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13 minutes ago, Tabe said:

I know lots of people like Jane Leavey's books.  I somehow managed to finish her Koufax bio though it's easily one of the worst baseball books I've ever read.  Didn't bother with the Mantle or Ruth books.  From what I'm told, if I didn't like the Koufax one, I definitely won't like the other two.

Pretty much, though I think the Mantle book is better than the Koufax one, for the record. Haven't read the Ruth one.

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13 minutes ago, Tabe said:

To be fair, I am friends with Hornbaker because I told him his NWA book was poorly written and needed better editing.  Did that on the Wrestling Classics message board in the middle of a thread where everyone else was worshiping the book.  He PM'ed me to thank me for the honesty and a friendship was born.  And I've continued to give his wrestling books the not-so-great reviews they deserved.  I am definitely not wearing rose-colored glasses with Tim's books. 🙂  I find his baseball books to be well-written, not so much his wrestling stuff.

That said, here's why, in a nutshell, Hornbaker's book is better: Leershen repeats as true the story that Ty Cobb once got a home run on a ball hit back to the pitcher.  It's nonsense.

Boy.  I only read Hornbaker's Cobb book, not his Joe Jackson book.  And I thought it was brutally written.  The NWA book was worse, no question.  But boy, was that Cobb book torture for me to get through.  It really was as if he had never read a book before. 

I'd also say in both Leershan AND Hornbaker's cases, one huge drawback was their need to attack Al Stump's fiction repeatedly.  We get it - Stump made the Cobb stuff up.  I didn't need them both going  at it over and over.  I think there probably is a good Cobb book for someone to write.  I don't know if anyone has got to it yet.

9 minutes ago, Tabe said:

I know lots of people like Jane Leavey's books.  I somehow managed to finish her Koufax bio though it's easily one of the worst baseball books I've ever read.  Didn't bother with the Mantle or Ruth books.  From what I'm told, if I didn't like the Koufax one, I definitely won't like the other two.

The Koufax book suffered from Koufax not being very interesting.  He's just not a colorful person.  All Lou Gerhrig bio's have the same problem.  I thought Leavey did fine with what she could do with Koufax.  The Mantle book was certainly livelier at least.

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  • 4 months later...

Given his recent passing, I may want to revisit Jay Johnstone's "Temporary Insanity" again. Not a classic, but just a series of fun stories about one of MLB's legendary "merry pranksters", as well as looks at other jokers, both contemporaries and of the past.

Loved listening and reading about Johnstone growing up -- seemed like a nice guy who kept baseball fun through his pranks.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/4/2020 at 5:05 PM, EdA said:

Boy.  I only read Hornbaker's Cobb book, not his Joe Jackson book.  And I thought it was brutally written.  The NWA book was worse, no question.  But boy, was that Cobb book torture for me to get through.  It really was as if he had never read a book before. 

I'd also say in both Leershan AND Hornbaker's cases, one huge drawback was their need to attack Al Stump's fiction repeatedly.  We get it - Stump made the Cobb stuff up.  I didn't need them both going  at it over and over.  I think there probably is a good Cobb book for someone to write.  I don't know if anyone has got to it yet.

The Koufax book suffered from Koufax not being very interesting.  He's just not a colorful person.  All Lou Gerhrig bio's have the same problem.  I thought Leavey did fine with what she could do with Koufax.  The Mantle book was certainly livelier at least.

The problem with sports bios is that first and foremost they are sports bios. You start and finish with a person who has a single-minded obsession with doing a certain thing better than anyone else in the world. In most cases they at least make it into the top fifty at said endeavor, otherwise we wouldn't be hearing about them... This doesn't leave a lot of room for other hobbies or factoids, in a word they are likely as dull as ditchwater in all other areas. I'm one of those people who is passionately interested in a vast number of unrelated things, so I find the mentality of someone who can be so focussed on one particular thing to be fascinating. I've been told by people that are in a position to know such things that if I just set aside the pool cue and concentrated on the darts I could be world class in fairly short order, or set aside the darts and focus on pool or billiards... Thing is, my mind doesn't work that way, I enjoy being really good at a number of things as opposed to being lights out great at one specific thing. The type of person that Ted Williams was (who famously said: "When I walk out of a room I want people to say "there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived!"). What gets lost in these discussions when Babe Ruth is mentioned is that people tend to forget that he was one hell of a pitcher before switching to the outfield in order to keep his bat in the line-up.

Lou Gehrig was a nice man who played baseball as well as anyone ever has and played bridge for enjoyment. He married his sweetheart and other than a tragically shortened life, he had a happy one, but there's really not much there in terms of tension or page-turning suspense. Mantle and Ruth were certainly more colorful if drunkenness and debauchery are your thing, having been there and done that I have plenty of my own escapades to relate to anyone interested in that sort of thing...

So your sports bios tend to range on one side to the Dale Murphy sort of thing. "I've got this swell religion, I know you'd rather read about baseball stuff, but since I've already got your ten bucks, you might as well kick back and let me tell you  all about this dude finding golden plates in the woods and talking to angels and all sorts of cool stuff like that..."  Or you might get the other extreme, the Eddie Murray / Don Baylor sort of thing wherein the subject recalls every at-bat they ever had and the result thereof. When you're a player as renowned for consistency to the degree that Mr. Murray was, the virtue of said consistency grows somewhat tiresome after a bit, there are only so many games wherein the virtues of going three for five eor two for five can be discussed at length... Or you get the third thing, which is the biographer making a bunch of shit up. These books should be filed under "fiction", but they are a damn sight more entertaining than the other two groups.

 

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