Author Topic: What are you reading lately?  (Read 700 times)

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Offline soxfan59

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What are you reading lately?
« Topic Start: April 13, 2010, 01:36:22 PM »
(I know I haven't been a regular here for sometime, but I wanted to share this with my friends on the WNFF).

I am an inveterate reader of baseball history.  I particularly enjoy well researched efforts that shine a new light on established baseball folklore and reveal nuggets of truth that are often stranger and more interesting than the legend.  “The Original Curse,” written by Sean Deveney (a reporter for the Sporting News) is just such a book.

I was drawn to this book by its subtitle -- “Did the Cubs throw the 1918 World Series to Babe Ruth’s Red Sox and incite the Black Sox scandal?”  Wow!  What a concept!  But when I try to explain this book to my friends, they invariably roll their eyes -- you see, I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Chicago White Sox, and because of the rivalry my favorite team has with the “other team” across town, the Chicago Cubs, I tend to hate all things associated with the Cubs.  My own father, who is a huge baseball fan, told me to “drop it,” and to “get a life,” my incessant negative harping on the Cubs must stop.  But while my original fascination with this book may have come from my personal animosity towards the Cubs, that’s not what this book is about.
 
The book opens with a scene created from the affidavit of Eddie Cicotte, the pitcher for the 1919 White Sox who was one of the ringleaders of the “Black Sox,” the group of players who purportedly plotted to accept bribe money and lose the 1919 World Series on purpose.  The setting is late summer, 1919, on a train ride across country, with members of the White Sox team lounging and talking.  The seeds of the World Series scandal are being planted, as the players determine whether such an undertaking might actually succeed.  Cicotte recalls that one of the players said, “Hey, why not?  The Cubs did it last year, and got away with it.”
  
And so begins a well crafted and well researched look at the concept that the 1919 World Series was not the first time a team took money from gamblers to lose on purpose, and whether there might be some merit in the statement Ed Cicotte heard in that Pullman car as his team plotted to do the very same thing.
 
To be truthful, Mr. Deveney admits there is no conclusive evidence.  No “smoking gun,” no player’s confessing, no later public recriminations specifically indicating that the Cubs of 1918 were on the take.  The only evidence is circumstantial.  Yet, that evidence, in and of itself, is pretty compelling.  Plus, the author gives us a vivid portrayal of the prevalence of gambling in major league baseball in the first quarter of the twentieth century, and how it made the game rotten to its core, and how the baseball establishment did everything it could to cover it up, but to allow it to exist, because the gambling connection meant more fan interest, and therefore more tickets sold.  The comparison with the contemporary issue of performance enhancing drugs is not lost on Mr. Deveney, who makes a great case that history has repeated itself.
  
And even if you can’t accept Deveney’s premise regarding the 1918 World Series truly being “crooked,” the book is much more than just that.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different person involved -- a baseball executive, a player, a government official.  The writing style is like a suspense novel.  The book is also a portrait of the times -- a country in the midst of a world war, an economic crisis, a concern about foreign terrorism (in the form of German U Boats and spies) and domestic terrorists (in the form of radical labor unions), a concern about a pandemic (the “Spanish flu”) that would eventually kill half a million people in the U.S. alone, and for the baseball players, concern about their future, and the future of baseball itself.
  
Against this historic canvas as backdrop, Deveney unfolds the 1918 baseball season for both the eventual NL champion Cubs and the AL champs, the Red Sox.   We see greedy owners on shaky financial ground trying to “buy the pennant,” as both the Cubs and Red Sox owners purchase or trade for players to ensure their success.  We see players trying to deal with the concept of being drafted, or working in war industry, as the Federal Government’s “Work or Fight” order comes down in mid-season.   We see influence and power among baseball owners shift and change, setting the stage for the rise of the Commissioner.  And mostly, we see the stories of the players themselves.  (One particularly interesting side story is the transformation of Babe Ruth from pitcher to hitter, which began in earnest in 1918).

Each chapter focuses on a different person.  And one of the interesting concepts Deveney delves into is the popular notion that both teams involved in the 1918 World Series have traditionally been considered “cursed” by its fans, the Red Sox (because of selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees) and the Cubs (because of  the Billy Goat incident in 1945).  Deveney, while admitting he doesn’t believe in curses, muses that if there is a curse for one or both teams, its logical to connect it to 1918, when the players apparently “threw” the World Series.  He adds some interesting anecdotal evidence for a curse, at least on the people involved with both teams during that year.  At the close of each chapter, he will include an epilogue about the people discussed.  It is amazing how many of these executives and players had short lived careers, met untimely or bizarre deaths, saw their lives ruined by financial collapse or substance abuse, or had some connection to criminal gambling.
  
And what about the concept that the Cubs “threw” the 1918 World Series?  Some might not buy it, but I will say this -- absent the confessions that the 1919 White Sox players provided that they truly intended to lose on purpose, the evidence of how the games were played and how the 1919 White Sox and the 1918 Cubs appeared to be trying to lose on purpose is uncannily similar.  The motivation the Cubs had for losing on purpose was there (disputes over the size of the World Series shares for the players), plus many of the Cubs players had direct connections to the same gambling elements that arranged the Black Sox scandal.  Indeed, many folks don’t know that the reason the “Black Sox” were even investigated was that in September of 1920, the Cook County State’s attorney was called upon to investigate allegations of losing games on purpose -- by the Cubs!!!  Only after that investigation started, and people started pointing fingers at the White Sox as well, were the White Sox players called in to testify, and Cicotte, Joe Jackson, and others confessed.  
I won’t let the cat out of the bag, and let other readers digest the evidence and determine whether you believe the 1918 Cubs are at the same level as the 1919 White Sox.  But whether you buy the premise or not, the book is an excellent portrayal of a unique time in our history, and how baseball fit into and reflected that time.  

I would also recommend reading this book in conjunction with “Burying the Black Sox” by Gene Carney, published a few years back, which focuses on the 1919 World Series, and sheds new light on the evidence surrounding that scandal in a similar fashion.  Together, these books show how gambling nearly destroyed baseball from within, and it’s a comparable concept to how baseball has handled its current controversy over steroids.  If you are at all into baseball history, I’ll bet you’ll enjoy this book.

Offline The Chief

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Long time no see.  Welcome back :clap:

Offline tomterp

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I thought about starting a thread "what are you reading", but didn't know if anybody still practiced that arcane skill.   :roll: Glad to see SOMEBODY is.    :clap:

Offline Obed_Marsh

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My review: No smoking gun. Muckraking and a desperate need to find fault someplace other than the black sox.

I thought about starting a thread "what are you reading", but didn't know if anybody still practiced that arcane skill.

I thought there was one but I never can find that thread when I change books. It needs a sticky.

Offline soxfan59

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My review: No smoking gun. Muckraking and a desperate need to find fault someplace other than the black sox.

I thought there was one but I never can find that thread when I change books. It needs a sticky.

So you're saying you don't believe gambling was rampant in baseball prior to 1919?

Online blue911

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So you're saying you don't believe gambling was rampant in baseball prior to 1919?

Heinie Zimmerman & Hal Chase were notorious for getting payoffs from gamblers.

Online ronnynat

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I thought about starting a thread "what are you reading"

You should.

Offline tomterp

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You should.

Why not this one.  Soxfan, would you object if I changed the thread title?

Online ronnynat

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Siddhartha has been my favorite book for a long time now. Hermann Hesse was such a great writer.

Offline soxfan59

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Why not this one.  Soxfan, would you object if I changed the thread title?

Whatever you like.

Offline Obed_Marsh

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Siddhartha has been my favorite book for a long time now. Hermann Hesse was such a great writer.

 :thumbs: :thumbs:

Have you read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It is not quite as good but quite worth reading.

Another, although a completely different style, that I loved was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The story follows seven generations of the Buendía family.

Offline tomterp

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #11: April 22, 2010, 10:07:07 PM »
I've been reading Jeff Shaara's trilogy on WWII lately.  By coincidence, one of my son's friends loaned us "Band of Brothers" to watch, and I've been watching an episode about every other night or so.  For a while, BoB and the Shaara story of Normandy were within a day of each other, and the stories were within 50 miles.  So I watch an episode, then run up to my bedroom and read a chapter or two.


Now that the Nats are in full swing, it cuts into my reading time, as does WNFF.

Offline Nathan

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #12: April 22, 2010, 10:10:11 PM »
I just started Dan Brown's newest, The Lost Symbol.  Not much time to read for recreation this time of the year with the texts I have to read for my college courses though.

Online HalfSmokes

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #13: April 22, 2010, 10:12:12 PM »
Leavings by Wendel Berry - heard him on NPR, decided to give him a shot

Offline PANatsFan

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #14: April 22, 2010, 10:15:46 PM »
Friday by Heinlein. I think it's last one left for me to finish except for the weird incest books he wrote when he was senile.

Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #15: April 22, 2010, 10:18:25 PM »
I'm about to start "Pafko at the Wall" by Don DeLillo for the second time.

Offline JMUalumni

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #16: April 22, 2010, 10:25:44 PM »
:thumbs: :thumbs:

Have you read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It is not quite as good but quite worth reading.

Another, although a completely different style, that I loved was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The story follows seven generations of the Buendía family.


One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great book.  I always liked one of Marquez's other novels, Love in the Time of Cholera, better though.  Unfortunately, they made some crappy movie about it, which I refuse to watch. 

Offline PANatsFan

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #17: April 22, 2010, 10:48:07 PM »
Before I'm considered a weirdo by those who don't know, Heinlein's early books were meant to inspire Boy Scouts, and there's a cartoon adaptation of Red Planet. He just turned into a dirty old man.


Also, we was a facist. Great books, though.

Offline Obed_Marsh

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #18: April 22, 2010, 10:50:27 PM »
At the moment I am reading Captain's Fury By Jim Butcher. High fantasy based on a 'what if' regarding the "lost Roman legion" (Legio IX Hispana) and an interesting take on the same tired old magic found in most fantasy.

I'd also highly recommend his Dresden Files series if you enjoy detective stories and wizardly genres.  

Offline tomterp

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #19: April 22, 2010, 10:52:02 PM »
Also, we was a facist. Great books, though.

We was a facist?  I must have slept through that phase.

Offline PANatsFan

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #20: April 22, 2010, 10:54:18 PM »
We was a facist?  I must have slept through that phase.

SPELLING FACIST. Tombert Terplein.

Offline PANatsFan

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #21: April 22, 2010, 11:29:00 PM »
At the moment I am reading Captain's Fury By Jim Butcher. High fantasy based on a 'what if' regarding the "lost Roman legion" (Legio IX Hispana) and an interesting take on the same tired old magic found in most fantasy.

I'd also highly recommend his Dresden Files series if you enjoy detective stories and wizardly genres. 

Good Kindle trial suggestions.

Offline Obed_Marsh

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #22: April 22, 2010, 11:52:22 PM »
There have been some good ones in the Kindle bargain section.

For less than a buck I got The Undead Situation by Eloise J. Knapp which was an interesting take on the old zombie stories although it was darkly violent and the ending's execution was mediocre. The ending itself was fitting, it just had a lot of inconsistencies and seemed rushed. Apparently, it got so much attention it was picked up by a publisher and is no longer in the Kindle store. :?

http://permutedpress.com/smf/index.php?topic=7740.msg128105#msg128105



Celia and the Fairies by Karen McQuestion was also under a buck and is quite good if you have any patience for children's stories about fairies. If I ever have a daughter, I will read her this story.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002ZG8RNO/ref=docs-os-doi_0

Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese at a little less than $3 for Apocalypse satire isn't too bad but it wasn't really to my tastes. Readable, somewhat enjoyable, but definitely a bargain on the kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002TG43WO/ref=docs-os-doi_0

I'd much rather read something like Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny & Peter Sheckley. Granted I've probably read that story at least ten times over the years but alas no Kindle edition and it frequently goes out of print. :(

Offline soxfan59

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Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #23: April 23, 2010, 09:06:01 AM »
I almost exclusively read non-fiction.  Not that I don't love a good novel -- I just prefer history and analysis.

I also love movie musicals.  So shoot me. 

I have been reading "Singin in the Rain, the Making of an American Masterpiece" by Hess and Dabholkar. 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/070061656X/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=14QZV737CHB98YF39NVV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

For those of you into this sort of thing, its really well done.  In depth, well researched, and interesting.  Its the story of how the movie was conceived, written and filmed, along with the background information on the major people involved.  It lays out how the film was received, its legacy, and gives us an epilogue on what happened to those major players afterward.  I would recommend it.