All-Star Baseball Books to celebrate the All-Star Break

This week in North Philly Notes, we highlight nine of Temple University Press’s All-Star baseball books to celebrate baseball’s All-Star Break.

The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennantby Robin Roberts and C. Paul Rogers

The 1950 Phillies unexpectedly captured the hearts and imaginations of Philadelphians. A young upstart team—in fact, the youngest major league baseball team ever fielded—they capped a Cinderella season by winning the pennant from the heavily favored Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field on the last day of the season. It was the first National League pennant for the team since 1915. With that dramatic victory the 1950 Phillies went into the history books, known forever as the Whiz Kids.

This inspiring era in Phillies history comes alive with the personal reflections of Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer and arguably the best right-handed pitcher in Phillies history.  Rich with anecdotes never before published from players like Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn, Bubba Church, Andy Seminick, Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Russ Meyer, and many others, this book relives the success of the Whiz Kids in all their glory.

Bill Giles and Baseballby John B. Lord

Bill Giles oversaw one of the greatest eras of winning that the Philadelphia Phillies ever enjoyed and helped guide major league baseball through the most turbulent era in its history. In Bill Giles and Baseball, John Lord deftly chronicles Giles’ remarkable career—which includes 44 years with the Phillies—to provide an insider’s view of the business of the sport. He addresses the often controversial, sometimes ill-advised, moves by baseball’s hierarchy that have nonetheless propelled the game to unimagined economic growth.

The Phillies Reader Edited by Richard Orodenker

The Phillies Reader features essays on the athletic achievements of such legendary players as Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Dick Allen, and Mike Schmidt; the political turmoil surrounding the “ok” from manager Ben Chapman to “ride” Jackie Robinson about the color of his skin; the bizarre shooting of Eddie Waitkus; the heroics of the Whiz Kids; the heartbreak of ’64; and the occasional triumphs and frequent travails of controversial managers Gene Mauch, Frank Lucchesi, and Danny Ozark. It asks why fans boo great players such as Del Ennis, but forgave Pat Burrell for his horrendous 2003 slump.

Featuring essays by Red Smith, Pete Dexter, Roger Angell, and James Michener, among others, The Phillies Reader presents a compendium of Phillies literature that reveals what it is that makes legends.

Dominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice by Alan Klein

Outstanding Book Award from the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, 2015

In his incisive and engaging book, Dominican Baseball, Alan Klein examines the history of MLB’s presence and influence in the Dominican Republic, the development of the booming industry and academies, and the dependence on Dominican player developers, known as buscones. He also addresses issues of identity fraud and the use of performance-enhancing drugs as hopefuls seek to play professionally.

Dominican Baseball charts the trajectory of the economic flows of this transnational exchange, and the pride Dominicans feel in their growing influence in the sport. Klein also uncovers the prejudice that prompts MLB to diminish Dominican claims on legitimacy. This sharp, smartly argued book deftly chronicles the uneasy and often contested relations of the contemporary Dominican game and industry.

Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball by Lincoln A. Mitchell

Major League Baseball is a beloved American institution that has been a product of the economic, social, and media structures that have evolved in the United States over the last century. In his shrewd analysis, Will Big League Baseball Survive?, Lincoln Mitchell asks whether the sport will continue in its current form as a huge, lucrative global business that offers a monopoly in North America—and whether those structures are sustainable.

Mitchell places baseball in the context of the larger, evolving American and global entertainment sector. He examines how both changes directly related to baseball—including youth sports and the increased globalization of the game—as well as broader societal trends such as developments in media consumption and celebrity culture will impact big league baseball over the next few decades.

Suicide Squeeze: Taylor Hooton, Rob Garibaldi, and the Fight against Teenage Steroid Abuseby William C. Kashatus

In his urgent book Suicide Squeeze, William Kashatus chronicles the experiences of Taylor Hooton and Rob Garibaldi, two promising high school baseball players who abused anabolic steroids (APEDs) in the hopes of attracting professional scouts and Division I recruiters. However, as a result of their steroid abuse, they ended up taking their own lives.

In Suicide Squeeze—named for the high-risk play in baseball to steal home—Kashatus identifies the symptoms and dangers of steroid use among teens. Using archival research and interviews with the Hooton and Garibaldi families, he explores the lives and deaths of these two troubled young men, the impact of their suicides on Major League Baseball, and the ongoing fight against adolescent APED use that their parents have been waging.

A passionate appeal to prevent additional senseless deaths by athletes, Suicide Squeeze makes an important contribution to debates on youth and sports and on public policy.

Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law, by Roger I. Abrams

In Legal Bases, Roger I. Abrams has assembled an all-star baseball law team whose stories illuminate the sometimes uproarious, sometimes ignominious relationship between law and baseball that has made the business of baseball a truly American institution. Along the way, Abrams also examines such issues as drug use and gambling, enforcement of contracts, and the rights of owners and managers. He does not limit himself to the history of baseball and the legal process but also speculates on the implications of the 1996 collective bargaining agreement and those other issues—like intellectual property, eminent domain, and gender equity—that may provide the all-star baseball law stories of the future.

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcherby Rich Westcott

National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey’s professional career spanned nearly three decades in the Negro Leagues and elsewhere. He distinguished himself as a defensive catcher who also had an impressive batting average and later worked as a manager of the Newark Eagles and the Baltimore Elite Giants.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey as well as providing an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Mackey also mentored famed catcher Roy Campanella and had an unlikely role in the story of baseball’s development in Japan.

Rookies of the Year by Bob Bloss

Baseball players only have one opportunity to be named “Rookie of the Year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Although some recipients of this prestigious award such as Orlando Cepeda have become league MVPs, or Hall of Fame honorees, others, like Joe Charboneau, failed to live up to their initial promise. Rookies of the Year profiles 116 winners-from Jackie Robinson (the first Rookie of the Year in 1947), to Rod Carew, Derek Jeter, and the 2004 honorees. Each player’s initial major league season and subsequent career achievements are included. Featuring interviews with dozens of baseball stars, this is the most comprehensive book ever written on Rookies of the Year. It provides indispensable information on some of baseball’s greatest athletes.

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The Phillies’ Connections to George H. W. Bush and Government

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate author Rich Westcott’s recent column from the Delaware County Daily Times about the connection between George H. W. Bush and the Philadelphia Phillies. 

The recent passing of George H. W. Bush brings to mind a Phillies connection with the 41st president of the United States. It is a particularly intriguing connection that went unnoticed in this week’s multitude of reactions.

Bush attended Yale University. While there, he played on the baseball team and was captain in his senior year. His coach was former Phillies outfielder Ethan Allen.

Allen, who coached at Yale from 1946 through 1968, spent three seasons with the Phillies, playing as a starting outfielder in 1934 and 1935 before getting traded during the 1936 campaign. He hit .330 in his first year in Philadelphia and .307 in his second. Altogether, Allen spent 13 years in the majors, retiring in 1938 with a lifetime batting average of .300.

After serving overseas on a special-services assignment for the federal government during World War II, Allen became the baseball coach at Yale. There he led his team to the first two College World Series, where they were finalists both times. In each case, his first baseman was a former Navy pilot named George Bush.

5c0e3ea71ac2f.imageWhat kind of player was Bush? “George was an excellent fielder,” Allen told the author during an interview some years ago at his home in North Carolina. “But he was not such a good hitter. He was a very likeable guy, though, and a fine leader.”

Allen, who had an undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s from Columbia and was eventually inducted into the College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, said that Bush always sent him a Christmas card, even after he became president. “Once, he even called me from Air Force One,” Allen recalled. “Earlier, when he was being considered as head of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), I was called for a recommendation. I said, ‘If he can understand the sequence of signals we had at Yale, he is certainly qualified for the CIA.’”

Interestingly, over the years, the Phillies have had many other connections with government and politics. These probably outnumber most, if not all, of those of other professional sports teams.

The Phillies had another player who had connections with two U.S. presidents. That would be Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, whose first two names were those of the country’s only president who served two terms that were not consecutive. In the movie about his life called “The Winning Team,” produced in 1953, Alexander’s role was played by future president and then-actor Ronald Reagan.

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, who spent six seasons with the Phillies, winning 19 games three straight times and hurling the team’s first perfect game in 1964, served for the state of Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1988 to 1998, and the next 12 years as a U.S senator. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor of Kentucky.

Larry Jackson, another pitcher, spent 1966 through 1968 with the Phillies during a 14-year big league career. He was a four-term member of the state House of Representatives in Idaho while also once running a losing campaign for governor.

Still another pitcher with perhaps the most interesting career in government was Pete Sivess, a little know Phillies pitcher in the late-1930s. A high-ranking Naval officer during World War II, Sivess, who spoke Russian because his parents had immigrated from there, helped to train the Russian navy while stationed in the Aleutian Islands. After the war, he became one of the American government representatives who ran Rumania for two years while the war-torn country recovered. Next, Sivess became a member of the CIA, and from 1948 until his retirement in 1972 was in charge of a covert operation in St. Michael’s, Md., that indoctrinated defectors and refugees from battered areas of Europe into the ways of American life while helping them to get jobs, places to live, and in some cases, new identities.

Although no story is more intriguing than Sivess’, the Phillies have had many other connections with the government and military. Hugh Mulcahy, a Phillies pitcher from 1935 to 1946, was the first major league player drafted into military service in World War II. Inducted in 1941, he spent most of the next five years in the army.

Third baseman Ed Grant, who played with the Phillies from 1907 to 1910, was the first major league player killed in World War I. As a captain and the commander of Army troops searching for the “Lost Battalion” after the battle in 1918 in the Argonne Forest in France, Grant was killed by an exploding shell.

Of course, many other former Phillies served their country in the military. One in particular was pitcher Curt Simmons, who in the midst of his best season in 1950 when he compiled a 17-8 record, was twice pulled from the team that season to serve in the National Guard at the start of the Korean War. The second time, Simmons’ superb season was cut short and he was unable build upon his record or to experience that rare opportunity of pitching in the World Series.

A man who was for the most part the hidden owner of the Phillies from 1909, when he put up $350,000 to buy the team, until 1913, carried the name of Charles O. Taft. He was the older brother of U.S. president William H. Taft, the nation’s first leader ever to throw out the first pitch on opening day. The Taft family also owned the Phillies ballpark called Baker Bowl for many years, and later owned a piece of the team from 1981 to 1987 as part of a group headed by Bill Giles.

Another former Phillies chief, William Baker (1913-30) was the police commissioner of New York City before taking over the team. Outfielders Gavvy Cravath (Long Beach, Calif.) and Curt Walker (Beeville, Texas) were justices of the peace after their playing careers ended.

In addition to all these people, the Phillies had two others who should be mentioned. Former Philadelphia Stars outfielder Ted Washington, who in 1952 became the first African-American player ever signed by the Phillies, had his chance to join the team, but was denied that opportunity when he was drafted into the Korean War and subsequently suffered an injury that kept him from ever playing again.

And Philadelphian Edith Houghton, who was the first woman full-time scout in major league history when she joined the Phillies in 1946, previously served for 28 years as first a reserve and then an officer in the Navy during World War II.

As all these names ably demonstrate, many people from the Phillies had important connections with the country’s federal or local government, either politically, militarily, or in some other way. Ethan Allen’s association with former President Bush served as a significant reminder of these many connections.

Rich Westcott is a writer and historian and the author of 26 sports books, his most recent being Biz Mackey – A Giant Behind the Plate.’ Westcott was once a sports writer for the Daily Times.

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