reality TV show. Which, later in the book, is a reason given for the huge popularity of the draft.

The book also gives the history of the draft, which was the brainchild of Bert Bell before he became commissioner of the NFL. There are stories about the best draft choices, the worst, and how some men used the draft to their advantage to build winning football teams. As a reader, I enjoyed most of these stories. I felt that too much of the history section was devoted to the history of the Bell family that had little to do with the draft. It is like when reading a fictional book that starts off exciting, gets a little boring in the middle, but later gets even better.

I make that comparison for this book because my favorite section was when the writers describe how the draft went from simply something to put on the air in the early days of ESPN to the glamorous, dramatic TV show it is today. I also liked the short biographies on four men who are considered to be the best in analyzing the draft and the players taken: Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper, Gil Brandt and Joel Buchsbaum – the “Gurus” as the chapter states.

The only drawback to the book in my opinion is the best and worst picks for each team. Not because I disagree with many of them – any list of “best” or “worst” will be debated – but because I thought that there wasn’t enough reasons given why the authors believed this was so. Take the San Diego Chargers – okay, it’s easy to see why Ryan Leaf was the worst player they ever selected, but give me more of a reason why Dan Fouts is the best other than he is in the Hall of Fame. He is not the only player for the Chargers who has made it.

Overall, this was a decent book with interesting and entertaining stories on some of the more famous players selected and the event itself. Football fans will enjoy reading this book which is very good at the beginning and toward the end, with some softness in the middle.

I wish to thank NetGalley and Taylor Trade Publishing for an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
This is a quick read as it took me less than two hours to finish the book. The stories and reporting are all written in small segments, which made reading it quickly even easier.

Do I recommend?
Readers who are football fans will enjoy this book and those who are among the many who cheer just as loudly for a draft pick by their favorite team as a touchdown will especially enjoy this.


A Love for Somnus (A Roman God Romance Book 2)
A Love for Somnus (A Roman God Romance Book 2)
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good romance story, March 6, 2015
This second installment of the Roman God series was an enjoyable read for me mainly because even though Somnus is a God, I found him to be a very believable character when he talks about his emotions, his lost love and his newfound love. At times, I forgot that he NOT a mere human because he has very human traits. For that reason alone, I have to rate this book at four stars and will have to change my tune on read in mythology stories. If this is a sign of what will be coming in this series...give me more please.


Pinstripes and Penance- The Life Story Of John Malangone
Pinstripes and Penance- The Life Story Of John Malangone
by Michael Harrison
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.00
2 used & new from $23.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good biography, March 6, 2015
Rating:
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Review:
Many sports biographies will talk about a player’s life and how he or she overcame certain obstacles such poverty, injury, depression and other such troubles in order to achieve success in athletics. This is not one of those stories. In a well-researched book by Michael Harrison, the reader learns about a former baseball player, John Malangone, who did not become a star and instead was held back by his own personal demons.

Without giving away the story or the particular demons that haunted John, it is safe to say that between a personal tragedy that befell him at a young age, his relationship with the Mob, and his own temper, it was not an easy road for the young man. Nonetheless, he was able to not only play baseball well enough to be drafted by the New York Yankees, he was also a good boxer and was able to eke out a successful career outside of sports.

He didn’t get too far in the Yankee system and only played with the major league club during spring training. However, that was enough to provide a few entertaining stories that a baseball fan would enjoy, including those with another catcher (John’s position) with the Yankees at that time. You might have heard of him – some guy whose last name was Berra, nickname of Yogi.

However, the book concentrates mainly on John’s struggles to overcome his personal demons which are illustrated as his main drawback and what keeps him from succeeding in not only baseball, but other endeavors as well. The research and stories into his life are interesting enough to keep a reader involved.

The one negative I found about the book is that it seemed to be choppy in parts and I had a hard time following it. Also, even though I enjoyed that chapter, the first chapter when John is a guest on Maury Povich’s show had me confused until later explained – why was the book starting off with this? I eventually was able to follow along, but I found that the entire structure of the book was a little difficult to follow. Nonetheless, it was a very good story of a troubled young man that readers will enjoy and will end up cheering for this man to succeed.

I wish to thank Mr. Harrison and the publisher Cincy Books for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
I did skim a few sections of the history of organized crime, but some passages with the Mob were actually some of the best parts of the book.

Pace of the book:
I found the book fairly slow over the course of the entire story for the most part. Aside from the actual tragedy that affected John, which occurs fairly early in the book, I didn’t think it was a smooth or easy read. However, John’s story kept my interest. As a result I am glad I stuck with it and finished the book.

Do I recommend?
Readers who like to read stories on people who overcome personal tragedies or difficulties will like this book. There isn’t a lot of baseball or even boxing in the book, so sports fans may be disappointed in it, but the personal story of Malangone makes up for that.


Gretzky's Tears: Hockey, America and the Day Everything Changed
Gretzky's Tears: Hockey, America and the Day Everything Changed
Price: $13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book on a historical trade, March 1, 2015
Review:
August 9, 1988 is a date that has become famous in hockey history. It was the date that Wayne Gretzky, considered by many to be the greatest hockey player to ever lace up skates, was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. At the time, the Oilers were a hockey dynasty, having won the Stanley Cup four of the past five seasons, while the Kings were barely a blip in Los Angeles and even in their own building, playing second fiddle to basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The trade left not only Edmonton, but the entire country of Canada in shock and despair. Los Angeles suddenly became a hockey hotbed and Kings games were must-see events, complete with celebrity guests. However, the burning question remained: why was this trade made? Why was the face of an entire sport traded from a team in the country where hockey is the national sport to a franchise in a warm-weather city? This question is covered from many different angles in this excellent book by Stephen Brunt.

Having read some of Brunt’s work earlier, I was looking forward to his writing on this event that stunned the entire sports world. The title of the book came from the fact that Gretzky was shedding tears at the press conference announcing the trade, stating that he was leaving Edmonton with a heavy heart and was sad to be going. Brunt’s research reveals that there was much more to this press conference than simply Gretzky showing his emotions. There is evidence that some, Brunt included, believe that this wasn’t the case at all, but instead something that Gretzky actually wanted.

The owners of the two teams and architects of the trade, Peter Pocklington of the Oilers and Bruce McNall of the Kings, are subjects that Brunt covered quite well in both his research and writing. Neither man comes off looking very good in this book, and given the endings for both of them, especially McNall, I believed that this was an accurate portrayal of them. McNall especially was portrayed as a complex figure, building his fortune in a Ponzi-type scheme and then have it come crashing down. However, more than just acquiring Gretzky for his team, McNall has grandiose plans for the entire sport and had a more than willing accomplice in Commissioner Gary Bettman. These were far-reaching plans that, as Brunt points out, are still being felt more than 20 years after the trade.

Not only does Brunt expose the roles of the three main people of the trade, he also dispels some myths about the trade, such as Gretzky was demanding the trade because his wife, Janet Jones, was an aspiring actress. This comparison to Yoko Ono was a popular tabloid topic in Canada, but Brunt dismisses that rumor as well as others and gets down to the real reason – the backroom discussions and dealings that all three men were involved in.

Stephen Brunt has written another winner with this book and is the most comprehensive account of not only the trade itself, but also what became of the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers after the trade. The research into Pocklington and McNall is also first-rate. This is a must-read for any hockey fan interested in learning more about how this one transaction transformed the game.

Did I skim?
No

Pace of the book:
Excellent as I read this book very quickly. It moved along seamlessly from Gretzky to Pocklington to McNall and then to all parties involved in the trade.

Do I recommend?
All hockey fans should read this in-depth account of the trade that stunned the sports world and changed the culture of a sport, most likely for good


Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine
Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine
Offered by Audible, Inc. (US)
10 used & new from $19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on grass roots basketball, February 25, 2015
Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The world of youth basketball, also known as grass roots basketball, has produced some great players who had success in the professional game such as Tyson Chandler. It has also produced stories of players who were expected to go far in their basketball careers at the age of 11 and 12 and buckled under the pressure of great expectations. The story of one coach and his team of players in Los Angeles is told in this interesting book by George Dohrmann. I was expecting stories like this about the players, but all of the main characters in this book were important to the story.

Coach Joe Keller is the main man of this tale, wanting to put together the best group of kids ages 10 and 11 and keep them together through high school in order to gain fame, fortune and to be the one to produce the next great player. Keller thought he had that player in Demetrius Walker, a young impressionable boy who, like many other players, sees his coach as his father figure. What follows is a story that will make the reader cheer, laugh, but mostly shake his or her head when it is revealed just how far Keller goes to ensure that Walker is noticed and hyped as much as possible.

There is considerable discussion about the role that shoe companies such as Nike, Adidas and Reebok play in the grassroots game. There are rankings of players online, recruiting of these players as early as age 9, and deals made in order to bribe parents into allowing their children to play on these teams. Keller paid rent for more than one of his player’s living accommodations – if that player wasn’t spending most of his time at Keller’s house. He did that and more for Walker’s family. Walker was good enough to have his picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated. What happens eventually to him and some of his teammates made me keep on listening to the book.

The narration provide by Speer for the audio book was very good as she told the story of young men and their interactions in a manner that you didn’t realize the gender difference or that it was a woman speaking language and phrases that young men share only with other young men. I felt that by listening to instead of reading this book, I was able to stay connected to the basketball players. I was cheering for them to all have happy endings by the end – whether that happened is something that I will not give away here. If one wants to learn more about the inner workings of youth basketball, this is an excellent source of information for that topic.

Pace of the book:
It moves along very well. The story stays on track as the author rarely veers off topic on side stories. They are all about Coach Keller, his team, his players or their families.

Do I recommend?
Yes – although be prepared for some melancholy stories as not all of the boys have successful endings. If the reader wants to learn more about grass roots basketball, both the good and the ugly, this book covers it all.

Book Format Read:
Audio book


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