©1995 Dennis DeValeria and Jeanne Burke DeValeria; (P)1996 Blackstone Audiobooks
"A superb portrait, painted with thorough research on the canvas of one of baseball's most fascinating eras.' (Gene Carney)
The first review I ever did here was for "Clemente" ~ which I loved. However, after listening to "Honus Wagner" I can say that I'm even more impressed! Wagner's career coincided w/ the growth of baseball from a "game" to a "sport" and he was truly its' best ambassador.
Besides the expected details of The Flying Dutchman's career w/ the Pittsburgh Pirates, we are also introduced to the dramatic changes that were happening in America at the turn of the 20th Century. Automobiles replacing carriages; athletes & actors replacing statesmen & scholars as the public's sweethearts; Coporate mergers & takeovers affecting everday life; etc.
Plus there is SOOO MUCH I learned about old time baseball that I never knew before: The DH rule nearly introduced in the 1890's; Rabid fans who roadtripped across the circuit to cheer their teams; players suspected of using "performance enhancements" and the public's outcry.
An INCREDIBLE read that literally brought a tear to my eye when completed. BRAVO HONUS!!
This book is like someone going through the newspaper archives of each game and reading the recaps. Filled with uninteresting items like pitcher x had a sore arm, player y had two hits. The authors did not distill the information and present a compelling storyline. I wanted to be interested, to learn about Wagner and baseball at the turn of the century, but it was boring. Sure, there's some good nuggets, but you have to dig. For example, Wagner getting hit by a pitch, charging the mound, but regained his composure and told the picture to rub his back. Or the description of industrial Pittsburgh at the time, being so filled with air pollution that they couldn't see 50 feet, so they had to end the game.
When the events an author is writing about happened 100 years ago, the best compliments a reader can pay the writer is to say the material is well-researched and entertaining. That is undoubtedly the case here. While by no means is this an elite biography, Wagner himself was an elite player, truly one of the all-time greats. I wanted to learn a lot more about him and about how the game was played at the turn of the last century, and this book accomplished both. in particular, the narration was very enjoyable.
Not only does it give an excellent biography of one of baseballs all time greatest players, it also gives an excellent history of the start up of the National and American leagues.
A must listen for all baseball fans.
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