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

 

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

orleans

 

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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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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Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

Tinseltown

There are many keywords that will lead any reader to pick up a book. For me, the list seems a bit endless with history, murder, and classic or silent Hollywood somewhere near the top and that is why when I saw Tinseltown on the Harper’s upcoming books I did a wee bit of a jig.   Being a reformed classic movie junkie and having a festering obsession with John Barrymore (really, I have photos and trading cards of him on my walls) this was a great fit with the other books on my shelf covering this very same subject- the murder of William Desmond Taylor. {insert ominous da, da, da, dum}

Taylor and Jack the Ripper have quite a bit in common; both unsolved, everyone has a theory, pre-modern forensic science, evidence gone missing, and even their own exhaustive websites with information and groupies. Taylor’s murder has something that I don’t see the Ripper as having, it happened at the same time as the birth of Hollywood, which was arguably the the major cultural and entertainment powerhouse of the 20th century.

What is slightly different in Mann’s take on the case is that he comes to the conclusion that the culprit was someone that, while a suspect in most treatments, has not been confidently fingered before, there is a lot more talk of drug use, it’s the most complete picture of Paramount mogul Adolph Zuckor that I have ever read, and he makes many interesting word choices throughout.

A friend reminded me the other day that if there is no controversy of some sort or one can’t be created, the media will not cover it and that really applies to Tinseltown. Mann give the impression that every single person tangentially related to Hollywood had major skeletons in their closets and 99% of them had to do with drugs. Now, I wasn’t there and it was the wild 20’s and yet, I am not a fan of painting an entire industry or time period as drug and sex-crazed.  You might be tempted to throw the 60’s at me after reading that, but do you really think that everyone…your parents or grandparents, if you are younger, were out “turning on, tuning in, or dropping out”? I didn’t think so.

Zuckor? That was probably the most well done part of the book. It will leave feeling grateful for never having worked for the man and perhaps, insight into characteristics were almost vital to have in order to become the leader in many business at the time. His life is the embodiment of immigrant success that makes America great and also proves, yet again, that one doesn’t necessarily have to be likable to succeed.

Word choices? This was interesting and while I need to make note of it, I also need to mention that I have lately been on a lot of rants about this from authors and copywriters in general.  His use of words like clew and athwart might not sound to you like the nails on a chalkboard that they were for me. Think of this as a big case of it’s not Mann, it’s me.

His fingering a culprit? Like the Ripper, there have been so many theories that it is really hard to separate the wheat from the chafe. It’s completely possible and still unable to move beyond reasonable doubt for me based on the few facts that are left.

Tinseltown is like the 1920’s and Hollywood was, one heck of a ride. So much has been written about the murder that I really don’t have a favorite book in the race. If the case is new to you and you don’t have any pre-conceived notions, this wouldn’t be a bad choice and would treat you to a fair amount of somewhat unrelated Hollywood history, which is nice. Like the Ripper, the chance of fingering the dastardly murderer and pleasing everyone at this point are akin to finding a victim’s bloody sweater with DNA on it over a hundred years later. Oh…wait…that’s been done…and debunked. (My family has passed down many things, nothing as strange as a bloody sweater though. Seriously, not one generation thought it weird?)

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

by William J. Mann

  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 14, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Much Like Gwen's Signature

Tinseltown fell into my hands like manna from heaven from HarperCollins. As always, the gift has no effect on my personal thoughts regarding the book. 


Things that I Need Explained to Me.

TV Shows We Used To Watch - BBC British TV 1959-80  - Harry Worth from Flickr via Wylio© 2010 Paul Townsend, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

I think that most readers, especially non-fiction readers, have an incredibly curious mind and I am no different. There are times that I am still too linear to get it, no matter how long I research something and need a hand. Who better to ask for assistance? No, not Facebook friends, fellow readers. So here is what is bugging me this very moment.

 

 

Why is is that sometimes, you don’t have to understand the B plot to like a book? Broken

 

 

Really?Yes, this was one of the most horrific nightmare causing books that I have ever read, but there was an entire storyline that made not a lick of sense to me. I just kept reading, hoping that a light would come on….nope, I could have excised those pages and still been freaked out. I don’t want to get more detailed because it may be considered a spoiler. On the other hand, how would I know?

 

 

 

 

Why didArchduke people hate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife? Greg King and Sue Woolmans portrayed them both as peaceful and forward thinking in The Assassination of the Archduke.

Why did my mom call him Dude, when we were talking about the book?

Why is it that when leaders are killed “before their time” they are 99% of time referred to as good. Is there only one bad guy in history that took a bullet, or cyanide pill, in his young prime?

Explain to me why, a non-fiction book has the ability to send me down Google rabbit holes that two hours later leave me knowing way more about the royalty of a country that no longer exists than a California beach bum should. While you are thinking on that, ponder why have the royal families never had a party and decided on an actual standard system of hierarchical titles.  Blows. My. Mind. It’s a full time job right there, keeping that stuff straight. Much worse that Russian patronymic names.

 

Why….did I have to refresh my memory of the definition of autodidactic, only to find a verbal description of myself in way too many subjects?

 

never

I love Ford and Free, however am I the only one that finds it odd that Ford Motor Company is sponsoring a book group on Goodreads?  Can we say 850,000 recalls on the airbags alone? Chevy lovers, don’t you smile, many of your vehicles have the same airbag.

Mighty gripping book, BTW, even if the characters would have felt less alone living with me in California. Hats off to Celeste Ng and super high five for being chosen by Ford.

 

 

 

 

Morbid

Why is the dreamy Morbid Anatomy Anthology $194.68 plus shipping on Amazon and $30 plus shipping at the museum’s site itself? It isn’t like this is an exibition catalog or something; it’s a real book with an ISBN and still in the first printing.

Fabulous, even better than having to get up, turn on my PC, and catch up on what I have missed on the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s blog.  (that is taking into account that I keep the laptop at the end of the bed and just have to stretch for it)

While I am here, can we please have a coffee chat re: the Capuchin Monastery? (there is a piece and some amazing pics in the book) Let me help you  catch up…..We say death and bodies have no place in the church, so bury them in a mass grave over there…{insert time passing whistle here} Oh, look what I found while plotting a new garden…Mummies! {insert short time whistle here} let’s bring them inside and hang them on the walls, mummies are okay in the church…wait, we’rerunning out of mummies, let’s make some in the basement. Go Team!

 

thanks motomom

Are you feeling me? Beautiful, a part of life, tourist attracting and stunning way to work with what you have my friends; my hat is off to ya’ll too. Does anyone else see what is hypocritical about this bizarre history? Hmm, I wonder if I can make mummies in my yard? Didn’t that mountain over there used to be a volcano with super mummy making ash? {No offense was meant and no mummies were harmed in starting this discussion. Really, I’m not even starting on the naked baby mummies.}

Wait, there is more space here, should I share my mummy rap with you? Too bad, there isn’t that much space.

 

 

Two final notes:

1.   I have learned that there aren’t enough happy pills in the world to make me reply to comments or listen to voicemail in a timely manner. Mea Culpa. {isn’t it great when you can make a pun and be sincere at the same time?} If you have a solution, leave me a comment…{snare drum}

2.   These are just some of the things that I need to be explained since 3 PM, stay tuned. It ain’t easy being me.

 

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This may be one of the most fun and most “me” posts ever and I covered four books, one of which, Broken Monsters, was given to me by the publisher and another was sponsored by Ford. The rest, well, let’s just say there is some beans being worked into my food budget. Fiber is good for you, right? Frijole Friday it is.