Books by Peter Golenbock

Released: March 25, 2014

"A soufflé of anecdote, revenge served cold and self-promotion."
A Hall of Fame umpire calls the game of his own life, concluding, "By God, I loved every minute of it." Read full book review >
Released: July 3, 2012

"The author's determination to complete a case that at times drove him to despair and brought him to the edge of bankruptcy is admirable, but the meticulous detail occasionally verges on excruciating."
A celebrated criminal lawyer's tell-all memoir about the tumultuous years he spent defending supposed Florida "baby killer" Casey Anthony. Read full book review >
ABCS OF BASEBALL by Peter Golenbock
Released: Feb. 2, 2012

"Golenbeck definitely conveys more than the facts. An entry for J says it all: 'Joy: What you feel watching the game.' (Informational picture book. 5-9)"
Words and phrases associated with the national pastime are explained for young fans. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

"Colorful individual tales, woven together to paint a collective portrait of an extremely liberal, vibrant, exciting and deeply beloved borough."
Oddly structured yet satisfying oral history from sportswriter Golenbock (7, 2007, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 10, 2006

"The Allison story, told with thrusting energy, even while tragedy after tragedy sucks the air out of the room. "
Bestselling sportswriter Golenbock (Amazin', 2002, etc.) chronicles the terrible toll stock-car racing has taken on NASCAR legend Bobby Allison and those close to him. Read full book review >
Released: March 29, 2002

"Not just for die-hard Mets fans, this will appeal to all readers who want to better understand the game and business of major-league baseball. (b&w photos throughout)"
Prolific sports author Golenbock (Wrigleyville, 1996, etc.) crafts a mosaic of anecdotes, interviews, and photographs to retell the New York Mets' colorful history. Read full book review >
HANK AARON by Peter Golenbock
Released: April 1, 2001

The veteran sportswriter, whom readers will remember from his affecting story of Jackie Robinson and PeeWee Reese (Teammates, 1990), takes the real-life tale of baseball slugger Hank Aaron and fashions it into a fable of hope, endurance, and faith. Aaron's father wished him the joy of baseball, and his mother wanted him to make a difference in the world. A childhood of grinding poverty included both schoolwork and baseball, and by the time he was 16, a local team wanted him and the color line had been broken in the majors. Aaron joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 as a powerful home-run hitter. When he began to close in on Babe Ruth's record of 714 homers, he also began to get nasty letters. Two of the most powerful illustrations in Lee's muscular acrylics are of Aaron standing before a wall of ugly hate mail and swinging in front of a looming image of the Babe. The art is made in the sunny, saturated colors of baseball cards, and the one of Aaron at full extension tossing the bat away as he heads for first is as pretty a piece of baseball art as can be imagined. Aaron did break Ruth's record, he did receive an outpouring of support, and his mom was there in 1974 when he hit #715. Pair this for the perfect spring story hour with Lesa Cline-Ransome's Satchel Paige (not reviewed) and Elisha Cooper's Ballpark (1998). (Picture book/biography. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 24, 1999

A stock-car racing hero who came back from horrible injuries sullies his image somewhat in this thinly veiled screed against them what wronged him. In the early 1990s, Irvan (please don't call him "Swervin"), was one of the hottest pilots on the NASCAR circuit. Winner of the 1991 Daytona 500, stock-car racing's premier event, and a regular challenger for the season championship, Irvan earned a reputation as a hard charger, a reputation, as it happens, that had as many negative connotations as positive ones. Going into 1994, Irvan was on top of the sport: the hottest driver racing for one of the best teams, Robert Yates's Texaco-sponsored Ford. During that season, however, Ernie hit the wall, literally and figuratively, slamming into a concrete barrier at 190 mph during a practice session. The tremendous force of the impact shattered his body, nearly blinding him in one eye. Two years later, wearing an eye patch, Ernie got back behind the wheel and since then, he's resumed his winning ways. If only this perseverance against adversity were the focus of the book. Alas, too often, Irvan launches into rants: against Yates, who jerked him around during contract renegotiations after the 1997 season; against Texaco, for misconstruing his failure to mention them at an awards banquet as an unforgivable slight; against other drivers and the media, who criticized his recklessness. While Irvan's fault-finding fills relatively few pages, it sets the tone for the rest of the book. This is a pity, because seemingly lost amid the rancor is the fact the Irvan is a plainspoken individual, who waxes philosophical about his injuries (the inevitable downside to good fortune, he reasons), is heartfelt in his descriptions of NASCAR colleagues, and is sincere in his grief over friends who have died while on the circuit. (Co-author Golenbock is the author of Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes: The Definitive Oral History of America's Team, 1997.) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 28, 1997

An outstanding four-decade overview of American social history masquerading as an impossibly entertaining sports tell-all. Bestselling sportswriter Golenbock's (Wrigleyville, 1996, etc.) brilliantly conceived and executed chronicle of the Dallas Cowboys speaks volumes about modern America. Granted an expansion franchise for the 1960 season, Texas oil millionaires Clint and John Murchison set about building a top-flight organization. To this end, they hired former PR man Tex Schramm as general manager (the author calls him ``a businessman as tough as Jimmy Hoffa''), personnel manager Gil Brandt, and coach Tom Landry, a no-nonsense, fundamentalist Christian. This troika built one of the most successful—and profitable—sports franchises. But if winning was the Cowboys' trademark, then management's failure to adapt to changing times was their undoing. Through interviews and secondary sources, Golenbock charts football's evolution from sporting afterthought to big-money television spectacle; he also reveals how players metamorphosed from anonymous drudges to entertainment superstars and vocal community leaders. Golenbock's study demonstrates how players' activism helped promote social causes such as civil rights. And for this outspokenness, many Cowboys, including a large number of blacks, wound up in the coach's and managers' doghouse. Schramm's and Brandt's penuriousness occasionally derailed the Cowboys gravy train. (Had they rewarded the players who helped win the team's first Super Bowl after the 1971 season, they likely could have kept the team intact.) And Landry's inability to understand the new breed of player created deep, damaging rifts in the Cowboy organization. The comments Golenbock elicits from individuals (conspicuously absent is Landry) shows readers another side of sports, and makes the business seem tawdry and dehumanizing. If this book has one fault, it's that it seems mostly to side with the players. But if even half of what they say is true, then it's small wonder. Should not be missed. (16 b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
WRIGLEYVILLE by Peter Golenbock
Released: March 4, 1996

An okay history of the hapless but beloved Chicago Cubs, a baseball team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 or played in one since 1945. Though this takes the form of an oral history, Golenbock (Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin, 1994, etc.) has to borrow heavily from long-published sources to tell the story of the early years, starting with Albert Spalding's 1876 desertion of the Boston club to pitch for Chicago's White Stockings. He would eventually own the ball team and lead it to a dynasty in the 1880s. They became the Cubs in 1902, and in 1906, under player/manager Frank Chance, they won 116 games. The Cubs lost to the crosstown White Sox in the World Series, but won back- to-back world championships in 1907 and 1908 against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. It would be their last World Series victory, though they won pennants in 1910, 1918, and again in 1945. Veterans of that WW II team—Phil Cavaretta, Len Merullo, Dewey Williams- -recall the series for Golenbock, still second-guessing manager Charlie Grimm's selection of a pitcher for the seventh and deciding game. Some great and memorable ballplayers have been Cubs, and Golenbock introduces them throughout his narrative: Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Ferguson Jenkins, Dizzy Dean, manager Leo ``The Lip'' Durocher, Bruce Sutter, Lou Brock and, of course, ``Mr. Cub,'' Ernie Banks, a two-time MVP, with 512 career home runs. (Curiously, the affable Banks, an executive with the Cubs, is not among Golenbock's interviewees, a serious omission.) The Cubs' woes in recent years culminated when future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg walked away from a $28 million contract in 1994 out of sheer frustration. (Sandberg has recently rejoined the team.) Anecdotally interesting, but Golenbock could have done more legwork in some crucial areas, most notably Banks's outstanding career. (50 b&w photos) Read full book review >
Released: June 27, 1994

Golenbock barely stays within the foul lines in this Baseball Babylon catalogue of the late Yankees manager's career, his celebrated fistfights, hangovers, trysts with underage women, and battles with owners, players, and the press. In an overlong effort, Golenbock (Fenway: An Unexpurgated History of the Boston Red Sox, 1992, etc.) competently reviews Martin's playing days in the 1950s and his drunken carousings with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. He brings insight into the father- son relationship he had with Casey Stengel and their eventual falling-out. And Golenbock does a good job of retracing Martin's managerial odyssey: AAA Denver in 1968; winning the division with the Minnesota Twins in 1969 and being fired after the playoffs; his turnaround of the Detroit Tigers in 1971, capped by taking the division the following season, and then dismissal after a tumultuous 1973; being named Manager of the Year in 1974 for resurrecting the hapless Texas Rangers only to be fired in July 1975; then, his achievement of a lifelong dream in being named to manage the New York Yankees. All the well-publicized hirings and firings (five times by the Yankees), the womanizing and bar brawls, and the ugly fights with George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brewer, and others are here. While any biography of Martin would have to include Steinbrenner, Golenbock uses an inordinate amount of space to go after the domineering, controversial Yankees owner (a ``weak, self-centered tyrant'' and ``a real jock sniffer''). Steinbrenner's youth and teen years at Culver Military Academy, etc., receive lengthier, more detailed attention than Martin's background and childhood. And in asides to his recounting of the messy details of the 1989 auto accident that killed Martin, Golenbock takes his widow, Jill—and Steinbrenner—to task for having ``killed his spirit'' and ``ruined his life.'' Much of this is a rehashing of the author's earlier books on the Yankees, but it will, nonetheless, stir up controversy by reopening old wounds. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 1993

Golenbock, best known for baseball histories (Fenway, 1992; The Forever Boys, 1991, etc.), now turns his diligent attention to stock-car racing—a sport he calls ``chess on wheels.'' In what's primarily an oral history patched together with generous helpings of his own commentary, Golenbock enthusiastically examines the history, personalities, and ins-and-outs of NASCAR's Winston Cup circuit. The circuit's 29 races, starting with ``opening day'' at the Daytona 500 (``the Super Bowl, the World Series'' of racing) in February, comprise a spectator sport ``every bit as great...and as much fun to follow as major league baseball.'' NASCAR, we learn, was the brainchild of Bill France, who organized a December 1947 meeting to set standards, rules, and policy for a circuit that would feature ``standard street stock cars'' that ``ordinary working people'' could identify with. Noting that the early drivers were ``the real Dukes of Hazzard,'' Golenbock traces the origins of stock-car racing back to the days of southern bootleggers—but at $85 per ticket, ``the days of the redneck, fried-chicken-and beer crowd [are] a distant memory.'' The sport boomed into a multibillion-dollar industry in the early 1970's when nonautomotive sponsors like R.J. Reynolds got involved, and its early heroes—like Junior Johnson, who won 50 races and is now a top owner; Glenn ``Fireball'' Roberts, the ``first superstar'' of racing, who was killed in a 1964 crash at Charlotte; and Richard ``The King'' Petty, who raced for over 30 years, from 1958 to 1992, and won an incredible 200 times—are to racing what Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth are to baseball. Not for casual readers—but sure to get stock-car enthusiasts' engines running. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 24, 1992

A lengthy and lively history of Boston's heartbreak kids, the Red Sox, from chaotic start (when, as a charter member of the American League, they were known as the ``Pilgrims'') to unavailing present (with the club's near-miss finishes still the despair of fans). Drawing on the recollections of players, fans, front-office executives, and local sportswriters, plus memoirs and other published sources, Golenbock (The Forever Boys, Bums, Dynasty, etc.) cobbles together an anecdotal narrative as notable for vivid accounts of might-have-been frustrations as for joy-in-Mudville highlights. Cases in point range from owner Tom Yawkey's inability to buy a pre-WW II pennant through play-off losses and Bill Buckner's fabled and fatal error in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Diamond enthusiasts can thank the author for reviving a wealth of evergreen memories—e.g., Ted Williams going six for eight in a double-header to bat .406 for the 1941 season, Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning homer against Cincinnati in 1975, Mel Parnell's 1956 no-hitter, and Jimmy Piersall's idiosyncratic decision to run the bases backwards after stroking a four-bagger. Nor is there any faulting Golenbock's profiles of the all-stars who at one time or another wore a Bosox uniform. Their ranks include the colorful likes of Harry Agganis (dead at 25), Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Jimmy Foxx, Lefty Grove, Bill Lee, Jim Rice, Tris Speaker, Cy (as in cyclone) Young, Carl Yastrzemski, and, of course, the man who got away—Babe Ruth. Also a presence throughout is Fenway Park, the bandbox stadium whose ``green monster'' wall in left field never can be counted a home-team advantage. Fine fare for baseball buffs, regardless of their allegiances. The annotated text includes detailed statistical data and 16 pages of illustrations (not seen). Read full book review >

The Boys of Winter might be a more appropriate title; none of the players in baseball's new Senior League will last forever—not with sagging guts and creaking limbs in this 35-years-plus crowd—but they do fill the diamonds from November to March, making America's greatest sport a year-round festival, as Golenbock (The Bronx Zoo, Bums, etc.) demonstrates in his report from the trenches. The Senior League is a year old; whether it lives to puberty depends on public tolerance for seeing Major League has-beens puff around the basepaths. Fortunately, the level of play can be first-rate, and Golenbock gets to report a legitimate pennant race; he also, by sheer good luck, latches on during fall training (sounds odd, doesn't it?) to the eventual champs, the St. Petersburg Pelicans. Mostly, it's baseball as usual with no surprises. The on-field pleasures derive from a strong sense of time-warp: What's "Spaceman" Bill Lee doing on the mound? Off-field, the kicks come from hearing the ballplayers—this is one angry crowd. Chief warrior is Doc Ellis, "a hulking presence with a skinhead," who scores a new first for baseball trivia by admitting that he pitched his 1970 no-hitter while tripping on LSD. Lenny Randle, Sammy Stewart, Ron LeFlore, and Pat Zachary are among other key players who flash their spikes. Some play for money, some for pride, some to re-enter the Majors—what seems to be lacking is playing for fun, but then that left the Majors a long time ago. Too much grumble but lots of dirt (was Earl Weaver or Billy Martin the bigger boozer?). Satisfactory work by Golenbock, who has no literary voice of his own but keeps things chugging along; tops for nostalgia buffs. Read full book review >