"THEY ALSO SERVED: Baseball and the Home Front, 1941-1945" by Bill Gilbert

"THEY ALSO SERVED: Baseball and the Home Front, 1941-1945"

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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Crown