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Baby Fisk
11-17-2006, 10:04 AM
When Chicago Ruled Baseball: The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906 - by Bernard A. Weisberger (2006, 224 pp.)


Once upon a time, the Chicago Cubs were the greatest team in all of baseball.

:tealpolice:


No, seriously it's true! All the way back in 1906, the Cubs played on the west side of town and totally dominated the National League, roaring through the season with a record of 116-36. They had great pitching and speed on the basepaths and just enough clout at the plate to finish 20 games ahead of the New York Giants.

Meanwhile, on the south side of town, Charles Comiskey's White Sox were an okay team. Decent, but nothing special. They hit the fewest home runs in the American League, posted the lowest team batting average, and relied on a late-season hot streak to steal the AL Pennant from the New York Highlanders. The Sox were a team that most people felt shouldn't have gone as far as they did.

When the Cubs and Sox faced each other in the third-ever World Series, the Cubs were the overwhelming favourites. How could the puny palehosers be able to withstand the awesome power of the baby bears? The contest seemed to be over before it even began.

This is where Evanston's Bernard Weisberger begins his narrative of that amazing World Series, in When Chicago Ruled Baseball: The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906. He picks up the action outside the Cubsí park before Game One, on a brutally cold day in October one hundred years ago:


No one could doubt that a major crowd was forming outside West Side Park hours before the 2:30 start of the game, thirty minutes earlier than usual in order to allow more daylight if the game should go extra innings. The waiting thousands stamping and shivering looked like a late-season football audience despite the calendar that showed Indian summer. Men wore overcoats and gloves, women fur and muffs, and here and there someone flashed a pocket flask brought to provide internal warmth. Reserved seats were sold out, and the lines to buy tickets at the grandstand and bleacher entrances stretched for a block and a half in two directions, jamming the streets so thoroughly that it was impossible for horse-drawn traffic to pass, and teamsters needed help from the crowd to turn their animals' heads around in order to retreat.

Weisberger paints vivid images of a much different Chicago, one where automobiles were a rarity and the masses travelled to ballparks via streetcar and the very first Elevated lines. He also spends time reviewing the history of both Chicago teams and the various twists and turns that brought them to that historic Series.

Here are Albert Spalding's Cubs, stacked with star players and destined for greatness sooner or later. Here are Comiskey's "hitless wonders", arisen from the grit of the south side but seemingly with no business contesting a world championship. The collision course of these two teams is intertwined with the post-fire history of the city, reaching its climax at the World Series.

The White Sox pulled off an upset in that first game. They shocked the thousands of Cub fans who had filled the park with stuffed bears in tow, anticipating a massacre, only to see their charges fall flat.

As the Series played out, each team took turns winning in their opponent's ballpark. Finally, in Game Six, the underdog White Sox achieved the unimaginable. Leading the Series 3-2, they became the first team to win at home, and clinched their first-ever world championship.

It had been a closely fought Series, but this game was never in doubt. The Sox went wild on Cubs pitchers and built a huge early lead. The powerful Cubs' offence suddenly went silent, and the Sox clinched the Series with an 8-3 win in front of a delirious south side crowd:

And then South Side Park exploded. The players knew what was coming and made a mad dash for their clubhouse, twisting and dodging their way not only through the crowd already on the field, but thousands more from the stands and likewise those from outside who now, undeterred by the police, swarmed into the park.

White Sox fans celebrated for the rest of the day and well into the night. It was one of the greatest nights the south side of Chicago had ever seen. Street parties, bonfires, all manner of tumult and uproar and jubilant celebration. The unheralded Sox had slain the Cubs in what is still recognized as the greatest upset in World Series history.

This book is not perfect -- on the very first page Weisberger blows an obvious historical fact. Still, it is the only book-length treatment of the 1906 World Series (complete with a "whatever happened to..." final chapter) and is definitely worth owning. It is a sepia-toned look back at that Series and that time in Chicago's history, when the city was claiming its place as one of the great metropolises of the world, when its skyscrapers had just begun to poke at the skies, and Chicago was destined to become the capital city of baseball.


:tealpolice:

Yeah, that didn't really pan out, did it?



--Baby Fisk

EastCoastSoxFan
11-17-2006, 12:36 PM
I seem to remember a thread about this book earlier this year.
The reviews were pretty mixed.
An odd thing I noticed was how many facts he got wrong about the 2005 White Sox and in particular the World Series. Strange that for all the time and effort he put into researching events that happened 99 years ago he couldn't get on the internet and verify a few facts concerning events that had occurred less than 99 days ago.
To me it was the kind of book that's more valuable for its source material than its actual content...

cbotnyse
11-17-2006, 12:47 PM
I started a thread on this book months ago! I did read it and would say its just ok. Nothing spectacluar here and not very well written. However it does give you a small peak into what baseball was like around the turn of the century, specifically in Chicago.

Worth a try, I think.:)

Baby Fisk
11-17-2006, 12:53 PM
However it does give you a small peak into what baseball was like around the turn of the century, specifically in Chicago.

That was what I liked best about this book. He painted nice images of moustachioed gentlemen and their lady friends packed into the rickety old grandstands while the Sox and Cubs battled it out, smallball/deadball style.

The final chapter on the 2005 Sox was a pointless throw-in.

cbotnyse
11-17-2006, 12:59 PM
That was what I liked best about this book. He painted nice images of moustachioed gentlemen and their lady friends packed into the rickety old grandstands while the Sox and Cubs battled it out, smallball/deadball style.

The final chapter on the 2005 Sox was a pointless throw-in.Yeah me too. I am a Chicago History nut, so I usually read anything on the subject. A book I enjoyed much more was about the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series. (http://www.amazon.com/Eight-Men-Out-Black-World/dp/0805065377/sr=8-2/qid=1163789779/ref=pd_bbs_2/002-0329771-2304016?ie=UTF8&s=books) In that book, it gives you a much better play by play of the games and a great read on how the whole scandal went down.

johnr1note
11-17-2006, 01:16 PM
I just read this book a few weeks ago. I have to disagree somewhat. While I wouldn't place this book on my all time favorite baseball books list, I thought it did an admirable job of portraying the era in which the 1906 World Series occured, as well as the teams and players.

I also felt that postscipt dealing with the 2005 World Series was more than just a throw in, but an appropriate connection of the excitement over the World Series in 2005 with the hoopla surrounding what was, in 1906, a relatively new phenomena. I also saw an implied connection with underdog White Sox coming out on top in 1906, with underdog White Sox coming out on top in 2005.

I'd give it a B. Or 3 stars on a 4 star scale. Not great, but not terrible either.