Unstoppable underdogs, not a steroid in sight: What fan could resist?




The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals’ fitful journey to baseball immortality.

“Who could have thought up such a cast of characters?” asks journalist Heidenry (What Wild Ecstasy, 1997, etc.), himself a St. Louis native. “Motley crew” is far too weak a phrase for the players assembled that year by business manager Branch Rickey. As the author documents, drawing liberally on the many biographies they subsequently inspired in addition to his own research, these colorful individuals wore one uniform but were hardly of one mind or mission—at least at first. Nonpareil pitcher Dizzy Dean was the most irrepressible and, in his view, the most underpaid; his hillbilly antics masked a Machiavellian streak, and he actually went on strike in midseason. Razor-tongued bench jockey and slick fielder Leo Durocher was derided by teammates as “the All-American Out” for being a patsy at the plate. A mismatched team was the almost inevitable result of Rickey’s novel approach: develop players in a captive farm system, pay ’em peanuts and trade ’em for new resources at the height of their powers. Generally credited with making modern major-league ball what it is, Rickey served as the Cardinals’ principal strategist, while the appropriate tactics were figured out by field manager/second baseman Frank Frisch, the former New York Giant known as “the Fordham Flash.” Picked to finish fourth, maybe third, in the National League, the Cards rallied at season’s end to squeak by the favored Giants, and fans at the depth of the Depression went nuts. The World Series with the Detroit Tigers went to seven. Best piece of trivia: “Gashouse Gang,” an enduring nickname of obscure origin, was applied to the bunch only in retrospect, never during the ’34 season.

Unstoppable underdogs, not a steroid in sight: What fan could resist?

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-58648-419-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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