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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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