Books by Bill Gilbert

Released: April 1, 1992

Feather-light but thoroughly agreeable recollections of a fulfilling career in professional baseball, from the New York Yankee dubbed ``Old Reliable.'' With three years out for service with the Coast Guard during WW II, Henrich played for the Bronx Bombers from 1937 through 1950, when a bum knee finally forced him into retirement at age 38. The hard-hitting right-fielder's championship seasons encompassed some of the sport's enduring moments, including the April day in 1939 when a dying Lou Gehrig took himself out of the lineup, ending his iron-man record at 2,130 consecutive games played. On a more personal level, Henrich was the lucky batter when Mickey Owen, the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher, dropped a third strike in the turning- point fourth game of the 1941 World Series, permitting the American League pennant winners to sweep on to the title. Propelled by memories like this, plus graceful tributes to a host of diamond personalities (Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Johnny Mize, Don Newcombe, Phil Rizzuto, Jackie Robinson, Casey Stengel, et al.), the chronological narrative moves along at a rapid, albeit perhaps self-ingratiating, clip. Looking back with evident delight on his days as a member of memorable clubs, Henrich has harsh words for only a handful of umpires he deemed ``homers,'' head-hunting pitchers, and tight-fisted general managers who kept his annual earnings in the low five-figures range. In closing, however, Henrich makes a point of castigating George Steinbrenner for tarnishing the image of his beloved Yankees. As nice a baseball memoir as fans and nostalgia buffs are likely to find any time soon. (Eight pages of photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

A bush-league rundown on how the national pastime muddled through WW II when roughly 500 professional baseball players were serving in the US armed forces. Gilbert, who has ghosted bios for a number of sports figures (Dom DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Elvin Hayes, Duke Snider, etc.) and one pol (Bert Lance) offers an essentially chronological account of the hit-and-miss competition that marked wartime pennant races and World Series play. With talented athletes trooping or called to the colors, he recalls, club owners filled their rosters with youngsters like Joe Nuxhall (whose main claim to fame is having pitched for the Cincinnati Reds before his 16th birthday), Cubans, over-the-hill veterans, and draft rejects, including Pete Gray (a one-armed outfielder who batted .218 for the lowly St. Louis Browns in 1945). Despite a wealth of potentially engrossing home-front anecdotes, though, Gilbert never manages to lift his narrative out of a for-the-record ruck. Nor does he succeed in relating the comparatively narrow world of major-league baseball to the global conflict that obliged it to make do for the duration. Equally unfortunate is the fact that a brief stint as a teenage batboy for the Washington Senators seems to have skewed the author's coverage. At any rate, he devotes an inordinate amount of attention to this genuinely hapless team. Fans in search of superior reportage on how the diamond game survived WW II should check Richard Goldstein's 1980 entry, Spartan Seasons, in preference to Gilbert's less-than-winning effort. (Twenty-two b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1991

If presidential candidate Al Smith was the Democratic Party's happy warrior, Bert Lance, on the evidence of the grouchy memoir at hand, ranks among the more alienated of its behind-the-scenes power brokers. The subtitle notwithstanding, the author offers precious few insights on his private life. Indeed, he focuses largely on his career as a fund-raising political strategist for Jimmy Carter and, more recently, Jesse Jackson. Whether his once-close relationship with the ex-President can survive the damned-with-faint-praise portrait that's a centerpiece of the querulous text will strike many as a very open question. The former banker from Calhoun, Georgia, also furnishes an exculpatory account of the legal woes that drove him from office as Carter's budget director. While Lance does not provide much detail on the criminal charges (of which a jury eventually found him not guilty), he complains often and bitterly about how the press has kept the scandal (putatively attributable to GOP fears that the chief executive might appoint him chairman of the FRB) in the public eye for over a decade. On the plus side, Lance comments astutely on contemporary pols and politics, speculating, for instance, that a President's capacity to achieve administration goals may be directly linked to the undesirability of his running mate as a successor. By the author's cynical reasoning, then, George Bush's choice of Dan Quayle was a masterstroke and Carter's anointment of Walter Mondale was a disaster. In like vein, he rails against his party's attempts to accommodate a surfeit of single-issue constituencies. If the Democrats are to regain the White House, he concludes, the party's leaders must create a platform with national appeal instead of one that looks like ``a quilting party for special interests.'' Occasional perspectives apart, the author's featured dish is sour grapes. (Eight pages of photos—not seen.) Read full book review >