Day 26 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: They might be Giants — dodging myths and truths about how San Francisco became a big-league town

“Forty Years A Giant: The Life of Horace Stoneham”

The author:
Steven Treder

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
536 pages
$36.95
To be released June 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“The Giants and their City: Major League Baseball
in San Francisco: 1976-1992”

The author:
Lincoln A. Mitchell

The publishing info:
The Kent State University Press
272 pages
$29.95
Released March 2, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Sound the foghorn.

The Dodgers’ first weekend venture to San Francisco – and their oddly initial meet-and-greet with the rival Giants in 2021 – may be just enough to inspire a gregarious gaggle of Angelinos to take a premeditated, pre-Memorial Day journey up memory lane. Just to clear their heads and partake in some suitable chest thumping.

Go for it.

After all, considering the titles the Giants claimed in ’10, ’12 and ’14, and now sitting atop the NL West with a five-game win streak, Dodgers followers are apt to wave under their noses that whatever happened in ’20 meant something to someone.

The trip to the Phone Booth Sponsored Stadium adjacent to McCovey Cove is gorgeous. If you haven’t left by now, you’ve got time to venture somewhere off the 5 over to the 101. At least cut over at 152 West, through Gilroy and up to San Jose.

We are 63 seasons into this West Coast tete-a-tete. It historically began in New York, of course, as the borough of Manhattan’s elitist Giants faced the borough of Brooklyn’s blue-collar Dodgers in an April 18, 1884 exhibition game won by the Giants, 8-0. Their first game as professional franchises was Oct. 18, 1889 at the Polo Grounds — that would be the 1889 World Series, where the Giants prevailed, six games to three. The Giants once had an owner named Andrew Freedman. No relations to the Dodgers’ current president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman.

Continue reading “Day 26 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: They might be Giants — dodging myths and truths about how San Francisco became a big-league town”

Day 25 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Wait, come back … we’ve got a couple more comeback stories … it says so in the titles

“Comeback Pitchers: The Remarkable Careers
of Howard Ehmke & Jack Quinn”

The authors:
Lyle Spatz
and Steve Steinberg

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
512 pages
$39.95
Released April 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website (Steinberg)
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

“One Line Drive:
A Life-Threatening Injury and a Faith-Fueled Comeback”

The author:
Daniel Ponce de Leon
With Tom Zenner

The publishing info:
FaithWords/Hachette
224 pages
$26
Released March 9, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At Barnes and Noble (signed edition)
At Target

The reviews in 90 feet (or 60-feet, 6-inches) or less

We found ourselves up at about 2 in the morning recently, somehow  drawn again to Jimmy Stewart limping around in “The Stratton Story” on Turner Classic Movies. At least it wasn’t Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander. We had enough of that one.

The lure even at this very late hour was as much a recall of how much the story had been Hollywood-ized as our amusement trying to guess how, for the life of us, George Bailey, 10 years removed from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” was going to throw on a Chicago White Sox wool jersey and strike out the Yankees’ Bill Dickey in a dicey situation.

Monty Stratton, a 6-foot-6 right-hander out of a Texas cotton farm, had just  put together back-to-back 15 win seasons for the Chisox during his age 25 and 26 seasons in 1937 and ’38. But then he done shot himself by accident over a Thanksgiving weekend visit to the family sted.

In the movie, Stewart plays Stratton as someone who trips over a twig, you hear the rifle go off, and he’s nearly bleeding out while sending his dog off to get him some help. The way we read about it really happening, according to his SABR bio, Stratton spotted a rabbit, took out his .22 caliber pistol, fired, then put the gun in his holster and thought he had it on safety, but it wasn’t. The gun fired and hit him in the right thigh behind the knee. He crawled home and was eventually driven 50 miles to Dallas, by which time the leg developed gangrene and eventually had to be amputated.

It necessitated a comeback.

Not to the White Sox, or even the bigs. It was with a Class-C East Texas League, for a team resumed playing in 1946 after World War II. Now in his late 30s, Stratton then went up to Class B in Waco in ’47. A year later, he was given $100,000 to sit on the set at MGM in Hollywood, as an advisor to Sam Wood (who also oversaw “The Pride of the Yankees”) as they re-directed Stratton’s story as much more of a loving relationship he had with his wife. All according to formula.

It’s not likely anyone will ever feel compelled to make a movie about the lives of Howard Ehmke or Jack Quinn, and how their careers intersected at various times, reaching a climax as two reclaimed surprise participants in the 1929 World Series for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics — once called by Sports Illustrated the “greatest team in history that time forgot.

If one were to ever happen, however, there’s now this ultra-thick starting point fashioned by longtime SABR researchers Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg.

Continue reading “Day 25 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Wait, come back … we’ve got a couple more comeback stories … it says so in the titles”

Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Where were you in ’62? Or, does it really matter?

“1962: Baseball and America in the Time of JFK”

The author:
David Krell

The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
384 pages
$34.95
Released May 1, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
Note: The author has a website but the book is not listed

The review in 90 feet or less

Year after year after year, we find ourselves lured into fixating on one certain year in baseball.

Check your calendars. Then check your interest level.

Many an author has taken on a challenge to revisit the historical impact of one team in one particular season, or one particular World Series. Magicians such as David Halberstam could compose “October 1964,” or a Tom Adleman can tackle “Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys and the 1966 World Series that Stunned America” released in 40 years after it happened in ’06.

Others find more of a challenge to connect dots with a broader approach – a start-to-finish environmental impact report on how the game endured amidst all that was going on. But without a real foundation of believe ability, they can sound like a publisher’s marketing department filling in the blanks of a Mad Lib press release:

(Fill in the Year) was the most (Important/Pivotal/Astonishing/Awful/Eye-Opening/Prodigious/Rare/Phenomenal/Incomprehensible/Marvelous/Jaw-Dropping/Shocking/Surpring) season baseball has ever (experienced/seen/endured)! Go back to see how (list the events) reshaped the sport (like never before/never to go back/pushing it into the next century).

Nostalgia, and history, and “where you when when …?” can be compelling enough to sell. Especially if that was right around the time of your birthday. What was happening in the game, and around it, when you landed here?

Continue reading “Day 24 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Where were you in ’62? Or, does it really matter?”

Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Oh, it very much is so: How the ’19 Black Sox were fixing to keep things going into in the ’20s … and more roarin’ stuff

“Double Plays and Double Crosses:
The Black Sox and Baseball in 1920”

The author:
Don Zminda

The publishing info:
Rowman & Littlefield
344 pages
$36
Released March 10, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

The 20 things we learned, never considered possible, might have forgot and are now reminded, or we were just duped into thinking otherwise as they related to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal and its proceeding consequences, thanks to Don Zminda’s quest to clarify and rectify how things went south for the southside of Chicago’s American League after it gave away a World Series to the Red Legs:

1 >>>>>
Of the eight Chicago White Sox under investigation for game fixing and eventually banned from the big leagues – outfielders “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Oscar “Happy” Felsch, pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams, third baseman/infielder George “Buck” Weaver, shortstop Charles “Swede” Risberg, utility infielder Fred McMullin and first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil – three of them had Southern California ties. When the initial investigation into what happened was independently launched by team owner Charles Comiskey, agent went to L.A. to interview Weaver, McMullin and Gandil.
Gandil turned out to be the MVP — Most Vulnerable Patsy.

Continue reading “Day 23 of 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Oh, it very much is so: How the ’19 Black Sox were fixing to keep things going into in the ’20s … and more roarin’ stuff”

Day 22 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Woulda, coulda, didn’t … failed execution and the rules of Cooperstown residency

“Baseball’s Who’s Who of What Ifs:
Players Derailed en Route to Cooperstown”

The author:
Bill Deane

The publishing info:
McFarland Books
324 pages
$39.99
Released March 17, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At The Last Book Store in L.A.
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Target.com

The review in 90 feet or less

It’s official: There will be no curious case of why Mike Trout will be able to muscle his way through the front door of the Baseball Hall of Fame someday with a lifetime pass.

No doubt, his WAR-boggling achievements amassed by the yet-to-turn 30 year old Angels centerfielder – a three-time American League MVP (’14, ’16, ’19), the 2012 AL Rookie of Year, eight-time All Star (nine, if one was played in ’20), two-time All-Star Game MVP – are the obvious bullet points toward his resume building. A Twitter feed called Mike Trout Slash Line even lets us know on an at-bat basis what his career numbers are trending. There may be some otherwise vague set of guidelines about what constitutes a Cooperstown-caliber career, which continues to baffle writers such as Forbes’ Bernie Pleskoff, but Trout can’t reasonably be pooh-poohed.

From the Baseball Writers Association of America website.

But as of the 2020 campaign, Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs.com pointed out last July, Trout has satisfied the Hall of Fame’s eligibility rule 3(B) of having played in “each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons.” (even if there’s some gray area about what a “championship season” entails — didn’t 1994 end without a championship?).

Continue reading “Day 22 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: Woulda, coulda, didn’t … failed execution and the rules of Cooperstown residency”