The book: “The Dodgers: 60 Years in Los Angeles”
The author: Michael Schiavone
How to find it: Sports Publishing, 356 pages, $24.95, due out April 17
The links: At Amazon.com, at the publishers website.
A review in 90-feet or less: The collection we have amassed of more than 100 Dodgers-related books — by historians diving in about certain periods, by players reflecting on their careers, and even a couple unauthorized pieces on Vin Scully — you’re never short of material for finding a way to frame the existence of this franchise.
Sixty years in L.A.? Sure, it’s a milestone.
But what’s news?
Unfortunately, nothing much here.
In what reads like a high school term paper without the proper footnotes, regurgitated from publications by a writer in Australia who admits to being a fan of the team since the 1988 World Series, we’re left with something that fans of the franchise may quickly want to pour through, but again, what’s fresh about it?
With all that’s available, here is how Schiavone lays out the events of April 18, 1958, on pages 18 and 19 (shouldn’t this be the first page?) after the Dodgers played a three-game series in San Francisco for their first West Coast games, leading up to this moment for their arrival in L.A.:
“ A major league–record crowd of 78,672 witnessed the first Dodger home game and the first major-league game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Before they could take the field, or even get to the stadium, Dodger players and management had to attend a welcoming parade at City Hall. As Endsley eloquently wrote, “With what must have been a dagger to the hearts of Brooklyn Dodger fans, Walter O’Malley presented Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson with the actual home plate ripped from Ebbets Field.”
“While one would assume that the players could then get ready to play the actual ballgame, they were then driven in a motorcade to the Coliseum in convertibles. The route was packed almost the entire way, not with the usual Los Angeles gridlock, but with people wanting to catch a sight of their hometown team. The players finally arrived at the stadium after 11:30 a.m.; the Dodgers were finally home — well, their home for the next few years.
“Even before the game began, eight people were forced to seek medical attention because they ‘collapsed from excitement.’ Of course, ‘collapsed from excitement’ could also be a euphemism for having too much to drink. A highlight, if you can call it that, was when Mayor Poulson pitched to San Francisco Mayor George Christopher. Christopher could not get a hit from the “hard”-throwing Poulson. The true highlight of the pregame ceremony was when the players from the Dodgers and Giants were introduced to the crowd, with a massive cheer when (Roy) Campanella’s name was called.
“After all the hoopla, at long last there was finally a major league game in Los Angeles. Dodger veteran Carl Erksine took the mound and threw the first pitch at the Coliseum. The first home run at the Coliseum belonged to Giant veteran Hank Sauer, who hit a ‘mammoth’ 275-foot homer in the fourth. What would have been an easy fly out in all other stadiums easily cleared the fence at the Coliseum. The first Dodger home run at the Coliseum belonged to Dick Gray, this being a more legitimate home run, measured at 350 feet. After all was said and done, the Dodgers defeated the Giants, 6–5. The victory was in a large part thanks to Giants rookie third baseman Jim Davenport.
“Trailing 6–4 in the ninth, Davenport failed to touch third base in the ninth before coming home. He was called out, and even though the great Willie Mays singled home a run later in the inning, Dodger pitcher Clem Labine retired the final two Giants to record the first Dodger victory in Los Angeles. Yet even with the victory and record attendance, Erksine thought the crowd was subdued. D’Antonio noted that Erksine had recalled that the crowd “didn’t make half as much noise as thirty thousand in Ebbets Field.”
Here is a nice L.A. Times replay of that day.
The references above is to Brian Endsley’s “Bums No More” and Michael D’Antonio’s “Forever Blue,” both from 2009, just two of the authors who have done previous Dodgers books and have had their material borrowed liberally in this case. Or, maybe not. We can’t be sure where the info comes from.
This all boils down to the appearance that Schiavone takes a very pedestrian effort in creating this piece of history without even excavating the best stuff out there. The bibliography note has him admitting he is “honored that I have continued the rich tradition of Dodger history books.”
So why not just go to his sources he pillages, starting with what he gives out:
* “The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball,” by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, 2004
* “True Blue: The Dramatic History of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Told by the Men Who Lived it,” by Steve Delsohn, 2002
* “Tales from the Dodgers Dugout” by Carl Erskine, 2017
* “If These Walls Could Talk” by Houston Mitchell, 2014
* “The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of All Time,” by J.P. Hoornstra, 2015
* “The 50 Greatest Players in Dodgers History,” by Robert W. Cohen, 2017 (an awful book)
* “The Grim Reality of the ‘Trolly Dodgers,” by Jensen Brown, 2014
* “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers,” by Michael Leahy, 2016
* “Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angels and the 1977-78 Dodgers,” by Michael Fallon, 2016
* “My Way: Tommy Lasorda,” by Colin Gunderson, 2015
* “Miracle Men,” by Josh Sucon (sic), 2013 (it’s Suchon)
* “The Best Team Money Can Buy,” by Molly Knight, 2015
* “The Big Chair,” by Ned Colletti, 2017
* “Shameful Victory: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Scare and the Hidden History of Chavez Ravine,” by John H.M. Laslett, 2015
* “City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles,” by Gerald Podair, 2017
He also says the L.A. Times archives “were a boon for this Dodger fan. Indeed, that so many newspapers have their archives online was a wonderful asset for me in researching this book.”
In a subsequent Twitter mail exchange, Schiavone says he “actually did talk to quite a few people but decided to not name who they were in the book … By not naming who I talked with, that would result in the reader not automatically assuming I was favoring that player, etc., as I recounted history.”
Not sure where that was going, but if you want to make your account more credible, you quote people by name.
Meanwhile, all those books he lists were written after the year 2000, are (mostly) worthy on their own. But if today’s journalism is all about aggregating without attention to fact checking and new interviews for new perspectives, we might as well just have another boiled Dodger Dog.
How it goes down in the scorebook:
“Schiavone writes with a historian’s eye for detail and a fan’s eye for the dramatic. The Dodgers: 60 Years in Los Angeles is a must-read for not only Dodger fans but for anyone interested in how America’s pastime went national.”
That’s the blurb created by Molly Knight. She either a) didn’t read it and politely wrote this for him, or b) read it and didn’t seem to mind that much of her previously generated pablum was cut and pasted into Chapter 8 entitled: “2010–17: Bankruptcy, New Ownership, and the ‘Best Team Money Can Buy.’ That’s not really a compliment.
Other books to find in the Dodger-genre out recently with various degrees of successful execution:
* “Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers Extraordinary Pitching Tradition,” by Jon Weisman, reviewed here.
* “Fairly at Bat: My 50 years in baseball, from the batter’s box to the broadcast booth,” reviewed here.
* “Koufax Throws a Curve: The Los Angeles Dodgers at the End of an Era, 1964–1966,” by Brian M. Endsley, released Feb. 12.
* “The Los Angeles Dodgers Encyclopedia,” by Richard J. Smelter, released in Dec., 2017