Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reviews of Sports Biographies and Other Sports Books

Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball by Dolph Grundman
Hardcover: 232 pages
Publisher: Syracuse University Press (October 7, 2014)

Grundman gives us the first-ever biography of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes.  One of the fifty greatest players to ever play in the NBA, Schayes may very well be the only Jewish player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  Schayes life is profiled from the time he grew up as the child of Jewish Romanian immigrants through his playing career at New York University and with the Syracuse Nationals.  It isn't just Schayes life that Grundman reflects on but also how basketball as a whole was undergoing some major changes.

Frank Robinson: A Baseball Biography by John C. Skipper
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: McFarland (October 31, 2014)

Skipper gives us the first biography of the Hall of Famer.  Robinson, one of the few Triple Crown winners in baseball, played for both the Reds and the Orioles.  He became the first African-American to manage teams in both leagues.  No matter what he was doing, the Hall of Famer always demanded respect.

Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary by Robert F. Burk
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (January 26, 2015)

Miller is one of the few contributors to the world of Major League Baseball that is not in the Hall of Fame.  He should be and Burk goes the distance in giving baseball fans the first biography of the labor leader.

Miller may have been the single person to change the business of sports when he was named as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.  Burk follows his life from hard times during the Great Depression to dealing with racial and religious bigotry along with Washington politics before he made his mark in history with the MLBPA.

Miller's legacy is as follows: decent workplace conditions, a pension system, outside mediation of player grievances and salary disputes, a system of profit sharing, and the dismantling of the reserve clause which led the way for free agency.

Allies and adversaries alike praised Miller for his attitude, work ethic, and honesty.

Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life by Mort Zachter
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2015)

Like Miller above, Gil Hodges is one of those that should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a long time ago.  It's a travesty that he hasn't.  Zachter's biography of the Brooklyn Dodgers great and former New York Mets manager is the one that he deserves.

Hodges was a hero on the playing field, in the Marines during World War 2, and during his life in general.  One of the finest first basemen to ever play the game, Hodges was an icon in New York City.  He later managed both the Washington Senators and New York Mets.  He was the Mets manager when they won it all back in 1969.

While Zachter examines Hodges' career on the field and in the dugout, he also looks at the life he led.  Hodges had a dry sense of humor but was a witty man.  His honesty and integrity by far are his defining elements.  First hand interviews with those who knew him help to provide a better appreciation for this should-be Hall of Famer.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Book Review: Repeat by Neal Pollack

Repeat by Neal Pollack
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 24, 2015)

Repeat is what Groundhog Day could have been had Bill Murray's character been forced to relive his entire life up to that day rather than the same day over and over.  As a novel, it is quite daring as we have seen a similar story play out on screen but never can I recall reading one in book format.  Hilarious scatological, Pollack has written what Groundhog Day could have been like had Phillip Roth written it.

Repeat tells the story of Brad Cohen, a failed screenwriter.  As a screenwriter, he's down on his luck.  Somehow, through strange circumstances, he finds himself reliving the first 40 years of his life again and again.  Each time he goes to bed on the night before his 40th birthday, he finds himself in his mother's womb.  Cohen knows what has happened during his lifetime and upon repeating his life, he takes advantage of the stock tips and sports wins.

Try and try as he may to get out of an infinite loop of repeating his life, nothing seems to work at all.  His wife, Juliet, may be a way out but as Cohen soon finds out, it's not easy being able to win somebody's heart again especially when he already knows her that well.

In his various repeats, Cohen finds himself working as a political pundit, being a millionaire playboy, to exploring yoga in India, or just being a lifelong independent scholar.  One of my favorites is his time working as a political pundit especially when he jumps on the Clinton bandwagon in 1990 and the Obama bandwagon very early on, too.  He decides to quit his job when he realizes that nobody is taking any action on his knowledge of bad events to come.

All in all, Pollack gives us a book that is unique but comes with the heart and warmth of what we expect from a novel written by Nick Hornby combined with that of sociopolitical satire.