Both tales are about baseball, and the activities in the book take place in the short span of 1958 to 1960; though, of course, a great deal of background from prior years is included. From the title, I thought that Rickey and Stengel joined forces in some gargantuan baseball effort. But the Stengel and Rickey stories have nothing to do with each other. That's fine, but unexpected and resulting in a kind of disjointed book. I found the Continental League's brief time to shine the more interesting of the pair.
The National League had held off challenges from the American Association and other professional leagues.
A 1922 Supreme Court Decision granted Baseball exemption from anti-trust laws. It was a multi-million dollar monopoly run by barons. After the Dodgers and Giants abandoned New York City (to the Yankees) for southern California in 1958, New York lawyer William Shea and future hall of fame executive Branch Rickey (architect of the powerhouse Cardinals and Dodgers teams) set out to bring major league baseball to seven big cities...and New York City. Future major league cities such as Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Atlanta were part of the proposed Continental League.
|These nine men nearly revolutionized|
baseball in 1959. And they did force
long overdue expansion.
Casey Stengel had failed miserably as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston (later Milwaukee, now Atlanta) Braves. He was managing the AAA Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in a nice `almost retired' gig. (he was almost 60). He was a complete surprise as the new Yankee hire in 1949, then proceeded to win five consecutive World Series. But Stengel, who had a loose usage of the English language, was an unconventional manager who platooned ball players (not done at the time) and wasn't afraid to claim credit and criticize his men.
After "only" two World Series titles in six years, it appeared that Stengel was in danger of losing his job
There are plenty of books that deal with Casey Stengel and his time with the Yankees. It's worth reading here, but nothing to write home about. But the Continental League stuff provides a fascinating look at the last major threat to Baseball's monopoly. This one is worth reading.
Jackie Robinson is my idol, so I'm an unabashed Branch Rickey fan. Rickey created baseball's minor league farm system, which is likely the most important development in the game's history. He also signed Jackie Robinson and smashed baseball's color barrier. And, at the end of his career, he nearly established a new major league and in the process, forced the first expansion in decades. Rickey may well have had the greatest influence on major league baseball of any man in the game's history. This book tells the largely unknown part of that story.
There is a brand new book out on the Continental League by Russell Buhite. It's on my "Must Read" list.