A massive institutional history of Major League Baseball since 1992.
In this hefty tome, Pessah, a founding editor of ESPN the Magazine, provides a history of baseball from the vantage point not of the players or even the games on the field, but rather through the lens of three of its most powerful off-the-field figures. The first of these is Bud Selig, Milwaukee Brewers owner–turned Commissioner of Baseball and the central personality in the narrative. Indeed, the book is essentially a history of Selig’s tenure in the commissioner’s office. The second is Don Fehr, the head of the MLB Players Association, the most powerful and successful union in professional sports (and maybe in American life). Rounding out Pessah’s troika is the most dubious selection, George Steinbrenner, the late New York Yankees owner. Steinbrenner was undoubtedly a significant presence in baseball history but not necessarily that much more essential than a number of other owners and others stalking the game’s circles of power. Serious baseball fans will appreciate the author’s deep research and his ability to weave multiple stories together into a graceful narrative. But those who want to focus on the game on the field may leave unsatisfied, as some of the major events in baseball’s history in the last quarter-century or so get short shrift—e.g., the epic 2004 postseason run of the Boston Red Sox and dozens of other vital moments. In their places are front-office battles, Machiavellian machinations, and boardroom egos. These are not unimportant topics, and they are what Pessah promises, but they may not be the most important in the minds of those who love the game. Labor strife and controversies over performance-enhancing drugs absolutely are essential to baseball’s recent history, but the author presents them as virtually the only parts that matter.
An important but incomplete picture of baseball’s Bud Selig era.