On the eve of the 2011 baseball season, it is a great privilege to have as a guest on the Cover the Bases podcast Josh Wilker, the author of Cardboard Gods; An All American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards.  Josh is of similar “baseball age” and is also a Red Sox fan, so his coming of age memoir about life rooted in the mid-1970’s is one that triggered many emotional responses.

Cardboard Gods | Josh Wilker | Cover the Bases PodcastThe book was released by Seven Footer Press in 2010 and is now available in paperback.

We start out by talking about his favorite player Carl Yastrzemski, YAZ! While my brother and I fancied ourselves as Fred Lynn, throwing tennis balls against the side of the house and making great diving catches, Yaz had already achieved immortal status around New England as the central figure of the team during the 60’s, including the Impossible Dream season of 1967.

I recount that the first person ever mentioned on Baseballisms was my college roommate Jim McNulty, who was also a Yaz fan, and speculate that it was his older siblings and his mother who influenced his rooting interest.

Josh makes the great point that the creaky old veteran instilled something in him that called to mind the great lineage of baseball past, and is of course a direct line connection back to Ted Williams.

The book is set up in chapters that are prefaced by a particular baseball card from his collection.  The story of the card is intertwined with Josh’s own personal story, somehow relating back to the details found in that card. Setting the stage that this was not a typical baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet story was when we are introduced to Tom in the Mike Kekich chapter.  It was a time in the 70’s when experimentation was taking place, and Josh’s mom invited her boyfriend Tom to move into the house, along with Josh, his brother Ian and Josh’s dad.  As Josh discusses in the podcast, and you can get from the book, it was unique arrangement but done with good intentions and love.

A brief but impactful section of the book details the year after Josh is expelled from boarding school, and spends the summer with his grandfather. We love generational stories here at Baseballisms, and for Josh to have the chance to witness a magical season like the 1986 Red Sox season in the company of a caring elder, is something that I would wish for everyone to experience. [click to continue…]


Do you know how hard it is for a pitcher to win 300 Major League Baseball games?  Just the math alone can explain how amazing the feat actually is.  In order to win 300 games, a pitcher must win at least 20 games over 15 seasons or conversely have 15 wins in 20 seasons.  This analysis brings into context the accomplishments of the 24 pitchers who have reached that incredible milestone since 1876.

The 300 Win Club | Dan Schlossberg | Baseballisms.comHave we seen the last of the 300 game winner?  Author Dan Schlossberg thinks so, but before we get to the reasons why, he gives us a profile of every pitcher in the exclusive club in his book The 300 Club: Have We Seen the Last of Baseball’s 300-Game Winners?

Dan sat down to put his book together as Randy Johnson achieved his 300th victory for the San Fransisco Giants in 2009.  It was the realization that there are more players in the 3000 hit club (27) and the 500 homer club (25), with those clubs continuing to grow in number, while the pitchers mark would become untouchable.  Dan set out to speak with as many living members of this fraternity as he could.

It is also impressive to consider the Hall of Fame pitchers who did not approach the 300 win mark in their careers including Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, and Juan Marichal.

The book is segmented into chapters on each pitcher, including career statistics, plus the box score of the game in which the pitcher achieved the 300th win.  It is interesting to note the players who were on the field, as well as re-living some of the accounts of those games.

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Major League Bride | Kathleen Lockwood | Baseballisms.comWith great pleasure, we welcome Kathleen Lockwood to the Cover the Bases podcast.  She is the author of Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark.  The book was published by McFarland & Company in 2010.

Kathleen has been married to former major leaguer Skip Lockwood for over 40 years, the first 12 years of the journey while he pursued a career as a professional baseball player.  The Lockwoods endured six teams, thirty five residences, trade rumors and a career threatening injury in pursuit of this career.  This book  is an inside look at what it means to fall in love, maintain a marriage, and start a family while attending to big league dreams.

There is a positive side to this story that Kathleen felt needed to be told during this era in baseball of steroid related turmoil.  It is a way to shine a light on the positive relationships that she had built up with other families in the same circumstances.  She also had the time available to spend writing after the youngest of five children had finally gone off to high school.

Her method for re-creating many of the stories was to revisit the numerous scrapbooks that she had kept throughout those times, and then used internet resources to locate old friends and capture past memories.

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Waiting for the Cubs | Floyd Sullivan | Baseballisms.comAvid #Cubs fan Floyd Sullivan introduces us to his entire multi-generational family of “Cubbed-Up” baseball fans, in his book Waiting for the Cubs: The 2008 Season, the Hundred-Year Slump and One Fan’s Lifelong Vigil.  The book was released in 2010 by McFarland & Company.

This chronicle of the 2008 season coincides with the 100th Anniversary of the last Cub’s World Series win, and Floyd intersperses key elements of the 1908 season among his personal accounts.  He also puts to use an entire lifetime of Cubs fandom, to instill the proper sentiment in the book, which allows the reader to truly feel the ebb and flow of the baseball season.

Written in a relaxed, first person narrative, we feel as if we are along in the backseat of his Honda Accord, logging the miles to Cubs games from Miami to Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, and to legendary Wrigley Field.  As Floyd states, this is a personal account of a true fan who has no special privileges or insider access.  It is the story of a fan (and his family) who purely love the game of baseball.

For those who may not remember, the Cubs 2008 campaign was rather successful, leading the National League in Wins, major offensive statistics such as Runs, OPS, Total Bases, as well as pitching statistics Strikeouts and Opponents Batting Average.  Lou Piniella’s team would notch 97 wins, the most since 1945.

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I cannot understate how fortunate I feel to have had a chance to speak with Dirk Hayhurst on the Cover the Bases podcast. His book The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran is receiving critical comparisons to classics such as The Catcher in the Rye and to the baseball standard Ball Four. I am convinced that many years from now I will pridefully point to this episode and exclaim, “I spoke for 40 minutes to Dirk Hayhurst about The Bullpen Gospels!”. 

This page turner will make you alternately laugh or cry, as Dirk presents both the camaraderie of being one of the guys trying to make it to the bigs and the hardships of reaching for the dream while surviving a dysfunctional family.

As readers, we are fortunate that this book is not just another pulp expose of what we have come to expect from “behind the scenes” baseball books, rather it is a thought provoking glimpse from someone who wants to deliver a critique of what it means to be a man inside the uniform of a major leaguer.  We get to read about, and celebrate,  the healing that he has experienced … only because he has shown us the pain and suffering he has endured through challenges on and off the field.

The title for this book comes from the column that Dirk had written for his hometown newspaper called the Canton Repository. The Bullpen Gospels does hint at the higher wisdom that Dirk uncovers during the most important episodes in the book.  After having a difficult outing in front of the top management of the organization, he is confronted with his alcoholic brother’s desire to reach out to those he has hurt in the past.  While Dirk is in no mood to forgive so easily, he comes to the realization that all he has been striving for is right in front of him.  That the true measure of the person underneath the uniform, is how he deals with adversity.

Meanwhile, Dirk’s roommate Frenchy is distraught over his own perceived failings until Dirk can set him straight on the realities of baseball. It was at this moment that Dirk became aware of the wisdom that he had acquired within the game, as well as the vision to see what he would become if he bought into the sport as the single driving force in his life.

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