Thursday, July 24, 2014

Baseball or bizarre racing: local authors fill the bill

From page B1 | May 09, 2014 |

As kids, most of us have sports dreams.

Once adults, few of our visions — like major-league baseball player, pro race car driver — have materialized.

Two Davis men, however, have been able to keep those dreams close.

Sure, Joe Taxiera never threw out Pete Rose trying to go from first to third. And Mike Meier never passed Graham Hill in a European endurance race. But both locals have new books that embrace their passions and, luckily for us, their publications are terrific reads.

For Taxiera, “A Unique Look at Big League Baseball” has been around for almost five years and is a must for baseball fans.

Meier’s new tongue-in-cheek visit to weekend hobby racing — “How On Fire Are We?” — is a riot, even if you know nothing about racing.

Taxiera, who will have a presentation and book-signing at The Avid Reader downtown on Saturday, May 31 (7:30 p.m.), just released the 2014 Broadcaster’s Edition while this is Meier’s first crack at publishing.

Let’s take a look at each …

“A Unique Look at Big League Baseball” started as a hobby for the longtime IBM software rep.

Taxiera has been a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan — a guy who always wondered how old-timers would have performed now, whether ballparks made that much difference and could statistics 100 years apart be compared and sense made of those eras?

The first ring-bound edition of Taxiera’s now-400-page reference guide was a self-published, personal project. But then KNBR radio personality Marty Lurie got a copy and began to augment his Giants shows by citing from “A Unique Look …”

Jon Miller and the team’s broadcast crew use it to this day — and at least 15 other MLB radio/TV crews are helped along by Taxiera’s tome.

From the National Baseball Hall of Fame to the River Cats gift shop, Taxiera’s work is on sale.

Taxiera is an accomplished photographer, and one of the additional treats of “A Unique Look …” is his photography from stadiums across the nation. His latest edition features a cover shot of the statue of Willie McCovey looking back into AT&T Park from the aptly named McCovey Cove.

Getting Taxiera’s book is as easy as heading to The Avid Reader, or taking in a River Cats game. It is available on and at Taxiera’s website, (on which you’ll find a whole bunch of fun diamond stuff revolving around the book).

Cost? $39.95.

If you want to dazzle your pals with head-scratching national pastime observations or one-of-a-kind baseball trivia, “A Unique Look at Big League Baseball” is your ticket.

“How On Fire Are We?” defies classification, but it looks like Meier has struck oil (from a broken head gasket) with his first effort.

Meier, retired after 15 years at UC Davis as an academic administrator, has loved cars since childhood.

He and another Davis man, Alan Brattesani, decided almost five years ago that their love for all things fast and fixable would be requited in the form of Tinyvette, a yellow 1971 Opel that the two men bought on a lark — then brought back to life.

The goal? Enter the world of crapcan racing (don’t look at me, that’s what it’s known as). Called the LeMons (get it?) endurance series, these outings are held on weekends throughout the nation. They feature a who’s who of bizarre machines, mostly saved from scrap heaps.

Tinyvette was so named because Meier, Brattesani (and maybe Rod Serling) felt the spry, little relic looked like a Corvette Stingray (remember, these men are living dreams).

Anyway, with some success competing in races (with names like Sears Pointless), the Meier-Brattesani team felt like an old-time rock band as mechanics and drivers came and went, yet the integrity of their music (the Tinyvette) was maintained.

As the team grew in reputation on the circuit, Meier felt the love. He also noticed the lunacy taking place around him.

An old Cadillac with antlers and a stuffed Kermit the Frog sticking out the back window was jockeying for position with a 1966 Volkswagen, dressed like a scrubbing bubble (complete with ground-sweeping straw skirts).

Meier, as he was passed, didn’t know whether to pull over, laugh or take notes. As he was laughing, he took notes.

“How On Fire Are We?” has more than 300 pages of anecdotes, team profiles, pictures and illustrations of life on the LeMons circuit; a circuit whose motto is “Good Enough.”

“This book is a noncommercial crapcan community project, the goal of which is to share and preserve our stories … and to do our bit for the (Sonoma Speedway Children’s Charities) that this racing helps support,” Meier says. “All proceeds from this book go to this charities.”

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and the California Automobile Museum are other charities that will benefit from Meier’s page-turner.

So, if you want to see a mini space shuttle traveling down the course on the back of a mid-1970s pile of c&*% or a rainbow-colored stretch limousine, or a hollowed-out Rolls Royce or a seen-better-days Plymouth with the Foster Farms chickens on the hood, crapcan racing is your cup of tea.

Yeah, the book is expensive ($79), but the yucks are worth it and the cause is a good one.

Visit to see more (or to order).

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet


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