cover image Baseball's Pivotal Era, 1945-1951

Baseball's Pivotal Era, 1945-1951

William J. Marshall. University Press of Kentucky, $35 (513pp) ISBN 978-0-8131-2041-6

In this captivating narrative of baseball's evolution from small-town sport to big business, Marshall touches all the bases. In 1944, baseball saw the death of Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had rescued baseball from the ignominy of the Black Sox scandal and ruled the game with an iron fist for 24 years. Landis was followed by a former U.S. senator from Kentucky, Albert C. ""Happy"" Chandler, whose term would be packed with controversy. First there was the question of the Mexican League, which lured players away from the major leagues with inflated, tax-free wages. Next came the organization of players into a union and the establishment of a players' pension system. Chandler then suspended Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher for his unsavory gambling connections. Finally and most importantly, Jackie Robinson shattered baseball's version of apartheid. When some of Robinson's teammates signed a petition stating their refusal to play with him, Marshall writes, the soon to be suspended Durocher responded with some immortal words that did not go down in American history: he said ""they could wipe their ass with the petition."" Marshall also looks at the various pennant races, teams and famous moments: the 1945 Chicago Cubs; the Philadelphia Phillies' ""Whiz Kids"" of 1950; Bobby Thomson's ""Shot Heard 'Round the World,"" which won the pennant for the 1951 New York Giants. Personality plays a prominent part in the book, including profiles of Cleveland owner Bill Veeck; ""The Great Triumvirate"" of DiMaggio, Musial and Williams; and Yankee manager Casey Stengel. Photos. (Mar.)