The book was published back in 1993, and edited by Mark Alvarez, who was the publications director for the Society for American Baseball Research. (And perhaps he still is.) It’s not about Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, or about anybody else’s perfect game, or even about perfect games at all. And it doesn’t explain or back up the apparent claim that baseball is the perfect game.
Perhaps it’s just considered obvious.
The book is divided into 3 sections: Records and Statistics, Characters, and Looking Back, and it’s basically a mixed bag of baseball stories and statistics, with some of more interest than others. The writers come from a variety of backgrounds — college professors, government economists, newspaper reporters, attorneys, and diplomats – and the essays are short and quick reads. The more statistically oriented pieces here were of less interest to me — and that kind of surprised me, I thought I would enjoy them more. But essays that attempted to provide retrospective awards for Rookie of the Year or the Cy Young awards ended up being kind of dull lists of somewhat familiar names.
The essays about individual players were more enjoyable. They discussed and appreciated such characters as Ty Cobb, Bob Gibson, Dolfe Luque, Eddie Gaedel, Judy Johnson, and Cardinal pitcher Flint Rhem, who claimed he was kidnapped and “forced to drink liquor,” and thus missed a key series in the 1930 pennant drive.
The Looking Back section was my favorite section, though, and I especially enjoyed the piece covering the Boston – NY Giant World Series of 1912.
A lot happened in 1912, including the sinking of the Titanic, the retirement of Cy Young, and the opening of Fenway Park. The Giants played the Red Sox in a series that featured Christy Mathewson, Smokey Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, and general craziness. The series went a total of eight games, as one game ended in a 6-6 tie, called after 11 innings, because of darkness. Game seven at Fenway saw a big ticket mix-up, when a large number of Boston fans, the Royal Rooters, lost their seats (they were sold twice). They stormed the field, knocking down the fences, and had to be removed by mounted police and the fences repaired, and the Red Sox and Smokey Joe Wood went on to lose the game, 11-4, bringing on the decisive 8th game.
A coin toss put the deciding game at Fenway, but angry ticket holders rallied before the game to protest the Red Sox ownership, and many of them boycotted the final game of the Series. There were only 17,000 in the stands for the final game, instead of the usual 30,000. The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the 10th inning, but Boston came back to tie the game, as the Giant’s Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball, and the next batter, Yerkes, drew a walk. Christy Mathewson faced Tris Speaker next, and got him to pop up in foul territory to Merkle, the first baseman. Except that Merkle doesn’t see it and doesn’t catch it. So Speaker gets another chance, (never give Tris Speaker another chance) and he laces a single to right to tie the score at 2, with Yerkes going to third. A fly ball brings Yerkes in to score, and the Red Sox win game 8, 3-2, and the championship, 4 games to 3.
Is baseball the perfect game?
Ray Fitzgerald of the Boston Globe once wrote that baseball is “six minutes of action crammed into two and one-half hours.”
Maybe that’s what makes it the perfect game.
It gives you time – plenty of time – to consider, ponder, and appreciate. It’s those long stretches of time that leads to questions being raised, and then to books like this.
And blogs like this too, I suppose.
So The Perfect Game was an okay read, a bit inconsistent perhaps, but I’m glad I read it and now I’m on to something else.
Thinking about baseball, I suspect that the most recognizable baseball player ever was Babe Ruth. Everyone everywhere knows who he is. The best player of all time, playing for
the New York Yankees in the roaring 20s. That must have been an interesting life.
So I’ve picked up a copy of Babe – the Legend Comes to Life, by Robert W. Creamer, at one of my local used book stores last weekend, and I’m about three chapters into it.
More on that tomorrow. Or soon.