Baseball Books On
Goose is Loose
Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review
A sure sign of spring is the surge onto the scene of all
kinds of books whose theme is baseball. There are biographical, reference,
autobiographical, statistical, encyclopedic and historical efforts. In
short, there is something for all kinds of baseball tastes.
A couple of the more interesting and contrasting ones
are "The Goose Is Loose" by Richard "Goose" Gossage
with Russ Pate (Ballantine Books, $25.00, 342pp.) and "More Than
Merkle" by David W. Anderson (University of Nebraska Press, $29.95,
"The Goose Is Loose" is a loosely organized
look at Gossage's 22-year-career in the majors with nine major league
teams. A nine-time All-Star, the "Goose" saved 310 games and
ranks as one of baseball's great relief pitchers.
There are high points (and low points) in this book just
as there were in the long career Gossage had in the big leagues.
Gossage’s book stays 75 to 80 pages too long. Less would have been more;
shorter would have given the reader a break.
The book's best moments are anecdotes that linger a
while and flush out Gossage's forays and encounters with such as Nolan
Ryan, Mickey Mantle, Dick Allen, etc. The book's worst moments are its
attempts to give Gossage a voice: "High hopes raised by the Padres’
banner season in 1984 subsequently wilted like crops during a summer
drought. Dreams of a world championship went unfulfilled ...." Not
only is this not a former major league relief pitcher talking, it is
superfluous information. And this pattern appears and re-appears
For those who want some inside baseball information and
for those who are fans of Gossage, this book - billed as his autobiography
- will help in passing the hours away semi-painlessly.
One would not think that a book focused on one long ago
season (1908) would be a page-turner, but "More Than Merkle"
is just that. Very well researched and carefully crafted, it is a look at
what the author David W. Anderson calls "A History of the Best and
Most Exciting Baseball Season in Human History". Anderson (or the
person who came up with the book's sub-title) does engage in a bit of
hype, but 1908 was a great year for baseball.
Three National League teams finished within a half game
of each other and the result was a made-up game to decide the N.L.
pennant. Christy Mathewson (37-11) of the Giants came up a bit short
against the Cubs’ Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown, who had the
comfort of pitching with the support of the famed double-play combination
of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. It was the culmination of the Giants’ Fred
Merkle and his "bonehead play".
That 1908 season, incidentally, baseball's anthem
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" made its debut. Ironically,
neither the composer nor the lyricist for the song had ever been to a
baseball game prior to writing what would become a standard.
Book Ends: From Sports Publishing, Inc - two over-sized
books of specialized interest - "Clemson Where the Tigers Play"
($29.95, 297pp.) and "Syracuse Basketball" edited by Bob Snyder
($29.95, 157pp). Both books celebrate and document these two excellent
sports programs in words, pictures and statistics.
# # #
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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.
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