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We're Talking Baseball
Ron Fimrite
April 07, 1997
Fans of the national pastime have five new volumes to add to their collections
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April 07, 1997

We're Talking Baseball

Fans of the national pastime have five new volumes to add to their collections

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Leutzinger also thinks O'Doul may have sabotaged his Hall of Fame opportunities by spending his postplaying career as a manager in the Pacific Coast League mostly in his native San Francisco, where, 28 years after his death, he remains a legend. Had he accepted any of numerous offers to manage in the big leagues, writes Leutzinger, he would have kept his name before Hall voters and increased his chances of election. But O'Doul was still big in the Coast League, where he developed, among other players, Joe and Dom DiMaggio and two-time American League batting champion Ferris Fain. O'Doul also dealt sage counsel to another young Coast Leaguer. "Don't let anybody change you, kid," he told Ted Williams.

Perhaps even more significant, considering the international bent the game has taken, were O'Doul's contributions to the emergence of Japanese professional baseball. Beginning in the mid-1930s he made frequent trips to Japan, where before and after World War II he held instructional clinics and charmed the fans. "O'Doul," writes Leutzinger, "was quite possibly baseball's greatest ambassador.... Few men were ever better for the game." Hall of Fame qualifications, it would seem.

There are few better players today than Ken Griffey Jr., who is the subject of a handsome coffee-table book, Junior (Collins Publishers, $45), edited by Mark Vancil with photographs by Walter Iooss Jr. In these slick pages Griffey reinforces his public image as a blithe spirit. "I don't jump on people if they make a mistake," he informs, "because I don't want them doing that to me." And of his father and former teammate, he says: "I'm not as good a player as my dad." These pens�es aside, the virtue of this book is in the sublime photographs by the ever-talented Iooss.

The well-known greed of Major League Baseball owners—along with that of magnates in other sports—is given a rough going-over in Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It, by Mark S. Rosentraub (Basic Books, $27.50). Rosentraub, a professor and associate dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Indianapolis, contends that when team owners demand taxpayers' money for new stadiums and threaten to leave if they don't get it, they are simply holding cities hostage. And when cities pony up hundreds of millions for such playing fields, they are contributing to a system of welfare for the wealthy that "inflates the salaries paid to athletes and the profits earned by owners." Besides, Rosentraub writes, a fair-sized university has a much broader impact on an urban economy than a sports team.

Rosentraub maintains that most sports franchises are far richer than they pretend to be and that they can damn well afford to build their own ballparks. He makes this point in 478 pages, complete with explanatory charts and graphs. It's a point well taken.

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