Well you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well there's a reason for the things that I have on
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Livin' in the hopeless hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he's a victim of the times
"Man in Black"
HIS BRILLIANT CAREER
Pete Rose was one glorious jerk. The way he used to run to first on a walk or dive headfirst into a base, all while wearing that look of ugly determination forced baseball fans to have strong opinions of him. Think about it for a moment: most of us in the 1970s didn't harbor such passions for Joe Morgan or Al Kaline. Jerks like Rose and Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson were confrontational, both on the field and to those in the stands. Instinctively, you come up with ideas about their character. Problem is, of course, that you're really imparting your own feelings into them: tough, hard-nosed, blue collar guys who didn't take crap from anyone appreciated the fact that Rose was a tough, hard-nosed, blue collar type of guy, who didn't take crap from anyone. Since he didn't appear to be one who cheated or was lazy in any way, those of us who appreciate bull-headed tenacity loved him. Some intellectual-types thought he was an asshole, the kind of guy who, after a game, was mean and self-centered, didn't have much to talk about except baseball, and probably couldn't articulate, with any smarts, the strategies of the game. No one really knows the man at all. But really, if you're honest, wouldn't you want Pete Rose on their team?
Since Baseball Prospectus broke the news last month that Rose is going to be reinstated (news that has cooled off considerably and that, at this writing, has yet to see fruition or confirmation), the question remains: should Rose be reinstated? Not an easy question. What makes this issue even more confusing is that fan and pundit alike allow their personal like or dislike of Rose to interfere with their reasoning.
Even Bill James, in his fabulous Historical Baseball Abstract, is not immune. Initially, he argues that, in regards to Pete Rose's innocence or guilt "1) I don't know, and 2) You don't know, either". This is absolutely true. But then James goes on to write why Pete Rose is innocent and should be reinstated, undermining his own argument.
The rules of baseball sayeth:
"Rule 21 MISCONDUCT
(d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.
Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."
As of this writing, those rules haven't changed. Most of us understand the reason behind this: gambling on baseball calls into question the purity of the sport. If you bet on games, you could have influence other than what is required by the rules and your loyalty to the team. If Pete Rose broke this rule, then he should face the consequences as spelled out in the rule itself, right?
No, some say, that is wrong. They argue that the rule needs to be more complex, that there should be degrees in which a person is guilty. This is the first wrong-turn that the arguments begin to take: that if Pete Rose did bet on his teamand we're not saying he did! (so the argument goes)well, then, he bet on his team to win! Bob Costas argues this in Fair Ball, suggesting that Rose should be banned from baseball but allowed in the Hall. This is absurd. First, Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame are inseparable. Maybe the Hall should go only on merit, and not on whether or not a person is in the good graces of MLB. But that's a different argument. For now, and probably forever, the Hall will keep its doors shut to whoever sits in baseball's purgatory.
But more troublesome is the notion that this rule should have degrees. Even James, normally a sound thinker, came up with a "hierarchy of grief" on this subject, a table which helps us to understand the differing ways in which gambling hurts baseball and the fans. At the bottom of the James Hierarchy is simply associating with gamblers, while at the top is fixing a championship (fixing a regular season game is two steps lower).
The problem with suggesting we have degrees is that it confuses the issue. Using James' "hierarchy", consorting with a known gambler is bad. So what? Unless a player bets on the sport, it should be of no concern who a player consorts with. Simple association with a person is no sign of guilt (a fact that, historian Albert Kilchesty points out, didn't help out Leo Durocher in 1947 either). But even worse is this notion that it is less of a crime if you bet a small amount of money on baseball, or if you fixed a game, or if you fixed a championship. True, fixing a championship is the worst of all these. But this is not like murder, where if you kill someone in cold blood or accidentally shoot them while cleaning your revolver there are differing sentences (if any at all). There are no accidents here: you can't accidentally wager on a team, and you don't have to bet on baseball to protect yourself. Preventing any form of gambling keeps baseball pure. If you're involved in baseball and you bet on a game, you're banned for one year, which to us seems fair and serves as notice to keep your nose cleanpreventative medicine. But if you bet on a game in which you had participated in, you're playing or managing or calling a game for reasons other than the game itself. And that is a crime against baseball. It's crime against the fans. Giving this rule differing degrees undermines it, and makes it that much more difficult to prove the crime itself. There's no reason for that.
The arguments about Pete Rose vary, because the evidence is varied. If he violated the first part of broke rule 21(d), a one-year ban would suffice; he can be reinstated, become a manager, get into the Hall of Fame, and eat hot dogs in the bleachers at the Great American Ballpark. If he broke the second part, he should be banned for eternity.
Neither of these has been proven. At all.
And therein lies the problem. The Pete Rose issue will never go away until it has been proven that he gambled or did not. The only way to settle this, in the manner that this country settles anything, is to do so in a court of law. With all the evidence Major League Baseball has accumulated, if they believe that Pete Rose violated the second part of rule 21(d), they should ban him from baseball for life. Like all employers, they have that right.
With that, Pete Rose, with the aid of the Union (and their deep pockets and tenacious lawyers), should sue the bastards. He should demand that baseball prove that he violated that rule, before a jury of his peers. If he loses, he's out. If he wins, he's back. And if Rose, after examining the evidence and conferring with lawyers, believes that he doesn't have a chance to win, he can keep quiet or grumble about a conspiracy. Like all employees, he has that right.
True, this will never completely settle the debate, for as we all know, trials often fall short of the mark. But they are how we settle things in this country. Think about it: we argue more about Pete Rose than O. J. Simpson, simply because the Simpson trial is over, and there's no way on earth to reopen it. But what was supposed to be a final decision on Rose, years ago, has never gone away, in part because there are all sorts of options still open for Pete Rose.
Oddly enough, Rose's failure to sue, but to whine about the fact that he's being given the shaft, has confused the issue. And MLB, if they really believe he bet on his own team, should stand strong and refuse to budge at this time. But both sides waffled, and are waffling to this day.
Passions run high on this subject, which is part and parcel of baseball's charm. No one in football ever engages in such bickering. Baseball fans love to argue, and we have a lot to argue about. On this subject alone, there is the Dowd Report with pages and pages and pages of damning evidence. We can all download it, can read Bill James defense of Rose, can read Prosepectus' Derek Zumstag argue that James is full of hooey, and make our own decisions. We can chew over whether or not Rose should be out of baseball, fume over whether he should be allowed in the Hall of Fame, or curse him (along with Dale Petroskey) and suggest that he be hung by his thumbs from the top of the flagpole at Cooperstown (which we would pay to see). Ultimately none of that matters. James closes his essay arguing that "Pete Rose is innocent unless there is proof that he is guilty", and he's right.
Which brings us to another point:
Joe Jackson. Curiously enough, Bill James, one of Rose's defenders, is adamant about keeping Jackson out of baseball, which, of course, means the Hall of Fame. While he argues that Rose is innocent until proven guilty', Shoeless Joe was found innocent, in a court of law. "Jackson may have lied under oath," James argued in his original Historical Abstract (emphasis on may' is ours). James believes that the gamblers stole written confessions, undermining the trial. He finds that the arguments defending Jackson are neither convincing or ennobling'. But what does ennobling have to do with anything? The Hall of Fame has never been about nobility. Bill James was not on the jury at the Black Sox trial and no one has to prove that Jackson was a man who should be ennobled. Granted, we all have a pretty good idea that Jackson was guilty of what is the worst crime ever perpetrated against baseball. The problem lies in the fact that he was never proven to have committed it. This is what's called a slippery slope: if all it takes is the lords of baseball deciding someone's guilty, anyone can be banned for whatever reason. They could trump up reasons to keep union agitators out, etc. So while James essentially argues "give Pete Rose his day, because I know he'll win" it is not feasible to then say "keep Jackson out because I've seen the evidence and I can make up my own mind." The courts, in Jackson's case, be damned.
Emotions play a large part in these arguments, and James is not immune to them. Neither are weall we know is that Rose (and Jackson before him) was one hell of a ballplayer. In this case, that really doesn't matter. The bottom linewhich is really the bottom line everywhere in Americais that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Because of this, Jackson deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And Pete Rose deserves his day in court. Whether he wants it or not.
After all these years, it is amazing how evocative Ball Four remains. Although written during the swingingand turbulentsixties (and released in 1970), it is just as fresh today as it was over thirty years ago. The thing was nothing more than a diary, but damned if following Jim Bouton around didn't make you feel as if you, too, could've been a ballplayer. Jeez, didn't your old little league coach say you had a decent knuckler? If you'd practiced more, really worked at it like Jim, well, heck, maybe you could have squeaked in there. Hung out in the locker room and screwed around and really lived baseball, in all its bittersweet glory.
But the ability to play deserts even the heartiest of men, something that armchair athletes know little about. Bouton's new book Foul Ball (Bulldog Press, $24.95), chronicling his attempts at saving a run down minor league park, takes us into a new era: the story of the Baseball Man in the September of his years, and what the game means to him.
Foul Ball, like Ball Four before it, is a diary of a season of Bouton's life as a troublemaker. It is the story of his attempt, with pal Chip Elitzer, to save Wahconah Park, a little old wooden stadium that used to house the Pittsfield Mets, a single A affiliate of the New York team (who deserted it for new digs). As is the case in many baseball cities, the city fathers wanted a new, state-of-the-art, taxpayer-funded stadium, while almost everyone else wanted to keep the old place. Bouton and Elitzer rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to walk through a dirty looking-glass and into a Not-so-Wonderland that was both amusing and frustrating to an extreme. They fought roly-poly mayors, what seems like the worst newspaper on earth (with considerable power), General Electric, weird investors, and, at times, some of their own people. We see their families suffer as both Elitzer and Bouton become more and more involved. And, sadly, we get to see their proposal eventually succumb to the insider politics that would give Polanski's "Chinatown" a run for its money.
Foul Ball would work moderately well if it were simply the story of a guy who tries to save a stadium. It is the microcosmic version of the stadium issue we see in many cities in Americain fact, we've written about a Foul Ball story regarding Tiger Stadium. Bouton spends time in meetings of all sorts, rounding up supporters, writing emails, and the book frustratesintentionallyby giving us all the sad details of the fight. Sometimes this gets tedious. And even though Bouton is very good at capturing people, Foul Ball could have used an editor like the late Leonard Schechter, who kept Ball Four sailing right along. Although it's probably unfair to compare this book to his classic, many of the characters in Foul Ball aren't as fascinating. City officials can't compete with the likes of Joe Schultz and Mickey Mantle.
What gives Foul Ball its gravity is Bouton himself. His famous closing to Ball Four could be a preface for this book: "You spend a good deal of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time". It is this love of baseball that fuels the fight for Wahconah Park. And it is this fight that helps renew Bouton, who fell into a void after the death of his daughter, Laurie, four years earlier. Like Ball Four, this isn't a book with a happy ending, this is a book about life, and all its ups and (mostly) downs. Never maudlin, Foul Ball is as much a story of one man's renewal and understanding as it is a fight for a ballpark. The baseball is still gripping Jim Bouton, and it will grip you as well.
STEP RIGHT UP, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIANS!
You know the Dodgers and Angels aren't going anywhere, right? You need something to take your mind off the coming recall, dontcha? Well, why not mosey on over to Saddleback College and check out The Baseball Reliquary's new exhibit, "In Their Own League" (on display from September 15 through October 16). Marvel at a number of curiosities from the permanent collection, including the famous O'Malley tortilla, the Babe Ruth hot dog, and their entire collection of illuminated Shrine of the Eternals plaques. Angels fans can relive some past glory with Larry Goren's photos celebrating last year's World Champion team. In addition, nothing strengthens one's opinion of modern art more than seeing it in person: here you'll be able to swoon or seethe at Reliquary's collection, which includes works by Ben Sakoguchi (pictured), Joseph Cornell (our fave), and many, many, more. A guaranteed time is to be had by all!
AND THE WINNER IS
Congratulations to Jeff Powers-Beck, Cecilia Tan, and Michael Westbay for their winning entries in our "YOU ARE THE COMMISSIONER CONTEST." The entries were legion, and often full of good ideas. Our readers were, for whatever reason, incensed about tattoos and jewelry: we had over a dozen that wanted jewelry banned and tattoos covered. Most wanted steroid testing. We had folks argue that the owners should be removed and the government put in charge; to restore Pete Rose and Joe Jackson; to kick Rose out forever; and, intriguingly, have SABR members be the voters of the Hall of Fame. The DH, interleague play, and wild cards were all issues over which our readers were split. But after all was said and done, we had to go with the most unique, most thought-provoking, entries. We even added a third prize, just for originality.
THE RUNNER UP:
PACIFIC RIM LEAGUE
Note: The rules didn't explicitly state which commissioner to be, so I'll take the role of NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) Commissioner, a role I pretend to have at japanesebaseball.com.
NPB is facing a crisis. A crisis of stagnation. It's felt mostly in the Pacific League whose stars are either crossing the Pacific to play in Major League Baseball, or moving steadily to the more popular Central League. New stadiums, exciting pennant races, and powerful home run hitters have had positive short term effects, yet 35,000 seat stadiums stand with too many empty seats. Fans want something more, some variety. The time has come for inter-league play.
Now, now. I see the five non-Giant Central League owners starting to object. Fear not, I don't plan on removing you from Emperor Watanabe's care. What I would like to do is give the Pacific League inter-league play, but not with the Central League. I'm proposing that the Pacific League join forces with KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) and CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League - Taiwan).
I know, there have been voices raised that if we can't beat 'em (MLB), join 'em. The logistics of becoming an MLB division are just too great. We need something a little closer to home. A flight to either Korea or Taiwan is comparable to taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Fukuoka. This is internationalization without the baggage of jet lag.
With six Pacific League teams, eight teams in KBO, and six in CPBL, by playing each team in these other two leagues just four times apiece, two home, two away, that would make half (plus/minus a few depending on league) of a team's games against an opponent they don't see over 20 times a season (currently 28 times for Pacific League teams). For 48 to 56 games, teams will have to rely on adaptability more than thorough knowledge of their opponents. This will bring more excitement to the game, and to the fans.
Central League owners, there is one thing I need your feedback on. What will become of the Nihon Series? Will it be best to decide a Pacific Rim champion and have the winner of that play you? Or keep tradition and combat with the Pacific League alone? What we decide here could act as an example for a Pacific Rim - North American "real" World Series in the future - something I'd rather see than yet another pro-am all star series/tournament.
I expect a number of problems the first year with things from lost equipment to crowd control. Furthermore, there will be a big gap in skill level between some of the teams. Logistics and skills will all improve with the passage of time, so I don't see these as show stoppers.
The time of internationalization of baseball is upon us. It is still impractical to have inter-league play with MLB in North America. But with cooperation between Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, international professional level baseball can be a reality today."
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
 Tsuneo Watanabe is the current owner of the Yomiuri Giants, "the Yankees of Japan." And he's as outspoken as George Steinbrenner, if not more so. Many people consider Watanabe-owner to be more powerful than the Commissioner himself.
 The Shinkansen is the bullet train, which is the chief means of transportation within Japan for the ball clubs.
WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION
This summer my mom insisted I get a job, so I became commissioner of baseball. It sure beat mowing lawns and delivering newspapers like I did last year, though I'm not sure it was more fun than going to Coney Island and doing nothing all day. Anyway, after several weeks of utter confusion that my secretary assured me was normal, I sat down with the number crunchers down the hall and tried to figure out exactly how much money Major League Baseball takes in. Why? Because I wanted to know, that's why.
Eventually I decided that I didn't care about things like the parking lot money collected by the Florida Marlins, since not every team has parking lots, and I didn't care about concessions, hot dogs, and beerafter all, the major movie studios don't care how much popcorn Loews Theaters sells, they just want a slice of the ticket price. Instead, I insisted on a tally of all the gate receipts, television and radio broadcast revenue, and sponsorships and advertising income from billboards and scoreboards in the stadium. It came to a whole lot of money, let me tell you.
The owners have always believed that the players should play for freeafter all, isn't it every boy's dream to be a major leaguer? Why should they make millions of dollars also? On the other side, the players association has always believed that it should be okay for any owner to completely bankrupt himself and empty his personal fortune to pay their salaries if that is what he wants to do. Some owners, weak or win-crazed as they may be, wanted me to protect them from themselves. "We need a salary cap," they said.
I took that total we had devised, divided it by thirty and said, "Okay, here you go, here's your cap." Then I told the players association it was unreasonable to expect to receive more than 100% of the total revenue of ticket and media sales, and when they saw how much money it was, they quickly agreed to it. After all, it came to far more than the total earnings of the union as it currently stands! Oh, the owners weren't happy about that, not at all. "We can't possibly make any money if we give all that revenue to the players!" they shouted. Well, I pointed out, they wouldn't make a single dollar of it if they didn't have the players, now would they? No, they would not. I told them to sell more popcorn and build more parking lots. Buy more television stations. Sell more hats, more beer, more scorecard magazines. "Most of you already get free rent from the cities, just like me, living in my mom's basement!" I told them. "So quit whining."
Unfortunately, I had to go back to school before the season ended so I won't get to go to the World Series, which is all I really wanted the job for, anyway.
AND YOUR NEXT COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL:
A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR BASEBALL
I read page after page from baseball know-it-alls like Bob Costas, Bill James, and George Will about the "reform of the American pastime" and other grandiloquent nonsense. They want to improve team balance, share television and team revenue, shorten games, reduce commercial delays, schedule playoff games when kids can watch, and so make baseball more "fun" and "family friendly." Excuse me while I put my hands together and make a loud, gassy noise.
Baseball reached its pinnacle of passion more than a century ago, when Mark Twain called it "the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century." Then, baseball was raw, dirty, liquor-soaked, tobacco-stained, bloody, and damned exciting. Then, baseball was sinful and violent, and sometimes played on Sundays, while the puritan ministers wailed and wrung their hands. King Kelly would smack a liner off the pitcher's knee, steal second and deftly puncture the shortstop, steal third and perform an appendectomy on the meddlesome third bagger, and then come sliding home, spikes high. If the nattering umpire called him out, Kelly would silently walk to the dugout, daub his face with a sweaty towel, take a long, sweet swig of Jack Daniels, and quickly return with a bat to kill the bastard. And the crowd roared its manly approval all the while! American League President Ban Johnson, of course, stated publicly that alcohol and "ruffianism" were blights on the American game, but then he oversaw the hard-driving era of Ty Cobb. And Kelly was a pussy compared to Cobb.
To return to its roots, baseball must become more violent and sinful. Bob Watson, Vice President of On-Field Operations for MLB, now must forget the fines, and let the melees begin. Every major league dugout needs to be equipped with metal files, for the men to sharpen their spikes in clear view of the opposition. First base and third base coaches have to be trained to heckle, taunt, and humiliate the opposing pitchers. The pitchers have to throw the high hard one, and watch the batters bite the dust. As Early Wynn put it, when asked if he would throw at his grandmother, "Yeh, if she was crowding the plate!" And get rid of all these tee-totaling, mealy-mouthed managers. Give us John McGraw, Billy Martin, Earl Weaver. Give us Napoleons with spikes. Watson can issue rewards when the men curse, draw blood, and otherwise exhibit their manly fortitude. And rather than second guess the umpires' calls with cameras and the new Ques-Tech system, let them call anything they want. The more outrageous, the better. Just give the men in black hazardous duty pay, and watch the brawls begin.
Let no one talk to us of other expedients: of improving the pacing of games, of sharing revenue and improving competitive balance, of reducing ticket prices and the ubiquitous commercials, and of playing a World Series game in less than four hours. Baseball experts, and commissioners too, have often mentioned these appealing solutions, but they have been utterly ineffectual in implementing them. So, if we can't have brains and common sense, pass the blood and guts. And I didn't say "please."
HE SHOULDA STOOD IN BED
BATTER-UP! CELEBRATING A CENTURY OF MINNESOTA BASEBALL
by Ross Bernstein
Reviewed by Stew Thornley
Ross Bernstein is a young man with many positive qualities. He is extremely personable. He has great ability in the areas of entrepreneurship and promotion. Unfortunately, his skills do not include writing, and this quickly becomes apparent to anyone reading any of his books on Minnesota sports history.
What may not be as apparent is his lack of careful research. Bernsteins's latest book, Batter-Up! Celebrating A Century of Minnesota Basaeball (Nodin Press, $25.95), is so full of factual errors that I cannot recommend it to any segment of any audience, not the casual fan and certainly not anyone who needs to rely on it for accurate information.
This review actually derived from a request from a fellow reviewer for an assessment of the accuracy of Batter-Up! Since I was somewhat familiar with Bernstein's earlier books, I expected to find some, perhaps many, errors. Even so, I was unprepared for how bad it would be. I went through only the first 61 pages of the 160-page book, the sections on the history of baseball in Minnesota, Minneapolis Millers, St. Paul Saints, and Minnesota Twins. I did not do it with a baseball encyclopedia at my side, checking every item and trying to find mistakes. No, I did not have to look that closely. Had I done so, undoubtedly I would have found more. But even by noting only the mistakes I knew to be incorrect in barely 35 percent of his book, I filled nine pages of a legal pad with such notations. By the way, no matter how "sure" I was that a detail in Bernstein's book was incorrect, I did my own fact checking to confirm it as such.
The remaining chapters, which I merely scanned, cover the Northern League, high-school and college baseball, and town ball. Bernstein told me he has more confidence in the accuracy of these sections since he relied, in part, on information found in media guides or received from sports information directors. I will leave it to other researchers and reviewers to verify or refute this assessment.
In his introduction, Bernstein explains that "the epiphany behind Batter-Up! was to celebrate the wonderful heritage of baseball that we, as Minnesotans, so dearly love and respect." I believe he means 'purpose', not 'epiphany', but he is right that many of us love and respect baseball. I certainly do, and while I like Ross Bernstein personally, I deeply love baseball and am bothered when I see it defiled.
As troubled as I am by the quality of the book, I remind myself that neither literary vandalism nor butchering of baseball history is a crime. The proper response, of course, is for someonea reviewer, reporter, or anyone elseto bring the issues to light. That's what this review is about.
Breakdowns in basic editing add to the overall sloppiness of Batter-Up! I'm sure Bernstein knows that the Twins played the St. Louis Cardinals, not the Atlanta Braves, in the 1987 World Series. Yet he fails to catch his statement on page 45 that Kent Hrbek hit a grand slam home run in the sixth game of the 1987 World Series against Atlanta.
It would be understandable if such errors were the exception; unfortunately, they are far too frequent.
Most readers will quickly recognize the mistake regarding Hrbek's grand slam. But will they recognize the many other errors, such as the claim that Hall of Famer Eddie Collins managed the Minneapolis Millers in 1909 (page 15) when it was really Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins? Or that Lefty Grove pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 1930 when it was a different Hall of Famer, Lefty Gomez (page 25)? These are hardly minor mix-ups; they are significant mistakes that signify both a lack of effort and an absence of concern for getting things right.
Bernstein has now completed the circuit on the major sports, already having written similar volumes on hockey, football, and basketball, each coming out one year after the other. Such works require more than a few months of information gathering and fact checking, but if one doesn't bother with the latter, it is possible to churn out these books on an annual basis.
There are certain enjoyable parts of Batter-Up! It is loaded with photos, which may be the main reason for someone to get the book. Although he offers few details of Richard Brookins, Bernstein does tell the story of this apparent African-American playing with Fargo in the Northern League in 1908, nearly 40 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Royals in 1946. (Bernstein also points out that Robinson was the first black in the major leagues in the 20th century, not the first black ever in the majors, nicely avoiding an error made by many others.) There have been a few articles written about Brookins, who had played two seasons in Green Bay before coming to Fargo, but the story has often been ignored, and I appreciate Bernstein bringing it to light.
Bernstein has interviewed many people for the book. Some are listed in the acknowledgements, but it would be nice if they were individually listed in the bibliography. The interviews add a lot, particularly in the sidebars on various Minnesota baseball personalities, which include comments from the interviewees about their peers. Once again, however, as with retrospective articles, Bernstein does not seem to understand nor care enough about the need to check details acquired from these sources.
Bernstein also perpetuates a myth about the Millers' Andy Oyler and a two-foot home run, a story Bernstein admits he got from a 1966 article reprinted in a commemorative booklet issued at the time the Metrodome opened in 1982. He said he assumed anything in such a booklet would be accurate. Even a novice researcher would know better than to make such an assumption.
Bernstein told me he blames the many errors, in part, on "conflicting sources of information," adding that some of the mistakes were a result of information that "must have been recorded wrong in many sources." As noted in the previous paragraphs, it doesn't appear that he checks enough sources to come across many (or even any) that conflict. Beyond that, while conflicting sources are the bane of all historians, any decent researcher can reconcile the conflicts much better than he has.
Often, Bernstein's own accounts are conflicting as, on numerous occasions, he contradicts himself. For example, on page 44, Bernstein says Kent Hrbek's home run, in his major league debut in 1981, was in the 10th inning. On the next page, he says it was in the 12th inning. (The latter is correct.)
On page 53, Bernstein contradicts himself in the same paragraph, first saying that Kirby Puckett signed a new contract with the Twins in 1992 before the season started. A few sentences later, he says the signing occurred December 4. The latter is correct. Puckett signed his new contract after, not before, the 1992 season.
On page 12, he describes the score of the first game between Minneapolis and St. Paul, as 11-0. He gets it correct two pages later, this time identifying the score as 4-0.
On page 22, Bernstein contradicts himself on how Charles Comiskey came to St. Paul. He first says that Comiskey purchased the Western League Sioux City franchise in 1894 and moved it to St. Paul for the following season. (This is essentially correct, although it's not clear if he actually purchased and moved the Sioux City franchise or if he was granted a new franchise in St. Paul after Sioux City was dropped by the Western League.) However, earlier on page 22, Bernstein says that the 1884 St. Paul team, which played in both the Northwestern League and Union Association that season, "was owned by a gentleman named Charles Comiskey."
Overall, his account of Comiskey and his role in St. Paul baseball is horribly bollixed as he does far more than just get a few details wrong. This is almost certainly not the result of conflicting sources, and, even if it is, the errors are ones that could quickly be rectified by checking any baseball encyclopedia.
Bernstein garbles dates and details of Comiskey's transfer of the St. Paul team to Chicago. This move took place after the 1899 season although, on page 23, Bernstein says the move occurred in 1901. He then writes that Comiskey had to build a ballpark on the south side of Chicago to avoid competition with the Cubs, "who played on the North Side at Wrigley Field." The ballpark that eventually became known as Wrigley Field did not open until 1914. Bernstein adds, "But, as usual, Comiskey got the last laugh, erecting a state-of-the-art stadium bearing his name and then winning the AL title that very next year. His White Sox have played there ever since." Wrong, wrong, wrong! The state-of-the-art park that bore Comiskey's name was not built until 1910, and the White Sox have not played there ever since. In 1991, the team moved into a new stadium, which was also known as Comiskey Park until 2003, when it took the name U. S. Cellular Field.
I seriously doubt that any other source says Comiskey Park or Wrigley Field opened as early as 1901 or that the original Comiskey Park is still being used. What is frightening, however, is that a future researcher might use Bernstein's book as a definitive source, just as Bernstein's has used Barton's book, and pass on this type of misinformation. One hopes that no one could be that careless, but Bernstein himself has already proven this notion to be false.
Bernstein commented to me that many of the inaccuracies in his book were ones that few people, such as myself, would be aware of, and that most people wouldn't know to be false. That's the point. The problem is not the readers who will recognize the inaccuracies, but those who won't.
Bernstein complains of "conflicting sources" and bad information, but all his book does is greatly add to the morass of misinformation already out there.
Beyond the inaccuracies is the writing, which includes far more than its share of poor punctuation and strange styles (even the title: since when does the term "batter up" have a hyphen in it?), clichés (especially frequent use of the the phrases "when all is said and done" and "the rest, as they say, is history"), typographical errors (a passed ball is referred to as a "past ball" on page 61, Bill Veeck is spelled "Bill Veek" on page 28, and Tacoma is spelled "Takomah" on page 31), and juvenile prose (he refers to a bases-loaded home run at the Metrodome as "a grand salami at the humpty-dump" on page 8), as well as some sentences that make no sense, such as (on page 6), ". . . while driving in 100-plus RBIs." RBI stands for run batted in. A hitter may drive in a run, but he doesn't drive in a run batted in.
Batter-Up! is not only painful to try to read because of the poor writing, it is difficult because of the small type that, on some pages, runs the entire width of the page. On most, but not all, of the pages, the text is broken into columns, something that is necessary with a book that has a trim size of 9_ x 12. Regardless of whether a page contains one or two columns, on many the text on the inside margins runs right into the gutter of the book, rendering it unreadable.
Regarding the inaccuracies, some are minor, such as saying Harmon Killebrew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 10, 1984 (he was elected in January 1984 but not inducted until that summer), but manysuch as the misidentification of Jimmy Collins and Lefty Gomez, noted earlierare not.
Here is a sampling, but not an exhaustive list, of errors.
Page 10: Bernstein writes, "Since the dawn of time, it has been widely accepted that Major General Abner Doubleday invented the game [of baseball] while he was a cadet stationed at West Point, New York." Where does one begin with this sentence? First, it was not since the dawn of time; it was not even since 1893, the year Doubleday died. It was only since the release of a report in late 1907/early 1908 by a commission formed by sporting goods magnate Albert G. Spalding for the purpose of proving that baseball had originated in the United States, regardless of the facts. And Bernstein even messes up the canard put forward by this commission, which claimed that Doubleday invented the game in Cooperstown, New York, not West Point. While it may indeed be widely accepted that Doubleday invented baseball, it should be pointed out by Bernstein (if he actually knows better) that this is nothing more than a myth.
Page 11: Bernstein writes, "In 1884 professional baseball came to the Gopher State when the Northwestern League, a professional, minor league was formed with teams from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Winona, Duluth, and Stillwater, as well as six other teams from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Duluth Jayhawks won the Northwestern League title that year with a 46-33 record." Duluth did not even have a team in the Northwestern League in 1884. It was in 1886 when Duluth won the Northwestern League championship with a 46-33 record. Also, the 1884 Northwestern League was not formed with a team in Winona. Winona didn't enter the league until August, following the folding of many of the original teams.
Page 12: Bernstein offers a poor and inaccurate description of the Union Association of 1884. He provides the names of eight teams, stating that two dropped out, allowing St. Paul and Milwaukee to take their place. Wilmington, the team that disbanded to make room for St. Paul, is not listed. It's also not noted that there were a total of 12 teams in the league that season, with two other dropouts.
Page 12: Bernstein does not cite a source for his list of "Early Base Ball Rule Adaptations," but at least a few of the items are clearly incorrect and others misleading. One, that fly balls had to be caught on the fly starting in 1858, is incorrect; this did not happen until well into the 1860s. Another, that walks were no longer included as hits in batting average in 1890, is misleading; walks counted as hits only in 1887.
Page 12: Bernstein writes, "The Western League [that started in 1894] was an eight-team circuit which featured clubs from across the Midwest. More importantly, however, was the fact that this was the first semi-pro league that pitted the rival Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints against one another." First, the Western League was a fully professional league, not semi-professional. And I do not have a clue what he means by this being the first opportunity for the Millers and Saints to play one another. Even Bernstein notes their games against one another starting 10 years before.
Pages 13 and 18: In discussing integration, Bernstein says the Millers signed their first black player, Ray Dandridge, in 1949. He ignores Dave Barnhill, who signed with the Millers off the roster of the Negro American League's New York Cubans, at the same time.
Pages 14-15: Bernstein provides a very poor description of early Minneapolis baseball history. He says the new American League formed in 1900. Actually, the existing Western League was renamed the American League in 1900. In 1901, the league took on major league status, although Minneapolis, along with several other cities, was dropped from the league at that time. Bernstein writes, "The next year the Millers left the American League and jumped ship yet again, this time becoming charter members of a new top-flight minor league called the American Association.'" The Millers did not jump ship; they were pushed overboard. And they did not join the American Association "the next year." The Millers were dropped from the American League after the 1900 season. The American Association did not begin until 1902.
Page 15: This section concerns the melees, noted earlier, at Nicollet Park in July 1906 that involved umpire Brick Owens (referred to by Bernstein only as "a rookie umpire"). After the first game of a series against Columbus, Minneapolis fans tried to mob Owens, who had made some close calls against the Millers. Owens was rescued by Pudge Heffelfinger, a local celebrity who had been a football All-American at Yale. The game the next day (for some reason, Bernstein says "the next night," even though all games were played during the day at this time) lasted only one pitch. Owens was pelted with eggs by the fans and declared a forfeit victory for the visiting Columbus Senators. Bernstein says this happened "as the ump was about ready to say Play-Ball,'" not after the first pitch.
In addition, Bernstein has Heffelfinger rescuing Owens after the second game of the series, even though it was after the first game that Heffelfinger stepped in to aid Owens. As Bernstein admitted, his account is based on the inaccurate details presented by Barton in My Lifetime in Sports, not on news accounts written at the time these events occurred. Worse, Bernstein passes along the myth, provided by Barton, of Heffelfinger shouting to the mob, "Friends, you are about to do something that will forever disgrace the good name of Minneapolis . . . " There is no indication in contemporary accounts of such an oration.
The inaccuracies continue as he writes about the aftermath of this ruckus. Bernstein says that, as a result of dwindling attendance, the Millers were sold to Gus Koch "a few years later." The sale actually occurred in August 1906, only a month after the incident with Owens. Koch then sold the team after the 1906 season to Mike Cantillon, although Bernstein says this sale was made after the 1909 season (the one in which he says Eddie, not Jimmy, Collins managed the team).
Although not mentioned in the book, the sale of the Millers to Koch was partly a result of the turmoil following the July 1906 incidents at Nicollet Park. Millers manager/part-owner Mike Kelley was suspended by the American Association after accusing Owens of dishonesty (the second time that season he had, without substantiation, questioned the integrity of umpires).
In his section on the Saints, Bernstein on page 24 writes, "Kelley was pretty aggressive, though, [in developing young players and then selling them], but it caught up to him in 1907 and 1908, when he produced a pair of last-place squads." The Saints did finish last in 1907 and 1908, but Kelley wasn't with the team at all that year. Following his suspension from the American Association, Kelley spent part of the 1907 season in Des Moines and part of the 1908 season in Toronto. Helped by a petition drive by St. Paul fans, he was able to join the Saints as manager in August of 1908, in time to finish last with them. The Saints' last-place finishes were hardly the result of Kelley's aggressive sales, as Bernstein claims, since he hadn't even been with the team the previous years.
There's more. On page 24, Bernstein writes, "In 1913 Mike Kelley sold the club to some local investors and got back with the Millers. As a result, the Saints finished in last place that next season." Kelley did not get back with the Millers until 1924. He left the Saints following the 1912 season to become a part-owner and manager at Indianapolis. The Saints finished in last place two seasons after Kelley left, not the next season. And connecting the last-place finish with the departure of Kelley is ludicrous. In 1913, the Saints, without Kelley, finished fifth, a spot higher than they had the year before with Kelley. By the way, the team that did finish last in 1913 was Indianapolis, managed by Mike Kelley.
On page 16, Bernstein reports another myth that has been disproven, the one of Millers shortstop Andy Oyler, on a rainy day, hitting a ball into the mud in front of home plate at Nicollet Park and then circling the bases with a home run as the other team searched in vain for the ball, which had traveled only two feet. This story has been told before, although no documentation has ever been provided with it. The fact is that Oyler, in his years with the Millers, hit only one home run. It was in an 8-6 loss at Milwaukee on August 2, 1904, and the newspapers made no mention of there being anything special about the home run, something that surely would have been noted had the ball traveled only two feet.
Pages 16 and 24: According to Bernstein, the first World War lasted from 1918 to 1919. On page 16, while writing about the Millers, he says the war ended in 1919. On page 24, in his section on the Saints, he writes, "The 1918 season was canceled due to the onset of World War I." Even the onset of United States involvement in the war was in April 1917, not 1918. Also, the American Association season was not cancelled in 1918. The season was started but shortened due to the war.
Page 17: In 1933, Joe Hauser of the Minneapolis Millers set a professional record by hitting 69 home runs. Bernstein writes, "The pro record stood until 2001, when outfielder Barry Bonds hit 73 for the San Francisco Giants." First, Hauser's professional record had been equaled and later broken in the minor leagues by Bob Crues and Joe Bauman, respectively. If one is talking about a professional record set by a minor league player, then this must be done in the context of all professional baseball, including the minor leagues. Even if this were compared to only the major leagues, the claim is still inaccurate since the total of 69 had already been topped in the major leagues before Bonds hit 73. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals did it with 70 home runs in 1998, a fact well-known even to many non-baseball fans.
Page 20: Bernstein says the Millers were moved to Phoenix in 1957 and were replaced in Minneapolis by a Boston Red Sox farm team. The move occurred after the 1957 season, and the Millers became a Red Sox farm team starting in 1958. Since Bernstein writes nothing about the 1957 season, merely jumping from 1956 to the shifting of the teams, it appears that he is referring to the 1957 season when he writes of the "new" Millers, managed by Gene Mauch. He goes from confusion to outright incorrectness when he then says that Orlando Cepeda played on the Millers "that year," referring to Mauch's first year as manager with Minneapolis. Cepeda played for the Millers under Red Davis in 1957, when the Millers were still a farm team of the Giants. He did not play with the Millers in 1958 under Mauch.
Page 21: Bernstein says Gene Mauch "first met [Fidel] Castro when the two played together in the Cuban winter league in 1951 and knows him personally to this day." Castro's baseball ability has been inflated by various myths; he had only modest skills at the game and did not even play in college, other than in an intramural game. Castro definitely did not play in the Cuban winter league. Mauch did play winter ball in Cuba in the early 1950s, at a time when Castro was a young lawyer and not involved in any way in baseball. The claim that Mauch continues to know Castro personally to this day is remarkable and needs elaboration and documentation. Bernstein confirms that this material from an interview with Mauch. Admittedly, checking a story like this is a little more difficult (but certainly not impossible) than looking up more routine facts claimed by a former player; however, it points out why details of such interviews need to be checked, something Bernstein admits to not having done.
Pages 22-23: In his section on the St. Paul Saints, Bernstein refers to the 1880s State Street Park as "the pillbox." The Pillbox was a separate park on the northern edge of downtown, used by the Saints from 1903 to 1909. It was a significant ballpark, but one that Bernstein does not mention at all, apparently because he confused it with the State Street Park.
Page 22: Bernstein writes, "In 1884, the Saints fielded a team in the Union Association. The team played its games at the old West 7th Street Grounds and was owned by a gentleman named Charles Comiskey. The same year, the Saints jumped to the Northwestern League." In addition to incorrectly identifying Comiskey as the owner, as noted before, Bernstein is incorrect with his assertion that the Saints jumped from the Union Association to the Northwestern League. It was vice versa, and they really didn't jump. The Saints, along with Milwaukee, were among the few surviving teams in the Northwestern League, and they accepted an invitation to play in the Union Association (and the team played all its games in the Union Association on the road, not at the West 7th Street Grounds).
Page 28: As he starts his section on the Twins, Bernstein says the Saints and Millers were "farm-clubs of the New York Giants and Boston Red Sox, respectively." The Millers were a farm club of the Giants (1946 to 1957) and the Red Sox (1958 to 1960), but the Saints were not a farm club of either the Giants or Red Sox (the Saints in their final decades were owned and/or controlled by the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers).
Beyond these items are a number of simpler errors, not such serious mangling of details, which follow.
Page 12: Bernstein says Bobby Marshall died August 27, 1968 at the age of 88. He died August 27, 1958 at the age of 78.
Page 19: Bernstein writes, "By 1955 a stadium debate had erupted in the Twin Cities. Just the year before the National League approved the transfer of the Boston Braves to Milwaukee . . . " The move of the Braves to Milwaukee occurred in 1953, not the year before 1955.
Page 32: Bernstein says Halsey Hall in 1961 "became a member of the original Minnesota Twins broadcast team, along with Herb Carneal and Ray Scott." The original broadcast team was Hall, Scott, and Bob Wolff. Carneal did not join the crew until 1962.
Page 34: Bernstein says Sandy Koufax shut out the Twins in Game Five of the 1965 World Series at Met Stadium. Koufax shut out the Twins in the fifth and seventh games of the series. The seventh game was at Met Stadium, but Game Five, contrary to what Bernstein says, was in Los Angeles.
Page 37: Bernstein says that in 1966 Earl Battey, "after an apparent single, was thrown out at first base from right field by Boston's Lu Clinton." The year and team are wrong on this. The event occurred July 17, 1964 when Clinton was with the Los Angeles Angels. By the way, in 1966, the year Bernstein says this occurred, Clinton was not even with the Red Sox; he played the 1966 season with the New York Yankees.
Page 38: Bernstein says that the AL pitching mounds were lowered and the strike zones narrowed in 1968. These changes did not occur until 1969. Also, the pitching mounds were lowered and strike zones changed throughout the major leagues, not just in the American League.
Page 40: Bernstein says Rod Carew won his fourth batting title in 1973. The title in 1973 was Carew's third (his previous titles to that point were in 1969 and 1972).
Page 43: Bernstein says on June 26, 1977, the Twins destroyed the White Sox, 19-2. They actually destroyed them, 19-12.
Page 43: Bernstein says Larry Hisle signed as a free agent with Boston after the 1977 season. He signed with Milwaukee.
Page 49: Bernstein says Don Baylor hit a three-run homer in Game Six of the 1987 World Series. It was a two-run homer that capped a three-run, fifth-inning rally that tied the game.
Page 50: Bernstein says the Twins had three runners thrown out at home in Game Seven of the 1987 World Series. It was two runners at home and one runner at third.
Page 60: Bernstein says the Angels beat the Yankees in 2002 in the NLDS. He should spell out acronyms, but NLDS refers to National League Division Series. The Yankees and Angels met in the American League Division Series.
Although I had quit reading by this point, I did notice a photograph on page 64 of a player in a Duluth Dukes uniform identified as Red Schoendienst. Red Schoendienst never played for Duluth, nor for any other team in the Northern League. Elmer Schoendienst, the brother of Albert "Red" Schoendienst, did play for Duluth in the Northern League (and was one of the players injured in the July 1948 crash of the Duluth team bus with a truck), but Red Schoendienst, the Hall of Famer, did not. Once again, checking to see that Elmer Schoendienst is not the Hall of Famer nicknamed Red is such a simple thing to check, one is appalled at the failure to do so. It is one more example of the author's systemic failure to perform routine checks, thus rendering it impossible for the reader to trust anything written in the book.
I almost feel as though I'm piling on, even though I'm not listing every mistake I found. If the more straightforward errors listed above were few, it would be nitpicking to make a big deal of them. However, when they are as numerous as this, with many of them being a far more serious butchering of details, it's necessary to provide this many examples as a means of establishing why no one should use this book as a source of information.
I spoke directly to Bernstein about his book before completing this review. As I saw how flawed the book was, I felt it was important to give him a chance to respond. This process was helpful as I was able to learn what some of his sources were and also to confirm some of the things that I had suspected, such as his frequent reliance on retrospective articles or interviews without going back to original sources to check details.
In our conversations, Bernstein claimed that accuracy is important to him. However, his actionsor rather inactions in terms of checking factsbelie the claim. For example, Bernstein admits relying exclusively on a 1953 retrospective article by Don Riley regarding the 1920 Little World Series rather than reading game stories from 1920 newspapers. Had Bernstein taken the time to go through contemporary news accounts, he may have gotten the details correct.
And for his account of the 1906 riot at Nicollet Park, he used only George A. Barton's 1957 book, My Lifetime in Sports, as his source. Barton, a longtime Minneapolis newspaper columnist, provides incorrect details of the melee and includes some ridiculous hyperboleall passed on by Bernstein.
It appears that the author accepts anything he finds or that is told to him without feeling the need to check facts. Any serious researcher knows that stories told by former players, especially when they're recalled many years later, are suspect and that details must be checked. The same is true with retrospective articles written decades after the fact. Bernstein does not seem to know this or, even worse, does not seem to care.
Bernstein, apparently intending this as a defense, told me he doesn't claim for his books to be a "foremost comprehensive source" of information and that he intends for these to be fun books for readers. I don't understand why "fun" and "accurate" must be mutually exclusive.
At least in the interest of fun in his baseball book, he didn't repeat the "gags" in his football and basketball books, showing the picture of a relative with an outrageous caption. His football book shows a player so mean that he "once tore the arms and legs off an opponent," and his basketball book features a caption about a player averaging nearly 100 points a game in 1849 (more than 40 years before the sport was invented). Entries like this provide one more example of why Bernstein cannot be viewed as a serious researcher or historian.
I know people who have purchased this book even though they realize they cannot rely on it for information. Some said they want it for the pictures, others for the lists that appear of things like state amateur championships, even though they are aware they will have to double check the entries. If a person approaches the book in this manner, with the knowledge that one cannot rely on any of the information in it, that's fine. What bothers me is there are many readers who don't know any better.
As such, this book is a disservice to baseball and to Minnesota.
AROUND THE HORN:
Set aside the fact that we would love it if the Twins make it deep into the playoffsor to the Seriesthe best story this year would be if the Oakland As manage to claw their way into the World Series. Doesn't matter who they'd play, (you can fill in the blank with your own human interest team), but this would cap a banner year for the club, and might just make the afterword in the paperback edition of Moneyball worth buying. Then again, it could inflate Mr. B. Beane's ego to terrifying proportions
Twins fans should be breathing a collective sigh of relief over Doug Mientkiewicz's tremendous rebound. As we all know, the guy's respectable: .300, .390, .457 for a decent 847 OPS. That's great. At the end of the season, after the guy tears it up in the postseason (we can dream if we want), he'll look pretty damned good on the chopping block.
It's time to face facts: the Twins could use a few new players to replace the weak-hitting midfield of Guzman and Rivas. They have players who will fit well at first, like Matt LeCroy. A starting pitcher couldn't hurt them. Doug has a brilliant reputation throughout the league as a great defender, and now he's serving notice that he can hit. Good teams with an eye on the future don't bat an eye when it comes time to trade popular players for the right cog to fit in the machine. We don't have any numbers to crunch to prove this, but our dollar gets you ten that next year we'll see another great field/no hit wonder that haunted the team last year
Yes, a Chicago-Chicago World Series would be great
someday. Do we really want these two mediocrities slugging it out in this year's fall classic? And why isn't anyone lamenting the end of the pennant races? Wouldn't Boston's fight with New York have even greater poignancy if the Sox weren't closer to landing the wild card? Say what you will about the rivalry,, but the struggle would be greater if the loser were definitely staying home this October
Tigers fans in America have much to cry about, but in Japan it's all tears of joy. For Osaka's Hanshin Tigers are on the road to the Pacific League pennant. The Tigers play in Koshien Stadiumoft considered the Wrigley Field of Japanto a rabid fan base famous throughout the far east. The Tigers website is cool as a plate of unagi, leading the uninformed through the history of this storied team, playing their weird fight song, and even going into detail about the curse of Colonel Sanders. For a great article on the this year's squad, check out Pico Ayer's story, "Hanshin's Paper Tigers" in Time Asia. And, Japanese Baseball lovers, you can also now get the standings up to date at the Mainichi Daily News. Michael Westbay's Japanesebaseball.com (yes, he is the runner-up in our contest) is also a great source for Nipponese baseball lovers.
"Blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs
" (sung to the tune of Monty Python's "Spam Song.") Probably no writer so perfectly communicates his utter bewilderment with a team than Brad Zellar. Nor do any come up with such winsome titles as "If You Saw What I Think I Saw, You're A Liar". Poor Brad just can't sit back and let the Keystone Kops bumble their way into the postseason. All these bizarre victories do beg the question, however: if the Twins are so talented, and yet appear not to be utilizing said talent, when do we start to wonder if Gardenhire isn't the problem
Thankfully, the hapless Detroit Tigers finally have some blog coverage (Al's Tiger Blog and Tigerblog) to supplement the Freeps meager output (the Detroit News' hamfisted coverage doesn't count)
Kudos to Alex Belth for being one of the few Yankee fans who admits that, well, Yankees fans are assholes. "New Yorkers are not shy about booing until they are blue in the face," he writes. "(or until you give our spoiled, demanding asses something to cheer about)"
This has nothing to do with baseball (well, hardly anything), but blogging has sort of ended the uniqueness of the "American Splendor" comic book, hasn't it? One of the things that made that odd comic so distinctive was that not everyone could make a comic book that was so sharp and with such a wide distribution (and that's the big part). Back in the day, where would you publish this stuff. Pekar had the connections, and he was talented, and there you have it. You read him because he was funny, interesting, and, even better, not like anything else out there. Today, anyone can start a blog. There are literally thousands of Harvey Pekars you can access in seconds, and many with very good writing (though many, many more are very, very bad). Perhaps the autobiographical comic book has gone the way of the radio