This year's offerings seem really interesting.
So, when you're tired of rolling games and want to sit back a spell, grab one of these books when they come out for some reading time:
Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Legend, Thom Henninger and Patrick Reusse, April 1.
As a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan, I had to lead with this book. Henninger and Reusse, who has co-authored other books about Minnesota sports, suggest that the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 may have led to Oliva being on the Twins. When he was 22, Oliva, from Cuba, didn't impress Twins scouts in a tryout. But because relations between his country and the US were damaged, Oliva couldn't easily go home. He was given a second chance, and that, readers, was the making of his legend. Three years later he won the American League Rookie of the Year
Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius, Bill Pennington, April 7.
This 544-page book by a New York Times sports reporter, looks at the careers of Billy Martin — both as a player and manager. He was a managerial genius, leading the Yankees to a World Series win in 1977, but he was also troubled by alcohol and other demons, as highlighted in Pennington's book.
Little General: Gene Mauch, a Baseball Life, Mel Proctor, April 1.
This one offers a look at Mauch, who is best known for his coaching stints with the California Angel. He also managed the Twins, Expos and Phillies and, although not as flamboyant as Billy Martin, Mauch was fiery and taunting of umpires and was ejected 43 times in his career.
Split Season: 1981: Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo and the Strike That Saved Baseball, Jeff Katz, May 19.
The 1981 season began with Dodgers rookie pitcher Fernando Valenzuela wowing the crowds and Pete Rose chasing the National League hit record. But a strike midway through halted play for 712 games and forced then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn to create a playoff system based upon winners of each section. The book looks at the strike, free agency disputes, the system that angered fans and the rebirth of the popularity of the game once play resumed.
A late-season release, this book details the July 24, 1983, contest between Kansas City and New York. We've all seen the video of George Brett going ballistic when umpires called him out after he hit a home run with a bat that Billy Martin said had too much pine tar on it. The call cost the Royals the game, but then was later overturned and the two teams resumed the game in the following month. According to a pre-release description, Bondy, who also wrote books on the 1984 NBA draft and the worst players, cheats and anecdotes in baseball, interviews several of the players involved to get fresh, time-added perspectives of that game.
Strangers in the Bronx: DiMaggio, Mantle, Andrew O'Toole, June 1.
O'Toole focuses on the 1951 New York Yankees season, the last for Joe DiMaggio and the first for Mickey Mantle. It was the passing of the hero title from Joltin' Joe to Mantle as the Yanks won the 1951 pennant. Fans also remember that Mantle was injured in the World Series that year, getting his cleat caught in an underground sprinkler while chasing a Willie Mays-hit fly ball that some say DiMaggio should have caught.
Five O'Clock Lightning: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the Greatest Baseball Team in History, Harvey Frommer, April 1.
Whether you believe the 1927 New York Yankees are the best team in baseball history or not, this book should be a fun read of that season with Babe, Lou, Urban Shocker, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel and Waite Hoyt. It was the season Ruth set the home run record of 60, which was more than any other American League team hit that year. They went on to sweep the Pirates in the World Series. I think any APBA baseball fan has wanted to do a replay of that season at some point.
Gil Hodges: A Hall of Fame Life, Mort Zachter.
This book was released on March 1; I received an advance copy in a drawing, so I was able to read it earlier. Zachter makes a case for placing Hodges in the Baseball Hall of Fame for both his playing career with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and his managing with Washington and the New York Mets. The book is full of anecdotes. Zachter writes that in 1950, rookie broadcaster Vin Scully wore Hodge's baseball uniform during spring training one day and was approached by two youngsters who thought he was Hodges. Scully, thinking he didn't want to ruin their image of Hodges, signed Hodge's autographs for them. The book also really notes well, I thought, the change in Hodges after he went from playing to managing. This was one of the better baseball biographies I've read in a while.
There are plenty of baseball books coming this year. These are only a few, but when you put the dice down and are looking for a book to continue the sports obsession, give any of these some consideration. Happy reading.