Jorge Iber, Mike Torrez: A Baseball Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016. 268 p. Paperback $29.95.
Ransom Jackson Jr., with Gaylon H. White, Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 288 p. Hardback $34.00. E-book $33.99.
Many Americans would agree with the sentiment behind baseball great Rogers Hornsby’s reflection on winter: it’s the time when Hornsby, a gifted infielder and slugger, said he stared out the window waiting for spring. The warmer weather and longer days heralded spring training and another exciting season of major league baseball. But today, as the World Series comes to an end and winter comes around again, there are two new books about baseball that might help the fans wile away some winter hours.
Mike Torrez: A Baseball Biography, by Jorge Iber, Archivation Exploration’s guest editor for this special sports issue, celebrates the achievements of this Latino pitcher, a man with two wins in the 1977 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees. Torrez’s grandfathers moved to Topeka, Kansas in the early decades of the nineteenth century. They, and Torrez’s father, worked for the railroad along with many other Hispanics, who mainly lived in the Oakland barrio. Iber positions Torrez’s major league career within a narrative that explains the importance of sports as one means of entry into the larger American culture. Iber’s baseball biography combines a scholar’s meticulous research with insightful and compassionate analysis. It affords readers and fans a thorough examination of Mike Torrez’s unique position as an American-born Hispanic/Latino ballplayer during an era of increasing integration. Of special note, most of the photographs in the book can be found in the SWC/SCL in the Mike Torrez Scrapbook Collection.
Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer is co-written by Jackson and Gaylon White, whose previous book is about Steve Bilko, a player for the Los Angeles Angels. Unlike Iber’s more scholarly book, Handsome Ransom Jackson is a first-person narrated memoir focusing primarily on Jackson’s “life in sports, a series of lucky events far beyond [his] wildest dreams” (xv). This book is also enhanced with many fine photographs.
Readers interested in baseball, the legends of baseball, and sports history will certainly enjoy both these books. Each makes a contribution to sports history and opens more avenues for further research and discussion.
Texas Tech University