The Betrayal: How the 1919 Black Sox Scandal Changed Baseball

The Betrayal

Baseball. History. Scandal. Crime. Chicago. That’s like Christmas, my birthday, and everything good wrapped into one for me and just in time to watch my team duke it out with the Royals in the World Series.

Charles Fountain takes a big swing at separating the fact from gossip, what little can be known for sure and what has passed into legend, and while I don’t think that anyone is ever going to be able to put this game to bed, he makes a great slide into home.

Too many baseball metaphors? I’ve got more….many, many more.

Rumors were rampant that the fix was in even before Eddie Cicotte took the mound in 1919 for the White Sox against the Cincinnati Reds. However, the bigwigs of organized baseball didn’t want to hear it, it would have made America’s Pastime look bad to even check out the rumors. Journalists talked about it amongst themselves, but their editors squashed any actual mention of the idea in print, too controversial and this is baseball, it was too clean and fix something as big as the Series? That’s not possible.

What made it even harder to figure is that the boys played well, really well. They just lost. There were very few questionable plays and the bats were still active, balls were caught, runners were thrown out, etc.

It all fell apart a year later and just got more complicated from there with a myriad of complicated motivations to keep it hidden, get the truth out there, personal squabbles, ambitious lawyers, bitter players and the list is honestly endless, everyone had an oar in. Very few people walked away looking pure as snow, but this is baseball and America…we always bounce back.

You’re going to want to be a baseball fan if you pick up The Betrayal. It isn’t a book for everyone, more a book for every fan.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, the World Series is on and I’ve made some bets.

The Betrayal: How the 1919 Black Sox Scandal Changed Baseball by Charles Fountain

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199795134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199795130

 

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Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

 

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“During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day.”

I was born in 1971. So there were 2,500 bombings happening while I was, um, doing whatever it is that babies do. That number shocked me. It’s easy to fall back into thinking that terror in the U.S. started in the last say, twenty years; we’re wrong. The massive difference, that is important to point out, is that most of those bombings in the 70’s had few injuries and even fewer fatalities.

Being in diapers and learning my ABC’s, “the Underground” wasn’t on my radar as a kid and while I’ve heard the name Weather over the years, I certainly had no idea what they stood for or just what their point was before reading this. Burrough’s book gave me a better understanding of the period…and it wasn’t just about protesting the Vietnam War. In fact, it usually wasn’t about the war much at all. That was the big takeaway. I look back and figured that everyone was busy bitching about the war, but there was a lot more going on, like civil rights, Puerto Rican independence, and more.

Days of Rage is well written and breaks up the various underground groups well, really well considering some of these groups were overlapping or active during the same time periods. However, it is far from a flattering portrait and I’m pretty sure that that isn’t Burrough’s fault. The various underground groups were a ragtag bunch; some idealistic, some angry, some drug-addled, etc. It’s hard to fathom this period in our great history where things  were so freaking bad that groups of people thought they had to start bombing and planning to kill people just to get their point across. (with the exception of the obvious mainstream things like the Revolution or the Civil War)

The book was interesting and well done…the subject, or really that should be plural, was just lousy. Burrough’s says it well here…

“In the end, the untold story of the underground era, stretching from 1970 to 1985, is one of misplaced idealism, naiveté, and stunning arrogance.”

Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (April 7, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1594204292
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204296

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Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist

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To compliment my earlier review, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping, let’s turn the clock forward a bit from 1870 to the turn of the century and Empire of Sin.

Have you ever heard of Storyville in New Orleans? I had only because of my interest in WWI and had read a bit about how the War Department played a big part in making Storyville a thing of the past. Well, Gary Krist has taken on how it was before vice was “contained” in New Orleans, what happened when it was, and how it ended up just another interesting way to deal with vice that was abandoned. The best part is he does it in a way that isn’t all in your face with salacious specifics. It is so tasteful that you could be reading a story about how Detroit became the motor city, a subject much less objectionable.

Prostitution is/was, at the end of the day, a business and in the Victorian era and for a period after it was more or less seen as a needed thing that will-not-be-named in gentile company. So what is an up and coming city supposed to do? New Orleans decided that no longer would the pleasure palaces be scattered around the city willy nilly and while they didn’t think they could lick it entirely, the fine city leaders (some of them brothel owners themselves or at least backed by the owners) came up with the idea to corral it in one specific area. Genius right? Okay, perhaps not in today’s way of thinking, but it worked for many years for them.

There were murders, bumbling cops, paid off city and state leaders, a brothel owner in the State house, and even the aging Carrie Nation came by, set aside her ax, and had tea with a lady brothel owner. It was what it was and Krist’s take on it allows you to learn without feeling like you have to hide the book in last week’s New Yorker.

I said it last time and I’ll say it again, New Orleans has an amazing history of acceptance and in the South at that period of time, that is saying a heck of a lot. Read it…now.

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Reviews in Miniature

Coming Out of a Reading Fog

I read a lot, so much that it is pert near impossible to review everything…or even most…or even. Do you find yourself loving books so much that instead of reviewing what you just finished, you rush to start the next?Anyway, I want to hold myself more accountable to at least mentioning some of the books I blow though while avoiding life.

These books have me peering through the mists of time to mention.

Let Him Go

Let Him Go by Larry Watson

The writing style of this slightly different from the norm, very little in the way of identifying who is saying what and you have to immerse yourself in the characters to figure it out. No matter, immerse you will with a powerful story of letting go and sacrifice in the Dakota of yesterday.

George and Margaret lost their son. However, they are on a journey to get their grandson back. It will cost them in ways that they didn’t imagine. I may have cried.

 

 

Fetch

Fetch the Devil by Clint Richmond

A wealthy mother and daughter go on a trip across the country only to end up dead in the Chihiuahuan Dessert in 1938. Was it Nazi espionage or were they just in the wrong place and the wrong time?

Interesting true crime made more intriguing because it shows how worried we were, rightly so, about Nazi spies even before getting into the war. I liked it so much that it has been staring at me, waiting to be reviewed for months. Most books get ditched mighty quickly after reading here.

 

 

 

woman with a gun

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Back in the day, pre-blogging, I loved Margolin. He was a safe author to pick up at airports or really quickly at the store. He never disappointed and this suspenseful mystery won’t let you down.

It’s been a decade since Kathy Moran took this enigmatic photo and discovered the subject’s husband murdered. So what’s the real story behind the photo and why are people still dying?

 

 

 

Vampire

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Squeee a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! Yikes, more name dropping than the latest celebrity memoir!

The first book featured a whole new way to love Lincoln. This one was a fun lark that, while a fun lark, doesn’t break as much ground. (ha ha, breaking ground and vampires)

It was a guilty pleasure and I blew through it like a house on fire.

 

 

De Niro

De Niro: A Life by Shawn Levy

I hoped the book would give me more of an idea of what makes De Niro tick was more of a rehash of his roles and a view of De Niro from afar. While I understand the roles he actually has taken, there is no further glimpses into why he picks them really other than perhaps, having worked with them before…or never having done so.

To be fair, most bios of film actors fall into this trap.

 

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I received De Niro: A Life from Blogging for Books for this review.


Tolstoy’s False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov by Alexandra Popoff

Tolstoy

When I was in school, I read The Death of Ivan Ilych and feel in love with Russian literature.  No, I think I fell in love with Russia in toto. How could one not with a beautiful and mysterious place with churches like the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood? Coolest.Name.Ever. My obsession led me to the first career goal I ever had, to work for the State Department in Russia. Then the wall came down and so did my enthusiasm. Anywho….

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As the years have gone on, I’ve devoured other Russian works and have never been disappointed. (even though I still have issues with the practice of patronymic naming) Strangely, I’ve never really read a thing about the authors themselves, until now.

Tolstoy was an idol in his time and he created a social movement that garnered a ton of followers called Tolstoyans.

“To speak of “Tolstoyism,” to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error. There has not been, nor is there any “teaching” of mine. There exists only the one eternal universal teaching of the Truth, which for me, for us, is especially clearly expressed in the Gospels…I advised this young lady to live not by my conscience, as she wished, but by her own” Tolstoy- What is Religion?

The top follower was Vladimir Chertkov and his Machiavellianism ended up ruling over Tolstoy, his work, legacy, and even his death as you will learn in Tolstoy’s False Disciple.

I found the power that Chertkov wielded over a person that founded his own social movement astounding. Tolstoy was arguably the greatest Russian writer and thinker and yet he was led around by the nose by this chameleon-like  upstart. Frightening, to say the least.

The book gave me a better understanding of the times they lived in, a new appreciation of Tolstoy and his work, and knocked the pedestal that I had him on down a few feet. It was an awesome study in how a person’s character can be so powerful even when they have no new ideas of their own to offer.  Chertkov was a vile human being in my book, but in no way does this make the book vile. It may make you want to go back in time and smack poor Leo on the head though…

There is also a not-so-favorable review on The New Yorker.

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