The Sons of Slabtown & Tales of Westside Sports by Donald R. Nelson; 2016; $25.00; 145 pages;DNelsonbooks, Portland, OR; 978-0976282396; purchased from the author at the Oregon Oldtimers & Active Association Banquet; 2/18/17-2/21/17
Why did I read this? Because I am interested in baseball and the city I live in.
The audience for this book is probably very limited. This is the story of the neighborhood in Northwest Portland that produced some major league baseball players, chief among them Boston Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky. There were several other players that made major league rosters and had cups of coffee in the majors. It is an interesting history of a neighborhood from the beginning of the twentieth century to mid century. Living here there is much that was very interesting and several old timers that I have met including Vince Pesky, who signed my copy the night I purchased it. Also John Leovich who I got to visit with on the Oregon Coast at his restaurant. This is actually a scrapbook with captions.
Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul; 2012; $14.95; 457 pages; Burnside Books, Golden, CO.; 978-0-9852953-2-5; gift from Jordan Green of Burnside Books; 10/7/15-10/14/15
This book has been sitting on my to be read shelf for three years since Jordan gave it to me. It is the story of LaVerne Williams, a former KC Athletics player, who runs a bbq joint in Kansas City. It is the story his life and the lives of those around him, a couple of young men from abusive homes, his family, a real estate developer and his son, a seminary professor and the women in their lives. It is a non linear story but that works here as we get each character’s backstory in bits and pieces. It is a story that is hard to describe but it is awesome and the best bbq around. I came to really like it. I felt at first that the ending was anti climatic, but that is how life sometimes feels.
Did I enjoy it? The structure of the story was unusual but it ultimately worked. I enjoyed getting to know the characters.
What is with the title of the review? The four main ingredients of the story are barbecue, baseball, blues and the Bible.
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough; 2015; $17.99; 329 pages; Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, NY;978-0-545-66834-7; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Gresham; 7/21/15-7/28/15
Not since The Book Thief has an emotion or concept been so effectively channeled as a character. Through the ages Love and Death have played a game to see which is stronger. This game starts in Seattle in 1920 with two players from disparate backgrounds who will have to face immeasurable odds just on their own, but death keeps complicating things, as if an African American and a Caucasian didn’t face enough odds in the USA in the 30’s and 40’s. Baseball, jazz, aviation all provide the background for a moving love story of two people fighting almost impossible odds.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, there were parts of this that I left this world and inhabited the world of the book. Everything that was around me dissolved when Martha talked about baseball in an early chapter and later when Henry interacted with Jazz music and when Flora flew. Martha I was moved deeply. Thank you.
What is with the title of the review? The were parts of the story that transported me to another place and time and I felt that I was not on the bus reading but inhabiting the story.
The Dad Report; Fathers, Sons and Baseball Families by Kevin Cook; 2015; $26.95; 272 pages; W.W. Norton and Company, New York, NY; 978-0-393-24600-1; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Midland; 7/10/15-7/15/15
Kevin Cook’s father was a minor league pitcher, who retained some of his baseball capability even after he retired from the game. Although I think no ever really retires from the game they are usually involved in some way even if it is just checking the standings each day. Kevin’s thoughts on his and his dad’s relationship moved him to interview families who were all involved in the major leagues, including the Boone family and Dan Haren and his father. There were several other families but I can’t remember them. If is an interesting look at how it is when you follow directly or almost directly in someone’s footsteps. How do seek advice, do you seek advice, do you follow that advice and more.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, it like many of my favorite movies is not really about baseball but about father and son relationships and how those are strained by societal norms that were imposed by the culture we were raised. I would think that the macho atmosphere of athletics would be very similar to the warrior mythology that I was raised in.
What is with the title of the review? Much like Kevin Cook and his father don’t speak much of emotional issues, but talk about baseball to convey their love for one another, my Dad and I talk about books. I just realized that with one of my sons we talk about movies and the other we talk about music.
Bigger Than The Game, Restitching a Major League Life by Dirk Hayhurst; 2014; $14.95; 305 pages; Citadel Press, New York, NY; 978-0-8065-3487-9; purchased from Amazon.com; 4/26/14-4/30/14
Dirk Hayhurst is a former baseball player that I met back in 2008. It was interesting talking with him as we usually didn’t talk to him about baseball, but about books. I actually once got embarrassed about what Dirk would think of me because I brought a friend to a game with me and all he wanted to talk to Dirk about was baseball. I began this book going what, what are you talking about. Dirk is battling depression and injury but in such a macho environment as professional sport, he is reluctant to reveal the fact to anyone. When finally he reaches rock bottom and reaches out he finds that there are people are ready to help him to return to where he was before. As he battles his way back from injury he comes to realize many things about himself. This is a battle that many of us have fought our way through in a much less hostile enviroment.
Why did I pick this up? I met Dirk back in 2008 and was impressed with him and his intellect. I began to read some pieces he wrote and have read his previous two books and enjoyed them.
What is with the title of the review? Dirk is very honest with how he feels through his battle with injury and depression, he is more honest than most of us are with our selves.