- Baseball's Dynasties and the Players Who Built Them by Jonathan Weeks
In Baseball's Dynasties and the Players Who Built Them, Society for American Baseball Research (SABr) member, author, and baseball enthusiast Jonathan Weeks provides a [End Page 141] detailed yet approachable look at some of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball's (mlb) history. The author begins by establishing his definition of a "dynasty." According to Weeks a franchise achieves the level of a dynasty if (1) it makes frequent postseason appearances over a short time span, including winning multiple pennants and at least one World Series; (2) it has Hall of Fame–caliber players; and (3) it has a relatively stable roster over the same period. Using this definition as a baseline, he selects twenty-two teams that meet his requirements for a dynasty and devotes a chapter to each, beginning with the National League's Baltimore Orioles (1894–97) and ending with the New York Yankees (1996–2000). Each chapter conforms to a set three-part structure that provides some historical context of professional baseball at the time and introduces the team, its owners, manager, and players; profiles the best players on the team; and gives a "Fast Fact." Weeks includes an "Honorable Mentions" chapter at the end that briefly profiles eight additional teams, including the Boston Red Sox (2004–7) and the San Francisco Giants (2010–14), and their star players. While each chapter tells a different story, a few features seem to be shared by these dynasties and are fundamental to winning baseball: supportive ownership, competent managers, and elite pitching, hitting, and fielding.
This work is not without its faults. Most academics would demand greater periodization and a more substantial discussion of the place of race in MLB history. For example, the book could, and perhaps should, be divided into "preintegration" and "postintegration" units. Attention should be given to the "dynasties" and great players of the Negro Leagues. Perhaps the most obvious example would be the Homestead Grays. The Grays collected nine Negro National League pennants from 1939 to 1948, won three out of five Negro League World Series appearances, and had a roster that included future hall of famers James "Cool Papa" Bell, Josh Gibson, and Buck Leonard. Excluding them from professional baseball's popular history is an oversight that needs to be corrected. Other subsections such as the "Dead-ball Era" or the emergence of free agency in the 1970s would add greater awareness to the variables addressed in building these dynasties as the game and MLB changed over time. The lack of footnotes or endnotes also limits its utility as a reference book. Despite these shortcomings, Baseball's Dynasties and the Players Who Built Them is well researched, packed with interesting stories, and written in highly accessible prose. Ultimately, it would be best suited for MLB fans or a general audience.