Why, one might ask, is Fleming (George Alfred Lawrence and the Victorian Sensation Novel) dabbling around in the baseball...



Why, one might ask, is Fleming (George Alfred Lawrence and the Victorian Sensation Novel) dabbling around in the baseball season of 1908? It doesn't take long to see, however, that his efforts in collecting and annotating contemporary press reports are, in a word, inspired. The 1908 National League pennant race remains nonpareil, with the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Giants in a virtual dead heat until the last few days of the season, and an entire nation galvanized (to the near eclipse of a presidential campaign) by its course. The World's Champion Cubs featured the infield of Tinker-Evers-Chance, while Honus Wagner, perhaps the game's all-time great, was a one-man infield for the Pirates. The Giants, managed by the even-then-legendary John McGraw, merely offered a blend of self-confessed hooligans and college men--one of the latter, a pitcher in the afternoon of a career that already included three 30-plus-wins seasons and a World Series (1905) in which he alone accounted for three shutouts: Christy Mathewson. With this amazing cast on a collision course that arrives at the only professional baseball game ever officially declared a tie, the season unfolds primarily from the perspective of New York's scribes, supplemented by Fleming's adroit assemblage of dispatches from all the League-city papers plus two national sporting publications. Remember, teams went on the road for weeks, by train. The sporting press held America in thrall. Baseball writers (howlingly entertaining, or thin-skinned egocentrics) were self-proclaimed demigod poets who often reflected the vibrancy and optimism of the country, as well as its matter-of-fact, idiomatic racism and anti-Semitism. Fleming's cullings play it all back with marvelous immediacy. For even sometimes-fans, a standout.

Pub Date: March 20, 1981

ISBN: 0803269226

Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1981