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Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville

Dr. Harvey Frommer on Sports

Sports Book Review

The late Stephen Jay Gould was a popular science essay writer and a paleontologist. He was also a big time baseball fan, an informed and lifelong follower of the New York Yankees. In "Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville" (Norton, $24.95, 342 pages), the winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, writes insightfully and eloquently about the national pastime.

It was Gould's friend Stephen King who encouraged this very worthy effort. We are fortunate to have it. All kinds of moving, interesting and sometimes arcane subject matter abound. Gould offers up an essay and an argument on deaf outfielder William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy (lifetime .288 average)who he believed belongs in the Hall of Fame. There is also a piece on Dusty Rhodes, a utility outfielder par excellence with the old New York Giants fans. He was the hero of the 1954 World Series. "Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville" is a keeper.

"Jack Buck Forever A Winner" (SportspublishingLLC, $24.95, 144 pages), is a loving tribute to the Hall of Fame broadcaster who was on the scene for five decades as the Voice of the St. Louis Cardinals . The book is especially recommended for Redbird fans. It has perceptions and reflections from such as Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, comedian Jonathan Winters and a special intro by cardinal manager Tony LaRussa. It is beautifully produced with color and black and white photos throughout, and over-sized.

"More Tales From the Cubs Dugout" by Bob Logan (SportspublishingLLC, $19.95, 215 pages)  the author became a beat writer for the Cubs way back when Leo Durocher was manager so he knows the territory and this book is a home run for fans of the little Bruins and baseball fans everywhere - tasty tidbits and longer essays on all things Cubs to enjoy and savor.

"This Ain't Brain Surgery" by Larry Dierker (Simon and Schuster, $25.00, 289 pages) is a highly opinionated look at the national pastime from one who knows the game.  Dierker has been with the Houston Astros in one capacity or another for nearly his entire adult life. He was 18 years old when he made his major league pitching debut on his 18th birthday in 1964. The title of the book comes from the brain seizure he suffered in 1999 and the resulting brain surgery and his quip: "This is brain surgery."

There is much to like in this folksy, reader friendly rambler of a book. But Yogi Berra, Dierker is not. But he does cover the bases on such topics as pitching, managing, broadcasting. Steroids, the business of baseball, umpires. 

What this book could have used was more careful editing, more loving attention.  There are clichés, redundancies, flat characters, blurred focus. Dierker spent so many years on the major league scene, a more aggressive editor would have pushed for all the stories the engaging Texan has within him.

"Baseball's Greatest Season" by Reed Browning (University of Massachusetts Press, $26.95, 232 pages) is an appealing and very interesting book on the 1924 baseball season by a professor of history at Kenyon College. Browning  alternated his  narrative chapters with others focused on players, business dealings, and other sidelights.  No season in the history of baseball has matched 1924 for escalating excitement and emotional investment by fans. It began with observers expecting yet another World Series between the Yankees and the Giants. It ended months later when the hapless Washington Nationals (Senators), making their first Series appearance, grabbed the world championship by scoring the season-ending run on an improbable play in the bottom of the twelfth inning.


Harvey Frommer is the author of 33 sports books, including "The New York Yankee Encyclopedia, "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "Growing Up Baseball" with Frederic J. Frommer and "Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Line." His "A Yankee Century: A Celebration of the First Hundred Years of Baseball's Greatest Team" will be published in paperback in October. 

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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