Formed on this Continent

June 22, 2020


You can make a book out of anything.  If you’re determined enough, you can make a big deal out of a very small deal, of course, an axiom I’ve learned the hard way over the years.

All you need to do is to dig down deep enough, and you can find enough material to fill a pickup truck. Knowing where to dig, and how to dig, helps but the material is out there waiting to be harvested.

When I was writing about Bill Wakefield a few years back, for example, I realized that an entire long article could be devoted to the very last pitch he threw in his MLB career. To make sense of this topic, I would need to explain who Bill Wakefield was, and a thousand other details relevant to his final pitch, but since they were relevant and I was interested in doing the research, I wrung an article (two, actually) out of the subject, and I think I could have gotten a book out of it, given a little more motivation on my part and a lot more cooperation from Wakefield.

Material is a funny subject. When I first got the ambition to write a novel, I had no material. My college offered a fabulous fellowship, founded by the mystery writer Cornell Woolrich, that financed a year’s living expenses for the completion of a novel, which one applied for by submitting the novel’s first 100 pages. I had gone to high school, and had almost completed college, but that’s not even close to being a subject that could hold a reader’s attention longer than 5 minutes, so I was stumped.  Nonetheless, I stuck myself in a farmhouse thousands of miles from the nearest English-speaking person I knew and set out to write a novel, not having a plot or a plan or a clue.

And what do you know? A plot emerged, characters based on the boring people I knew turned into colorful fictional characters, and material begat material. (I won the year’s living expenses, and immediately blew it on a car so I could visit my girlfriend, but that’s a different story.) "Anyone who has survived childhood has more than enough experience to write about," the novelist Eudora Welty assures us, which I wish I’d known before I wasted so much energy fretting about what I could possibly write about.

"Write what you know," I was advised by my creative writing teachers, to which my response was to wail, "But I don’t know anything!" Turned out, I knew enough to get started, and I knew how to research the things I didn’t know. (One of the judges for the Woolrich Fellowship asked me "How do you know so much?" to which I feigned modesty—the immodest answer would have been "I don’t –but I know how to pretend I do.") One of the things I pretended to know backwards and forwards was the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the political machinations behind their leaving Brooklyn when I was four years old, and it happens that those complicated maneuvers are tied into the book under review now, a book that covers in copious detail a subject that I had thought I knew forwards, at least, and at least part of "backwards."

There was a HEY BILL a while back that dealt with the question of how the Dodgers left Brooklyn and the formation of the Continental League shortly afterwards to attempt to put a new team back in New York City somewhere. I referred Bill to the most authoritative work on the Continental League I know, the magisterial biography of Branch Rickey by my friend Lee Lowenfish, but the section of the chapter of that book that addressed the issue was only a small section of a very large book. The actual formation of the Continental League was, as I’ve discovered recently, far more complicated than those few paragraphs summarized, and deserved an entire volume loaded with details to explain it properly.

Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the daring scheme to save baseball from itself by Michael Shapiro explains the underlying problem with organized sports in the period immediately before I came into contact with meaningful consciousness, the late 1950s to the very early 1960s, roughly. After about 1962, I have some glimmers of memory, and some of my more intense memories, of organized sports, but the preceding period is puzzling and fascinating, and I’ve only read about that period in fits and starts. The problem with sports in the 1950s was that they had fossilized. They were pretty much where they had been for years, or else they were not quite major sports yet –the NBA was still less than a major sport, the NFL wasn’t yet close to attracting baseball’s level of interest, the NHL was small and isolated in a tight geographic area, and MLB had just started moving out of smaller cities that couldn’t really support two major league teams (St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Boston). By moving out of the one larger city that could support three major league teams, the Dodgers and the Giants created a void that, at first, was going to be filled by the Continental League. MLB’s first response to the threat posed by the Continental League was to say, "We’re too big to be moved by the likes of an upstart league, and we think we’re fine exactly as we are." That was a mistake. It took them a few years to figure what the correct answer would sound like. This is the story of those few years, 1957 to 1960.

 

It is edifying to think about the timing of the Continental League. 1960 is just as far in time away from the founding of the American League in 1900 as we are today, in 2020, from 1960. There were men who remembered very well the successful formation of a brand-new league, just as we can recall very well today how firmly established the AL and the NL were in 1960. To Branch Rickey, who turned 79 years of age in 1960, forming a new league was far from a preposterous enterprise. He had seen it done, and was quite serious about doing it again.

One of my misconceptions about the Continental League was that it was purely a fake-out, intended to force on MLB the expansion that began in 1961. This faulty reasoning on my part resulted from viewing the results, rather than viewing the actual convoluted history of the Continental League. Rickey, in particular, emerges from Shapiro’s telling, as the single most disappointed man when the third league idea faded and the alternative idea of the two existing leagues expanding came into focus. Rickey was as serious as death about the Continental League coming to life under his guiding hand—from the moment the Dodgers and the Giants left NYC until the moment that MLB voted formally to expand, he saw himself running the new league and competing equally with the big boys.

Shapiro breaks up this strange untold story, like Caesar’s Gaul, into three parts. The main narrative is of the business dealings and machinations of forming a new league, which would have made for a small but tightly focused little book, and the two other narratives are the broader one of sports in general in this era, largely the NFL and its own upstart league, the AFL, that had certain parallels to baseball’s situation at the time, and the narrower narrative of what was going in baseball itself, the game on the field, while the other stories transpired.

It’s hard to complain about Shapiro’s choice to tell the baseball story: he tells it well. The 1960 World Series between the Pirates and the Yankees is told, for example, in fine detail and it unfolds masterfully. But I will complain about it, anyway. It’s essentially irrelevant to the other two narratives Shapiro is spinning with equal skill. Look at it like this: if you took any other season in baseball’s history, 1980 or 1940, that narrative would fit into the structure of Bottom of the Ninth just as well. The story, told at length, of what was going on in the fifth game of the 1960 World Series is arbitrary. Just a guess, but I suspect what propelled this story into the text so prominently (and propelled Casey Stengel into the sub-title so prominently) was Shapiro’s running across MLB game stories as he was researching the business story that his book is about, and then realizing that not only was it inherently interesting (which it is) but he could re-tell it skillfully (which he does).

Bottom of The Ninth contains one of the best detailed narrative renderings of the 1960 World Series that I have ever read, chockful of facts that I’ve never read before so clearly and crisply told, like the rendering of one crucial moment we have discussed here several times in the past few months, for one bizarre reason or other:

Nelson fielded Berra’s shot deftly. And then he stepped on first. A prudent move but not a bold one. The better play, the game ender, would have been to throw to second to retire Mantle, and be ready to take the return throw that would complete the double play. But by stepping on first, Nelson had retired Berra, precluding the possibility of forcing Mantle. He would have to be tagged out.

            Mantle knew this. He also knew that he made a dreadful mistake. He had drifted too far off the bag, and now stood in limbo as he faced Nelson, who had the ball and the game in his hands and the chance to make good.

            For a moment the two men looked at each other. And then Mantle dove for the bag. Nelson was a moment late in applying the tag. Mantle was safe. McDougald had scored from third. The game was tied at nine.

I quote this passage, not because I’m fascinated by this play, which I am, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/sports/baseball/01mantle.html?ref=sports&_r=0 but to illustrate the level of detail Shapiro puts into describing one moment in one inning in one game in a small part of the 1960 MLB season. He describes other moments in other games in similar detail, and there are many such moments, but all the on-the-field stuff such as this is really peripheral to the story he is trying to tell.

Immediately following his 38-page-long blow-by-blow description of the 1960 World Series, which ended on October 13, 1960, Shapiro returns to the main narrative on October 14, 1960, when NYC Mayor Robert F. Wagner sent a wire to Walter O’Malley and the other members of the NL’s expansion committee, who had been resisting expanding to ten teams, that the project to build a new baseball stadium in Queens "will be ready for bidding by December 1, 1960."  Three days later, O’Malley caved and the NL agreed to expand into New York City and Houston, leaving Los Angeles and Washington (which would replace the old Senators, moving into Minneapolis-St. Paul, with the new Senators) to the AL. The squabbling between the two existing leagues as to which one gets which city is told in thorough detail, and this squabbling is a major issue in Shapiro’s book, with various powerful figures in each city exerting their influence on various powers in Congress, local politics, and MLB, all stuff I never knew a thing about.  In mid-October, the two narratives link up—in fact, the Yankees’ news (Stengel’s firing was announced that same day) pushed the expansion news off the top of the sports page.

This is a good-sized book, just over 300 pages, so maybe if Shapiro would have cut the familiar on-the-field material short, this volume might have been on the slim side, but I found it disconcerting to follow three competing narratives at once. The gripping part is all the behind-the-scenes business dealings, and the background of previous attempts to form new leagues, especially the American League in 1900 and the Federal League in 1914 and the Mexican League in 1947, with all of the moves, and feints, and ploys, and counter-maneuvers, some of which worked and some of which fell flat. All of this wheeling-dealing of the past is explained in order to show how it was used, or abandoned, by the wheeler-dealers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In order to tell the wheeling-dealing section of the narrative, he must give extensive background on the players, which is fresher ground than giving the well-trodden backgrounds on the baseball players. One such figure is the Yankees’ co-owner in the 1950s, Delbert E. Webb, about whom I knew very little, other than the name, with which I have been acquainted as long as I’ve followed baseball. Webb, it turns out, was the more reclusive of the two co-owners (Dan Topping was his showier partner,) and a bit of an eccentric: Webb had made his fortune in the construction business, much of it in Las Vegas, where he befriended gangster Bugsy Siegel and, later, chief gangbuster J. Edgar Hoover. To the point of this book, Webb was not only reclusively mysterious but a very powerful force within the American League—his influence on other owners is compared to that of Walter O’Malley in the National League, with the note that Webb’s influence was as strong as the Yankees’ dominance in the 1950s, and causally related. The other seven A.L. clubs depended on the Yankees for much of their annual revenue, and Webb used that dependence to pressure other owners to vote as he needed them to vote. (O’Malley’s influence, while strong, was just getting established in the 1950s, and his Dodgers, while a strong ballclub, never controlled the same box-office revenues over the NL that the Yankees commanded through the AL in the 1950s.) Among his other achievements, Webb successfully got Happy Chandler removed as MLB’s Commissioner, replacing him with the far more docile and pliable Ford Frick, thus changing forever the role that the Commissioner played in relation to the owners:

"Perhaps we need a different kind of commissioner—a top executive with a big business and preferably a legal background," Webb said, making his case against Chandler, who had rooted out by fiat the possible influence of gambling, suspending Leo Durocher for a year in 1947, for example, merely for socializing with known gamblers and suspected gangsters. It was Chandler’s power over the owners, not the players, however, that alarmed Webb, who followed up his comments on the kind of commissioner he did want: "I don’t think we need a commissioner merely to club us over the head and keep us in line. That is a by-gone stage of the baseball business." Chairing the search committee for a new commissioner, Webb didn’t get the executive he asked for, but he did get a weaker and more compliant man in the former sportswriter Frick, who did the owners’ bidding eagerly. "If I’ve never done anything else for baseball," Webb declared in 1960, "I did it when I got rid of Chandler." Eventually of course, the owners did get exactly what Webb was asking for, a lawyer who would do whatever his clients asked, in Bowie Kuhn.

There are many other figures on whom Shapiro provides much-needed information in order to make sense of the often convoluted machinations involved in planning the creation of a third major league: the Athletics’ owner, Arnold Johnson, for example, who bought the team from the near-penniless Mack family and who had long-standing business ties to the Yankees’ owners, Webb and Topping, or the eventual baseball executive, Bob Howsam, who in the mid-1950s was the young son-in-law of Colorado businessman Ed Johnson, who appointed Howsam to run the Denver Bears and who wanted to own a Denver franchise in the Continental League, which Johnson named and which he conceived as an equal  third major league.

The chief conflict described in this book is among the Continental League owners themselves: some of them sincerely wanted a third major league to emerge from their efforts, and had no ethical problem raiding the American League and the National League for the new league’s players, nor in bidding for high school stars and college stars and free-agent players of every stripe to make the new league equal to the existing leagues. But other prospective Continental League owners, such as Lamar Hunt, a wealthy young oilman (who would eventually own the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs) who wanted a franchise for Dallas, were not as singly focused on that goal, and would have gladly settled for an expansion franchise in the AL or the NL. And most of them vacillated between the two opposing goals, favoring at different points in time whichever goal would make them the owner of a big-league franchise.

This is where the Bottom of the Ninth lacks clarity: Shapiro provides copious details about the discussions, public statements, wires and letters and phone calls exchanged between the various and ever-changing cast of characters, which are all as complicated and as subtle as you can imagine, and more, but he fails to provide a clear overall sense of how the entire scheme progressed. Reading Bottom of the Ninth is like reading a long series of daily newspaper accounts of a years-long process—it bombards you with information, but what I need is not information as much what the information means. Shapiro delivers a disorganized, fast-shifting, conflicted process with no real high points or low points. A bunch of guys got together to form a new baseball league, and some of them wanted that new league more than others, and even more than they wanted it themselves at other times, and in the end, the league failed to coalesce but four expansion teams were created in the existing leagues. Well, that’s kind of what I understood coming in—I had no idea of all the convoluted dealings, and the personalities involved, and their motivations, and their personal issues, which was all fascinating stuff, but no narrative line ever emerged here.

The closest Shapiro got was in his portrayal of Branch Rickey, and that’s probably because Rickey was the least conflicted (and the most devious) of all the Continental League figures. From the start, he was dead-set on forming a third league, and in the end, he was the most disappointed at the league’s demise. Rickey seems utterly crushed by the Continental League’s failure to thrive. He makes it into the book’s subtitle (I still don’t quite get what it means to "save baseball from itself" or how the Continental League was proposing, exactly, to achieve that goal) but for long stretches the book ignores Rickey’s part, dwelling instead on on-the-field accounts of baseball games in 1959 and 1960 and on the formation and growth of leagues in other sports, where Rickey played no role at all. A better approach to this complex subject would have been stay within Branch Rickey’s head as much as possible, and introduce the other figures as Rickey dealt with them.

This would have meant omitting the two side-narratives that didn’t involve Rickey at all, the day-to-day baseball games and the formation of leagues in other sports, but it would have meant that I could have understood the Continental League better. In the end, I learned a good deal about the tremendous problems in starting a third major league, and the characters who struggled to do so for years, and the ones who struggled to prevent that from happening, although I never got a sense of any crucial points along the way towards its potential success or its eventual failure.  

 
 

COMMENTS (19 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
Oh, and as long as I'm here (sorry I couldn't keep to your schedule, Maris--I got busy), allow me to re-explain what I mean by "wrong": the ONLY thing Mantle had to do in that exact spot was to delay getting tagged until he was CERTAIN that McDougald had crossed home plate. In other words, he had one job to do, and he messed that job up. That job was to delay getting tagged out--if there was even one chance in a thousand that Nelson would have tagged him before McDougald scored, the play was over, the inning was over, the game was over, and the World Series was over--and the Yankees would lose. With that much on the line, it was WRONG (greedy, foolish, self-defeating, etc.) for Mantle to prioritize being safe over being delayed in getting tagged out. If he would have run towards second base, he could have been absolutely certain that McDougald's run would count, and the Yankees would have tied up the game. Instead, he ran towards Nelson's glove, the upside being that he could keep the inning going and eventually score the go-ahead run (which he did, though the Yankees didn't score again). He risked, IOW, the Yankees losing the Series then and there for the off-chance that his potential run would put the Yankees in the lead and MAYBE win the Series. Simply, the wrong play to make.​
5:51 AM Jun 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
"...as soon as he saw that Nelson had trapped" should be "as soon as he saw that Nelson had him trapped."

I also agree, Maris, that "drifted" isn't quite right. Mantle hadn't drifted anywhere--he was, as you point out, exactly where he should have been on that play. Unfortunately, that place was, in Joe Garagiola's term, right in no-man's land. Mantle was dead out, with nothing to be done. (I'm using "dead out" in the baseball sense: out 99 times out of 100, the only exception being a screw up by the side holding the ball.) He gave it his best, and miracle of miracles, he avoided certain death on the basepaths. But his ONLY play was to run towards second. He did the worst thing possible, and he got away with his dumb choice. You may admire him for this, and you do. But he was wrong, and you are wrong.

You're also focused on the wrong thing here--my admiration for the writer's precision of terminology. What I was showing off the passage for was the high level of detail, the depth in which the game-level details were analyzed, in a book about another subject entirely.
5:28 AM Jun 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
It was pretty good baserunning, MtC, on a purely athletic level. It wasn't the right play to make, though it did work out ok for Mantle. His aim should have been to stay as far away from Nelson for as long as possible, which means he should have been moving towards second base as soon as he saw that Nelson had trapped. Escaping the trap (which he did) was the wrong play.

Maris, I don't see where factuality enters into the account. You disagree with his interpretation (as so do I, on some things, mainly on his reading of Mantle's mind and Nelson's), and characterizing Mantle's thinking as "he knew he made a dreadful mistake." I agree, Mantle didn't necessarily think he'd MADE a mistake at all, just that he was in a terrible situation. But did the writer get any facts wrong? I don't think so.
9:09 PM Jun 28th
 
MidnighttheCat
The book sounds very interesting and I will read it. Thanks for the fine review.

Here is the play on Berra's liner to first and Mantle's dive back:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UQ3mBb8QIM

I don't think Mantle even had second base in mind: he was reading the first baseman. You see the first baseman catch the ball, look at Mantle and Mantle is already in motion as he sees the fielder try to move toward him OFF the bag momentarily to try to tag Mickey, but Mantle in a millisecond realizes that the fielder has made the wrong first motion - moving forward instead of to his left slightly and immediately dives for the bag.

I think it is the most brilliant piece of base-running I have ever seen.
8:02 PM Jun 26th
 
MarisFan61
.....I would offer that the effect of such non-reply is to make us doubt your seriousness in having asked, and to make people less apt to take the trouble to reply to what you might ask for.

In this case it makes me skeptical that you were interested to know what was mistaken.
4:13 PM Jun 26th
 
MarisFan61
....I took the time to answer you.
Awaiting your comment.

Recap: You raved over the game-describing ability of the guy and highlighted a particular thing, despite it containing a blatant mistake.
You asked, what exactly was the mistake, even though it had been highlighted before.]
I re-highlighted it for you.
5:09 PM Jun 24th
 
MarisFan61
(Sorry -- I did screw up the bold. All it takes is failing to do just 1 of those brackets or slashes.)​
6:18 PM Jun 23rd
 
MarisFan61
If you don't know, you didn't really read the relevant post.

Here's the relevant part.
(pardon my taking up more space here, but you asked)
This time I'll help you out by putting some key things in bold. (Hopefully they'll all work -- I don't usually succeed with that.)
If the 'bold' is all you'll read, you'll get the basic point -- but it might not be so clear to you why he was starkly factually wrong. If you read the whole thing, it should be.)


The writer says:
Mantle knew.... that he made a dreadful mistake. [b]He had drifted too far off the bag, and now stood in limbo as he faced Nelson[/b]...

That is sheer nonsense, demonstrably sheer.
I'm surprised you let it slip past you. :-)


I assume that all of y'all have played some ball.
Or at least seen a game or two where there was a runner at 1st base. :-) :-)

Right?
OK.

You're on 1st base. The next batter is up.
Where do you stand?

[b]You take a lead.[/b]
Everybody still with me?
OK.

[b]The ball is hit.
What is your first move?[/b]

That's right -- very good, class. :-)
[b]You make at least a slight move toward 2nd base, however slight.[/b]

[b]If the ball is hit sharply toward an infielder and if it seems possibly to be in the air, especially if it's toward the first baseman, you stop, as soon as you can. and get ready to return to the bag.
If you're alert and if you have great reflexes, you do it quite immediately.

THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT MICK DID.[/b]
We now have the benefit of the film to see that.

Actually there is now controversy about whether Mick should have stayed close to the bag, but that writer thinks he should have, and that's what were talking about right now.

Mantle was pretty close to the bag to begin with, he stopped immediately, very briefly judged the situation and dove accordingly, and successfully (which, granted, involved luck too, but, he very briefly judged it and dove accordingly).

[bThere was no semblance of "drifting too far off the bag."[/b] I will resist saying the bs word and just say, it is false.
[b]He didn't drift, and he was never far off the bag, because he stopped quite immediately.[/b]

This wasn't a criminal error on the writer's part.
The amazing thing is just that he's being lauded as such a great describer of a baseball game.

6:17 PM Jun 23rd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Other than his obviously subjective read on what Mantle was thinking or feeling, what did he get factually wrong?
5:21 PM Jun 23rd
 
MarisFan61
No need for you to reply further, but you're making it look like you're still not getting it.
That wasn't the main problem either with his rendition or about how you portrayed him.
It was the frank factual error in his observation or recollection.
4:42 PM Jun 23rd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Steve161---"Slowly I turned, step by step..." Yes, of course I expected using that passage as my sample would engender a little discussion. The more interesting motivation was the NY Times article I linked to, also about the same play. Maris, I wanted to give an example of the author's level of detail more than his wonderfulness, though I did think that one short phrase, "He also knew that he made a dreadful mistake," might act as a viper that found its way into your jockey shorts. Mantle didn't make a dreadful mistake, but I believe he did have the same sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that one gets when one HAS made a dreadful mistake.
2:14 PM Jun 23rd
 
trn6229
Thank you Steven for your wonderful article. There is a good book about the Continental League called the Continental League A Personal History by Russell D. Buhite. The author played in the Continental League minor league system. Branch Rickey did create a minor league system so he could develop players for the league. They may have had one team of players that played in organized baseballs
minor league system.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian


12:57 PM Jun 23rd
 
MarisFan61
Steven: The main point wasn't about what's your opinion of the Mantle play (nor my opinion of it), but that you used the writer's account of the play as a prime example of his wonderfulness in describing a baseball game -- despite its being factually wrong.
11:23 AM Jun 23rd
 
steve161
Steven, you just had to mention the Mantle play, didn't you? You must have known it would cause the comment section to be polluted by matters peripheral to the subject of the book you're reviewing. You might just as well have mentioned Jeter's defense.

I was in my teens at the time (graduated high school in 1961), and followed the attempt to create the Continental League from afar (the west coast). My impression at the time, at least as I remember it, was that for most of the protagonists the long-term goal was to get absorbed into Major League Baseball, just as it was with the other outlaw leagues of the time (AFL, ABA, WHA). I think I was also aware that the exception was Branch Rickey, and I imagine that his self-image was by this time so puffed up that it never occurred to him that he might fail.

Anyway, thanks for another excellent review. I'm disappointed to learn that Shapiro wastes time and space giving accounts of ballgames, as I've read too many such books lately. What you say about the coherence of the narrative is also discouraging, so I think I'll skip this one.
10:39 AM Jun 23rd
 
Steven Goldleaf
No, Hank, I meant "players" as in the principal people involved, as contrasted with "baseball players," which I mentioned later in the sentence. I was trying to be clever. I failed at that, obviously.

And Maris, I think my position on Mantle's brilliance (on this one play) is "neutral." I don't think it was a brilliant play on his part, and I don't think he made a horrible mistake. I think he was simply screwed, and managed (mainly through his athleticism, and good luck, and Nelson's brain-freeze and lack of athleticism and luck) to unscrew himself.

It's just a bad spot to find oneself in, leading off first base when the batter hits a line drive directly down the line that looks like it may bounce 88 feet from home plate, or 89 feet, or 90 feet, or 91 feet, which the first baseman may be able to catch on the fly or on the short hop. There's no good place to be, and no time to decide if you should head back to first, or hightail it for second. By the time Mantle could figure out which choice to make, Nelson would have the ball in his mitt, either on the fly or on the hop. Mantle was totally screwed, no fault of his. Just a bad spot to be in.

That said, once he did figure out that he would be tagged out unless he could get back to first safely, his only move was to get tagged out as slowly as possible, i.e., get in a rundown to give MacDougald time to get across the plate. He had a very small chance of getting back to first safely. As I've written elsewhere, I put those chances around 50 to 1, which is about how often any runner trapped off a base makes it back safely past a fielder holding the ball securely in his mitt. Kudos to Mantle for accomplishing that, but it's not the right play to make there, taking a 50-to-1 shot, and losing the Series the majority of the time.
4:28 AM Jun 23rd
 
MarisFan61
Probably no surprise to you to see a thing from me about "that play" in 1960 Game 7, and not much surprise to see me saying that it stopped me in my tracks.
But probably a surprise to you that I can say that it shows you're mistaken in how you view the quality of this author's "detailed narrative" and how "chock-full (spelling corrected) :-) of facts" it is.

Of course (as you know) I disagree with his whole subjective take on the play.
But never mind about that.
Let's talk facts. :-)
I'll leave an opinion or two for after that.

The writer says:
Mantle knew.... that he made a dreadful mistake. He had drifted too far off the bag, and now stood in limbo as he faced Nelson...

That is sheer nonsense, demonstrably sheer.
I'm surprised you let it slip past you. :-)


I assume that all of y'all have played some ball.
Or at least seen a game or two where there was a runner at 1st base. :-) :-)

Right?
OK.

You're on 1st base. The next batter is up.
Where do you stand?

You take a lead.
Everybody still with me?
OK.

The ball is hit.
What is your first move?

That's right -- very good, class. :-)
You make at least a slight move toward 2nd base, however slight.

If the ball is hit sharply toward an infielder and if it seems possibly to be in the air, especially if it's toward the first baseman, you stop, as soon as you can. and get ready to return to the bag.
If you're alert and if you have great reflexes, you do it quite immediately.

THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT MICK DID.
We now have the benefit of the film to see that.

Actually there is now controversy about whether Mick should have stayed close to the bag, but that writer thinks he should have, and that's what were talking about right now.

Mantle was pretty close to the bag to begin with, he stopped immediately, very briefly judged the situation and dove accordingly, and successfully (which, granted, involved luck too, but, he very briefly judged it and dove accordingly).

There was no semblance of "drifting too far off the bag." I will resist saying the bs word and just say, it is false.
He didn't drift, and he was never far off the bag, because he stopped quite immediately.

This wasn't a criminal error on the writer's part.
The amazing thing is just that he's being lauded as such a great describer of a baseball game.

The above is facts. :-)
Now for an opinion or two.


Even if you want to give the above stuff by the writer the benefit of the doubt (of which there's none) and accept what he said, there's a huge irony about it:

The main criticism of Mick's play, such as there is, including by Steven in previous stuff (as I remember -- I apologize if that's wrong), is that Mantle should have gone toward 2nd base and gotten into a rundown.
Mind you, I don't agree with that, but it's the main criticism of what Mick did, including by Steven.

So, now this writer's rendition of that play is singled out by Steven in that regard, despite it saying that Mick "drifted too far off the bag."
The main criticism of Mick on the play, including by Steven (as I remember), is that Mick should have gone further from the bag.

But whatever might be said regarding this seeming paradox :-) :-) (understatement there) .....y'all are still stuck with it being false that there was any drifting too far off the bag.
Given the situation of a runner being on 1st base, taking a lead, and a ball being hit, it would hardly be possible to be closer to the bag than Mick was.


I've found it somewhat annoying in general that Mantle has been getting some amount of criticism for what I have considered (and still consider) the most impressive thing he ever did, and one of the most astonishingly brilliant plays in history.
But this is a new one: a writer saying Mick "drifted too far off the bag" when that is clearly false, and his account of this play being singled out as a prime example of how great is his ability to relate a game.

I gather that his game accounts are interesting and entertaining, or else Steven wouldn't have been so grabbed by his apparent ability with them.
But to me, a mistake like that has "signature significance" showing that his observations aren't that good, and that he's not particularly better than the next guy at giving a picture of what happened in a game.

Thank you very much. :-)

-------------------------

That said, I remember well about the Continental League (among other things SPORT Magazine had at least 2 big pieces on it), and I'd be interested in a good account of the surrounding history.
1:03 AM Jun 23rd
 
hankgillette
β€œIn order to tell the wheeling-dealing section of the narrative, he must give extensive background on the players, which is fresher ground than giving the well-trodden backgrounds on the baseball players.”

I believe you meant to say β€œIn order to tell the wheeling-dealing section of the narrative, he must give extensive background on the owners”, since that it what you proceed to talk about.
9:30 PM Jun 22nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
No, YOU doora welty!

That's the price you gotta pay for putting an American Lit writer on staff, what can I say.
8:47 PM Jun 22nd
 
shthar
Prerty sure this is the first mention of Eudora Welty on this site.
4:06 PM Jun 22nd
 
 
©2020 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy