Book Review: ‘So You Think You Know Baseball?’ by Peter E. Meltzer

So You Think You Know Baseball? is pretty interesting if you are at all a hardcore baseball fan or even a casual fan that wants to understand the game’s rules at a much deeper level.

This book goes through every single rule in the official rulebook. In fact, it doesn’t just reiterate or try to explain the rule, it gives actual real examples, often times multiple examples, of the rule in play and how it effected the cited game.

The book also provides examples and asks multiple choice questions to the reader, to try and determine the right answer. This allows the reader to better understand even the most complicated or seemingly useless rules. It also makes the reader respect some of the more obscure rules.

This book is a must own for any baseball fan just because of the lengths the author goes in trying to make each and every single rule clear. It will challenge purists and aficionados and bring some enlightenment to those on the eternal quest for ultimate baseball knowledge.

It is well written, well organized and just damn interesting.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca, The Hidden Language of Baseball by Paul Dickson

Book Review: ‘When The Game Was Ours’ by Larry Bird & Earvin Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan

*Written in 2015.

I grew up in a pretty lucky time for a basketball fan. My introduction to the game was seeing the constant rivalry between Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson unfold nearly each and every postseason. It set the stage for what was the best era in professional basketball history, as next came Jordan, Pippen, Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Ewing, Robinson, Drexler and so many others. Bird and “Magic” gave us what was the start of the amazing era that took over the 1980s and culminated at the 1992 Olympic Games with the assembly of the first and greatest Dream Team.

These two guys changed the game and enhanced its spirit. They forced the game to get better and their competition to work harder. They were generals on the court but they were also model citizens and guys worthy of pointing to and saying, “Hey son, be like that guy.”

Anyway, this is a pretty awesome book. Whether you like one of these guys, both of these guys, none of these guys, or just the game.. or not.. it is still a pretty awesome book.

It tells the tales of both men from their point-of-view as they came up through high school, through college and into the NBA. It gives insight as to what each man thought about the other, every step of the way. In many ways, them opening up about their feelings and thoughts is pretty cool, especially since much of what they share with the reader, they hadn’t yet shared with each other.

There are great stories in here, legendary stories in fact.

The only downside is that I felt like the book suffered from being written by a third party. Not to say the writing wasn’t good, it was great. However, it would’ve been a much more intimate and better experience had Bird and Magic penned their own words for the majority of the book.

Regardless, this book, at least to me, was a stark reminder of how much class the National Basketball Association and its stars had. Something that has been missing league-wide since the end of that Dream Team era. This book also reminded me why basketball was my favorite sport as a young kid.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: My Life by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Drive by Larry Bird.

Book Review: ‘Senna Versus Prost’ by Malcolm Folley

Senna Versus Prost is one of my favorite books on Formula 1. It covers the rivalry between two F1 legends, the late great Ayrton Senna and superstar Alain Prost. For those who don’t know, they had one of the most bitter rivalries in the history of not just motorsports but all of sports.

Many people are now familiar with the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda due to the film Rush but even that epic feud wasn’t as big as the one between teammates Senna and Prost.

Malcolm Folley wrote a damned good book and from cover-to-cover this thing wasn’t just compelling it was eye-opening and emotional. The events surrounding Senna’s death were tragic and the words of Prost within this book offer up a level of respect and admiration for the man he seemingly hated.

This book lets you into Prost’s mind and shows you how despite the differences and anger that these two amazing drivers had with one another, they never doubted the greatness of their biggest rival or themselves.

Senna Versus Prost is well-written and thorough, giving the reader stark insight into the history between these two super talented and passionate men. It also shows Alain Prost in a better and more fair light than the documentary film Senna, which painted a negative picture. That wasn’t a bad documentary but it had an agenda in the way that it was told. This book gives a more balanced view and lets the reader form their own opinion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The Death of Ayrton Senna by Richard Williams, The Mechanic’s Tale by Steve Matchett and Winning Is Not Enough by Jackie Stewart.

Book Review: ‘Keith Magnuson: The Inspiring Life and Times of a Beloved Blackhawk’ by Doug Feldmann

Keith Magnuson was one of the greatest Blackhawks of all-time and not just that, he was a pillar of the community and a great man. Unfortunately and sadly, he was killed in a car crash in 2003 – leaving behind his wife and kids.

During his time as a player and a coach in the Blackhawks organization, Magnuson brought class, hard work and dedication. Sure, that could be said for a lot of guys in the history of the organization but very few were as giving as this guy was and even fewer were as good of a leader as Magnuson.

This book is pretty great. Granted, it isn’t as great as if Magnuson would have penned his own story but it was still a thorough look at the man’s life and had a lot of personal details on nearly every page. The author, Doug Feldmann did his homework and weaved a fantastic tale that not only showcased the man on the ice but the human being off the ice.

There are a lot of stories and behind-the-scenes situations in this book that are more than enjoyable to read, not just for a Blackhawks fan but for any fan of hockey or sports in general.

This is a very welcomed treasure to my ever-growing hockey library.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey by Jeremy Roenick with Kevin Allen, Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen

Book Review: ‘How to Hike the A.T.’ by Michelle Ray

*Written in 2015.

I’ve been wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail for a few years now. It is a tough and very long hike that covers over 2,200 miles and 14 states in the eastern U.S. So to prepare for what I hope to do in the future, circumstances permitting, I figured it would be best to read up on it from those who have done it.

How to Hike the A.T.: The Nitty-Gritty Details of a Long-Distance Trek by Michelle Ray was a pretty thorough book on the subject. She goes over the psychological side of things, planning, physical conditioning, gear, food, drink, making a proper itinerary, mail drops, bounce boxes, flora and fauna, weather, trail culture, trail traditions, hygiene, safety, injury, illness and everything else one needs to know before heading out on this journey.

Ray’s book is well written, well organized and straight to the point. Every chapter is necessary and each one covers the subject matter fully and precisely.

Now I cannot compare it to other books on the subject, as I haven’t read any others thus far but I can’t imagine needing to know much more than what was available here. Planning to do this trek however, I also know that it would be in my best interest not to take this as the bible of the Appalachian Trail, as there are other books with other perspectives out there for me to absorb.

As a starting point, this book gave me more than I expected and I’m thankful to Michelle Ray for that. Also, it happens to be the highest rated book that I saw in regards to the subject matter.

Moving forward, I’ll follow up with reviews of other books I pick up that are about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson

Book Review: ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury

*Written in 2014.

Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers that ever lived. If you disagree, it’s probably because you have never read anything deeper than The Poky Little Puppy.

Fahrenheit 451 is an iconic piece of work that has gone on to inspire dozens of similar stories throughout pop culture since this book was first published in 1953.

It tells the story of a man named Guy Montag. He works for the oppressive fascist government that rules our potential dystopian future. He is a “Fireman”. His job is to burn books wherever he finds them, as they have been outlawed. I’m sure that the story was inspired by the Nazis and how they had mass book burnings. Regardless, Bradbury brings a deeper level of understanding to that vile practice.

Throughout the story, Montag realizes the error of his ways and goes on to challenge himself and the system whose tyranny he helped administer. It is a thoroughly thought provoking journey of self discovery, as well as one of conquering evil.

It is such a successful formula and strong story that Hollywood has been “borrowing” from Fahrenheit 451 for years. Other than the book’s 1966 film adaptation starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie, it has gone on to inspire the premise for the Christian Bale and Sean Bean starring Equilibrium, as well as several other films.

Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best books I have ever read. It isn’t that long and it reads very well, which should be no surprise if one is familiar with the name Ray Bradbury. It is a short and pleasant read but one that tugs at your soul. I can only imagine the effect it had being released in a world where the fall of the Nazis was only a decade old.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Book Review: ‘Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers’ by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts

*Written in 2015.

This is a sequel to the awesome book Baseball Between the Numbers, which I reviewed.

The Baseball Prospectus staff once again provides baseball fans and stat heads with a magnum opus. Yes, they have produced two perfect and amazing works for us to read and both are monstrous volumes to add to your sports library.

Being that this one is a few years older than its predecessor, it is a bit more current with its subject matter and it gives us some other topics. A big part of the book goes into the use of PEDs and how it effects the game. It is a section that I agreed with wholeheartedly and it helped inspire the post I wrote about PEDs several weeks ago (*referencing an old website that is now gone).

The book also goes into team building, scouting, pitching, fielding, offense and other subjects. It does a thorough job of analyzing all this stuff and giving the reader with a lot to ponder. It also gives one good ammunition for bar debates with your friends.

Baseball Prospectus writes some of the best material in the baseball world. This book is no different and if you are a true baseball fan, if you don’t already own this, you are doing yourself and your library a big disservice.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Baseball Between the Numbers by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts, The SABR Baseball List & Record Book by the Society for American Baseball Research, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James.