“Billy Martin” by Bill Pennington, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.00, 530 pages is a monster lode of material on the man the book’s sub-title calls “Baseball’s Flawed Genius.” An award winning sports writer for the New York Times, Pennington covered Martin’s time with the Yankees when he was a beat writer. So his work is an up close and personal look at Martin through the author’s recollections of perceptions and from many who knew him well.
I knew Billy Martin, too, but not well. I recall going into his office at Yankee Stadium to do an interview for one of the Yankee books I was writing.
He snapped at me. “You are here at the wrong time and the wrong date.”
I snapped back: “You are wrong. This is what we had agreed on.”
“No, it is tomorrow, come back then and we will talk.”
I came back and Martin’s manic personality was in full bloom.
“You have the wrong day and time again,” he said, fondling his pipe.
I didn’t bother to respond. I simply walked out on him.
It is lucky for all of us that Pennington had better luck. The book is truly worth its cover price. Detailed, filled with new insights, anecdotes that move the reader time after time. This is the definitive Billy Martin. WORTH BUYING
“Riverside International Raceway” by Pete Lyons Spry Publishing, $49.95, 204 pages, coffee table size, is a sprightly put together tour of the legendary races and memorable drivers who have made history at this one of a kind track that made its legendary name in Southern California and all over the globe. In pictures and words, Lyons brings the whole gestalt to life.
“The Games Must Go On” by John Klimt (Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99, 418 pages is a neat fusion of World War Two history and baseball anecdotes. Innovative, always interesting, this book is required reading for those interested in this slice of Americana.
“Split Season” by Jeff Katz (St. Martins, $27.99, 326 pages) is all about the 1981 baseball season, a time the national pastime was ripped and then evolved into something better than anyone could imagine. Carefully crafted, painstakingly researched, Katz gives us Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo and as the book’s sub title notes — the strike that saved baseball.
“The League of Outsider Baseball” by Gary Cieradkowski (Touchstone, $25.00, 232 pages) is an usual and entertaining baseball books showcasing the author’s amazing art and his insights into the national pastime. A hardball archeologist, Cieradkowski brings us back into days of yore and to the world of forgotten heroes and places and times. NOTABLE
“Seeing Home” by Ed Lucas and Christopher Lucas (Jeter Publishing Crown Books, $25.00, 275 pages is as its sub-title rightfully announces a blind broadcaster’s story of overcoming life’s greatest obstacles. And we are there through six decades with Ed Lucas In his time as an Emmy winning broadcaster, his friendships with sports legends, his moments of triumphs and also heartbreak. This is especially a book for Yankee fans but also for all readers who want insights into what makes a handicapped man like Ed Lucas prevail.
“The Dad Report” by Kevin Cook (Norton, $26.95, 288 pages) is focused on connections between baseball and fathers and sons. Subjects given the up close and personal include: Bobby and Barry bonds, Dan Haren, senior and junior, Julia Ruth Stevens, the Babe’s adopted daughter and her famous dad, the Griffeys, three generations of Boones. The book has a lot of inside info, charming anecdotes. GOOD READ
IN THE WORKS FOR FALL 2015:
Written by acclaimed sports author and oral historian Harvey Frommer, with an intro by pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, When It Was Just a Game tells the fascinating story of the ground-breaking AFL–NFL World Championship Football game played on January 15, 1967: Packers vs. Chiefs. Filled with new insights, containing commentary from the unpublished memoir of Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram, featuring oral history from many who were at the game—media, players, coaches, fans—the book is mainly in the words of those who lived it and saw it go on to become the Super Bowl, the greatest sports attraction the world has ever known. Archival photographs and drawings help bring the event to life.
Dr. Harvey Frommer is in his 39th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium was published in 2008 and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park was published to acclaim in 2011.