Sunday, May 28, 2006

Books Ive Read Over the Winter, and Into the Spring, Part One

Books I’ve Read Over the Winter, and Into the Spring, Part One

I’ve read a number of baseball books this year, from the baseball guides through The Hardball Times.  I  read three books on the minor league this off season: Minot Mallards of the ManDak League, 1950-1957 by Bill Guenthner, The Mandak League: Haven for Former Negro League Ballplayers, 1950-1957 by Barry Swanton, and the current American Association Almanac written and published by a friend of this blog, Rex Hamann.

I will review these publications in the order I bought them and read them, beginning today with Bill Guenthner’s Minot Mallards.  (At this point, I’d like to offer to post reviews of any other books that you may have come across this season, or may have been missed by many.  Please let me know.)

Minot Mallards has gone through two printings, and is awaiting the possibility of a well-deserved third.  In the meantime, Bill is offering the book on a CD, which can be printed out, and then bound, which is what I did.  The format is in MS Word, and he includes cover art for the book.  What I did was take it over to Office Depot, and they printed out and comb bound it for me (though they also offer perfect binding).  Bill charges three or five dollars (I forget) for the CD, which basically covers his shipping costs.

This is a history of Bill Guenthner’s team in the town of his youth, and one could call it a loving portrait of that club.  But it is also much more than that.  The book delves into the history of what lead to the league, how the league and the club came into being.  Then it gives a complete season-by-season recap, primarily from the Mallards perspective.  These recaps are well-written and interesting.    

After seasonal recaps, the author takes a retrospective look—without nostalgia— at the league and the level of competition.  Then comes a section that gives thumbnail biographies of virtually—if not every—player who appeared with the Mallards.  So many times I pick up a book on a league, and find myself asking “Who the hell is this guy?” This is a very valuable section that took the author considerable effort to put together.  There are some minimal statistics in this section for the players, but stats was not of great importance to the author.

The following section is a detailed season-by-season roster, showing where the players came from, the seasons they played for the club, and other comments.

The two final sections present photos of a number of the players, caricatures of players that appeared in the local newspaper, and the cover of a scorecard.  The final section lists in tabular form season-by-season league standings, which— being at the end of the book— makes it easy to get to when reading the season recaps.

How good is the book?  Very good, and serves as a great introduction to the league.  The team perspective also give one a feel for the ups and downs of a franchise that one might not find in a league history.  The only critique one could make is that it’s a little light on stats—but that has been remedied by Barry Swanton in his book.

In final analysis, this belongs in every minor league researcher’s library.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Contact Bill @ the following address for further information on his book:


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