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Hal Chase was known for
his peerless defense,
even though he committed
402 errors in ten seasons.




Klein connects the team’s
innovative approach to
playing the game to the
revolutionary changes in
the business of baseball.


BOOK REVIEWS

Greats of the Game

by Andrew Elias


The Black Prince of Baseball
Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game
Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella
(
University of Nebraska Press)

With incredible research and detail Dewey & Acocella recount the story of one of the most controversial characters in all of baseball history. Hal Chase was universally acclaimed as one of best first baseman of the early 20th century. A good hitter, he was known for his peerless defense, even though he committed 402 errors in ten seasons. Unfortunately, he was also known to gamble and fix games and that could explain the contradiction. Although a star, he bounced from team to team, five in nine years, because of his corruption and corrupting influences.

Now in paperback, the book paints a picture of a time when gamblers’ coziness with baseball elites was well known but not acknowledged, and how Chase became a scapegoat for more powerful people with far dirtier hands, even accused of orchestrating the 1919 Black Sox scandal. An excellent portrait of one of the most colorful baseball players of his time: a ladies’ man, a liar, a con man, and a crook. •


The Selling of The Babe
The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend
Glenn Stout
(
St. Martin’s Press)

The Selling of The Babe is the entertaining story behind one of the most momentous transactions in sports history. Stout, who has written about the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees throughout his career has unearthed new information that answers lingering questions and dispels long held myths about the historic sale of a young Babe Ruth from Boston to New York after the 1919 season. The transaction drastically changed the fortunes of both teams and changed the dynamics of the sport. It also created one of the first superstars of the 20th century as he changed from star pitcher in the old ‘dead ball’ era to home run king in an exciting new era.

For years it has been rumored that the Red Sox sold Ruth because Red Sox owner, also a Broadway producer, needed money to stage his new production, No, No Nanette, and that the show flopped. Neither is true. The musical was a huge success and the sale of Ruth had nothing to do with staging the production. Stout reveals that prohibition and the lifting of Blue Laws in New York, as well as Ruth’s growing disruptive behavior were far more important in the decision to make the deal.

More than the story of the selling of Ruth to the Yankees, it’s also the story of selling The Bambino to an America hungry for heroes.


Stealing Games
How John McGraw Transformed Baseball
with the 1911 New York Giants

Maury Klein
(Bloomsbury Press)

One of our great historians tells the story of one of the greatest Managers and greatest teams in all of baseball history. With typical clarity and depth, Klein recounts the New York Giants’ 1911 season, in which the team ran its way to a record-setting 347 stolen bases, and won the World Series for the first of three straight years.

Much more than a simple retelling of an extraordinary team’s historic season, and filled with mythical characters like Hall of Famers John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard, Klein connects the team’s innovative approach to playing the game to the revolutionary changes in the business of baseball, and to the country at a technological and cultural crossroads.

But at the heart of all this information and insight is the fascinating story about a man, a team and a game at the time he recreated a sport, they dominated a league, and it matured into the Great American Pastime. Recommended for fans of American history as much as baseball fans.


Baseball’s Power Shift
How the Players Union, the Fans, and the Media
Changed American Sports Culture
Krister Swanson
(
University of Nebraska Press)

From its birth in the 1880s through the mid-1960s, team owners had monopolistic control over the players. That changed in the mid-1960s, when Los Angeles Dodgers’ star players Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale staged a joint holdout for much higher salaries and multi-year contracts. Supported by other players and, more importantly, the fans, the future Hall of Famers eventually succeeded.

Baseball’s Power Shift chronicles the development of the union movement in Major League Baseball and the key roles that the press and public had in player’s labor-management relations. Focusing on the critical years, 1966-1981, which saw three strikes, two lockouts and the creation of the Major League Baseball Players Association as well as Curt Flood’s heroic challenge to the reserve clause in the Supreme Court, which lead to complete free agency.

It is the story of the liberation of the players and the transformation of baseball into an explosive sports/entertainment industry.


May-June 2016