- The Games That Changed Baseball: Milestones in Major League History by John Robertson and Andy Saunders
A plethora of books have been written about professional baseball, many of which focus on high-profile games, dramatic moments, or famous teams. However, there is a dearth of books focusing on the major league games that have shaped the sport as we know it today. Robertson and Saunders fill that void as they chronicle what they describe as "[t]he 43 most historically significant MLB games" (3). The games are presented in chronological order, starting with the Boston Red Caps facing the Philadelphia Athletics (April 22, 1876). Completing the book is the April 29, 2015, contest pitting the Chicago White Sox against the Baltimore Orioles. The true baseball scholar may recall that the Red Caps/Athletics game was the first National League game, but there are few able to recollect from memory that the White Sox/Orioles contest was the first major league game played without a paid attendance.
Robertson and Saunders diffuse the initial reaction by the reader to debate what games should be included. In fact, their well-written preface provides an abundance of reasons to begin to trust their decisions. They make it clear that the games contained in the book are their opinions. Based on the level of research and detail provided in each of the forty-three games, they very well may be correct that these are the most significant. Presenting the selected games in order of date eliminates the argument as to what game is the most important and allows the reader to enjoy reading the well-detailed analysis.
The authors have provided information that makes reading and understanding the games fulfilling. At the beginning of each game, they list the date, site, teams, significance of the game, and the impact the game had on baseball.
While each of the forty-three games provides valuable information, Robertson and Saunders artfully construct details that allow readers to "see" the game as if they were actually at the ballpark. For example, few outside the Detroit area will remember it was Jim Joyce who blew a call at first base costing Detroit's Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Those who do recall the game may only remember the incorrect call. However, the authors vividly detail the sequence of events that led to the call and the emotions that Joyce had as he asked to meet with Galarraga after the game, as well as the relationship Galarraga and Joyce have had since that fateful day in 2010. The result of the blown call by Joyce increased the outcry to assist Major League Baseball umpires in making sure the correct call was made. While other authors may stop their analysis of the game at that point, Robertson and Saunders cleverly include details such as Jim Joyce immediately taking responsibility for his mistake and the emotions that followed.
At the conclusion of the forty-three games, the authors provide a list of eighteen additional games that were considered but not included in the final publication. While many could argue that the first night game at Wrigley Field or Ten-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland should have been included, that is exactly the point of this book—to get the reader to explore the historical impact of various Major League Baseball games. [End Page 131]
A minor criticism would be the photograph used on the front cover. No question Jackie Robinson joining the Dodgers is historical; however, it gives the impression that all the games featured in the book will be games most baseball scholars as well as casual fans already understand. A photo of Jim Joyce making the incorrect call or a game less familiar might entice the reader to investigate the methods used to determine what games were ultimately included.
The Games That Changed Baseball is a reference that every scholar who studies sport history should read. Craftily assembled so the reader can read cover to cover or...