WHERE THEY AIN'T by Burt Solomon

WHERE THEY AIN'T

The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The more things change, the more they remain the same in the world of baseball—that’s the lesson that emerges from this exemplary look at the game of a century ago. Baseball was a mess then, too: players’ salaries were skyrocketing, cheating and hooliganism ran rampant, owners pondered schemes to “protect” the game (mainly from themselves). No team was safe; even the reigning world champion was dismantled, with the pieces going to the highest bidders. Solomon’s crackerjack account chronicles the game’s coming of age, both for better and for worse, through the story of the National League’s Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s—1900s. The archetype for modern baseball, a team built on speed, fielding, and smarts, the Orioles were powered by a core of future Hall of Famers that included “Wee Willie” Keeler (whose hitting mantra isi evoked in the book’s title) and hot-tempered John McGraw, later a great innovator in his own right. They executed revolutionary plays: the “Baltimore chop” (hitting a ball downward and running out the hop) and the hit-and-run, to this day a strategic mainstay that was devised by manager Ned Hanlon. Beloved by Baltimore, the Orioles stitched together a run of campaigns that earned them the mantle “the greatest team ever” from writers of the day. About the only thing that could sink this juggernaut was a greedy owner, who came in the guise of Harry von der Horst, a profligate brewing scion with a huge ego and legal bills to match. Like his counterparts, Harry loathed the idea of paying salaries commensurate with players’ performance. Long story made short, he and the other owners tried several schemes to keep salaries in check and control the game, including syndicate ownership (simultaneous ownership of more than one team by a single ownership group). The result of this was the merging of Brooklyn’s nine with the Orioles, with the southern team serving as a virtual farm club. The inevitable losers in all this, naturally, were the fans. Baltimore soon folded its National League tent. A club in the upstart American League took its place, only to move a few years later to New York, where they eventually became the Yankees. An outstanding blend of lore, social history, and canny insight, redolent with detail and the language of the day. Tonic, albeit a bitter one, for fans who think baseball today is at its nadir. (Radio satelite tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85451-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999




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