From murder to hijinks to hotheads, all the bases are covered in a book dedicated to baseball's anti-heros. In his latest, sports enthusiast Weeks (Cellar Dwellers: The Worst Teams in Baseball History) profiles a range of meager characters among them stars and lesser folks alike. There is the disturbing story of a stalker fan, which inspired Bernard Malamud's The Natural, and of Lee Elia, who in the early 80s took over as manager of the struggling Chicago Cubs and unleashed tirades directed at everyone-particularly the fans, whom he referred to as "nickel-dime people" and "urged them all to find jobs instead of hanging out at the ball park, which he labeled their 'playground.'" Then, there is Dave Kingman, a superb hitter and malcontent, whose "itinerant lifestyle" led him to play for four different clubs in the 1977 season. Stubborn and contentious, his is a story of talent and tantrum. To no surprise, the chapter on "Onerous Owners" features a profile on George Steinbrenner, described by Weeks as a "walking contradiction" who had "no qualms about insulting the highest paid Yankee players." Batting statistics for more than 35 players are included, as biographic information. The bad boys reign in this book as cringe-worthy activities are recalled on every page. Publishers Weekly This volume fills a gap in the wide and deep literature of the history of professional baseball, focusing exclusively on the more infamous players to grace the sport. The text is divided into 10 chapters of short biographies, such as "The Mysterious and the Macabre"; "Liars, Cheats, and Tattletales"; and "Meddlesome Managers." A sampling of the entries provides Marty Bergen, a catcher for the Boston Beaneaters who murdered his family; and Carl Mays, a pitcher who killed a batter with a brush-back pitch to the head. A name index is provided as well as statistics for each of the mentioned players. This volume would be a great addition to the circulating collection of most libraries. Booklist Baseball isn't always about batting champs, gold gloves and Cy Young winners. It's also about the game's infamous lamebrains, cheaters and other toxic characters. Jon Weeks has done a masterful job of profiling the scoundrels, rascals and villains who have added a dash of color-mostly black-to the history of our national pastime. -- Allan Zullo, coauthor of The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown We all know the inspirational biographies of Ruth, Gehrig, and Robinson. Baseball's Most Notorious Personalities rounds up the colorful, incorrigible, irascible, and-most of all-highly entertaining characters from the corners and shadows of baseball's rich history. You may not remember the stats but you won't forget their stories. -- Mickey Bradley, co-author of Haunted Baseball and Field of Screams
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Of the 17,000-plus players who have donned major league uniforms over the years, not all were particularly nice or ethical. In fact, the actions of a handful were so heinous, they left an indelible mark on the sport. In Baseball's Most Notorious Personalities: A Gallery of Rogues, Jonathan Weeks thoroughly examines this dark side of our National Pastime. Liars, cheats, hotheads, even axe murderers-you'll find them all here in the Gallery. From scapegoats to maniacs, meddling managers to fanatical fans, this book profiles them all. Included are players such as Brooklyn outfielder Len Koenecke, who tried to crash a chartered plane in a maniacal suicide attempt; Ty Cobb, who was known to slide into bases with spikes flying and brawl with anyone who dared oppose him, including an attack on a fan who heckled him from the stands; and Marty Bergen, a talented catcher for the Boston Beaneaters who murdered his family with an axe. These are just a few of the many intriguing individuals found in this volume. Spanning three centuries of baseball-from the 1800s into the current decade-Baseball's Most Notorious Personalities covers various themes of notoriety. Though some of the stories may be familiar to the dedicated baseball enthusiast, even the most die-hard fan will be shocked and surprised by some of the actions of well-known and lesser-known players, managers, fans, and team owners contained in this book. Baseball's Most Notorious Personalities is a fascinating read for all baseball fans and historians.