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Book Notes

May 2, 2013

'Who's on Worst?' reveals the ugly in baseball

The Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates the greatest players, managers and owners from our national pastime. Any of us who have watched major league baseball have inevitably seen some of these immortals practicing their craft. But we have also likely witnessed a sample of their opposite brethren, players who shouldn’t have been in the major leagues. Has there ever been a definitive source that “celebrates” the non-accomplishments of the worst that major league baseball has to offer?

There have been a scattering of writings on possible “Hall of Shame” prospects, but a new book by Filip Bondy, a columnist for the New York Daily News, puts them in their proper perspective. “Who’s On Worst? The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and Other Antiheroes in Baseball History” provides a summary of the worst in the game in several different categories and how they managed to leave a stain on the sport.

One likely misconception about this book is that it is funny. It is not. Most of the cases of disastrous play do not result in happy endings. A single bonehead play can mark a player for life. Just ask Bill Buckner. A lot of long-term flops were players who signed huge contracts and couldn’t live up to the hype. The pressure overwhelmed them and their lives often ended up in despair.

Usually the big-money busts are the fault of the owner or general manager who view average players through rose-colored glasses. What ballplayer is going to turn down a long-term, multi-million dollar contract even if deep down he knows he’s not worth it? Sometimes you wonder how some general managers ever keep their jobs considering their ineptitude when spending money.

Some teams are more trigger happy than others. The New York Yankees merited a chapter of their own on this subject. Their general manager, Brian Cashman, has a history of throwing gobs of money at underachieving players. He survived because the Yankees are a successful franchise and can afford to misspend their huge fortune. Cashman also worked for an owner, George Steinbrenner, who didn’t mind rolling the dice on a prospect.

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Book Notes
  • WWII collection grows with 'Those Angry Days' The main lesson history teaches us is to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. There’s also an old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Perhaps the two notions have something in common because we continually prove that history does indeed repeat itself.

    April 10, 2014

  • 'Blue Jasmine' shows talent of troubled Allen It's a shame that Woody Allen is caught up in controversy in his personal life because it deflects from his talent as a filmmaker. You can see the brilliance in his most recent release, "Blue Jasmine" now available for rental at the Cooperstown Library.

    April 3, 2014

  • 'Nebraska' helps give Dern his due Bruce Dern has been a character actor for over half a century yet hadn't really gotten the acclaim he deserves.

    March 27, 2014

  • Book captures both sides of 'Splended Splinter' Ted Williams is an American icon. As the mainstay of the Boston Red Sox from 1939-1960 he was one of baseball’s all-time greats, a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and perhaps the greatest hitter the sport has ever known. He was admired for his devotion to the game, his service to his country, and his support for children with cancer. But there was an ugly side to him too. Williams’ life was a set of contradictions where his talent and humanity were offset by fits of rage and cold-heartedness.

    March 20, 2014

  • Wouk has amazing body of epic work One of the problems with eulogies is that they only seem to occur posthumously. I often wonder why people who have produced something noteworthy aren't honored until after they die and don't get to hear the acclaim they deserve. In that vein I want to recognize an aging classic novelist while he is still with us.

    March 13, 2014

  • 'Miracle' shows when Olympics were pure The Winter Olympics ended recently and somehow they seemed to have lost their luster. It wasn’t so much that they were in Sochi where most of the events were on tape delay. It was more due to the new events (many we have never heard of) that have diluted the games. The Winter Olympics have gone from an intimate edition of their summer counterpart to one where it appears medal counts and commercialism is all that matters.

    March 6, 2014

  • Sometimes bad films, books called 'Classic' About 40 years ago a movie was made that set the standard for overhyped and underwhelming films. It was "The Great Gatsby" starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Redford was the hottest thing in Hollywood at the time and Time Magazine ran a cover story on the film. When it was finally released it completely bombed.

    February 27, 2014

  • British films that will warm your heart With all the snow and sub-zero temperatures this winter there are enough nights where the easiest thing to do is hunker down and enjoy a good movie. I thought I’d offer a few suggestions with a British twist. These are films with Americans that are filmed in England. The one thing they all have in common is that they’ll warm your heart in the end.

    February 20, 2014

  • Giants-Dodgers rivalry entertains One of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports is the Giants and Dodgers. These two proud franchises have been going at it for well over 100 years. First it was New York vs. Brooklyn. Now it's San Francisco vs. Los Angeles. There's no love lost between them. Victories over each other are sweeter than those over any other team. Even when they're not going head-to-head it feels good when their arch-rival loses. If you're a Giants' fan, hating the Dodgers is a way of life (and vice versa).

    February 13, 2014

  • Going the Distance to White House Every president of the United States goes through difficult periods. It comes with the job. There are the daily demands of national security issues, the economy, policy initiatives, personnel, Congressional meetings, and social events. Heaven forbid a scandal breaks out. It takes a massive ego to be president since the pressures outweigh the perks. It's little wonder that presidents age in office. The stress is unrelenting.

    February 6, 2014