With inside access and reporting, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer and FOX Sports analyst Tom Verducci reveals how Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon built, led, and inspired the Chicago Cubs team that broke the longest championship drought in sports, chronicling their epic journey to become World Series champions.
It took 108 years, but it really happened. The Chicago Cubs are once again World Series champions.
How did a team composed of unknown, young players and supposedly washed-up veterans come together to break the Curse of the Billy Goat? Tom Verducci, twice named National Sportswriter of the Year and co-writer of The Yankee Years with Joe Torre, will have full access to team president Theo Epstein, manager Joe Maddon, and the players to tell the story of the Cubs' transformation from perennial underachievers to the best team in baseball.
Beginning with Epstein's first year with the team in 2011, Verducci will show how Epstein went beyond "Moneyball" thinking to turn around the franchise. Leading the organization with a manual called "The Cubs Way," he focused on the mental side of the game as much as the physical, emphasizing chemistry as well as statistics.
To accomplish his goal, Epstein needed manager Joe Maddon, an eccentric innovator, as his counterweight on the Cubs' bench. A man who encourages themed road trips and late-arrival game days to loosen up his team, Maddon mixed New Age thinking with Old School leadership to help his players find their edge.
The Cubs Way takes readers behind the scenes, chronicling how key players like Rizzo, Russell, Lester, and Arrieta were deftly brought into the organization by Epstein and coached by Maddon to outperform expectations. Together, Epstein and Maddon proved that clubhouse culture is as important as on-base-percentage, and that intangible components like personality, vibe, and positive energy are necessary for a team to perform to their fullest potential.
Verducci chronicles the playoff run that culminated in an instant classic Game Seven. He takes a broader look at the history of baseball in Chicago and the almost supernatural element to the team's repeated loses that kept fans suffering, but also served to strengthen their loyalty.
The Cubs Way is a celebration of an iconic team and its journey to a World Championship that fans and readers will cherish for years to come.
In The Captain, best-selling author Ian O’Connor draws on extensive reporting and unique access to Jeter that has spanned some fifteen years to reveal how a biracial kid from Michigan became New York’s most beloved sports figure and the enduring symbol of the steroid-free athlete. O’Connor takes us behind the scenes of a legendary baseball life and career, from Jeter’s early struggles in the minor leagues, when homesickness and errors in the field threatened a stillborn career, to his heady days as a Yankee superstar and prince of the city who squired some of the world’s most beautiful women, to his tense battles with former best friend A-Rod. We also witness Jeter struggling to come to terms with his declining skills and the declining favor of the only organization he ever wanted to play for, leading to a contentious contract negotiation with the Yankees that left people wondering if Jeter might end his career in a uniform without pinstripes.
Derek Jeter’s march toward the Hall of Fame has been dignified and certain, but behind that leadership and hero’s grace there are hidden struggles and complexities that have never been explored, until now. As Jeter closes in on 3,000 hits, a number no Yankee has ever touched, The Captain offers an incisive, exhilarating, and revealing new look at one of the game’s greatest players in the gloaming of his career.
The bestselling, inside-the-clubhouse story of two tumultuous years when the Los Angeles Dodgers were re-made from top to bottom, becoming the most talked-about and most colorful team in baseball. “It’s as if Molly Knight ushers you behind the closed clubhouse doors.” (Buster Olney, ESPN)
In 2012 the Los Angeles Dodgers were bought out of bankruptcy in the most expensive sale in sports history. Los Angeles icon Magic Johnson and his partners hoped to put together a team worthy of Hollywood: consistently entertaining. By most accounts they have succeeded, if not always in the way they might have imagined.
In The Best Team Money Can Buy, Molly Knight tells the story of the Dodgers’ 2013 and 2014 seasons with detailed, previously unreported revelations. She shares a behind-the-scenes account of the astonishing sale of the Dodgers, as well as what the Dodgers actually knew in advance about rookie phenom and Cuban defector Yasiel Puig. We learn how close manager Don Mattingly was to losing his job during the 2013 season—and how the team turned around the season in the most remarkable fifty-game stretch of any team since World War II. Knight also provides a rare glimpse into the in-fighting and mistrust that derailed the team in 2014 and paints an intimate portrait of star pitcher Clayton Kershaw, including details about the record contract offer he turned down before accepting the richest contract any pitcher ever signed.
Exciting, surprising, and filled with juicy details, “a must-read for fans of the Dodgers and all Los Angeles sports teams….Knight’s undercover work is like none other” (Library Journal). The Best Team Money Can Buy is filled with “fascinating perspectives” (Los Angeles Times) and “interesting anecdotes about some of baseball’s most compelling figures” (The Sacramento Bee).
After twenty consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, team morale was low, the club's payroll ranked near the bottom of the sport, game attendance was down, and the city was becoming increasingly disenchanted with its team. Pittsburghers joked their town was the city of champions...and the Pirates. Big Data Baseball is the story of how the 2013 Pirates, mired in the longest losing streak in North American pro sports history, adopted drastic big-data strategies to end the drought, make the playoffs, and turn around the franchise's fortunes.
Award-winning journalist Travis Sawchik takes you behind the scenes to expertly weave together the stories of the key figures who changed the way the small-market Pirates played the game. For manager Clint Hurdle and the front office staff to save their jobs, they could not rely on a free agent spending spree, instead they had to improve the sum of their parts and find hidden value. They had to change. From Hurdle shedding his old-school ways to work closely with Neal Huntington, the forward-thinking data-driven GM and his team of talented analysts; to pitchers like A. J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole changing what and where they threw; to Russell Martin, the undervalued catcher whose expert use of the nearly-invisible skill of pitch framing helped the team's pitchers turn more balls into strikes; to Clint Barmes, a solid shortstop and one of the early adopters of the unconventional on-field shift which forced the entire infield to realign into positions they never stood in before. Under Hurdle's leadership, a culture of collaboration and creativity flourished as he successfully blended whiz kid analysts with graybeard coaches—a kind of symbiotic teamwork which was unique to the sport.
Big Data Baseball is Moneyball on steroids. It is an entertaining and enlightening underdog story that uses the 2013 Pirates season as the perfect lens to examine the sport's burgeoning big-data movement. With the help of data-tracking systems like PitchF/X and TrackMan, the Pirates collected millions of data points on every pitch and ball in play to create a tome of color-coded reports that revealed groundbreaking insights for how to win more games without spending a dime. In the process, they discovered that most batters struggled to hit two-seam fastballs, that an aggressive defensive shift on the field could turn more batted balls into outs, and that a catcher's most valuable skill was hidden. All these data points which aren't immediately visible to players and spectators, are the bit of magic that led the Pirates to spin straw in to gold, finish the 2013 season in second place, end a twenty-year losing streak.
By early 1977, the metropolis was in the grip of hysteria caused by a murderer dubbed "Son of Sam." And on a sweltering night in July, a citywide power outage touched off an orgy of looting and arson that led to the largest mass arrest in New York's history. As the turbulent year wore on, the city became absorbed in two epic battles: the fight between Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson and team manager Billy Martin, and the battle between Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo for the city's mayoralty. Buried beneath these parallel conflicts—one for the soul of baseball, the other for the soul of the city—was the subtext of race. The brash and confident Jackson took every black myth and threw it back in white America's face. Meanwhile, Koch and Cuomo ran bitterly negative campaigns that played upon urbanites' fears of soaring crime and falling municipal budgets.
These braided stories tell the history of a year that saw the opening of Studio 54, the evolution of punk rock, and the dawning of modern SoHo. As the pragmatist Koch defeated the visionary Cuomo and as Reggie Jackson finally rescued a team racked with dissension,1977 became a year of survival but also of hope.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and the basis of the 2007 ESPN miniseries, starring John Turturro as Billy Martin, Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner, and Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson.
Ty Cobb is baseball royalty, maybe even the greatest player ever. His lifetime batting average is still the highest in history, and when he retired in 1928, after twenty-one years with the Detroit Tigers and two with the Philadelphia Athletics, he held more than ninety records. But the numbers don’t tell half of Cobb’s tale. The Georgia Peach was by far the most thrilling player of the era: When the Hall of Fame began in 1936, he was the first player voted in.
But Cobb was also one of the game’s most controversial characters. He got in a lot of fights, on and off the field, and was often accused of being overly aggressive. Even his supporters acknowledged that he was a fierce competitor, but he was also widely admired. After his death in 1961, however, his reputation morphed into that of a virulent racist who also hated children and women, and was in turn hated by his peers.
How did this happen? Who is the real Ty Cobb? Setting the record straight, Charles Leerhsen pushed aside the myths, traveled to Georgia and Detroit, and re-traced Cobb’s journey from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time to America’s first true sports celebrity. The result is a “noble [and] convincing” (The New York Times Book Review) biography that is “groundbreaking, thorough, and compelling…The most complete, well-researched, and thorough treatment that has ever been written” (The Tampa Tribune).
Like the original, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is really several books in one. The Game provides a century's worth of American baseball history, told one decade at a time, with energetic facts and figures about How, Where, and by Whom the game was played. In The Players, you'll find listings of the top 100 players at each position in the major leagues, along with James's signature stats-based ratings method called “Win Shares,” a way of quantifying individual performance and calculating the offensive and defensive contributions of catchers, pitchers, infielders, and outfielders. And there's more: the Reference section covers Win Shares for each season and each player, and even offers a Win Share team comparison. A must-have for baseball fans and historians alike, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is as essential, entertaining, and enlightening as the sport itself.
A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year
“Plenty of books have taken us inside baseball, but August takes us directly inside players’ heads.” —Entertainment Weekly
3 Nights in August captures the strategic and emotional complexities of baseball’s quintessential form: the three-game series. As the St. Louis Cardinals battle their archrival, the Chicago Cubs, we watch from the dugout through the eyes of legendary Tony La Russa, considered by many to be the greatest manager of the modern era. In his thirty-three years of managing, La Russa won three World Series titles and was named Manager of the Year a record five times. He now stands as the third-winningest manager in the history of baseball.
A great leader, La Russa built his success on the conviction that ball games are won not only by the numbers but also by the hearts and minds of those who play. Drawing on unprecedented access to a major league skipper and his team, Buzz Bissinger portrays baseball with a revelatory intimacy that offers many surprisingly tactical insights—and furthers the debate on major league managerial style and strategy in his provocative afterword.
“Superb . . . Will be devoured by hard-core strategists.” —The New York Times Book Review
David Halberstam, an avid sports writer with an investigative reporter’s tenacity, superbly details the end of the fifteen-year reign of the New York Yankees in October 1964. That October found the Yankees going head-to-head with the St. Louis Cardinals for the World Series pennant. Expertly weaving the narrative threads of both teams’ seasons, Halberstam brings the major personalities on the field—from switch-hitter Mickey Mantle to pitcher Bob Gibson—to life. Using the teams’ subcultures, Halberstam also analyzes the cultural shifts of the sixties. The result is a unique blend of sports writing and cultural history as engrossing as it is insightful. This ebook features an extended biography of David Halberstam.
Forget batting average. Kill the “Win.” Say goodbye to starting pitchers. And please, please stop bunting. MLB Network anchor and commentator Brian Kenny provides “an excellent, entertaining read for the all-around baseball fan” (Library Journal) and shows how baseball has been revolutionized—not destroyed—by analytical thinking.
Most people who resist logical thought in baseball preach “tradition” and “respecting the game.” But many of baseball’s traditions go back to the nineteenth century, when the pitcher’s job was to provide the batter with a ball he could hit and fielders played without gloves. Instead of fearing change, Brian Kenny wants fans to think critically, reject outmoded groupthink, and embrace the changes that have come with the sabermetric era. In his entertaining and enlightening book, Kenny discusses why the pitching win-loss record, the Triple Crown, fielding errors, and so-called battling titles should be ignored. He also points out how fossilized sportswriters have been electing the wrong MVP’s and ignoring legitimate candidates for the Hall of Fame; why managers are hired based on their looks; and how the most important position in baseball may just be “Director of Decision Sciences.”
“Prepare to have your brain and your assumptions challenged. Guided by data and a deep love of the game, Brian Kenny takes a cutting-edge look at where baseball is and where it is going” (Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated). Illustrated with unique anecdotes from those who have reshaped the game, Ahead of the Curve is “a great story about the game in the age of information and technology” (Billy Beane).
--Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Will Be Boys and The Bad Guys Won
In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois, playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats, defied convention and the odds. Led by an English teacher with no coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of 370 teams to represent the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final, a distinction that still stands. There the Ironmen would play against a Chicago powerhouse in a dramatic game that would change their lives forever.
In this gripping, cinematic narrative, Chris Ballard tells the story of the team and its coach, Lynn Sweet: a hippie, dreamer, and intellectual who arrived in Macon in 1966, bringing progressive ideas to a town stuck in the Eisenhower era. Beloved by students but not administration, Sweet reluctantly took over the ragtag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Together they embarked on an improbable postseason run that buoyed a small town in desperate need of something to celebrate.
Engaging and poignant, One Shot at Forever is a testament to the power of high school sports to shape the lives of those who play them, and it reminds us that there are few bonds more sacred than that among a coach, a team, and a town.
"Macon's run at the title reminds us why sports matter and why sportswriting has such great power to inspire. . . . [It's] one hell of a good story, and Ballard has written one hell of a good book." --Jonathan Eig, Chicago Tribune
It was a time before runaway salaries and designated hitters. Before divisional playoffs and drug suspensions. Before teams measured their well-being by the number of corporate boxes in their ballpark and the cable contract in their pocket. It was the last season of baseball’s most colorful and nostalgic period.
It was surely not a more innocent time. The 1968 Tigers were a team of hell-raisers, the second coming of the Gas House Gang. They brawled on the field and partied hard afterward. They bickered with each other and ignored their manager. They won game after game with improbable rallies on their last at-bat and grabbed the World Championship by coming back from a three games to one deficit to beat the most dominant pitcher in the World Series history in the deciding seventh game.
Their ultimate hero, Mickey Lolich, was a man who threw left-handed, thought “upside down,” and rode motorcycles to the ballpark. Their thirty-game winner, Denny McLain, played the organ in various night spots, placed bets over the clubhouse phone, and incidentally, overpowered the American League. Their prize pinch-hitter, Gates Brown, had done hard time in the Ohio Penitentiary. Their top slugger, Willie Horton, would have rather been boxing. Their centerfielder, Mickey Stanley, a top defensive outfielder, would unselfishly volunteer to play the biggest games of his life at shortstop, so that their great outfielder, Al Kaline, could get into the World Series lineup.
The story of this team, their triumph, and what happened in their lives afterward, is one of the great dramas of baseball history.
The Tigers of ’68 is the uproarious, stirring tale of this team, the last to win a pure pennant (before each league was divided into two divisions and playoffs were added) and World Series. Award-winning journalist George Cantor, who covered the Tigers that year for the Detroit Free Press, revisits the main performers on the team and then weaves their memories and stories (warts and all) into an absorbing narrative that revives all of the delicious—and infamous—moments that made the season unforgettable. Tommy Matchick’s magical ninth-inning home run, Jim Northrup’s record-setting grand slams, Jon Warden’s torrid April, Dick McAuliffe’s charge to the mound, Denny McLain’s gift to Mickey Mantle, the nearly unprecedented comeback in the World Series, and dozens more.
The ’68 Tigers occupy a special place in the history of the city of Detroit. They’ve joined their predecessors of 1935 as an almost mythic unit—more than a baseball team. The belief has passed into Detroit folklore. Many people swear, as Willie Horton says, that they were “put here by God to save the city.” The Tigers of ’68 will help you understand why.
As a player, Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel's contemporaries included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson . . . and he was the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets. As a legendary manager, he formed indelible, complicated relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin. For more than five glorious decades, Stengel was the undisputed, quirky, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball--and along the way he revolutionized the role of manager while winning a spectactular ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.
But for a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight--an astounding fifty-five years in professional baseball--Stengel remains an enigma. Acclaimed New York Yankees' historian and bestselling author Marty Appel digs into Casey Stengel's quirks and foibles, unearthing a tremendous trove of baseball stories, perspective, and history. Weaving in never-before-published family documents, Appel creates an intimate portrait of a private man who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and named "Baseball's Greatest Character" by MLB Network's Prime 9. Casey Stengel is a biography that will be treasured by fans of our national pastime.
Lou Gehrig was a baseball legend—the Iron Horse, the stoic New York Yankee who was the greatest first baseman in history, a man whose consecutive-games streak was ended by a horrible disease that now bears his name. But as this definitive new biography makes clear, Gehrig’s life was more complicated—and, perhaps, even more heroic—than anyone really knew.
Drawing on new interviews and more than two hundred pages of previously unpublished letters to and from Gehrig, Luckiest Man gives us an intimate portrait of the man who became an American hero: his life as a shy and awkward youth growing up in New York City, his unlikely friendship with Babe Ruth (a friendship that allegedly ended over rumors that Ruth had had an affair with Gehrig’s wife), and his stellar career with the Yankees, where his consecutive-games streak stood for more than half a century. What was not previously known, however, is that symptoms of Gehrig’s affliction began appearing in 1938, earlier than is commonly acknowledged. Later, aware that he was dying, Gehrig exhibited a perseverance that was truly inspiring; he lived the last two years of his short life with the same grace and dignity with which he gave his now-famous “luckiest man” speech.
Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Jonathan Eig’s Luckiest Man shows us one of the greatest baseball players of all time as we’ve never seen him before.
It was 1986, and the New York Mets won 108 regular-season games and the World Series, capturing the hearts (and other assorted body parts) of fans everywhere. But their greatness on the field was nearly eclipsed by how bad they were off it. Led by the indomitable Keith Hernandez and the young dynamic duo of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, along with the gallant Scum Bunch, the Amazin’s left a wide trail of wreckage in their wake—hotel rooms, charter planes, a bar in Houston, and most famously Bill Buckner and the hated Boston Red Sox.
With an unforgettable cast of characters—including Doc, Straw, the Kid, Nails, Mex, and manager Davey Joshson—this “affectionate but critical look at this exciting season” (Publishers Weekly) celebrates the last of baseball’s arrogant, insane, rock-and-roll-and-party-all-night teams, exploring what could have been, what should have been, and what never was.
Through dogged research and extensive interviews, award-winning author and journalist Larry Tye has tracked down the truth about this majestic and enigmatic pitcher. Here is the stirring account of the child born to a poor Alabama washerwoman, the boy who earned his nickname from his enterprising work as a railroad porter, and the young man who took up baseball on the streets and in reform school before becoming the superstar hurler of the Negro Leagues.
In unprecedented detail, Tye reveals how Paige, hurt and angry when Jackie Robinson beat him in breaking the Majors’ color barrier, emerged at the improbable age of forty-two to help propel the Cleveland Indians to the World Series. (“Age is a case of mind over matter,” he said. “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”)
Rewriting our history of baseball’s integration with Paige in the starring role and separating truth from legend, Satchel is a story as large as this larger-than-life man.
Legendary Dodgers Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Dick Tracewski, and Tommy Davis encapsulated 1960s America: white and black, Jewish and Christian, wealthy and working class, pro-Vietnam and anti-war, golden boy and seasoned veteran. The Last Innocents is a thoughtful, technicolor portrait of these seven players—friends, mentors, confidants, rivals, and allies—and their storied team that offers an intriguing look at a sport and a nation in transition. Bringing into focus the high drama of their World Series appearances from 1962 to 1972 and their pivotal games, Michael Leahy explores these men’s interpersonal relationships and illuminates the triumphs, agonies, and challenges each faced individually.
Leahy places these men’s lives within the political and social maelstrom that was the era when the conformity of the 1950s gave way to demands for equality and rights. Increasingly frustrated over a lack of real bargaining power and an oppressive management who meddled in their personal affairs, the players shared an uneasy relationship with the team’s front office. This contention mirrored the discord and uncertainty generated by myriad changes rocking the nation: the civil rights movement, political assassinations, and growing hostility to the escalation of the Vietnam War. While the nation around them changed, these players each experienced a personal and professional metamorphosis that would alter public perceptions and their own.
Comprehensive and artfully crafted, The Last Innocents is an evocative and riveting portrait of a pivotal era in baseball and modern America.
Despite years of phenomenal achievements, including going to the World Series in 2004 and again in 2006, the Cardinals reinvented themselves using the "Cardinal Way," a term that has come to represent many things to fans, media, and other organizations, from an ironclad code of conduct to the team's cutting-edge use of statistic and analytics, and a farm system that has transformed baseball.
Baseball journalist Howard Megdal takes fans behind the scenes and off the field, interviewing dozens of key players within the Cardinals organization, including owner Bill DeWitt and the general manager John Mozeliak. Megdal reveals how the players are assessed and groomed using an unrivaled player development system that has created a franchise that is the envy of the baseball world.
In the spirit of Moneyball, The Cardinals Way tells an in-depth, fascinating story about a consistently good franchise, the business of sports in the twenty-first century and a team that has learned how to level the playing field, turning in season after successful season.
Which Hall of Famer once caught a ball dropped from an airplane?
Why do balls get stamped with invisible ink?
What’s the best ticket to buy for catching a foul ball?
Which part of the ball once came from dog food companies?
How could a 10,000-year-old glacier help a pitcher grip the ball?
In this enlightening, entertaining, and often wildly funny book, Zack Hample shares ballpark legends and lore, explores the history of the baseball souvenir craze, and also details the evolution of the ball, Finally, Hample—who has snagged more than 4,600 balls from 48 different major league stadiums—offers up his secret methods for snagging your own ball from major league games.
Features a ballhawk glossary, profiles of legendary ballhawks, top 10 lists, and black-and-white photos throughout.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Before the 27 World Series titles--before Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter-the Yankees were New York's shadow franchise. They hadn't won a championship, and they didn't even have their own field, renting the Polo Grounds from their cross-town rivals the New York Giants. In 1921 and 1922, they lost to the Giants when it mattered most: in October.
But in 1923, the Yankees played their first season on their own field, the newly-built, state of the art baseball palace in the Bronx called "the Yankee Stadium." The stadium was a gamble, erected in relative outerborough obscurity, and Babe Ruth was coming off the most disappointing season of his career, a season that saw his struggles on and off the field threaten his standing as a bona fide superstar.
It only took Ruth two at-bats to signal a new era. He stepped up to the plate in the 1923 season opener and cracked a home run to deep right field, the first homer in his park, and a sign of what lay ahead. It was the initial blow in a season that saw the new stadium christened "The House That Ruth Built," signaled the triumph of the power game, and established the Yankees as New York's-and the sport's-team to beat.
From that first home run of 1923 to the storybook World Series matchup that pitted the Yankees against their nemesis from across the Harlem River-one so acrimonious that John McGraw forced his Giants to get to the Bronx in uniform rather than suit up at the Stadium-Robert Weintraub vividly illuminates the singular year that built a classic stadium, catalyzed a franchise, cemented Ruth's legend, and forever changed the sport of baseball.
The summer of 1949: It was baseball’s Golden Age and the year Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees were locked in a soon-to-be classic battle with Ted Williams’s Boston Red Sox for the American League pennant. As postwar America looked for a unifying moment, the greatest players in baseball history brought their rivalry to the field, captivating the American public through the heart-pounding final moments of the season. This expansive story captures an era, incorporating profiles of the players and their families, fans, broadcasters, baseball executives, and sportswriters. Riveting in its blend of powerful detail and exhilarating narrative, The Summer of ’49 is Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam’s engrossing look at not only a sports rivalry, but a time when America’s very identity was wrapped up in its beloved national game. This ebook features an extended biography of David Halberstam.
Remember the excitement of those first years at Jacobs Field? When it seemed the Indians could find a way to win almost any game? When screaming fans rocked the jam-packed stands every night? When a brash young team snapped a forty-year slump and electrified the city?
Those weren’t baseball seasons, they were year-long celebrations.
Step back into the glory days with sportswriter Terry Pluto and broadcaster Tom Hamilton as they share behind-the-scenes stories about a team with all-stars at nearly every position . . . a sparkling new ballpark . . . wild comeback victories . . . a record sellout streak . . . two trips to the World Series . . . and a city crazed with Indians fever.
Revisit baseball’s most fearsome lineup: Albert Belle’s mighty swing and ferocious glare . . . Jim Thome’s moon-shot home runs . . . Omar Vizquel’s poetry-in-motion play at shortstop . . . Kenny Lofton’s exhilarating baserunning and over-the-wall catches . . .
These two Cleveland baseball veterans were there for it all. Now, they combine firsthand experience and in-depth player interviews to tell a richly detailed story that Tribe fans will love.
Acclaimed New Yorker writer Roger Angell’s first book on baseball, The Summer Game, originally published in 1972, is a stunning collection of his essays on the major leagues, covering a span of ten seasons. Angell brilliantly captures the nation’s most beloved sport through the 1960s, spanning both the winning teams and the “horrendous losers,” and including famed players Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, and more. With the panache of a seasoned sportswriter and the energy of an avid baseball fan, Angell’s sports journalism is an insightful and compelling look at the great American pastime.
On New Year’s Eve 1972, beloved Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente died a hero’s death, killed in a plane crash while attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake. His career ended with four batting titles, two World Series championships, and three thousand hits; he and the immortal Lou Gehrig are the only players in history to have the five-year waiting period waived so they could be enshrined in the Hall of Fame immediately after their deaths.
But Clemente was also that rare athlete who rose above sports to become a symbol of larger themes. Born at a time when there were no players of color in American baseball, Clemente went on to become the greatest Latino player in the major leagues. With determination, grace, and dignity, he paved the way and set the highest standard for his peers both on and off the field: his famous motto was “If you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.” The end of the book reveals the corruption and negligence that led Clemente toward his untimely death as an uninspected, overloaded plane plunged into the sea.
The Teammates is the profoundly moving story of four great baseball players who have made the passage from sports icons--when they were young and seemingly indestructible--to men dealing with the vulnerabilities of growing older. At the core of the book is the friendship of these four very different men--Boston Red Sox teammates Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams--who remained close for more than sixty years.
The book starts out in early October 2001, when Dominic DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky begin a 1,300-mile trip by car to visit their beloved friend Ted Williams, whom they know is dying. Bobby Doerr, the fourth member of this close group--"my guys," Williams used to call them--is unable to join them.This is a book--filled with historical details and first-hand accounts--about baseball and about something more: the richness of friendship.
Von der Ahe picked up the team for one reason—to sell more beer. Then he helped gather a group of ragtag professional clubs together to create a maverick new league that would fight the haughty National League, reinventing big-league baseball to attract Americans of all classes. Sneered at as “The Beer and Whiskey Circuit” because it was backed by brewers, distillers, and saloon owners, their American Association brought Americans back to enjoying baseball by offering Sunday games, beer at the ballpark, and a dirt-cheap ticket price of 25 cents.
The womanizing, egocentric, wildly generous Von der Ahe and his fellow owners filled their teams' rosters with drunks and renegades, and drew huge crowds of rowdy spectators who screamed at umpires and cheered like mad as the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Browns fought to the bitter end for the 1883 pennant.
In The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, Edward Achorn re-creates this wondrous and hilarious world of cunning, competition, and boozing, set amidst a rapidly transforming America. It is a classic American story of people with big dreams, no shortage of chutzpah, and love for a brilliant game that they refused to let die.
In 1934, a photograph was taken of a baseball team. These two rows of young men look like any group of American ballplayers, except perhaps for the Russian lettering on their jerseys. The players have left their homeland and the Great Depression in search of a better life in Stalinist Russia, but instead they will meet tragic and, until now, forgotten fates. Within four years, most of them will be arrested alongside untold numbers of other Americans. Some will be executed. Others will be sent to "corrective labor" camps where they will be worked to death. This book is the story of lives-the forsaken who died and those who survived.
Based on groundbreaking research, The Forsaken is the story of Americans whose dreams were shattered and lives lost in Stalinist Russia.
“Enormously entertaining . . . Explores the question of whether a baseball lifer can actually be a tragic figure in the classic sense—a man destroyed by the very qualities that made him great." — Wall Street Journal
“Bill Pennington gives long-overdue flesh to the caricature . . . Pennington savors the dirt-kicking spectacles without losing sight of the man.” — New York Times Book Review
Even now, years after his death, Billy Martin remains one of the most intriguing and charismatic figures in baseball history. And the most misunderstood. A manager who is widely considered to have been a baseball genius, Martin is remembered more for his rabble-rousing and public brawls on the field and off. He was combative and intimidating, yet endearing and beloved.
In Billy Martin, Bill Pennington resolves these contradictions and pens the definitive story of Martin’s life. From his hardscrabble youth to his days on the Yankees in the 1950s and through sixteen years of managing, Martin made sure no one ever ignored him. Drawing on exhaustive interviews and his own time covering Martin as a young sportswriter, Pennington provides an intimate, revelatory, and endlessly colorful story of a truly larger-than-life sportsman.
“The hair on my forearms was standing up by the end of the fifth paragraph of this book’s introduction. I knew Billy Martin. I covered Billy Martin. But I never knew him like this.” — Dan Shaughnessy, best-selling author of Francona
“An exhaustive, detailed and fascinating look at a baseball genius whose biggest fight might very well have been against himself.” — Tampa Tribune
Luck—or hard work and skill? Zack Hample has caught more than 7,600 baseballs from the stands of 51 major league stadiums. His snags include Mike Trout’s first career home run and Barry Bonds’s 724th; the last homer hit by a Met at Shea Stadium; and a regular old Cubs-Reds contest from which Hample walked away with 36 balls. You, too, can do what Zack does, whether you’re at Opening Day batting practice or Game 7 of the World Series. From a baseball expert and skilled raconteur, “The Art of Snag” tells you what to wear, how to talk, where to go, and what exactly you need to do to become the (Skillful? Just plain prepared? Either way, legal) proud owner of a Major League baseball.
An eBook short.
Reconstructing the culture and experience of early baseball through a careful reading of the sporting press, baseball guides, and the correspondence of the player-manager Harry Wright, Warren Goldstein discovers the origins of many modern controversies during the game's earliest decades.
The 20th Anniversary Edition of Goldstein's classic includes information about the changes that have occurred in the history of the sport since the 1980s and an account of his experience as a scholarly consultant during the production of Ken Burns's Baseball.
NEWSWEEK once called him "The guru of baseball," and Bill James, for nearly forty years, has led the vanguard of how we measure the game. From Sabermetrics to his Baseball Abstracts, James has influenced even the casual fan all the way up to the top brass. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, however, is the manager, and Bill James has penned a guide on some of the most innovative and renowned men to ever hold that position.
Some of the game's greatest managers have been Hall-of-Fame players who put down a bat and picked up a lineup card: Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Joe Cronin, Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby. Others have achieved greatness from their ability to assemble legendary teams: Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda, Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, Dick Williams, Leo Durocher. Here, Bill James explores the history of the manager, and its evolution from 1870-1990, in a decade-by-decade chronicle, examining the successes, the failures, and what baseball fans can learn from both.
THE BILL JAMES GUIDE TO BASEBALL MANAGERS is a thought-provoking, entertaining, and seminal guide to a vital part of the national pastime, written by one of its most groundbreaking iconoclasts.
Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Forget Alexander Joy Cartwright and the New York Knickerbockers. Instead, meet Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton, and Louis Fenn Wadsworth, each of whom has a stronger claim to baseball paternity than Doubleday or Cartwright.
But did baseball even have a father—or did it just evolve from other bat-and-ball games? John Thorn, baseball’s preeminent historian, examines the creation story of the game and finds it all to be a gigantic lie, not only the Doubleday legend, so long recognized with a wink and a nudge. From its earliest days baseball was a vehicle for gambling (much like cricket, a far more popular game in early America), a proxy form of class warfare, infused with racism as was the larger society, invigorated if ultimately corrupted by gamblers, hustlers, and shady entrepreneurs. Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. He shows how the sport’s increasing popularity in the early decades of the nineteenth century mirrored the migration of young men from farms and small towns to cities, especially New York. And he charts the rise of secret professionalism and the origin of the notorious “reserve clause,” essential innovations for gamblers and capitalists. No matter how much you know about the history of baseball, you will find something new in every chapter. Thorn also introduces us to a host of early baseball stars who helped to drive the tremendous popularity and growth of the game in the post–Civil War era: Jim Creighton, perhaps the first true professional player; Candy Cummings, the pitcher who claimed to have invented the curveball; Albert Spalding, the ballplayer who would grow rich from the game and shape its creation myth; Hall of Fame brothers George and Harry Wright; Cap Anson, the first man to record three thousand hits and a virulent racist; and many others. Add bluff, bluster, and bravado, and toss in an illicit romance, an unknown son, a lost ball club, an epidemic scare, and you have a baseball detective story like none ever written.
Thorn shows how a small religious cult became instrumental in the commission that was established to determine the origins of the game and why the selection of Abner Doubleday as baseball’s father was as strangely logical as it was patently absurd. Entertaining from the first page to the last, Baseball in the Garden of Eden is a tale of good and evil, and the snake proves the most interesting character. It is full of heroes, scoundrels, and dupes; it contains more scandal by far than the 1919 Black Sox World Series fix. More than a history of the game, Baseball in the Garden of Eden tells the story of nineteenth-century America, a land of opportunity and limitation, of glory and greed—all present in the wondrous alloy that is our nation and its pastime.
On July 4, 1939, baseball great Lou Gehrig delivered what has been called "baseball's Gettysburg Address" at Yankee Stadium and gave a speech that included the phrase that would become legendary. He died two years later and his fiery widow, Eleanor, wanted nothing more than to keep his memory alive. With her forceful will, she and the irascible producer Samuel Goldwyn quickly agreed to make a film based on Gehrig's life, The Pride of the Yankees. Goldwyn didn't understand--or care about--baseball. For him this film was the emotional story of a quiet, modest hero who married a spirited woman who was the love of his life, and, after a storied career, gave a short speech that transformed his legacy. With the world at war and soldiers dying on foreign soil, it was the kind of movie America needed.
Using original scrips, letters, memos, and other rare documents, Richard Sandomir tells the behind-the-scenes story of how a classic was born. There was the so-called Scarlett O'Hara-like search to find the actor to play Gehrig; the stunning revelations Elanor made to the scriptwriter Paul Gallico about her life with Lou; the intensive training Cooper underwent to learn how to catch, throw, and hit a baseball for the first time; and the story of two now-legendary Hollywood actors in Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright whose nuanced performances endowed the Gehrigs with upstanding dignity and cemented the baseball icon's legend.
Sandomir writes with great insight and aplomb, painting a fascinating portrait of a bygone Hollywood era, a mourning widow with a dream, and the shadow a legend cast on one of the greatest sports films of all time.
Five years after the Dodgers and Giants fled New York for California, the city’s National League fans were offered salvation in the shape of the New York Mets: an expansion team who, in the spring of 1962, attempted to play something resembling the sport of baseball. Helmed by the sagacious Casey Stengel and staffed by the league’s detritus, the new Mets played 162 games and lost 120 of them, making them statistically the worst team in the sport’s modern history. It’s possible they were even worse than that. Starring such legends as Marvin Throneberry—a first baseman so inept that his nickname had to be “Marvelous”—the Mets lost with swashbuckling panache. In an era when the fun seemed to have gone out of sports, the Mets came to life in a blaze of delightful, awe-inspiring ineptitude. They may have been losers, but a team this awful deserves to be remembered as legends. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Jimmy Breslin including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
–Lee Eisenberg, author of The Number
In Baseball, one of the great bards of America’s Grand Old Game gives a rousing account of the sport, from its pre-Republic roots to the present day. George Vecsey casts a fresh eye on the game, illuminates its foibles and triumphs, and performs a marvelous feat: making a classic story seem refreshingly new.
Baseball is a narrative of America’s can-do spirit, in which stalwart immigrants such as Henry Chadwick could transplant cricket and rounders into the fertile American culture and in which die-hard unionist baseballers such as Charles Comiskey and Connie Mack could eventually become the tightfisted avatars of the game’s big-money establishment. It’s a celebration of such underdogs as a rag-armed catcher turned owner named Branch Rickey and a sure-handed fielder named Curt Flood, both of whom flourished as true great men of history. But most of all, Baseball is a testament to the unbreakable bond between our nation’s pastime and the fans, who’ve remained loyal through the fifty-year-long interdict on black athletes, the Black Sox scandal, franchise relocation, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by some major stars.
Reverent, playful, and filled with Vecsey’s charm, Baseball begs to be read in the span of a rain-delayed doubleheader, and so enjoyable that, like a favorite team’s championship run, one hopes it never ends.
“Vecsey possesses a journalist’s eye for detail and a historian’s feel for the sweep of action. His research is scrupulous and his writing crisp. This book is an instant classic—— a highly readable guide to America’s great enduring pastime.” — The Louisville Courier Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
Ten years ago, Jim Collins chronicled a season in the life of one team: the Chatham A's, perhaps the most celebrated team in the league. Set against the backdrop of a resort town on the bend of the outer Cape, the story charted the changing fortunes of a handful of players battling slumps and self-doubt in their effort to make the league playoffs and, more importantly, impress the major league scouts.
Over the last decade, baseball's hard truths became evident for the Chatham stars who went on to play professionally, and the final chapter of their story can now be written. In a new afterword for the tenth anniversary, Collins explores questions that sports literature rarely touches: What does it mean to devote your life to an almost impossible goal and almost but not quite make it? Or make it only briefly before it slips away? What does a dream look like in retrospect? How does the game look now?
The Summer Game, originally published in 1972, is a stunning collection of Angell’s essays on the major leagues, covering a span of ten seasons. Angell brilliantly captures the nation’s most beloved sport through the 1960s, spanning both the winning teams and the “horrendous losers,” and including famed players Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, and more. With the panache of a seasoned sportswriter and the energy of an avid baseball fan, Angell’s sports journalism is an insightful and compelling look at the great American pastime.
In Five Seasons, New Yorker sportswriter Roger Angell calls 1972 to 1976 “the most important half-decade in the history of the game.” The early to mid-1970s brought unprecedented changes to America’s ancient pastime: astounding performances by Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron; the intensity of the “best-ever” 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox; the changes growing from bitter and extended labor strikes and lockouts; and the vast new influence of network television on the game. Angell, always a fan as well as a writer, casts a knowing but noncynical eye on these events, offering a fresh perspective to baseball’s continuing appeal during this brilliant and transformative era.
And in Season Ticket, Roger Angell once again journeys through five seasons of America’s national pastime—chronicling the larger-than-life narratives and on-field intricacies of baseball from 1982 to 1987. Angell’s collected New Yorker essays, written in his unique voice as a fan and baseball aficionado, cover the development of the game both on the diamond and off. While diving into subjects such as Sparky Anderson’s ’84 Detroit Tigers, the legendary 1986 World Series and the Curse of the Bambino, and the increasingly pervasive issue of player drug use, Angell reveals the craft and technique of the game, and the unforgettable stories of those who played it.
In 1968, two remarkable pitchers would dominate the game as well as the broadsheets. One was black, the other white. Bob Gibson, together with the St. Louis Cardinals, embodied an entire generation's hope for integration at a heated moment in American history. Denny McLain, his adversary, was a crass self-promoter who eschewed the team charter and his Detroit Tigers teammates to zip cross-country in his own plane. For one season, the nation watched as these two men and their teams swept their respective league championships to meet at the World Series. Gibson set a major league record that year with a 1.12 ERA. McLain won more than 30 games in 1968, a feat not achieved since 1934 and untouched since. Together, the two have come to stand as iconic symbols, giving the fans “The Year of the Pitcher” and changing the game. Evoking a nostalgic season and its incredible characters, this is the story of one of the great rivalries in sports and an indelible portrait of the national pastime during a turbulent year—and the two men who electrified fans from all walks of life.
The national press converged on Crenshaw. So many scouts gravitated to their games that they took up most of the seats in the bleachers. Even the Crenshaw ballfield was a sight to behold -- groomed by the players themselves, picked clean of every pebble, it was the finest diamond in all of inner-city Los Angeles. On the outfield fences, the gates to the outside stayed locked against the danger and distraction of the streets. Baseball, for these boys, was hope itself. They had grown up with the notion that it could somehow set things right -- a vague, unexpressed, but persistent hope that even if life was rigged, baseball might be fair.
And for a while it seemed they were right. Incredibly, most of of this team -- even several of the boys who sat on the bench -- were drafted into professional baseball. Two of them, Darryl Strawberry and Chris Brown, would reunite as teammates on a National League All-Star roster. But Michael Sokolove's The Ticket Out is more a story of promise denied than of dreams fulfilled. Because in Sokolove's brilliantly reported poignant and powerful tale, the lives of these gifted athletes intersect with the realities of being poor, urban, and black in America. What happened to these young men is a harsh reminder of the ways inspiration turns to frustration when the bats and balls are stowed and the crowd's applause dies down.
Just as Friday Night Lights portrayed the impact of high school sports on the life of a Texas community, and There Are No Children Here examined the viselike grip of poverty on minority youngsters, The Ticket Out presents an unforgettable tale of families grasping for opportunities, of athletes praying for one chance to make it big, of all of us hoping that the will to succeed can triumph over the demons haunting our city streets.
“No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they’re pitching or hitting in Triple-A.” —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher
“If you don’t like it here, do a better job.” —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager
John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled. He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his explosive bestseller A Season on the Brink. Now, turning his eye to our national pastime, sports journalist John Feinstein explores the colorful and mysterious world of minor-league baseball—a gateway through which all major-league players pass in their careers . . . hoping never to return.
Baseball’s minor leagues are a paradox. For some players, the minors are a glorious launching pad toward years of fame and fortune; for others, a crash-landing pad when injury or poor play forces a big leaguer back to a life of obscure ballparks and cramped buses instead of Fenway Park and plush charter planes. Focusing exclusively on the Triple-A level, one step beneath Major League Baseball, Feinstein introduces readers to nine unique men: three pitchers, three position players, two managers, and an umpire. Through their compelling stories, Feinstein pulls back the veil on a league that is chock-full of gifted baseball players, managers, and umpires who are all one moment away from getting called up—or back—to the majors.
The stories are hard to believe: a first-round draft pick and pitching ace who rocketed to major-league success before finding himself suddenly out of the game, hatching a presumptuous plan to get one more shot at the mound; a home run–hitting former World Series hero who lived the dream, then bounced among six teams before facing the prospects of an unceremonious end to his career; a big-league All-Star who, in the span of five months, went from being completely out of baseball to becoming a star in the ALDS, then signing a $10 million contract; and a well-liked designated hitter who toiled for eighteen seasons in the minors—a record he never wanted to set—before facing his final, highly emotional chance for a call-up to the big leagues.
From Raleigh to Pawtucket, from Lehigh Valley to Indianapolis and beyond, Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.
From the Hardcover edition.
Classic New Yorker sportswriter Roger Angell calls 1972 to 1976 “the most important half-decade in the history of the game.” The early to mid-1970s brought unprecedented changes to America’s ancient pastime: astounding performances by Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron; the intensity of the “best-ever” 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox; the changes growing from bitter and extended labor strikes and lockouts; and the vast new influence of network television on the game. Angell, always a fan as well as a writer, casts a knowing but noncynical eye on these events, offering a fresh perspective to baseball’s continuing appeal during this brilliant and transformative era.
The 1947 World Series was “the most exciting ever” in the words of Joe DiMaggio, with a decade’s worth of drama packed into seven games between the mighty New York Yankees and underdog Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Jackie Robinson’s first Series, a postwar spectacle featuring Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway and President Harry Truman in supporting roles. It was also the first televised World Series – sportswriters called it “Electric October.”
But for all the star power on display, the outcome hinged on role players: Bill Bevens, a journeyman who knocked on the door of pitching immortality; Al Gionfriddo and Cookie Lavagetto, bench players at the center of the Series’ iconic moments; Snuffy Stirnweiss, a wartime batting champion who never got any respect; and managers Bucky Harris and Burt Shotton, each an unlikely choice to run his team. Six men found themselves plucked from obscurity to shine on the sport’s greatest stage. But their fame was fleeting; three would never play another big-league game, and all six would be forgotten.
Kevin Cook brings the ’47 Series back to life, introducing us to men whose past offered no hint they were destined for extraordinary things. For some, the Series was a memory to hold onto. For others, it would haunt them to the end of their days. And for us, Cook offers new insights—some heartbreaking, some uplifting—into what fame and glory truly mean.
From early on, Guthrie-Shimizu argues, baseball carried American values to Japan, and by the mid-twentieth century, the sport had become emblematic of Japan's modernization and of America's growing influence in the Pacific world. Guthrie-Shimizu contends that baseball provides unique insight into U.S.-Japanese relations during times of war and peace and, in fact, is central to understanding postwar reconciliation. In telling this often surprising history, Transpacific Field of Dreams shines a light on globalization's unlikely, and at times accidental, participants.
1981 was a watershed moment in American sports, when players turned an oligarchy of owners into a game where they had a real voice. Midway through the season, a game-changing strike ripped baseball apart, the first time a season had ever been stopped in the middle because of a strike. Marvin Miller and the MLB Players Association squared off against Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the owners in a fight to protect players rights to free agency and defend America's pastime.
Though a time bomb was ticking as the 1981 season began, the game rose to impressive---and now legendary---heights. Pete Rose chased Stan Musial's National League hit record and rookie Fernando Valenzuela was creating a sensation as the best pitcher in the majors when the stadiums went dark and the players went on strike.
For the first time in modern history, there were first- and second-half champions; the two teams with the overall best records in the National League were not awarded play-off berths. When the season resumed after an absence of 712 games, Rose's resumption of his pursuit, the resurgence of Reggie Jackson, the rise of the Montreal Expos, and a Nolan Ryan no-hitter became notable events. The Dodgers bested their longtime rivals in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, the last classic matchup of those storied opponents.
Sourcing incredible and extensive interviews with almost all of the major participants in the strike, Split Season: 1981 returns us to the on- and off-field drama of an unforgettable baseball year.
Dutifully following the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, Hodges longed to return to New York City, and in 1962, joined the original Mets. He took over the manager’s spot on their bench in 1968 and transformed the team from a joke to World Champions in 1969—the Miracle Mets. Yet behind his stoic demeanor lay a man prone to anxiety and scarred by combat during World War II. His sudden death in 1972 shocked his friends and family and left a void in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
Acclaimed authors Tom Clavin and Danny Peary delve into one of baseball’s most overlooked stars, shedding light on a fascinating life and career that even his most ardent fans never knew.
Since its founding in 1936, the Hall of Fame’s standards for election have been nebulous, and its selection processes arcane, resulting in confusion among voters, not to mention mistakes in who has been recognized and who has been bypassed. Numerous so-called “greats” have been inducted despite having not been so great, while popular but controversial players such as all-time home run leader Barry Bonds and all-time hits leader Pete Rose are on the outside looking in.
Now, in The Cooperstown Casebook, Jay Jaffe shows us how to use his revolutionary ranking system to ensure the right players are recognized. The foundation of Jaffe’s approach is his JAWS system, an acronym for the Jaffe WAR Score, which he developed over a decade ago. Through JAWS, each candidate can be objectively compared on the basis of career and peak value to the players at his position who are already in the Hall of Fame. Because of its utility, JAWS has gained an increasing amount of exposure in recent years. Through his analysis, Jaffe shows why the Hall of Fame still matters and how it can remain relevant in the 21st century.
When Rich Cohen was eight years old, his father took him to see a Cubs game. On the way out of the park, his father asked him to make a promise. “Promise me you will never be a Cubs fan. The Cubs do not win,” he explained, “and because of that, a Cubs fan will have a diminished life determined by low expectations. That team will screw up your life.”
As a result, Cohen became not just a Cubs fan but one of the biggest Cubs fans in the world.
In this book, he captures the story of the team, its players and crazy days. Billy Sunday and Ernie Banks, Three Finger Brown and Ryne Sandberg, Bill Buckner, the Bartman Ball, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo—the early dominance followed by a 107 year trek across the wilderness. It’s all here—not just what happened, but what it felt like and what it meant. He searches for the cause of the famous curse. Was it the billy goat, kicked out of Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the 1945 World Series, or does it go back further, to the very origins of the franchise? Driven mad with futility, he went on the road with the team in search of answers, interviewed great players present and past, researched in libraries but also in the bleachers, double-fisted, a frosty malt in each hand, demanding answers. He came to see the curse as a burden but also as a blessing.
Cubs fans are unique, emissaries from a higher realm, warning of hubris and vanity. The blue cap with the red C said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” He interviewed the architects of the 2016 Cubs, the team that broke the curse. Here’s what he asked: How the hell did you do it? He was at (almost) every game of the 2016 playoff run—a run that culminated in (maybe) the single greatest baseball game ever played. He was excited but also terrified. Losing is easy. What would it mean to win? Wearing a Yankees hat meant corporate excellence. Wearing a Mets hat meant miracles. But wearing a Cubs hat meant loving the game on its most humdrum afternoon—September 13, 1979, say, 14 games out of first place, Larry Bittner driving in Ivan DeJesus. Would we lose that? Would being a Cubs become ordinary?
A mix of memoir, reporting, history and baseball theology, this book, forty years in the making, has never been written because it never could be—only with the 2016 World Series can the true arc of the story finally be understood.