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The Bilko Athletic Club The Story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels
978-0-8108-9289-7 • Hardback
March 2014 • $38.00 • (£22.95)
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978-0-8108-9290-3 • eBook
March 2014 • $37.99 • (£22.95)

eBooks have to be checked out individually and cannot be combined with print books.
Pages: 326
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
By Gaylon H. White
 
Sports & Recreation | Baseball / History
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
During the 1956 baseball season in the city of Los Angeles, Mickey Mantle’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record was matched only by the day-to-day drama of Steve Bilko’s exploits in the Pacific Coast League. While Mantle was winning the Triple Crown in the American League, Bilko was doing the same in the highest of all the minor leagues with the Los Angeles Angels. He led the league hitters in eight categories, and the Angels romped to the pennant. Bilko hit one mighty home run after another to earn Minor League Player of the Year honors and inspire the team’s nickname, “The Bilko Athletic Club.”

The Bilko Athletic Club tells the story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, a team of castoffs and kids built around Steve Bilko, a bulky, beer-loving basher of home runs. Author Gaylon H. White provides an intimate portrait of life in minor league baseball in the 1950s and gives readers a glimpse inside the heads and hearts of the players as they experience the same doubts and frustrations many face in the pursuit of a dream. The Angels’ unforgettable season unfolds through stories told by the players themselves, as they racked up runs and rolled to a 107-61 won-loss record, finishing sixteen games ahead of their closest competitor.

Featuring in-depth interviews with Steve Bilko and twenty-five of his ’56 Angels teammates, The Bilko Athletic Club also includes several photos and is highlighted by never-before-told anecdotes. A fascinating account of a season to remember, The Bilko Athletic Club will take fans and historians of the national pastime back to the golden era of baseball.
Gaylon H. White started his career as a sportswriter for the Denver Post before moving to the corporate world as a speechwriter. He has authored some 80 articles for international and U.S. publications, many on baseball, and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.
Before Walter O’Malley brought the Dodgers to Southern California in 1958, Los Angeles belonged to the Angels. A part of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (PCL), it was a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and was as loved in its time as Brooklyn loved its bums. The 1956 PCL championship Angels team was led by the slugging Steve Bilko, a minor league superhero who somehow never made a mark in the big leagues. His memory is given a much-deserved revival in this book. While Bilko is the main focus, chapters are also given over to the voices of other 1956 Angels, with surviving former players such as Gale 'Windy' Wade and Jim Fanning speaking of where their careers in baseball went after their time with the team. These reminiscences are enjoyable on their own. . . . VERDICT Undoubtedly, both old-time and younger baseball fans will relish the stories here. This volume will fit in nicely in any public or sports-focused library, especially in the Southwest.
Library Journal


My family would drive 200 miles to watch Steve Bilko homer or strike out—he did both with such flair that the trip was always worth it. The Bilko Athletic Club lovingly re-captures an era where the Pacific Coast League was the big leagues in L.A.
Ron Shelton, award-winning director and screenwriter of Bull Durham and Tin Cup


Steve Bilko was a massive man. One of his legs was as big as my two put together. In the old Coast League, he was King Kong. And L.A. fans adored him. The Bilko Athletic Club captures all this and more. It’s a grand slam!
Albie Pearson, former major league outfielder, 1958 AL Rookie of the Year and 1963 All-Star selection


The Bilko Athletic Club touches all the bases—from my long-time friend Bob Case stuffing himself with donuts so he could be big like his boyhood idol, Steve Bilko, to Bilko hitting the last home run at L.A.'s Wrigley Field. There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Bilko hit a ball over his head into outer space. Believe me, it was unreal. So is this book.
Dean Chance, winner of the 1964 Cy Young Award and two-time All-Star selection


Of all the clubs I played on and managed, the 1955 and 1956 Los Angeles Angels will always be my favorite. The ’56 team had truly big league players, led by Steve Bilko. A book could be written about so many of the Angels, particularly Buzz Clarkson and Piper Davis. They were super players, great friends and teammates. The Bilko Athletic Club follows these Angels long after their exploits on the field. And now to read their quotes and dialogue with Gaylon White, we know the rest of the story.
Jim Fanning, former major league player, manager, and front office executive


A wonderful look back at a man and a time when Steve Bilko was the sporting star in a city delighted both to have its own brand of baseball and its own special hero. In The Bilko Athletic Club, Gaylon White knocked one out of the park—Wrigley Field at 42nd and Avalon, of course—as surely as did Stout Steve over the leftfield bricks. The 'real' L.A. Angels are back. Play ball.
Art Spander, award-winning sports writer


Steve Bilko was this big Santa Claus-type guy that everybody liked. Even though he was a dangerous hitter, nobody tried to knock him down. You wanted to pitch to him to see what you could do against the great Steve Bilko. The Bilko Athletic Club gives a detailed account of the homer Steve hit off me for the last one ever hit at L.A.'s Wrigley Field. I didn't get mad. In fact, I was kind of tickled by how far he hit the ball.
Jim "Mudcat" Grant, former major league pitcher, 1963 and 1965 All-Star selection


As a kid growing up in Long Beach in the 1950s, Steve Bilko was our Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams all rolled into one. My dad took me to Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, in 1956 to see my first professional baseball game. After the game, in which Bilko homered, I looked around and found a stubbly pencil on the ground and tore up a popcorn box to use to get Bilko’s autograph. He saw my excitement and graciously took the stubbly pencil and signed on the grey inside piece of my popcorn box. I still have that in my storage space and The Bilko Athletic Club got me thinking it’s about time to pull that out and reminisce on what a great experience and memorable day that was for me.
Bobby Grich, former major league second baseman, six-time American League All-Star selection


This is a wonderful book. Sadly, the time it talks about is gone forever, but it's not yet forgotten. The Bilko Athletic Club knocks over the head the silly notion that Los Angeles baseball sprang full-grown from Walter O'Malley's forehead in 1958. And I'm forever jealous that Gaylon White got to interview Steve Bilko.
Harry Turtledove, author of The Guns of the South and Hugo-award winner


The 1956 Los Angeles Angels were the 1927 Yankees of the Pacific Coast League and Steve Bilko was their Babe Ruth. Like the Bambino, Bilko became part of our popular culture. You’ll Never Get Rich is remembered as one of TV's funniest comedy series from the 1950s. Phil Silvers played Army Sgt. Ernie Bilko. The show's creator named the main character after his hero, Steve Bilko.

Gaylon White spent years reassembling the 1956 Angels, LA’s big league team before the Dodgers moved to town. He tracked down fascinating old ballplayers including Gene Mauch, Piper Davis, and Marino Pieretti who were much more interesting and accessible than today’s stars. The exploits of the ‘56 Angels were followed closely by small boys, grown men, and at least one TV producer. White's book is a West Coast version of The Boys of Summer.
Bill Swank, author of Echoes from Lane Field


 
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