PDA

View Full Version : Totally Biased Book Review: Baseball, Chicago Style


Baby Fisk
02-24-2004, 12:07 PM
Baseball, Chicago Style - by Jerome Holtzman & George Vass (2001, 368 pp.)

During the winter of 1899-1900, Charles Comiskey former first baseman, team manager, and now a team owner transferred his minor league club from St. Paul to Chicago.

With a nod to history, he renamed his boys the White Stockings. This was the original name of Chicago's National League club, which had subsequently renamed itself the Orphans, the Colts, and finally the Cubs.

Playing in a renovated cricket field in the south side, Comiskey's White Sox went on to win the fledgling American League's pennant.

The following year, Comiskey and his ownership partners proclaimed the A.L. a major league, declared war on the National League, and began raiding it for players.

Baseball war has been waged in Chicago ever since. The battle reached fever pitch in 1906, the only time the Cubs and White Sox have faced each other for the World Series. Then, Comiskey's Hitless Wonders destroyed the Cubs (who had won a record 116 regular season games) and humiliated the north side by winning the Series in six.

This century-old rivalry is documented by baseball writers Jerome Holtzman and George Vass in Baseball, Chicago Style, a dual biography of the Cubs and White Sox. The book is a compilation of 35 short chapters, each dedicated to a particular portion of Chicago's major league baseball history.

All the major aspects of Sox history are covered: the glory years of 1906 and 1917, the Black Sox scandal, the Go-Go Sox era, the lacklustre 60's, the heavy-hitting 70's, the Winning Ugly era, the 90's and the 2000 season.

Baseball, Chicago Style is a fast-moving book, never dull except for the chapters where the authors fawn over Santo, Ryno and Sammy. It's a great read for young or new fans, or diehards who want a historical refresher on why the Sox rule and Cubs drool.

There's a great chapter comparing the two teams during the 50's and 60's. This was of course the Go-Go Sox era, when the A.L. had no divisions and no playoffs it was winner take all. The Sox routinely did battle with the Yankees and Indians for the pennant, going all the way to win it in 1959. Great players like Minnie Minoso, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce and others get the star treatment. Meanwhile, for those two decades the Cubs were the N.L.'s cellar dwellers. The authors struggle to write something nice about them.

Another chapter is dedicated to debunking the myth of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, one of baseball's most celebrated double-play combinations. The authors blow this Cubbie trio out of the water, denouncing them as little more than an average DP combo. For all their acclaim they never led the league in DPs. The fact that all three made it to the Hall of Fame (as a unit in 1946) is a disgrace.

The authors do well to cover the on-field history of the Cubs and Sox, but also look into both teams' owners, management and broadcasters. They regularly point out how the teams' histories have been closely intertwined, swapping not only blows on the field, but also sharing players, GMs, Veecks and Harry Caray.

There are some offbeat chapters too. One is about deranged women who have shot Cub players they were romantically involved with (for the record, there have been two, and both survived). Another is about groundskeeping chicanery at Old Comiskey.

Overall, this is a pretty straightforward book. It's crammed full of historical nuggets and anecdotes, but doesn't go into too much depth on any subject. The authors might have a bit of a north side bias since the loveable losers get four chapters more than the Sox do.

In the most controversial chapter, the authors select an all-time, all-Chicago 25-man roster. Some of the selections are sure to provoke outrage among WSIers. I'm not about to start any of that here, so I'll leave off by saying this book is great as an overview of Chicago's baseball history over the past century.

--Baby Fisk

ChiSox65
02-24-2004, 12:23 PM
"All the major aspects of Sox history are covered: the glory years of 1906 and 1917, the Black Sox scandal, the Go-Go Sox era, the lacklustre 60's, the heavy-hitting 70's, the Winning Ugly era, the 90's and the 2000 season."




The '60 were good years for the Sox. A winning record every year from 1951 to 1967, with 98 wins in '64. Thanks for the article though. :smile:

Brian26
02-24-2004, 12:40 PM
You put my Veeck As In Wreck review to shame. Nice job, babyfisk!

npdempse
02-24-2004, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by Baby Fisk

Another chapter is dedicated to debunking the myth of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, one of baseball's most celebrated double-play combinations. The authors blow this Cubbie trio out of the water, denouncing them as little more than an average DP combo. For all their acclaim they never led the league in DPs. The fact that all three made it to the Hall of Fame (as a unit in 1946) is a disgrace.



FWIW, Harold Seymour discussed this at some length in Baseball: The Golden Years. Not only did they not lead in double plays, I believe they were below average. Seymour credits their notoriety to a popular poem (or song?) of the era. Way out of hand.


There are some offbeat chapters too. One is about deranged women who have shot Cub players they were romantically involved with (for the record, there have been two, and both survived).

One of these stories provided the basis for The Natural.

Good review; might just pick that book up.

RichFitztightly
02-24-2004, 01:44 PM
Originally posted by Baby Fisk
It's a great read for young or new fans, or diehards who want a historical refresher on why the Sox rule and Cubs drool.


If I hear somebody over the age of 4 using the term, "so and so rule and the others drool" I'm gonna, I'm gonna... Well I'm probably not gonna do anything, but I hate hearing that phrase.

Other than that, good review.

Baby Fisk
02-25-2004, 08:03 AM
Thanks all for your comments. I'd really like to see a reading list & book review section on WSI. How about it, Mods? :cool: