I love this time of year. Summer is awesome! It’s hot, fun, and relaxing. It’s also very busy, sometimes stressful, and…..hot. But that’s good. You can’t complain about the heat if you complain about the long, cold Winter right?
One of the strange oddities of the sports calendar is the baseball All-Star break. There are really no other sports for several days. You have no competitive games for 4 days. Within those 4 days we only have the HR Derby and the MLB All-Star Game. I love these two events!
* Last night’s Home Run Derby was really fun. I had a great time with my son Trev watching all the bombs, dingers, and taters! Giancarlo Stanton proved that he is by far the best power hitter in baseball today. Everyone has suspected it for awhile but last night he proved it. This guy not only hits lots of homers, he hits them into the stratosphere. Did you see some of these tape measure shots last night? Good Lord! I don’t think Mickey Mantle in his prime would have been able to defeat Stanton in Petco Park yesterday. The dude looks like a wrestler, like “The Rock”, with power strewn from muscles bulging everywhere. Remember when he was known as “Mike” Stanton? Yeah, I like Giancarlo better too. Congrats to Giancarlo for an impressive display of power!
* With no competitive sports this week, what better time to do some solid Summer reading. I love sports books of all types but I especially enjoy reading sports biographies. Here are my favorites:
- “Joe DiMaggio – The Hero’s Life” by Richard Ben Cramer – It has been many years since I read this wonderful book about Joe DiMaggio’s extraordinary life. I’m putting it on my list to read again because I recall learning a ton in this book, not only about DiMaggio and the Yankees but also about San Francisco in the 1910s and ’20s, about Italian immigrants at that time as well as New York City and it’s nightlife and America in general from the ’30s to ’50s. I remember this being a phenomenal book that was entertaining, fun, and a history lesson all at the same time.
- “When Pride Still Mattered – A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss – Even though I’m a Bears fan I can admire the life of Vince Lombardi. This was a detailed account of a famous coach and how he became known as a celebrity despite years of failures and deep introspection. Lombardi transformed the way we look at the clichéd demanding “football coach” with a whistle both past and present. Did you know that Lombardi attended Catholic mass EVERY morning!?! Think about that.
- “Stan Musial – Am American Life” by George Vecsey – Similar to the DiMaggio book, I learned so much about American history including growing up Polish in the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania like Musial’s hometown of Donora. When you read books like this, the good ones teach you about the culture of the cities and teams of the era, in this case St. Louis and the Cardinals. Stan “The Man” was not only one of the greatest hitters of all-time but also one of the all-time good guys. Has there ever been a nicer professional athlete? You’d be hard-pressed to find one.
- “The Last Boy – Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood” by Jane Leavy – Finally, how can I create a list of baseball biographies and NOT include one of my all-time favorites Mickey Mantle? Leavy does a tremendous job writing about a small town talent from Commerce, Oklahoma, growing up in rural midwestern America, and then moving to the big city and becoming a reluctant superstar. Her book is special because of her memories shared as a fan as well as an interview with Mantle in the ’80s. What a book! It was in this book that I got interested in seeing Mantle’s hometown and his boyhood home. We ended up driving through Commerce and seeing this home on our trip to Texas in 2014. For me it was a visit to “sacred ground” as one guy put it as he pulled up and saw us taking photos in their front yard. Overall, this was one of the best books I’ve ever read, for it was an intimately true portrait of one of our heroes, warts and all.
So do yourself a favor and read a book, especially a good sports biography during these lazy hazy days of Summer. Until next week……