A few years ago on Shows ’n Tunes, I wrote about movies released in 1939. Majestic Hollywood provides short articles on fifty great movies that were released that year. Each article provides small bits of information about each film, such as stories about the stars in the picture; stories about the directors, producers, and writers; short movie reviews written by some of the critics at the time the film was released; and other miscellaneous information. There are also beautiful black and white photographs for each film of either the stars or scenes from the movies.
I recommend this book by Mark Vieira for anyone who enjoys movies from the golden era, students of cinema, and anyone who loves well made movies. Also, there are some movies discussed in the book that I have never scene and I plan to see them soon.
Bill Veeck was at different times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox (twice). Many people remember Bill Veeck as the baseball owner who brought Eddie Gaedel, a 3’7” tall man in as a pinch hitter in a baseball game between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers in 1951, or as the White Sox owner responsible for Disco Demolition Night. Still others may remember him for the funny and outrageous but harmless promotions he conducted as owner of the Indians, Browns, and White Sox.
But he was much more than that. He was a great humanitarian, an advocate of civil rights, a baseball fan’s owner who cared about the fans, a player’s owner who cared about his players, an employer who cared about his employees, an innovator who introduced many changes in the game, a patriot, a thinker, a listener, an avaricious reader and man who despite a severe physical handicap would never quit.
This is easily the best biography I have read in the last twenty years and maybe the best ever. This book is especially for White Sox, Indians, and Browns fans. It’s for Cub fans too, as Veeck and his father had a profound influence on the Cubs as well (the ivy on the walls, Harry Caray and the singing of “Take out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch and others.) But it is also for any baseball fan and for anyone who appreciates the story of man who lived a truly remarkable life. Read Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson.
By the author of True Grit, Masters of Atlantis is one of the funniest books I have read in years. The first few chapters are not very funny, but they lay the background for a lot of laugh-out-loud moments later on in the book. Read more books by Charles Portis.
Strength Down the Middle by Larry Kalas is the exciting story of the 1959 White Sox, the great players from the team, a game by game description of the season, some of the exciting events from that year outside of baseball, and a modest six month autobiography of a then eight-year-old boy living on the far southwest side of Chicago.
This book is, of course, primarily for White Sox fans but baseball fans in general should also enjoy it. People interested in Chicago history will find it enjoyable as well.
This book is really for scholars of baseball, but does contain some interesting baseball history. For example: Cub fans, did you know that Wrigley Field was not built for the Cubs? It was built for a team called the ChiFeds in 1914. In 1915, the ChiFeds name was changed to the Chicago Whales. In 1913, many well-to-do men thought that baseball was a fine business and started their own Major League. This book is the story of the Federal League and makes for some very interesting reading
Improve your sports knowledge with The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel Levitt.
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (2006)
Yes, this book is by the same author as the “Big Read” book, The Devil In the White City – the story of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893, chief architect Robert Burnham, and infamous murderer H.H. Holmes.
In Thunderstruck, Larson takes us to Edwardian England and intertwines the stories of William Marconi and his invention and development of the radio, and Hawley Crippen, an accused notorious murderer. For most of us, Marconi was merely the answer to a question in history class. Yet this was a real man and his story is an exciting as he must struggle with his invention, competitors, family and himself. Larson shows us what a dramatic change the radio made to peoples’ lives.
And what of the connection between Marconi and Crippen? Hawley Crippen was no H.H. Holmes in that he was only accused of a single murder, but his story was sensationalized by the press of the 1900s. The story of the murder, the policeman who “solved it,” Crippen’s flight on the high seas, how the radio was used in his subsequent capture and arrest, his trial and the aftermath make this a great read.
Listen to the author read an excerpt and read the New York Times review.
Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: the wild saga of interracial baseball before Jackie Robinson by Timothy M. Gay (2010)
The title is somewhat misleading as I did not find the book to be very wild. Nevertheless I believe most readers would consider this book a good introduction into the lives Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller and to interracial baseball in the 1930s and 1940s. I was already pretty familiar with Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean, but I knew very little about Bob Feller. After reading this book, I am going to do some more reading about Bob Feller.
If you are unfamiliar with one or more of these men you will certainly be tempted to read more about them. You should at least read the last paragraph of page 277 and the first three paragraphs of page 278. I was laughing out loud after I did. And readers should also appreciate Satchel’s rules for staying young found on page 280. I thought there were too many stories about individual games. (It was like reading 50 pages of box scores at times. Interesting at first, but after a while it just seems too repetitive.) But if you read the book a few pages at a time you will get a lot out of it.
The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg (2007)
Find out about the things baseball players and teams do to manipulate the game – some legal and some not. In the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins have been accused of tweaking with fans in their ventilation system to help their batters hit better. In the 1960s, when the White Sox were awful, they’d freeze baseballs to prevent other teams from hitting the ball far. You can also learn about the antics used in the early days of baseball – like when they’d literally push players off the base and tag them out. The author includes these stories, plus a lot of fascinating others.
Get ready for the start of the 2009 season by learning about what goes on behind the scenes. Also visit the author’s blog and read the Hardball Times‘ interview with the author.
The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O’Neill’s America by Joe Posnanski (2007)
Buck O’Neill is a famous player and manager from the Negro Leagues. The author accompanied O’Neill for a year as he traveled around the country promoting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. O’Neill shared many anecdotes, some funny and some sad, from his life and from his time around baseball.
Read a PBS interview with Buck O’Neill and check out the blog dedicated to the memory of Buck O’Neill.