Tag Archives: Curt Flood

Summer of ’68

Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball – and America – Forever by Tim Wendel (Da Capo, $25.00, 288 pages)

“…in 1968, we of the pitching profession came as close to perfect as we’ve ever come in modern times.”   Bob Gibson

There’s a reason the phrase “inside baseball” has come to be used.   And the phrase represents the problems with trying to determine who will want to read the rather awkwardly titled Summer of ’68: The Season that Changed Baseball – and America – Forever by Tim Wendel.   If you’re a baseball fanatic, you probably already know about every detail, every fact in this account of the 1968 World Series.   If you’re not, you won’t be able to relate to the names that pop up on every page – many of the details seem to pile on without context.

And then there’s the problem with the sub-title.   Yes, there were assassinations and riots that year that horribly marred the country’s history, but this reader felt that Wendel never adequately made the connection between the socio-political events and the sport covered here.   The story of Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals will spark an interest for some – but, again, if you’re not already a deep-in-the-weeds baseball fan, this retelling will not mean much.

Wendel also tries a bit too hard to make the case that Bob Gibson may have been the best pitcher ever – a case that won’t convince fans of Sandy Koufax and others.   Summer of ’68 is sometimes interesting, but more often it’s just passable reading.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Centerfield: A Review of Under the March Sun – The Story of Spring Training

March SunUnder the March Sun starts off well, before the author trips over his biases.   The first six chapters of what is basically a twenty-chapter book (prologue, eighteen chapters, and epilogue) provide a fine history of the creation of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) spring training camps.   The overview is at its strongest when detailing the efforts of a select few to integrate spring training in the southern, formerly Confederate, states.   Jackie Robinson is certainly given recognition for his role as a trailblazer, with a nod also being given to Curt Flood, among others.

In the first few chapters, the author appears to be fairly impartial, which leads the reader to trust the factuality of his reporting.   Sadly, the impartiality is lost in Chapter Seven entitled, “Red Sox Nation Flies South.”   Here, the author regales us with facts large and small concerning the greatness of Boston Red Sox fans.   He makes statements like this, “Citizens of Red Sox Nation give as freely of their purses as they do of their hearts…  There is little they won’t do for their team.”

Fountain also writes about improvements to Fenway Par, located in Boston rather than in Fort Meyers, begging the question of what exactly this has to do with spring training?   This out-of-place tribute to one team’s fans remains confusing until the reader notes on the book jacket that the author lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts – and then the bias becomes clear.   It would have been honest for the author to admit his strong bias in favor of a single team and its fan base in the otherwise unnecessary prologue but it didn’t happen.

The bottom line is, you are absolutely likely to love this book if you’re one of those fans who, in the author’s words, “wear some form of Red Sox cap…  bearing the distinctive red Boston B.”   If you happen to be a fan of the Giants, the A’s, the Dodgers or any MLB team not based in Boston, this book is unlikely to become an essential addition to your library.

By Charles Fountain, Oxford, $24.95, 271 pages.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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