Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain

I’m excited to share the title and front cover of my latest book project, a biography of baseball great Ken Boyer.

Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain¬†tells the story of Kenton Lloyd Boyer (1931-1982), who played major-league baseball for 15 seasons, most of them with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1955 to 1965. He spent his last four seasons with the New York Mets, the Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a five-time Gold Glove Award winner for his exceptional defense at third base, an 11-time All-Star at the same position, and the recipient of the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1964.

The book also explores his personal life, his childhood in southwest Missouri, his minor-league career, and his coaching and managerial careers.

Ken Boyer: All-Star, MVP, Captain is tentatively scheduled for publication in August 2014, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of both the Cardinals’ 1964 World championship and Ken’s MVP season.

To learn more about this project, please visit my book page, like my Ken Boyer page on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter.

Ken Boyer_Front Cover

St. Louis Cardinals Book Collection

As baseball author and book reviewer Ron Kaplan notes on his blog, the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox will spawn a slew of books about the winning team before the holidays.

It’s interesting for me to see the collections of fellow book collectors/hoarders, and sometimes they share photos of them on their blogs or in Facebook groups such as Baseball Books. Ron, a devoted Yankees¬†New York Mets fan,* shared his modest collection of Red Sox titles.

Before Game 6 of the Series commences tonight, I thought I’d share my Cardinals book collection. (A few titles are buried under papers and index cards on my desk, as I need them for the biography of Ken Boyer I’m writing.)

* Big correction: Ron is a Mets fan, NOT a Yankees fan. Big difference!

Cardinals Books_2

Cardinals Books_1

Cardinals Books_3

Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry Presentation

This week, I was invited to give my presentation on Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee (U.S.) Cavalry to the Tippah Tigers Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #868 in Ripley, Mississippi. The membership treated me to a great meal and several members purchased copies of my book Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. This is the first time anyone’s recorded one of my speeches, and I appreciate Robert Jackson of the Tippah Tigers posting it to YouTube. Thank you again to the Tigers (who you can also find on Facebook) for their hospitality!

Ken Boyer Book

It’s a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time, a biography of St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer.

He was my father’s favorite Cardinal in the 50’s and 60’s. He exemplified class and leadership during a 15-year baseball career with the Cardinals, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was arguably the best all-around third baseman in the game during his 11 seasons in St. Louis. He blasted a grand slam home run to win Game 4 of the 1964 World Series for the Cardinals and helped drive a nail in the coffin of the Yankee Dynasty. He died much too young from lung cancer at the age of 51.

There’s not been a biography written about Ken Boyer in over 40 years. The last, written by David Lipman and published in 1967, was intended for younger readers more than adults. None has been written that recounts his life past that memorable ’64 World Series, which saw him finish his career away from St. Louis but return as a coach and minor league manager before achieving his dream of managing the Cardinals. His tenure was short and he was replaced by Whitey Herzog in 1980; he died two years later before his former team won the 1982 World Series.

I’ve already begun researching his life and playing career. It’s my hope that the book will be published in the next two years. There are many interesting aspects to Ken’s life beyond just baseball: his family, the respect his teammates held for him; how important the game was in the lives of children from his generation; how he battled the illness that eventually took his life.

I’ll begin posting the results of my research and the process of writing the book here on my blog. I’m also very interested in hearing from those who knew Ken or watched him play. Personal stories of meeting him or asking for an autograph would be wonderful too.

I already have a website dedicated to Ken Boyer at www.kenboyer.net. I’m working on a new site design that I hope to unveil soon to complement this book project.

A Quest is Finally Over

There are times when one searches for a lost bit of their childhood, an item they can’t get out of their heads. It could be a toy, a board game, or a favorite song. It may take many years before it’s found, or it may not be found at all. One can see it or hear it in their mind, yet they can’t find it anywhere.

For me, it was a booklet entitled Shiloh on Your Own.

As a young kid interested in American history, I loved to buy the small, inexpensive booklets often found in the gift shops at historic sites. (In fact, I still do!) They were among the first additions to my kid-sized library and many of them are still in my grown-up library today, ones like Casey Jones: The Brave Engineer, Shiloh National Military Park, and The Fabulous David Crockett.

But there was one booklet that was lost between childhood and adulthood that I really wanted again. It was a gift from my father, who brought it home for me when I was probably eight or nine years old. It was called Shiloh on Your Own: An Illustrated Guide to the Battlefield, a 10.5″ x 8.75″ booklet with “then” and “now” black and white photos and drawings of 14 tour stops at Shiloh National Military Park. What I remembered most was a page at the beginning with pictures of the opposing Union and Confecerate commanders during the battle. The layout reminded me of a boxing poster with photos of the opponents opposite one another. In this case, it was Ulysses S. Grant versus Albert Sidney Johnston and Don Carlos Buell versus Pierre G.T. Beauregard.

Years later, I couldn’t find the booklet my father had given me. In fact, I couldn’t remember what the title was. But I remembered the unusual size of it and what was on the cover: the Confederates charging the Union camps at the start of the battle. I looked through used bookstores hoping to find it but never did. Later, I added a search for “Shiloh Park book” on Ebay and searched the results every day for the past five years or so. Realistically, I had given up hope of ever finding it.

Then one day, there it was: an auction listing for three booklets and one was Shiloh on Your Own. When I saw the photo, I immediately recognized it. Seven days later, I won the auction; a week later, it was in my library. It was just like I remembered it, even if it’s wasn’t exactly the one my father bought me almost 30 years ago. But the fascination of learning a little more about my country’s history was still there.

How the West was Left Out

The Civil War Interactive website recently released its list of the Top 50 Best Civil War Books. A few Civil War related bloggers have shared their thoughts on the survey, and for what their worth, here are mine. I admit that I haven’t read most of those listed.

There are many noteworthy books included, but there were only two that had anything to do with the Western Theater of the war. Granted, most of the renowned works concentrate on the Eastern Theater and it’s always been that way. Most of the books were general histories, references, biographies and autobiographies, with but a few that focused on specific battles and campaigns. I agree with most of their selections, but again: Where were the books on the West? Was not Wiley Sword’s classic Shiloh: Bloody April and James Lee McDougal’s books on Shiloh, Stones River, and Franklin worthy of inclusion? I did agree with Steven E. Woodworth’s Nothing But Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (#27) It and Peter Cozzen’s This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga (#25) were the only Western related books on the list. (Col. Aytch could count, too.)

The Fabulous David Crockett

I’ve been a history buff (or nut, whichever one prefers) since I was a little kid. I wanted to stop and read every roadside Tennessee historical marker and practically every family vacation included some kind of historical attraction for my benefit. My grandparents also tolerated my interests and did the same when I went places with them. And I always wanted to stop at the gift shop (there’s always one at the end of the tour) and buy a souvenir. Unlike other kids who wanted some kind of toy, I wanted a book. Usually it was one of those inexpensive ones that had pictures of the historic site and told the story behind it.

One of the first such books I remember getting was The Fabulous David Crockett: His Life and Times in Gibson County, Tenn. Including Tall Tales and Anecdotes of the Western Wilds. (What a title!) It was written by Ernest T. Thompson and published by the David Crockett Memorial Association in 1956. Mine was purchased sometime in the late 1970s at the David Crockett Home in Rutherford, Tennessee.

This 58-page paperback was somewhat dated by the time I read it, but still it introduced me to the famous frontiersman David (don’t call ’em Davy) Crockett, native Tennessean and defender of the Alamo. It was the real person, not the cartoon character created by Walt Disney who could grin down bears and other nonsense. The beginning explained how the Crockett home near the small town of Rutherford had been saved by a local banker, who bought it from a farmer for $25 before it was to be destroyed in 1934 . But it wasn’t until 1955 that the dismantled cabin was rebuilt with funds from a state grant.

The book went on to tell the life of the real David Crockett, from the mountains of East Tennessee through Middle Tennessee and onto West Tennessee, losing his last political campaign to Adam Huntsman, and leaving to seek better fortunes in Texas. It also included several illustrations taken from the Crockett Almanacs that were published during his lifetime and for many years afterward. The Fabulous David Crockett was a wonderful introduction to a colorful life. It also introduced me to Adam Huntsman, who opposed Crockett for re-election ton Congress in 1835.

Not too long ago, I read that Mr. Thompson currently lives at a nursing home in Humboldt, Tennessee. I’d sure like to meet him some day and thank him for helping spark my interest in Crockett and Tennessee history.