Richard Goldstein’s Superstars and Screwballs is an outstanding look at, as the subtitle proclaims, 100 years of Brooklyn Baseball. You will be hard pressed to find a better start to finish history of the Brooklyn Dodgers that also goes back beyond that franchise’s nascent beginnings. Goldstein begins with the flourishing of the not-yet national pastime in the CITY (not borough) of Brooklyn. The Atlantics, the Eckfords, the Excelsiors, the Mutuals and more competed in the city’s parks.
|Bennie Kauf (second from right) of the Brooklyn|
Tip Tops was the Federal League's best player
But it is the Dodgers that are the enduring image of Brooklyn baseball and Goldstein gives us a great look at the franchise from their first season in 1883 (as a the minor league ‘Grays’) through the final 1957 pennant race. The Dodgers joined the American Association and then the National League, going through several name changes before settling on the Dodgers, abbreviated from ‘Trolley Dodgers.’ The first World Series was played in 1903, and in the days before divisions, the best team in each league played for the ultimate title: there were no playoffs. From 1903 to 1940, the Dodgers managed only two National League pennants, coming up short both times against their AL counterparts.
|Three Hall of Famers: Manager Burleigh Grimes, coach |
(and potential successor) Babe Ruth and short stop
(and actual sucessor as manager) Leo Durocher
There were a few Hall of Famers like Zach Wheat, Dazzy Vance and Burleigh Grimes, and manager Wilbert Robinson. And some pretty good players, such as Babe Herman, Nap Rucker and Jeff Pfeffer, though they usually brought up the second division, finishing under .500 twenty-six times. But the team was interesting to read about, be it three runners standing on third base during a game, or Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Marquard being arrested for scalping tickets on the same day he was pitching in the World Series. Known as ‘The Daffiness Boys’ for most of this period of ineptness, Goldstein gives us a look at both the Dodgers and baseball at large during the period.
|The legendary home of the Dodgers from 1913-1957|
This is an excellent recounting of baseball in Brooklyn, dropping in details of fund raising efforts during the war years, behind the scenes ownership battles, the semi-plan to have Babe Ruth manage the Dodgers, and so much more that gives you a deep understanding of its subject. That includes black baseball, with a Brooklyn history of over eighty years during the game’s segregated era. Superstars and Screwballs remains the best book I’ve read on the history of the Dodgers franchise.
|'Wait Til Next Year' was the Dodgers' fans' lament |
after each World Series loss to the hated
Yankees. 1955 was finally 'Next Year'