Book Review: Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty & the Say Hey Kid

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“Mr Aaron, for every one of those bad letters you receive, there are thousands pulling for you. Good luck in your quest… after you leave the Astrodome.”

Greeting on the Astrodome scoreboard welcoming Hank Aaron during his quest to break Babe Ruth’s homerun record in 1973

It was a nice gesture to be sure but it underscored the pressure Hank Aaron must have been going through the year he attempted to break Babe Ruth’s record.

That drama that unfolded that year is one of several that is detailed in the book Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty & the Say Hey Kid. The book essentially focuses on baseball during the year of 1973.

Now, when it comes to baseball history I love the 1970’s. I liked the style of play with its balance of speed, power and pitching. There were interesting players and other people of importance in the game. Before the era of “spin”, it didn’t take a scandal for a player to be “colorful”.

Author John Rosengren does a fine job picking his stories to tell. You’re not going to find a game-by-game account of the 1973 season. Rather he finds the important tales that remain relevant or at least interesting to today’s audience.

Speaking of relevance, Aaron’s story is told. Anyone who has not heard any version of it must read that chapter. There’s also Willie Mays’ last stand with the Mets. The rise of George Steinbrenner. And Orlando Cepeda making the most of the new Designated Hitter rule in Boston before his knees blow out.

Of course, Rosengen spends a lot of print on the World Champion Oakland A’s. We read much about the team interaction, with each other and with Dick Williams and Charlie O. Rosengren gives a pretty good insight into the workings of Reggie Jackson.

I’ve been asked to review books fairly often and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed all them to some degree. But Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty & the Say Hey Kid has got to be one of my favorite. That’s partially because I like baseball history books and because of the time period written about. But John Rosengren did his research (the book is well documented) and wrote a book that didn’t put me to sleep. THAT makes it a keeper.

Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty & the Say Hey Kid

Author: John Rosengren

Publisher: Sourcebooks. Inc

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