Baseball likes to portray itself as the upholder of all that is right with the game. The keeper of standards and arrow straight morals, and they want to remain steadfast in that regard through all time. The most recent example of the high moral standard within Major League Baseball has been Pete Rose. For the integrity of the game they think they should keep old Pete on the outside looking in to atone for his sins. This has not been a new approach for Major League Baseball. For about the past 100 years or so in an effort to clean up the game and install some confidence with the general public they decided to clean house. It all started with the Black Sox scandal and the 1919 World Series, but what about all the other problem children in the game before the Black Sox? Today’s book takes a look at one of the larger than life problem athletes in the game at the time, who oh by the way was one of the best players in baseball history.
This book is a re-issue of the volume originally released in 2004. Hal Chase was one of the darlings of the diamond during his playing career. A man who was friendly with gamblers and gangsters, regularly bet on games and was not a stranger to throwing a game or two. One big thing to take note of is that Hal Chase was the scape-goat for bigger names than his who’s hands were much dirtier when the crap hit the fan. You always hear about Shoeless Joe taking the fall for gambling but not so much about Hal Chase.
This book takes a very good luck at Chase’s life and gives the reader a real good feel of what baseball was really like at that time. It shows in great detail that most if not all of the games had some shadow of not being on the level and that so many peoples hands were dirty it is not even funny.The book also does not miss the opportunity to showcase Hal Chase’s on the field skills. Easily one of the best players to swing a bat and grab a glove up to that point. Rated by Babe Ruth as one of the all-time greatest players, that is some serious praise to live up to.
This is a great book to get a real good feel of what baseball was like during this era. It leaves no stone un-turned in showing the reader what Chase was really like and gives an honest look at what Ragtime baseball was all about.
Fans of this era will love this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Ragtime era take the time to check it out because it is a great history lesson. Finally, if you want to get another view of crooked baseball, other than the Black Sox scandal, this paints a pretty good picture of what was going on at that time.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
If you look at baseball history as a whole, it encompasses a large amount of time. Thousands of people and events are all part of the greater story for thousands of reasons. Some of those events get lost to the passage of time, and rightly so. Just because an event happened does not mean it had any significance to the history of the game itself, it was just the action within the game. Some events have been suppressed from the history books, for selfish reasons by those involved. Today’s book takes a look at one of those events and how they helped shape the game as it now known.
Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book. He takes a look at the 1890 Players League that was formed as a rival league to the existing National League. It offered better salaries and player shares of ownership to play in the league. This was in contrast to the business dealings of the National league already in existence. It also allowed the Players League to outdraw the Nationals by the end of the season. It is a valuable history lesson and shows the power the players have always had and what ownership would like to keep quiet.
This is truly one of the earliest player labor organization movements in the history of the game. They organized, had some backers and on most fronts were a success. While their success was for only one year, it shows the powers that the players held and what obstacles they could overcome if they worked together. In the end it was the fact that National League owners inflated their attendance numbers and cooked their books to the point that it made the Players League look inept. In the end that was the main downfall of the Players League.
After this failure the Owners held the upper hand for generations and the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association almost 75 years later was the first real inroad the players made toward leveling the field with Ownership. This is where it would have been a benefit to former players to be students of the game. If they realized they held the power and had banned together sooner, they could have realized better pay and individual rights sooner than they had. This whole theory could have changed the way free agency came about and would have revolutionized the entire game sooner.
If you have any interest in the labor side of baseball, or rival league history this book would be a good choice for you. Yes it happened over a century ago, but it definitely is something that could have changed the direction labor relations took over the past 115 years. This is one of those history lessons ownership to this day would like to under cover. Because even today some of these principles could be used to the players benefit.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Nebraska Press
I will admit my knowledge of baseball prior to World War II is weak at best. It seems with the popularity of the post war era, it has always held my attention better and quite honestly the record keeping from that point forward is a little more detailed. When I do venture out of my comfort zone it is usually with an author that I am familiar and one that I trust so that I know I am getting solid information about the player of that era. In the internet age, the name Burleigh Grimes is easily accessible and his legacy is easily explained to legions of fans. But what if you want more than just the last legal spitballer in the game and that he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964? I have just the book that puts all the the pieces in place about a life well lived.
For my journey through this period of baseball history Joe Niese was a more than competent tour guide. I was familiar with his writing from his other book Handy Andy that we reviewed on the Bookcase previously, so I was confident this book would be just as good. He always does top notch research with his books as well, so you know you can trust the facts you get from his books.
Niese walks the reader through the full circle picture that was Burleigh Grimes. From his modest childhood in Wisconsin, through a Hall of Fame baseball career that included four separate trips to the World Series, with three different teams and the opportunity to play next to a record 36 Hall of Famers. It easily shows the talent that was playing during Grimes Era as well as the level the game was as a whole prior to World War II. It also leads to debate about Grimes’s personal statistics as compared to others in the era. Based on today’s standards I see him as Hall worthy, but it seems when taken against a segmented portion on his era, it may help feed the flames of debate among the detractors who argue about him being enshrined.
Next Niese takes the reader through his post playing days. His lone stint as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his life as a coach and scout as well as member of various Hall of Fame committees. On the personal side you seem to learn a lot about Grimes and get a feel for what he was all about. Between looking at his time within baseball as strictly a job and the combative attitude he took with him on the field, Burleigh did not give the outward appearance of a real people person. Perhaps that attitude was helped by having five wives. Finally the author looks at his final retirement years and living a normal life. To me it seems that Grimes came to grips with the world around him and lost some of his outward grumpiness.
For my money, Joe Niese did a great job with this book. He brought back to life someone that not many of us are familiar with. He portrays a different era in baseball in a light that all fans can relate to and understand. In my mind’s eye this became more than just a sepia tone vision of some old footage from days gone by. Niese has allowed the reader to feel like they are actually there and understand how things worked during that time.
I think any fans of the history of the game will enjoy this. It brings to light another forgotten baseball personality. Just because you made it to the Hall of Fame does not mean you will not fall victim to Father Time. This book introduces a new generation of fans to one of the games true characters. Check it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can get signed copies of this book direct from authir Joe Niese