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Baseball Books On Parade
The Goose is Loose 

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge          

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, 285pp).

"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 throughout.

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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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 .
 

Other Frommer sports related articles can be found at:   

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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