During the Great Depression in 1934, twenty-three-year-old John Laufketter is struggling to support his wife and infant son as a coal miner in the southern Illinois town of Beckemeyer, forty-five miles east of St. Louis. Once a promising baseball prospect destined for stardom, John’s dream was thwarted by a series of personal setbacks after leaving high school.
The only recreation John can afford is playing in the Clinton County Baseball League, where the Sunday games are fierce battles for local pride among the towns which have teams. It was always expected by Beckemeyer residents that John would one day return and play for the town in the CCL, but only after a lengthy career in the major leagues. With the economy worsening, the availability of work in the coal mine has gradually dissipated – which furthers the disappointment John feels in himself.
But due to an incredible implosion of faith and luck, he is presented with a one-in-a-million opportunity to claim the life in baseball he was supposed to have. It is his one, final chance to get himself and his family out of the coal mine for good.
With a foreword by Mike Ditka
Whether in football or in the law, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas has always had the “best view from the bench.”
Starting as a rookie with the Chicago Bears in 1975, Bob Thomas helped take the franchise from their darkest days to their brightest. Yet, on the cusp of the team’s greatest moment, he was struck with a shocking blow that challenged his fortitude.
In this dramatic retelling of Thomas’s fascinating life, Doug Feldmann shows how neither football nor the law was part of Thomas’s dreams while growing up the son of Italian immigrants in Rochester, New York in the 1960s. Chasing excellence on both the gridiron and in the courtroom, however, would require resilience in ways he could not have imagined.
In reaching the top of two separate and distinct professions, Thomas has been guided by a bedrock of faith that has impacted his decisions and actions as both a football player and a judge, helping him navigate the peaks and valleys of life.
With a foreword by John Stuper
As Lou Brock was chasing 3,000 career hits late in the 1979 season--his last after 18 years in the majors--the St. Louis Cardinals were looking for a new identity. Brock's departure represented the final link to the team's glory years of the 1960s, and a parade of new players now came in from the minor leagues. With the Cardinals mired in last place by the following June, owner August A. Busch, Jr., hired Whitey Herzog as field manager, and shortly handed him the general manager's position, too.
Herzog was given free rein to rebuild the club to embrace the new running game trend in the majors. With an aggressive style of play and an unconventional approach to personnel moves, he catapulted the Cardinals back into prominence and defined a new age of baseball in St. Louis.
With a foreword by Cliff Koroll
Written with the full support of the late Keith Magnuson’s wife and children, this thrilling and insightful biography pays tribute to a Chicago icon and true hockey legend. One of the most popular Chicago Blackhawks of all time, Magnuson was raised on the raw, rough traditions of hockey in western Canada. He captained the University of Denver team to its second straight NCAA championship in the spring of 1969 and by autumn joined Blackhawks stars Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito, becoming the much-needed “policeman” for the team.
Over the course of the next several seasons, the defenseman Magnuson and the Blackhawks fell painfully short of their Stanley Cup aspirations; nonetheless, Magnuson’s leadership qualities led to his being named captain of the team.
As veteran sportswriter Bob Verdi described Magnuson upon his retirement from the Blackhawks, “there have been many finer athletes in Chicago, but not one finer person,” and this biography tells the story of his remarkable life.
During star-pitcher Bob Gibson’s most brilliant season, the turbulent summer of 1968, he started thirty-four games and pitched every inning in twenty-eight of them, shutting out the opponents in almost half of those complete games. But Gibson and his teammates were stunned to subsequently lose the 1968 World Series to the Detroit Tigers. For the next six years, as Gibson fought to maintain his pitching excellence, changes in American culture ultimately altered the St. Louis Cardinals and the business and pastime of baseball itself.
In looking back on his career, Gibson mourned the end of the Golden Era of baseball and believed that the changes in the game would be partially blamed on him, as his pitching success caused team owners to believe that cash-paying customers only wanted base hits and home runs. Yet, he contended, the shrinking of the strike zone, the lowering of the mound, and the softening of the traditional rancor between the hitter and pitcher forever changed the role of the pitcher in the game.
Bob Gibson remains one of the most unique, complex, and beloved players in Cardinals history. In this story of one of the least examined parts of his career—his final years on the team—Doug Feldmann takes readers into the heart of his complexity and the changes that swirled around him.
With a foreword by Don Kessinger
Civil unrest at home, war abroad, and political uncertainty gripped the nation as the 1970s approached. In the summer of 1969, as a tumultuous decade of American history neared its end, Major League Baseball presented sports fans with a thrilling distraction: a pennant race that pitted the Chicago Cubs, those much-loved perennial also-rans, against the defending National League champs, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the upstart New York Mets.
Miracle Collapse is the story of how one of the most talented Cubs teams ever to take the field—with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and ace pitcher Ferguson Jenkins among their ranks and led by the irascible manager Leo Durocher—raced to an early division lead and a seemingly certain pennant, only to unravel spectacularly at the season’s end.
A time capsule in which baseball lore jockeys with history, Doug Feldmann’s book draws readers into the lives of these legendary Cubs players and their fierce bond with the city of Chicago. During this magical summer of baseball peaks and valleys, life goes on: Durocher “disappears” for a few days before his wedding; players leave the team midseason for National Guard duty; play is interrupted to announce man’s landing on the moon. It is against this backdrop that Miracle Collapse captures a baseball season for all time.
In 1953, August A. Busch purchased the St. Louis Cardinals for nearly four million dollars. His dream included not only the best players money could buy but a brand new Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. The early sixties found Busch working on both, and by May 1966, when the new Busch Stadium was opened, the St. Louis Cardinals were on the cusp of greatness. A world championship would follow in 1967, and in 1968 the Cardinals battled the Tigers in a classic seven-game series, narrowly losing their bid for back-to-back titles. This volume looks back at the outstanding Cardinal teams of the 1967 and 1968 seasons.
The era of free agency in Major League Baseball ensured that it would be difficult to keep star teams together year after year. The 1976 Cincinnati Reds were one of the last to be considered a “dynasty,” and this book documents the season of one of the greatest teams in baseball history. During the pursuit of a second-straight world championship in 1976, the “Big Red Machine” was fueled by all-time hits leader Pete Rose, slugger George Foster, and all-stars Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan, as well as a balanced pitching staff that had seven players notching double-digit win totals. The 102-win regular season ended with a World Series sweep of the New York Yankees.
With a foreword by Rick Horton
For the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans, there was a great deal of uncertainty going into the 1985 season. Only three years before, the Cards had won the World Series, but were predicted to finish last in the National League East Division by every major publication. As manager Whitey Herzog was expected to rebuild his team, drug abuse had cast a lingering shadow over the game and a players' strike threatened to halt play. The situation looked bleak for St. Louis but the season turned out to be nothing like the predictions as the Cards found themselves in a battle for the pennant. From beginning to end, this book chronicles the 1985 pennant-winning season in all its excitement.
With the recent success of the Gas House Gang as a backdrop, the National League prepared for the 1935 season. The United States was still in the Great Depression, but executives in baseball predicted a financial comeback during the year, and Chicago's "windy" politicians demanded a pennant-contending ballclub. Yes, there was a time when the Cubs were expected to win. This book chronicles the Cubs' 1935 season and the many on- and off-field events that impacted the game for years to come: Fans who had once turned to baseball for heroes and men of character now laughed at players' uncouth antics and fun-loving carousing reported in the morning newspapers; Babe Ruth debuted in the National League with the Boston Braves, and retired soon after; the first major league night game was played in Cincinnati; the chewing gum king Phil Wrigley was the first to broadcast all of his team's games on the radio; and the Cubs won 21 games in a row in September to take the pennant.
Led by the colorful pitcher Dizzy Dean, the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals personified Depression-era America. The players were underpaid, wore uniforms that were almost always torn and dirty, and had wandered into professional baseball from small towns in the Midwest where other jobs were scarce. Despite their lack of resources, however, and despite coming off two mediocre seasons, the Cardinals emerged triumphant in '34, winning the pennant by two games over the Giants and the World Series in seven games over the Tigers.
The book chronicles that championship team which came to be known in baseball lore as the famous "Gas House Gang." This work brings to life the legendary exploits of player manager Frankie Frisch and the Dean brothers--Dizzy and Paul--who combined for 49 wins that season. The era, the team, the season, and the Series are all fully covered.
With a legacy that goes back to the Brown Stockings of the old American Association, the St. Louis Cardinals have one of the longest and greatest traditions in the history of baseball. Dating back to 1885, the Redbirds have established a dynasty across the decades—from Charlie Comiskey’s four-time AA champs, through the “Gas House Gang” of the 1930s and the “Runnin’ Redbirds” in the 1980s, and to the 2011 World Champions and beyond. Front-office pioneers like Chris von der Ahe and Branch Rickey have put the Cardinals franchise at the forefront of innovation, while bringing in some of baseball’s greatest talent.
St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present traces the history of this storied franchise from its origins in the 1880s to its latest accomplishments on the field. Pairing historic black-and-white photos and contemporary images of the modern game, the book explores the ballparks and the fans, the players and the teams that have defined Cardinals baseball and captured the hearts of fans nationwide.
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