Diamonds and the Rough

The 2014 baseball season has not yet begun; players are just now reporting to Spring Training. Tired of the media focus on the designated bad guy who will not be on the 2014 Yankees roster? Here’s to a refreshing season of batters, baggers, breaking balls, bunters—and books! Consider some of the newcomers below. Be reminded of some of the scandals, demons, heroes—and just plain nice guys—of previous baseball generations. Visit baseball’s golden age, its presteroid era, and its sabermetric phase. Consider the sport’s arc through history and one team’s home on its 100th birthday. Just add hot dogs and beer!


Hornbaker, Tim. Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey. Sports: Skyhorse. Mar. 2014. 400p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781613216385. $24.95. SPORTS

One of the great ironies of baseball’s Black Sox scandal—in which eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were found to have helped fix the World Series for gambling interests—is that team owner Charles Comiskey came out as one of the villains in the affair. If that tightfisted owner had only paid his players what they were worth, so the conventional wisdom goes, they wouldn’t have been tempted to cheat in the first place. It is this characterization that Hornbaker (Legends of Pro Wrestling) wishes to correct. The book spends less time on the scandal than the title implies; it is really a comprehensive biography of Comiskey. Either way, it is engrossing and provides a much-needed reassessment of the man and his impact on the sport. Hornbaker makes a solid case for rehabilitating Comiskey’s reputation. ­VERDICT A worthy read for Black Sox buffs and baseball history fans, providing an antidote to the portrayals of Comiskey in Eight Men Out and other books on the scandal and the era.—Brett Rohlwing (BR), Milwaukee P.L.

Kennedy, Kostya. Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Sports Illustrated. Mar. 2014. 352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781618930965. $26.95. SPORTS

How do you solve a problem like Pete Rose? Baseball’s still-reigning hit king, “Charlie Hustle,” never ceases to be a divisive figure. Kennedy (56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports) takes a fresh look at him. While the book contains a fair amount of biographical material, it’s more of a consideration of Rose’s place in baseball history 25 years after his ban from Major League Baseball (MLB) and from Hall of Fame consideration because he bet on baseball games. The narrative shifts between Rose’s past—with anecdotes from family, friends, and former teammates—to his present life working the autograph circuit and filming a reality show with his young fiancée. The big question that has dogged him in the last quarter century—whether or not he has a right to a plaque in Cooperstown—hangs over the story and is newly scrutinized in light of recent steroid scandals. VERDICT While Rose may be handled a little too lightly here in some readers’ opinions, this will find an audience among baseball fans.—BR

Snelling, Dennis. Johnny Evers: A Baseball Life. McFarland. Apr. 2014. 277p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786475919. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781476615202. SPORTS

johnnyevers030314The last time the ­Chicago Cubs won the World Series (yes, it did happen), Johnny Evers was the team’s star second baseman. As the keystone of the famous “Tinker to Evers to Chance” infield, Evers was a tough, hard-nosed competitor, as famous for his temper as his skills. Snelling (The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League) has put together a long-overdue biography of this baseball icon, telling Evers’s story in a straightforward fashion, culling information from old newspaper accounts and early baseball books. The title nicely balances Evers’s sports life with his personal one, painting a picture of an ordinary man at the turn of the 20th century with extraordinary athletic ability, but whose notoriety and prestige did not inure him from the tragedies of life—heartache, illness, and bankruptcy, among others. VERDICT This biography will be a good fit for all baseball collections, including in academic libraries specializing in U.S. sports history. It’s a must for Chicago public libraries—at least the ones on the North Side.—BR

Wilson, Doug. Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250033048. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250033031. SPORTS

Wilson (The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych) writes definitively about the man who manned third base for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977, arguably the greatest player at that position in major league history. This is not an authorized biography and Wilson did not interview his subject. He clarifies that he didn’t want to “blindly apply another coat of polish to the statue of a legend,” yet Robinson appears to have had no enemies, was beloved by his Orioles teammates, and respected by opponents. A native of Little Rock, AR, where he played baseball with black players during volatile years of segregation, Robinson treated others as he wished to be treated. Readers encounter not only the man and the only team he played for but also the presteroid age of baseball. Wilson does not ignore that the era had other issues, especially relating to racism in the game and to racial and economic inequality in Baltimore, but he also chronicles the difference that his subject could and did make on and off the field. VERDICT Baseball fans, especially boomer fans of the Baltimore Orioles, will enjoy this book.—Stephen Kent Shaw (SKS), Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID


Clark, Al with Dan Schlossberg. Called Out but Safe: A Baseball Umpire’s Journey. Univ. of Nebraska. May 2014. 240p. photos. ISBN 9780803246881. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803254961. SPORTS

calledoutbutsafe030314Kids do not dream of being umpires while playing pickup or Little League games. Nor did Clark. With sportswriter Schlossberg, he outlines his baseball life from being the son of a Yankees beat writer dreaming of suiting up for his beloved Bronx Bombers to becoming an entirely impartial umpire, calling pressure-packed World Series contests. Clark posits that each game is not comprised of two teams but rather three, including the officiating staff. He talks about his experiences umping and the key role of umpires in every game—having to be in the correct place at all times. He also delves into his dismissal from MLB and his four-month stint in a correctional facility for mail fraud—an ironic circumstance considering his policing role on the field for three decades. VERDICT Not your usual baseball book, but complementary to the myriad titles on players and teams. Clark, having called well over 3,000 MLB games, offers a perspective that is engaging as well as steeped in personal experience. It will be of interest to any baseball fan.—Brian Renvall (BRen), ­Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM

Hayhurst, Dirk. Bigger Than the Game: Restitching a Major League Life. Citadel. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780806534879. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780806536712. SPORTS

Most observers credit Cardinals and Reds relief pitcher Jim Brosnan with originating the baseball tell-all with his The Long Season (1960) and Jim Bouton with kicking the genre up several notches with his Ball Four (1970). In both cases the player-authors were accused of violating “the sanctity of the clubhouse” by revealing many of the not-so-positive sides of their teammates. Both were established major leaguers. Hayhurst was far from established when his The Bullpen Gospels (2010), detailing a season in the minors, was published. Thus he earned even less of a pass on being a tattler than did his predecessors. Now Hayhurst chronicles a season in hell, upon being picked up by the Blue Jays for the 2010 season and being treated as a pariah by teammates as he tries to battle back from a debilitating injury. At times funny, it is more often a sober story of someone who defies convention and is living with the consequences. VERDICT He’s a former pitcher with a career major league record of 0-2, but Hayhurst gets a “W” with this one.—Jim Burns (JB), Jacksonville P.L., FL

Kendall, Jason & Lee Judge. Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played. St. Martin’s. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250031839. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250031822. SPORTS

throwback030314Former all-star catcher Kendall, with help from veteran sports columnist and cartoonist Judge (Kansas City Star), provides a useful guide to understanding just about everything that occurs during a baseball game, including infielders signaling to one another where to position for particular batters and situations, catchers trying to develop good relationships with umpires so that close calls will go their way, and, of course, pitchers and batters doing whatever they can to gain a competitive edge. This candid, opinionated, and profanity-laced guide is divided into chapters devoted to player positions (pitcher, catcher, etc.) and role (batter and base runner), with additional brief sections on managers as well as miscellaneous insights and opinions. Kendall includes a helpful list of universal hand signals used by players and coaches and a glossary of baseball lingo. VERDICT This insider’s peek into the nuances and complexities of baseball can be enjoyed cover-to-cover or as a quick reference. Recommended to adult fans, with a basic understanding of the sport, who want to become experts.—Douglas King (DK), Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Reuss, Jerry. Bring in the Right-Hander! My Twenty-Two Years in the Major Leagues. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2014. 312p. photos. ISBN 9780803248977. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803255081. SPORTS

In his laid-back autobiography, former MLB southpaw Reuss makes us privy to what it’s like to be both an aspiring teenage ballplayer newly signed to a contract and a 40-year-old athlete clinging to the baseball life he loves so much. Reuss recounts how he had three aspirations: pitching in an all-star game, throwing a no-hitter, and playing in the World Series. He accomplished all three while pitching in the majors from 1969 to 1990—no small feat as it has only been accomplished by a handful of players. While there were a number of more famous hurlers in his era such as Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, and Tom Seaver, Reuss can be proud of his many accomplishments, culminating in an impressive 220 wins (75th on the all-time list). VERDICT Reuss is a gifted storyteller, and he ably communicates his love for the game in an easy, conversational style that makes for pleasurable reading. His book will appeal to any reader interested in 1970s and 1980s baseball, as well as many other fans.—BRen


Baumer, Benjamin & Andrew Zimbalist. The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball. Univ. of Pennsylvania. Feb. 2014. 208p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780812245721. $26.50; ebk. ISBN 9780812209129. SPORTS

Most, or even all, baseball front offices now use varieties of statistical analysis, known as sabermetrics, brought to popular attention by Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, in making decisions about their teams. Baumer and Zimbalist (mathematics and economics, respectively, Smith Coll.) here assess the value of the sabermetric approach—and they also assess Lewis’s book. The term sabermetrics comes from the acronym for the Society for American Baseball Research. In the very spirit of baseball analytics, the authors analyze carefully and critically. The result is a debunking of most of what Lewis presented in his work and what audiences saw in the movie version. They argue that Lewis overstated the beneficial use of this method and that he misinterpreted its use by the Athletics with certain players. Yet the authors endorse sabermetrics, stating that its use can be helpful with the baseball draft, prospects, and building contending rosters. VERDICT This book is not for the casual baseball fan. However, it is highly recommended for the serious student of baseball or of professional team use of sports analytics.—SKS

Buhite, Russell D. The Continental League: A Personal History. Univ. of Nebraska. May 2014. 231p. photos. ISBN 9780803271906. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803273818. SPORTS

The Continental League was envisioned by prominent baseball power brokers in 1959 and 1960, but no league games were ever played. However, it did create major ripples in Major League Baseball. Buhite (history, emeritus, Missouri Univ. of Science & Technology) is well placed to write this book as he was actually contracted to play in this league. America was clamoring for more franchises in more cities; this new league—headed by the indomitable Branch Rickey—sought to address the demand. Ultimately, MLB, overseeing the two existing leagues, reacted to this threat by granting franchises to a number of cities in the early 1960s—a direct result, Buhite argues, of the threat posed by the Continental League. While Buhite makes a compelling argument that this league forever changed the game, in fact it remains ghost-like. Unlike the World Hockey Association in the 1970s, which lured superstar players and, upon its dissolution, had four of its teams merge with the National Hockey League, the Continental League remains only an idea of what could have been. VERDICT Of interest to any baseball fan who wants to know about the business side of the game’s history.—BRen

Fischer, David. Facing Mariano Rivera: Players Recall the Greatest Relief Pitcher Who Ever Lived. Sports: Skyhorse. Mar. 2014. 288p. index. ISBN 9781613216392. $24.95. SPORTS

facingmarianorivera030314This is a collection of first-person accounts about hitting (or not hitting in most cases) against the Yankee’s premier reliever Mariano Rivera. “Mo” holds virtually every relief pitching record out there, including the crucial saves stat. From 1995 through 2013, he recorded a record 652 saves (42 more in post-season games) in a sure-bet first ballot Hall of Fame career. The book features interviews with nearly 150 players, divided into chapters by their fielding position (even though they’re mainly recalling their times at the plate), followed by memories from designated hitters, opposing pitchers, and management personnel. Individuals’ brief memories are enhanced by their career and batting stats against Mo and a sentence defining their “Mo Cred,” i.e., the person’s direct connection to Rivera. The final pages summarize Rivera’s career by the numbers and his saves against each team. VERDICT A fitting tribute to one of the game’s all-time greats. A wonderful addition not just for all Yankee fans but for all readers who love America’s pastime.—Boyd Childress (BC), formerly with Auburn Univ. Libs., AL

redstarHuhn, Rick. The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoi, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title That Became a National Obsession. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2014. 328p. photos. ISBN 9780803271821. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803273757. SPORTS

Before performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), free agency, the live ball era, the Yankees’ glory years, and even before the scandal of the 1919 Black Sox, there was the 1910 Chalmers Race, when a Chalmers automobile was awarded to baseball’s leading hitter by batting average. Chalmers Automobile Company’s Hugh Chalmers announced the award before the 1910 season. By the last weekend of the season, two men battled for the title and the car. One was Napoleon Lajoie, a widely respected and popular Cleveland superstar, and the other was Ty Cobb, who was hated by opponents and fans alike. Huhn’s narrative follows their competition and the aftermath. Huhn (Ty Cobb) keeps the reader on edge (even though the outcome is available to look up), recounting the season’s end when Cobb sat out two games and Lajoie had eight hits in a double header—highly suspect hits—which led to a ban from baseball for the apparently colluding opposing manager and other complications. ­VERDICT This book goes beyond baseball, also giving readers an understanding of America itself after the turn of the century. An excellent choice.—BC

redstarKashatus, William C. Jackie and Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball’s Color Line. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2014. 296p. photos. ISBN 9780803246331. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803254466. SPORTS

jackieandcampy030314Kashatus’s (Connie Mack’s ’29 Triumph) saga of the integration of baseball and two of its earliest black stars is compelling reading. Like Huhn’s book, above, Kashatus’s story goes beyond baseball as he delves into the rivalry, views, and racial attitudes of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella—Brooklyn Dodgers teammates who led the team to the 1955 World Series title—all the while reflecting on the state of race relations in America. Robinson is compared to activist W.E.B. DuBois, and Campy is seen more as a follower of the ideas of accommodation as exemplified, e.g., by Booker T. Washington. Kashatus trails Campanella and Robinson and other early black Dodgers on a collision course where Jackie and Campy barely put aside their differences for the good of the team before becoming truly estranged. Jackie saw Campy as an “Uncle Tom,” while Campanella thought it best to put aside his feelings about race for the good of the team and to make a living. Kashatas relates the Chase Hotel (St. Louis) incident of 1954, which was the telling blow between the two, reflecting their cavernous differences. VERDICT Enhancing our understanding of attitudes toward integration and race relations at a pivotal stage of American history through this story of baseball, this book is highly recommended as social and sports history.—BC

Klein, Alan. Dominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice. Temple Univ. Apr. 2014. 204p. notes. index. ISBN 9781439910887. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781439910894. SPORTS

Once again, Klein (sociology & anthropology, Northeastern Univ.; Sugarball) contributes to our understanding of baseball’s expanded territorial appeal, this time through an exploration of Dominican ballplayers, leagues, and agents. He traces the roles performed by American operatives, casting them in a largely exploitative, “colonial,” and commodified light. His employment of Wallerstein’s “global commodity chain” concept could have come across as heavy-handed but largely avoids that fate. Klein’s discussion of youth amateurs, buscones (trainers), and baseball academies is smartly and fairly delivered. So, too, are the nuanced biographical treatments of figures ranging from Enrique Soto, the buscon credited with discovering Miguel ­Tejada, to former MLB pitcher Ramon Martinez, who has established his own well-regarded baseball academy, and Astin Jacobo Jr., a public representative for independent player developers. Naturally interesting are discussions about Felipe Alou, Omar Minaya, Pedro Martinez, and other Dominicans who have made their mark in the big leagues. Concluding chapters scathingly critique how major league administrators have haughtily treated Dominican organizers. VERDICT A significant study that provides both a micro- and macroexplication of baseball’s impact on the Dominican Republic and the island nation’s impact on the sport.—Robert C. Cottrell (RCC), California State Univ., Chico

redstarRosengren, John. The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption. Lyons: Globe Pequot. Feb. 2014. 304p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762787128. $28.95. SPORTS

thefightoftheirlives030314The “fight of their lives” refers to one of baseball’s nastiest incidents, right alongside Ty Cobb leaping into the stands to pummel a disabled fan who was heckling him. On August 22, 1965, San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal clubbed Dodgers catcher John Roseboro over the head with his bat. Rosengren (Hank Greenberg) tells the story of each man’s life before and after the event. He also illuminates mitigating circumstances in the form of the heated Giants-Dodgers rivalry, a tight pennant race, the African American Roseboro’s concerns about the Watts riots, and the Dominican Marichal’s about revolution in his homeland. Largely it is a story of regrets. Marichal’s are obvious, since an essentially good man was vilified, but Roseboro also had regrets because he realized that he provoked the attack by whistling the ball he was returning to pitcher Sandy Koufax within a hair’s breadth of the ear of Marichal in the batter’s box. Finally, this is an uplifting story of the men’s eventual reconciliation and friendship. VERDICT Baseball history well told; for all baseball collections.—JB

Sherman, Ed. Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run. Lyons: Globe Pequot. Feb. 2014. 272p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762785391. $25.95. SPORTS

Sherman ( explores the facts and myths surrounding one of the oldest and most hotly debated mysteries in American sports—baseball legend Babe Ruth’s arguable “called” home run during Game Five of the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Eyewitnesses such as players, sportswriters, and game attendees, as well as current sports analysts and owners of grainy, inconclusive video footage, all chime in with varied, often contradictory accounts of what occurred that day at Wrigley Field and what the Bambino’s series of hand gestures ­really meant. Nearly everyone agrees that the Babe, just before smacking a long homer that helped the Yankees win the game and eventually the series, raised one and then two fingers, but whether he was indicating the number of strikes in the at-bat, pointing at hecklers in the Cubs’ dugout, or letting everyone know where he intended to land the next pitch, remains a mystery. ­VERDICT Sherman’s research doesn’t uncover any definitive answers, but the book succeeds as a fun and accessible history of the “called shot” story, which most Ruth and golden age Yankees fans will enjoy.—DK

Simkus, Scott. Outsider Baseball: The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876–1950. Chicago Review. Mar. 2014. 336p. illus. ISBN 9781613748169. $26.95. SPORTS

Examining what he calls professional baseball’s “shadow world” that existed during a span of three-quarters of a century, Simkus (Outsider Baseball Bulletin) intriguingly looks to the Negro Leagues, the minors, and independent pro and semipro ball. Drawing on his own sabermetric-inflected system, the author evaluates players, teams, and leagues, with the majors serving as the sports’ Holy Grail but hardly the only venue where stellar baseball took place. In the process, he calls attention to still-too-little-recalled stars such as Frank Grant, who battled against Jim Crow strictures; early leagues, both major and not; and competition between black and white players. Simkus also recalls stories like that of Jimmy Clinton, who more than held his own against major leaguers but chose to remain a legendary semipro player while drawing a salary as an insurance salesman close to that garnered at the time by Ruth and Cobb. Outsider Baseball celebrates black slugger Josh Gibson, while refuting commonly held perceptions that he belted more homers than Ruth. VERDICT An interesting but confounding work—with unifying threads somewhat lacking—that is perhaps strongest in its analysis of black baseball.—RCC

Swanson, Ryan A. When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, & Dreams of a National Pastime. Univ. of Nebraska. Jun. 2014. 304p. illus. ISBN 9780803235212. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803255173. SPORTS

That baseball would be segregated during Reconstruction following the Civil War hardly seems an academic discovery; baseball was segregated until the 1947 season, after all. What Swanson (director, Lobo Scholars Program, Univ. of New Mexico) seeks to do in this meticulously researched study featuring hundreds of source notes is show the reasons, beyond the obvious, for this and the mechanics by which segregation remained in baseball. He concentrates primarily on three cities: Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Richmond, since the Middle Atlantic states had a high concentration of African Americans and thriving baseball teams and all faced the complexities of Reconstruction. His primary contention, which in this layman’s eyes he proves admirably, is that the fathers of baseball wanted to shape a national pastime, to do so meant bringing the South aboard, and this necessitated shunting African American teams to the sidelines. VERDICT This book is unlikely to catch on with popular audiences, but it should be a boon to scholars of both the early development of baseball and race relations after the Civil War.—JB

Trembanis, Sarah L. The Set-Up Men: Race, Culture, and Resistance in Black Baseball. McFarland. Apr. 2014. 300p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786477968. pap. $35. SPORTS

Trembanis (history, Immaculata Univ.) underscores the importance of black baseball, its significance as a black institution in many communities, and the opportunities it afforded. At the same time, team owners often had to contend with white proprietors of ballparks regarding the issue of segregated seating. Black moguls included “numbers” bankers, such as the Pittsburgh Crawfords’ Gus Greenlee. Many other problems confronted black players, for instance, their easy dismissal as “sand­lotters” by white sportswriters, the burden of segregated travel, and, from a historical vantage point, the uncertain record-keeping. Trembanis intriguingly contends that African Americans associated with the game employed cultural resistance while segregation reigned, thereby providing a bridge to the civil rights movement. Members of the black community, acting as “tricksters,” “badmen,” clowns, or simply skilled practitioners of the national pastime, stood as “set-up men” for racial pathfinders who shattered baseball’s Jim Crow barrier. The establishment of the Negro National League in 1920 provided a measure of solidity, while the 1930s and 1940s served as something of a heyday for black baseball. VERDICT This book adds to the growing literature on black baseball, although a somewhat greater grounding in primary materials would have been ­welcomed.—RCC


Deveney, Sean. Before Wrigley: The Inside Story of the First Years of the Cubs’ Home Field. Sports: Skyhorse. Apr. 2014. 288p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613216484. $24.95. SPORTS

beforewrigleybecamewrigley030314Today’s baseball fans, especially Chicagoans, would be hard-pressed to imagine their game without the Cubs, Wrigley Field, or even a team on the North Side of town. But it all could have gone differently. Deveney’s (Sporting News) story of the early years of a stadium built in under two months on a plot of land that was previously the site of a Lutheran seminary, reveals a city and sport very much rough around the edges and in the throes of adolescence. With Charlie Weeghman, the passionate but certainly flawed visionary at the center, the cast of characters (crooked politicians, ballplayers, officials) richly enliven this nuts-and-bolts tale of how deals were done and dreams were held together with spit and glue. ­VERDICT Compulsory for Chicago Cubs fans; MLB buffs generally will geek-out over the insights into organized baseball’s earlier days. Readers interested in city planning and urban history should also consider.—Benjamin Malczewski (BM), ­Toledo–Lucas Cty. P.L.

Shea, Stuart. Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines. Univ. of Chicago. Mar. 2014. 448p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226134277. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780226134307. SPORTS

Cubs fans cautious of trusting an author named Shea need not worry. Picking up where Before Wrigley, above, leaves off, Shea (editor & contributor, The Baseball Encyclopedia) peeks into the Cubs’ family confines and catches us up on everything from the 1914 opening day at Weeghman Park (Wrigley Field’s original name) to the present day. He keeps track of particular themes and myths, setting the record straight (Did Bill Veeck plant the famous ivy overnight? Did William Wrigley invent Ladies Day in the 1920s? Did he really never see the team play or permit advertising?). VERDICT Though this title is obviously Cub-centric, baseball fans of all stripes will enjoy the book as it takes readers back through the sport’s golden days with attendant sociocultural history. The bite-size chapters and photos sprinkled throughout ease a deceptively dense text.—BM

Will, George F. A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. Crown Archetype. Mar. 2014. 224p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780385349314. $25. SPORTS

anicelittleplaceonthenorthside030314With his characteristic wit and wry perspective intact, Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist Will, an Illinois native, delivers what is effectively a color commentary on his beloved Cubs and their home. A good color man enhances the play-by-play with choice anecdotes, digressions, stats, allusions (including literary and political), and deductions; Will doesn’t disappoint. With offerings both broad (the author knows his baseball and can effectively recall stats with the best of ’em) and local (he digs into Chicago history), Will is an enjoyable tour guide through the Cubs’ ups and all-too-frequent downs. Though he keeps the tone light, he never shies from reflections, such as the “why” behind the psychological rationale of fans whose love has endured countless irritations and vexations. In doing so, Will sheds light on the uniquely transformative power of sports. VERDICT This is for all North Siders, naturally, but also for baseball fans who like to wax more literary. Though it certainly satisfies on its own (particularly if you know the Cubs’ history), it resonates most effectively as a companion piece to the other Wrigley anniversary books reviewed here. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/13.]—BM

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