Paul Dickson, who is quickly becoming one of the premier sports biographers in the business, selected his top five baseball books in an article today in the Wall Street Journal (April 22-23, 2017, p. c10). The article is entitled “Five Best: A Personal Choice.”
Dickson, who most recently penned a biography on Leo Durocher, also wrote a classic biography on Bill Veeck. I read and posted blogs on both of these books, and you can read them here.
Durocher: (3/19/2017) http://www.15minutebusinessbooks.com/blog/2017/03/19/dicksons-newest-characterizes-leo-the-lip/
These are Dickson’s top five selections in the WSJ article:
- Ball Four by Jim Bouton (1970)
- Only the Ball Was White by Robert Peterson (1970)
- Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck (1962)
- The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams (1970)
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2003)
I have no problems with any of these selections. However, if I were making a list, I would have at the very top, the amazing work by George F. Will, entitled Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (Macmillan, 1990). That book has convinced many skeptics and critics who think that professional athletes just play that they actually work. No, this book proves they work. And, they work harder and longer at their craft than the vast majority of employees in most professions, including examining multitudes of complex variables in making decisions. Baseball players, in this book, are not the “boys of summer.” They are truly men at work. To me, for baseball fans who read books, it is an essential selection.
Today, I saw that he published his list of the top 50 sports books, in an article entitled “By My Reading…” (March 15, 2015, p. 14C) Click the link here and you will see an interactive page that explains why he believes that a book belongs on the list, and what it contributes.
Cowlishaw is a veteran sports reporter in the DFW area. He also appears on the ESPN national television program “Around the Horn.” He joined the Dallas Morning News in 1989. He has been a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Stars. Today, he focuses his work on daily columns.
It was fun to look at Cowlishaw’s list of books. If I were making such a list, I would include Men at Work by George Will (Easton Press, 1990). That book explained the game day business of baseball better than anything I have ever seen. It convinced me, as well as others, that baseball is not “boys at play.”
I was amazed how many of the books I had read, and even saved. My favorites off his list were:
- Ball Four by Jim Bouton (Dell, 1971)
- Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (Harper and Row, 1972)
- Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger (De Capo Press, 2000)
- Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof (Holt, 2000)
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton, 2004)
- Cosell by Howard Cosell (Playboy Press, 1973)
- Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer (World Press, 1968)
Cowlishaw did a good job of selecting and explaining why these books were prominent in a very concise way.
After reading it, I wanted to go out to the garage and see if I can pull out some of these. Some would be yellowed, tattered, and torn.
Of course, I would have to find them first.
We rarely get any comments on our blog posts. But, I am interested to see if you would add or subtract any sports books from his list after you look it over.
David Justice: Scotty H.
Scott Hatteberg: Yo, what’s up, D.J.?
David Justice: Pickin’ machine.
David Justice: How you likin’ first base, man?
Scott Hatteberg: It’s, uh… it’s coming along. Picking it up. You know, tough transition, but I’m starting to feel better with it.
David Justice: Yeah?
Scott Hatteberg: Yeah.
David Justice: What’s your biggest fear?
Scott Hatteberg: A baseball being hit in my general direction
[Hatteberg and Justice share a laugh]
David Justice: That’s funny. Seriously, what is it?
Scott Hatteberg: No, seriously, that is.
[uncomfortable pause; Hatteberg leaves]
David Justice: Well, hey, good luck with that.
(From the movie, Moneyball)
We have a shortage in this country. Let’s call it a “Mojo” shortage. We’re just not quite sure about our future. We’re seeming a little unsure that we are up to the task. And it is draining our energy, all around us.
The reasons are plentiful. This morning, Research in Motion (BlackBerry) announced their first round of layoffs. Hewlitt Packard has recently implemented a major round of layoffs. JCPenney has just gotten rid of its President – the turn around is going a little slower than hoped, and things look a little shaky. American Airlines; well, the very name kind of just makes you sad at the moment. And that list is just off the top of my head from what I remember the last few days.
But we still have well over 150 million folks showing up to work in this country every day. And they need to be at their best. And then, they need to get better in the days to come – better, more capable, smarter. Liz Wiseman, in her book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, writes that the best leaders are Multipliers, not diminishers. From the book:
“People actually get smarter and more capable around Multipliers. That is, people don’t just feel smarter; they actually become smarter. They can solve harder problems, adapt more quickly, and take more intelligent action.”
I’m not sure we have enough Multiplier leaders to go around at the moment. I think we’ve got a Mojo deficiency, a Mojo shortage that must be addressed.
And I think we all need to be Mojo strengtheners, not Mojo stealers, Mojo diminishers.
Consider Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers are currently on a roll, but his strengths were evident much earlier. His Multiplier abilities are described really well by Michael Lewis in Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:
Ron Washington was the infield coach because he had a gift for making players want to be better than they were — though he would never allow himself such a pretentious thought.
Billy Beane, with little money to work with, had to turn ball players with little potential in critical aspects of their job into functioning big leaguers. Now, by definition, “big leaguers” are the true “A players.” But even those good enough to get to the big leagues are not “A” players in every aspect of the game. One case was Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher whose body would no longer perform the catcher’s role, had to be turned into a first baseman. He was terrified at the challenge. (see the dialogue from the movie, above). But a first baseman has to be able to perform, play after play after play. So the infield coach, Ron Washington, had to turn him into a big league first baseman. Fast.
The more he (Scott Hatteberg) went out to play first base, the more comfortable he felt there. By late June, he could say with a smile that “the difference between spring training and now is that when a ground ball comes at me now, my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof.” A large part of the change was due to Wash. Wash got inside your head because — well, because you wanted Wash inside your head. Every play Hatty made, including throws he took from other infielders, he came back to the dugout and discussed with Wash. His coach was creating an alternative scale on which Hatty could judge his performance. He might be an absolute D but on Wash’s curve, he felt like a B, and rising. “He knew what looked like a routine play wasn’t a routine play for me,” said Hatty. Wash was helping him fool himself, to make him feel better than he was, until he actually became better than he was. At the Coliseum it was a long way from the A’s dugout to first base, but every time Hatty picked a throw out of the dirt – a play most first basemen made with their eyes closed – he’d hear Wash shout out from the dugout: “Pickin’ Machine!” He’d look over and see Wash with his fighting face on. “Pickin’ Machine!” He began to relax. He began to want the ball to be hit to him.
“He began to want the ball to be hit to him.” He found his Mojo. He was ready for work. He was ready for his work. He was up to the task. And much of the credit was due to a Multiplier leader like Ron Washington.
The books are filled with the advice. Look for the good. Build on strengths. Praise often. Tell the stories of success far and wide. They all boil down to this: don’t steal anyone’s Mojo. Strengthen it. Because until a person “begins to want the ball hit to him,” there is little chance of the success we all want, and need.
So, are you in a leadership position? Consider the people around you – are you stealing their Mojo, or strengthening it? This may be the ultimate test, the ultimate trait, of good leadership.
I presented my synopsis of Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, for a group of investors last night. Michael Lewis is a great! story teller. Here are some of his highlights, some of the most enlightening parts, of the story he weaves:
Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way. No response was as peculiar as the Greeks’, however…
Here’s a look at the deep hole in Greece:
The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. (and) …more than six hundred Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on.
And here’s the deep corruption in Greece. He described, with great detail, that the corruption in Greece ran deeply through every sector of the society, from the priests and the monks, to the public officials, to the doctors…to everyone.
It’s simply assumed, for instance, that anyone who is working for the government is meant to be bribed. People who go to public health clinics assume they will need to bribe doctors to actually take care of them. Government ministers who have spent their lives in public service emerge from office able to afford multi-million-dollar mansions and two or three country homes.
And in California:
“What all the polls show is that people want services and not to pay for them. And that’s exactly what they have now got.”
So – what is the solution? Here’s a hint, from Iceland – put more women in charge of the money, and keep men away from the purse strings…
What they found, in a nutshell, is that men not only trade more often than women but do so from a false faith in their own financial judgment. Single men traded less sensibly than married men, and married men traded less sensibly than single women: the less the female presence, the less rational the approach to trading in the markets. One of the distinctive traits about Iceland’s disaster, and Wall Street’s, is how little women had to do with it. Women worked in the banks, but not in the risk-taking jobs. Today her firm is, among other things, one of the very few profitable financial businesses left in Iceland. After the stock exchange collapsed, the money flooded in. A few days before we met, for instance, she heard banging on the front door early one morning and opened it to discover a little old man. “I’m so fed up with this whole system,” he said. “I just want some women to take care of my money.”
Boomerang – it’s really worth the time to read this book. Take a look.
Iceland; Ireland; Greece; California. They are all in trouble – deep, serious trouble. The debts are massive. The way out looks… well, there doesn’t seem to be a very workable way out.
And the financial situation in other corners of the globe have ripple effects in every corner of the globe like never before. What happens here does not stay here, not in the financial arena.
This is the disturbing message of the new Michael Lewis book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. I’m reading this book, and preparing a synopsis for a client group. It is Michael Lewis at his best – great storytelling, with plenty of “this is really important, and genuinely enlightening” insights. I have read, and presented three other books by Lewis: The New, New Thing; Moneyball; The Big Short. They are all still worth reading. This new one, Boomerang, just adds to my appreciation of Lewis as a writer and thinker, even as it adds to my understanding of the current fiscal crisis.
But it is more than a financial crisis alone. It is a moral crisis. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Lewis conducted by Fareed Zakaria.
“I think we get the democracy we deserve, and in California it’s very hard to argue otherwise. We have essentially direct democracy – all big fiscal decisions are made by the people by plebiscite. And the idea that somehow in essence the people are not getting what they want – they are getting what they want. That’s the problem.
They (the people in California) are getting what they want. They want public services, and they don’t want to pay for them. They want to cheat the future for the present. And that’s not just a financial problem. That’s a cultural/moral problem.” (emphasis added).
A moral crisis. And a moral crisis requires a moral solution. And, so far, I’m not reading much in the solution department.
We live in a troubling time.
Here’s the interview with Lewis. The excert above is just after 3:30 in the video.
The Big Short is coming out in paperback today. It is still #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers list (just behind #1, with an asterisk, meaning that it is actually tied for #1 with the newer take on the financial meltdown, All The Devils Are Here – now my March selection for the First Friday Book Synopsis).
The Daily Beast has a short interview with the author, Michael Lewis. Here are two brief excerpts:
After the success of Liar’s Poker you wrote that few readers picked up on the true message of your book and instead read it as a celebratory how-to or guide to the financial world. Do you think readers got the message of The Big Short? The sense that so few people truly understood what was going on.
Or the broader message that the incentives in the financial system were bizarre and in need of changing? Not really.
Your dispatches from around the world on the economic crisis have proved excellent guides to problem spots, so where is next? Is there another Iceland or Greece looming?
Ireland, obviously. I have a piece about it that comes this week in Vanity Fair. After that…New Jersey?
Read the full interview here
You can purchase my synopsis of The Big Short, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.