It’s very deep into August, with the Labor Day weekend and the kickoff to a new American football season approaching. The stretch run of the baseball season is about to begin, and I find that a hell of a lot more intriguing than just about anything else in sports these days.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are nearing the 100-win mark and Aaron Judge, a big, rangy rookie for the New York Yankees, has a real shot to win the American League MVP.
It was 70 years ago that the Dodgers, then playing in Brooklyn, met the Yankees in a sizzling World Series that’s been recaptured by Kevin Cook in “Electric October,” published Aug. 15.
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
A Record Rockwell Painting Auction; The Ghost of Harvey Haddix; NASCAR’s Southern Identity Crisis; The Village Voice Goes Virtual
No need to wait for the post-season here, not with a cast of real-life luminaries that included Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Pee Wee Reese, Yogi Berra, Pete Reiser and Phil Rizzuto.
The six men that form the basis of Cook’s book are lesser-known figures: Al Gionfriddo, Bill Bevens, Snuffy Stirnweiss, Cookie Lavagetto, managers Bucky Harris of the Yankees and Burt Shotton, filling in for the suspended Leo Durocher for the Dodgers.
They were otherwise ordinary figures in an extraordinary series at a time when America roared into full post-War II confidence. It was the first World Series with a black player and the first to be shown on television, helping prompt sportswriters to dub the series the phrase that Cook has used as the title for his book.
Not your usual fall baseball read; but the ‘47 series was not a run-of-the-mill fall classic.
- Rich Hill of the Dodgers lost a no-hitter and the game on a walkoff home run in the 9th inning at Pittsburgh this week, evoking memories of the Pirates’ Harvey Haddix, who suffered his heartache at the hands (and by the bat) of the Braves’ Joe Adcock in the 13th inning in a 1959 game dubbed the greatest game ever pitched. It’s too bad Dodgers fans in the L.A. area couldn’t watch and listen to Joe Davis’ masterful call due to a ridiculous local TV blackout going on five years;
- A study for a Norman Rockwell baseball painting that graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1949 sold at auction in Dallas last week to the tune of $1.6 million. The finished painting of “Tough Call,” depicting and umpiring crew pondering whether to call a rainout, hangs on the walls at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The study just auctioned was given by Rockwell as a gift to one of umpires in the portrait;
- The Ringer devoted several stories this week to life, pop culture and sports in the South, including this look at NASCAR’s Southern identity crisis in the wake of the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Off the Sporting Green
- Selah to The Village Voice, or at least its print edition; after 62 years the iconic New York City arts and pop culture free weekly is going online-only, the grandfather of the alt-weekly genre that continues to decline. The Village Voice has had deep financial problems for years, laying off the legendary civil libertarian and jazz critic Nat Hentoff nearly a decade ago. Esquire this week rounded up remembrances from past and present writers (there’s a great photo at that link of the notoriously messy desk of the late Hentoff). here’s a 2015 story revisiting writer Wayne Barrett’s 1979 profile of an ascendant Donald Trump;
- Michiko Kakutani, the revered (and feared) book critic for The New York Times, is retiring after 38 years, and her targets were some of the biggest authors in the business; will be curious to see the reviews for her upcoming book prompted by recent political, social and cultural upheavals;
At The Atlantic, journalist and author Thomas Ricks writes about how he worked through his longtime editor’s visceral disdain of the first draft of his latest book, “Churchill and Orwell,” and how such brutal honesty is necessary to craft a better finished product:
“But in short, he pissed all over it. It was not that he disliked it. It was that he fucking hated it. I was taken aback—I had enjoyed the process of researching and writing the book. So, I had expected, a reader would too. No, Scott said, the way you’ve done this doesn’t work.”
Taking a Holiday Break
I’m in strong need of some rest, recharging and catching up on reading (which also explains the abbreviated newsletter this week). So I’m taking a hiatus over the Labor Day holiday weekend. When I return in September, I’ll dig into the new football season, fall sports book previews, new works about sports art and film. You’ll also find a new look for this blog as I tend to a long-overdue makeover.
Again, my thanks to all of you for subscribing and staying in touch! It’s my pleasure to compile the Digest, and I greatly appreciate your patronage.
The Sports Biblio Digest is an e-mail newsletter delivered each Sunday. It contains commentary and links about sports books and history. You can subscribe here and search the archives. This is Digest issue No. 94, published Aug. 27, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.
PLEASE NOTE: There will not be a newsletter next week. The Digest will return on Sept. 10, 2017.
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