Bobby Thomson's ninth-inning "Shot Heard Round the World" home run in the third and final game of the 1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff series is high on the list of the most dramatic moments on baseball history.
The event is revisited with an in-depth analysis of its national impact and its effect on the primary participants, Thomson and Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, in The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager.
The long-guarded secret of the game receives central attention. In 2001, Prager revealed in a Wall Street Journal article that a Giants coach with a Wollensak telescope in centerfield stole the finger signals of the Dodger catcher, Rube Walker, and relayed the information to Thomson that a fast ball was on the way, enabling him to hit the home run.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin praises the book.
"It is far more than a book about baseball; it is a beautifully rendered story about the relationship between two men whose lives became permanently intertwined in a matter of minutes one October day," he said.
The 113 pages of notes and bibliography at the end of the book confirm the thoroughness and integrity of Prager's research.
The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World, Joshua Prager, Pantheon books, 2006, 498 pages, 20 pages of photos, notes, bibliography, index. $26.95
* * * * *
The Society for American Baseball Research is much more than a baseball fraternity of baseball fans. Through the members' commitment to one or more of the scores of special-interest research committees (Records, Minor Leagues, Latino, Women in Baseball, College Baseball, Bio-project of recording player biographies, etc.) a bonanza of baseball history and statistics have been published and made available. One of the most productive committees is the Negro League Committee whose members have uncovered and documented tons of formerly unpublished history.
The most recent contributions are two books by committee members. Larry Lester, co-chair of the committee and founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, adds another significant book to his previous five books, Baseball's First Colored World Series.
In 1924, the Hilldale Giants of Darby, Pa., champions of the new Eastern Colored League, faced the Kansas City Monarchs of the 4-year-old Negro League in a scheduled nine-game series to determine a world championship.
When Game Nine ended in a 13-inning tie, the series became a 10-game series, making it the longest World Series, black or white. Four games were decided by one run and five games were decided in the last inning. Kansas City pitcher-manager Jose Mendez ended the suspense by throwing a shutout in Game 10. But it wasn't easy. Kansas City was shut out for seven innings before scoring five runs in the bottoms of the eighth.
Lester provides a comprehensive account, heavily illustrated, with records, full statistics for each team's regular season, biographical player profiles, attendance, gate receipts, player comments and game-by-game summaries of series games. Early chapters provide background on the founders of Negro League baseball.
Baseball's First Colored World Series: The 1924 Meeting of the Hilldale Giants and Kansas City Monarchs, Larry Lester, McFarland, 2006, large format hardback, 261 pages, 82 photographs, appendices, index, $45.
SABR member Leslie A. Heaphy, associate professor of history at Kent State University, adds to her earlier book The Negro Leagues, 1869-1960, with a new resource book, Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball. The ambitious encyclopedia provides information on hundreds of women players, managers, teams, leagues and issues since the mid-19th century, including birth date, death date, team, dates of play, career statistics and biographical notes when available.
Related entries are noted for easy cross-reference. Appendices include the rosters of the World War II era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and all women's baseball teams and players identified to date.
Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball, Leslie A. Heaphy, McFarland, 2006, large format hardcover, 448 pages, photographs, appendices, bibliography, index, $49.95
For more information on SABR membership and its research archives, see www.sabr.org.
* * * * *
The exhaustive Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Clubs presents the history of each team through selective intelligent, in-depth essays that give all basic on-the-field facts, but much more with social and economic data such as business and labor issues, community relations and local cultures.
Team origins, annual campaigns, the glory and failures year by year, players, managers, owners, financiers, politicians, neighborhoods and fans all receive their due.
Stir in gambling, stadium construction, racism, liquor sales, Sunday play, national events like the World Wars, the Great Depression and the Cold War, media coverage and broadcasting and the plate is full.
Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Clubs, Stevens A. Reiss, editor, Greenwood Press, 2006, two volumes, 1,104 total pages, every essay is signed, and includes suggested readings and bibliography. The entire collection of essays are illustrated with a comprehensive bibliography and index. $119.95 Website: www.greenwood.com.
* * * * *
Red Faber was one of the oldest active pitchers in major league history. His longevity was the result of his success with the spitball pitch. When the "spitter" was declared illegal, the pitchers known to use the pitch were given permission to continue its use for the remainder of their careers. Faber made the best of the waiver to become the winningest spitball pitcher in the American League.
Brian Cooper offers the first full biography of Faber, who won a record three World Series games in 1917. He regularly challenged the league's best hitters from 1914-33, winning 254 games with a career 3.15 ERA. Faber had a mediocre 1919 season and did not pitch for his Chicago White Sox team in the "Black Sox Series," yet suffered from the scandal when the White Sox roster was decimated by the expulsion of the eight players banned for life. From his early days at age 17 with the semi-pro Dubuque Tigers through his minor league days and all years in the majors, Cooper traces with distinction Faber's colorful career.
Red Faber: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Spitball Pitcher, Brian D. Cooper, McFarland, large format soft cover, 279 pages, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95. To order this and other McFarland book's reviews call 800-253-2178. Website www.mcfarlandpub.com.