Cook (The Dad Report: Fathers, Sons, and Baseball Families, 2017 etc.) chronicles the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, approaching this narrow slice of sports history from an unusual angle.
That year’s Series resonates with the author for a few reasons: the quality of play in the two New York City ballparks, the historic nature of Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers becoming the first African-American to participate in the event, and the fact that it was the first televised Series. The overriding narrative line, however, involves the unexpectedly significant roles of four under-the-radar baseball players—Al Gionfriddo and Cookie Lavagetto for the Dodgers and Bill Bevens and Snuffy Stirnweiss for the Yankees—as well as the controversial managers for each team, Burt Shotton for the Dodgers (filling in for the suspended, better-known Leo Durocher) and Bucky Harris for the Yankees. Cook traces the lives of all six men before 1947 and then illuminates their roles during the Series. “The six of them played key roles in a World Series that Joe DiMaggio called ‘the most exciting ever.’ ” In the third portion of the book, the author explains how his brief interval in the spotlight affected each man until his death. To be sure, all of his subjects led interesting lives in one way or another, but how they reached the Major Leagues and what happened to each after 1947 may only appeal to die-hard fans of baseball history. As a result, Cook’s unusual approach might limit the audience. The narrative works best when the author narrates the drama of the seven-game series, which the Yankees won. For readers unfamiliar with the Robinson saga, the compact account might provide a gateway to further reading.
An impressively reported, smoothly written book that nonetheless feels airy in its content.