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NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 12.2 (2004) 153-155
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Dean A. Sullivan, ed. Late Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball 1945-1972. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. 299 pp.17 photographs. Paper, $29.95.
Dean Sullivan's latest collection of historical documents covers the era 1945 to 1972. Beginning with the search for the successor of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and ending with the Supreme Court's decision against Curt Flood, Sullivan compiles an impressive array of documents that give meaning to this era of diverse baseball turning points.
The bumbling attempts of the owners to control the commissioner, their ballplayers, or indeed, themselves, during the third quadrant of the past century allows one to better understand their failures of the past twenty-five years. The documents follow the shifting movement of Major League franchises, the structural changes in the Minor Leagues, labor unrest and the gradual emergence of the players union, the attempts to modernize the game, and a selection of important on-field events.
The readings offer important insights into the various baseball commissioners of the era, from the appointment of A. B. "Happy" Chandler to Ford Frick to Bowie Kuhn to the inept General Eckert. From the Branch Rickey papers that are lodged in the Library of Congress, we learn about how Chandler was chosen—the owners were interested only in a candidate who could be trusted and went through a convoluted process of eliminating those (that is most) that could not.
The emergence of Marvin Miller and the players union as a force is particularly interesting, especially considering the almost simultaneous appointment of General "Spike" Eckert as commissioner. Eckert versus Miller makes about as much sense as you, dear reader, jumping into the batter's box against Sandy Koufax. Eckert, a three-star desk general, knew almost nothing about [End Page 153] baseball and, according to Sullivan, was hired in an effort "to lower the expectations of the owners of their new leader," but alas poor "Spike" failed to meet "even these standards of performance."
The duplicity involved in the moving of the National League teams out of New York to the West Coast is particularly interesting. Walter O'Malley purchased the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles franchise all the while claiming that he had no intention of moving the beloved Brooklyn team west, and he publicly stated that he intended to build a new stadium in Brooklyn. An interesting follow-up to the Dodgers move to the West Coast is the document discussing the narrow approval by Los Angeles voters affirming the building of a stadium in Chavez Ravine.
Of nearly 120 documents to choose from, here are 4 notable ones:
2. The Ted Williams spitting incident when he directed his salvia at the media and the fans and was fined $5,000.
3. The Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale bold collective holdout, which offered the idea to players that if they bargained together their chances of a favorable contract would be considerably improved.
4. The firing of two American League umpires—Al Salerno and Bill Valentine—for attempting to form an umpire's union.
Although the vast majority of articles are about well-known baseball episodes, there are some particular nuggets that many devotees of the game may not be aware of. For instance, Sullivan includes a brief piece from the African American newspaper theChicago Defender stating that Jackie Robinson's integrated 1953 barnstorming team was prohibited by the notorious (but then unknown) Eugene "Bull" O'Connor in Birmingham, Alabama. Another is Cliff Kachline's article inThe Sporting News about the Official Playing Rules Committee's voting down a proposal to reinstate the spitball. Still another is the design flaw in the Houston Astrodome. The clear glass roof produced such...