August 12, 2008

Book Review: Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty & The Say Hey Kid: The Year That Changed Baseball Forever

There are many seasons that could qualify as "The Year That Changed Baseball Forever". John Rosengren provides ample evidence that 1973 was one of them.

Hank Aaron was closing in on Babe Ruth's hallowed career home run total; Willie Mays was with the Mets, playing in his last season; the Oakland A's, led by Reggie Jackson and united in their hatred of owner Charlie Finley, were defending their World Series title; George Steinbrenner, the new owner of the New York Yankees, was quickly making his presence felt throughout the game; and the American League began its experiment with a "designated hitter".

Rosengren interviewed some players -- his bibliography lists seven -- but did not speak with any of the main characters that drive his narrative. Most of his material is gleaned from various newspapers and magazines, The Sporting News, and previously published books. Combing through daily newspapers can unearth gems of information, but it also can give a narrative the feel of a review of available sources.

The 1973 season was a couple of years before my full introduction to baseball, so I enjoyed Rosengren's entertaining account, though I agree with the reviewer who took issue with several of Rosengren's jarring asides, namely his comments that this time period ushered in "the new age of baseball" with "money the predominant factor".

Rosengren's book is written not only for the serious baseball fan but for a casual follower of the game. Neither the depth of research nor the writing will knock your socks off -- though learning more about Steinbrenner's illegal scheme to contribute to Richard Nixon's re-election fund was fascinating -- but you'll enjoy reliving this baseball season from several angles.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.]

3 comments:

A little night musing said...

I just got this book from the library a month or so ago! It really was fun to go back to that time through his eyes.

James said...

I'll check it out. I've been looking for a new baseball book to read.

Has anyone here checked out "The Echoing Green" about the Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, and the '51 NL pennant chase? The scope of the book is kind of breathtaking; it's like reading a wikipedia article, clicking on links, reading those articles, and then clicking on further links. It's really pretty freaking neat.

redsock said...

Has anyone here checked out "The Echoing Green"

I read the original article in the Wall Street Journal and have the book, but have not read it.