A baseball historian recaptures Chicago’s most notorious era and the city’s love affair with one of baseball’s most colorful teams.
As the 1920s crashed into the unforgiving wall of the Depression, chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley assembled a team so wondrous as to outdraw even Babe Ruth’s Yankees. Clever team president Bill Veeck supercharged ballpark attendance, perfecting the idea of Ladies’ Day and helping to pioneer radio broadcasts of games. The Second City couldn’t get enough of this team of assorted alcoholics, teetotalers, brawlers, carousers, fitness buffs and gamblers that captured two pennants and featured numerous eventual Hall of Famers: Joe McCarthy, Rogers Hornsby, Grover Alexander, Gabby Hartnett, Kiki Cuyler and Hack Wilson. Former Saturday Evening Post editor Ehrgott draws memorable portraits of these immortals and lesser Cubs like Jolly Cholly Grimm, whose ashes would one day be spread on Wrigley Field, and shortstop Billy Jurges, shot (not killed) by his showgirl lover. Other Windy City personalities—corrupt Mayor Big Bill Thompson, first citizen Al Capone and iron-eyed commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis—enliven a bulging narrative that effortlessly emerges from a world where Hupmobiles cruised the roads and Jelly Roll Morton’s hot jazz filled the air, where flappers crushed on athletic gods and disgruntled fans tossed mildewed lemons at slumping players, where mob hits were common and pro football still a novelty, and where sporting legends like Jack Dempsey’s Long Count arose alongside Ruth’s called shot in the 1932 World Series. That home run crushed the Jazz Age Cubs’ last chance for a championship, but as Ehrgott deliciously demonstrates, it barely dented their lasting, slashing swagger.
An absolute must for any baseball fan’s library.