Thursday, December 11, 2008
Review of Spahn, Sain, and Teddy Ballgame: Boston’s (almost) Perfect Baseball Summer of 1948, edited by Bill Nowlin
Review of Spahn, Sain, and Teddy Ballgame: Boston’s (almost) Perfect Baseball Summer of 1948, edited by Bill Nowlin, Rounder Books
by Luke Salisbury
Bill Nowlin, the editor of Rounder Books, has created a series of books on Boston baseball to delight the aficionado and confound those who don’t see salvation, poetry and infinity in everything to do with the Red Sox and Boston Braves. I confess I’m one of the nuts and know the subject well enough to enjoy it only when it is done well. Eureka! Here it is! Bill Nowlin, who I confess to knowing, and 40 members of the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), an organization whose vice president I once was, and Bill is now), have put together a fine collection of articles about each player on the 1948 Red Sox and Braves, as well as features on the broadcaster (There was only one, Jim Britt, who did both clubs), spring training, the opening days, the one game playoff (When the Red Sox lost to Lou Boudreau and the Cleveland Indians), the World Series when Cleveland’s tribe scalped ours, and even a simulation of an all-Hub World Series.
This is a labor of love. No one makes money, or much money, on highly Boston specific, intense baseball research. This kind of knowledge is not fodder for curses or personality-driven biographies. This is baseball—numbers, dates, anecdotes, who did what when—that create the images in baseball’s infinite parade. Each player article covers his whole career, not only the fateful summer of ’48. You may know the origins and fate of Ted Williams, Booby Doerr, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, but what of Matt Batts, Windy McCall, Sibby Sisti, Wally Moses and Chuck Stobbs (Whose father, it turns out, played for a professional team call the Detroit Tigers in 1921)? This book provides photos and as many facts as any nut wants to know.
The last remaining controversy of the ’48 season is Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy’s decision to pitch, Denny Galehouse, his fifth best starter in the playoff game. The closest explanation we are likely to get is in Glenn Stout’s excellent piece on Galehouse.
The information in this finely produced book is the very fabric of baseball memory. If you want to see what scratching the surface of “knowing everything about baseball” might look like, look here. Once you own this Rounder book, you may want the others.
* Luke Salisbury is the author of a number of fiction titles including “The Answer is Baseball” (Time Books, 1989), “The Cleveland Indian” (Smith, 1992) and his novel about the great filmmaker D.W. Griffith “Hollywood and Sunset” (2007). His writing has appeared in such publications as The Boston Globe, Ploughshares, Cooperstown Review, Pulp-smith and others. Salisbury received his M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University and lives in Chelsea with his wife Barbara. He is a member in good standing of the "Bagel Bards."