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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Grantland: Right Down the Middle

If you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense overview of the state of baseball book publishing in 2014, check this out.

When ideas fail, baseball books drift back to the same place where they’ve been anchored for two decades: the 1950s. Baseball books are instant replay for baby boomers. “There has to be a book every year about Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, or some combination thereof,” said Robert Weintraub, author of The Victory Season, which was published last year. “I’m guilty of that myself.”

The ’50s is farmland already tilled by literary HOFers like David Halberstam and Roger Kahn, by Jane Leavy and Richard Ben Cramer. Each go-round leaves fewer available plots. Leavy did Mantle in 2010. James S. Hirsch did Mays the same year. So it was inevitable that in 2013, Allen Barra would do them both, in the dual biography Mickey and Willie. If an author finds his mandate getting too small, he compensates by going big. Last year, Ben Bradlee Jr.’s biography of Ted Williams came in at a whopping 784 pages.

There’s a funny thing about the boomers trudging to the shelves. The overfamiliarity of the old ballplayers isn’t a turnoff; it’s the sell. “What you want if you’re a reader is to pull back a curtain on a time you remember well,” explained literary agent David Black.

Baseball-book readers will revisit Mantle and Mays and Williams for the umpteenth time because they’re completists. Houghton Mifflin’s Eamon Dolan, who edited 3 Nights in August, Buzz Bissinger’s book about Tony La Russa, is reminded of people who buy those giant World War II tomes. “The game is like warfare in that it has infinite secrets,” said Dolan. “You never know them all, but you’ll know more if you keep reading.” Merkle’s Boner becomes the Battle of Stalingrad. We open each new book with the hope that some undiscovered scrap of data, some new authorial emphasis, will change the way we understand history.

AndrewJ Posted: May 29, 2014 at 09:52 PM | 56 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: authors, baseball books, books, nostalgia

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   1. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: May 29, 2014 at 10:47 PM (#4715884)
I almost bought the new Ted Williams bio, until I realized I haven't finished the other two I own.
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 29, 2014 at 11:12 PM (#4715896)
I despise Roger Kahn (for personal reasons--don't ask). But his book "The Era" is brilliant--better than Boys of Summer. Pick it up if you haven't
   3. PreservedFish Posted: May 29, 2014 at 11:33 PM (#4715908)
I despise Roger Kahn (for personal reasons--don't ask).


I need to know now.
   4. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: May 29, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4715910)
Roger Kahn borrow soap, no give back.
   5. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 29, 2014 at 11:37 PM (#4715911)
The Era is lying on my bathroom floor (overflow from my immediately adjoining book room; authorities believe rambunctious cats were involved) even as I type, as it happens. Perhaps I should do something about that.
   6. Perry Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:34 AM (#4715925)
Roger Kahn always take two parking spaces.
   7. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:25 AM (#4715937)
book room


That's a very Clarence Beeftank way of saying library.
   8. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 08:06 AM (#4715956)
Except that to me, "library" connotes a space with shelves & some semblance of organization. Would that that were the case here.
   9. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: May 30, 2014 at 08:13 AM (#4715960)
Man, I wish I had a book room. I've been reduced to double stacking books on my cheap Ikea books shelves. How can I show off how smart I am if visitors can only see half the titles I've read? I need a dinosaur room, too. (Don't ask.)
   10. villageidiom Posted: May 30, 2014 at 08:32 AM (#4715969)
Roger Kahn take 11 items, sign say 10 or less.
   11. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: May 30, 2014 at 08:37 AM (#4715974)
KAAHHHHNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





(obligatory, of course)
   12. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 30, 2014 at 08:52 AM (#4715976)
Roger Kahn use same plate to get seconds at buffet.
   13. DA Baracus Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:02 AM (#4715980)
Roger Kahn hang toilet paper in improper underhand fashion.
   14. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:08 AM (#4715981)
5 top crimes against humanity according to BBTF:

1. Reclining your seat on an airplane
2. Over use of mayonnaise
3. Drinking cheap beer
4. Neck stabbing
5. Enforcing the unwritten rules of baseball

I guess Kahn could be guilty of at least three, possibly four of those, though I don't know the man.
   15. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4715987)
Roger Kahn hang toilet paper in improper underhand fashion.

That used to be one of the ways that sixth graders used to distinguish boys from girls. The boys hung the paper over the top, the girls hung it under. Both my wife and the two other women I've lived with before her used the under method along with Roger Kahn.

Of course an equally reliable method of separating boys from girls was to ask them to look at their fingernails. Boys invariably curl their fingers with their palms facing inward, while girls always stretch their fingers and look at the back of their hands. I think that the Army used to use this test before the days of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
   16. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4715990)
Roger Kahn wrote a biography of Jack Dempsey, "A Flame of Pure Fire" that is worth reading if you enjoy Kahn's writing style and want to learn a bit about America's first athletic superstar and one of the more interesting characters of any sport. It's a moderately flawed book, I find some of the historical boxing discussion to be inaccurate or misrepresented but Kahn isn't a boxing historian so much as a man who recognizes Dempsey's enormous cultural impact and sought to flesh out his history. The courtroom scenes between Dempsey and his first wife, Maxine Cates, are compelling reading and hint at some of the darker background that Dempsey sought to obscure once his elite talent afforded him the luxury of reinventing himself from a migrant hobo miner into a proper gentleman of the rugged self-made variety.

Anyways, here's the most violent one-sided round in boxing history.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:35 AM (#4715994)
I love that after all that carnage, the announcer says that "Dempsey won the title, but lost the bet" that he could take down Willard for the count in the first round. What was the background of that bet?
   18. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:44 AM (#4716006)
Jack Kearns, Dempsey's manager, bet $10,000 at 10-1 odds that Dempsey would KO Williard in the first round. I'm actually amazed the odds were so low, as Willard had never been knocked down before and towered over Dempsey. Anyways, Kearns told Dempsey about this bet as they're walking to the ring and Jack dutifully went out there and did his best to bring home the bet. Dempsey still holds the record for most first-round KOs by a heavyweight championship fighter - 26 men couldn't last 3 minutes with Jack.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4716007)
That used to be one of the ways that sixth graders used to distinguish boys from girls. The boys hung the paper over the top, the girls hung it under.


What do you do, find a child of uncertain gender and then ask it to point you to the toilet paper roll it most recently hung?
   20. John DiFool2 Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4716016)
5 top crimes against humanity according to BBTF:

1. Reclining your seat on an airplane
2. Over use of mayonnaise
3. Drinking cheap beer
4. Neck stabbing
5. Enforcing the unwritten rules of baseball


You're kidding, right? Well, here's three for starters:

1. Daring to question the underlying assumptions of WAR
2. Pen more posts about baseball than about politics, football, movies, or television
3. Not join in the snarkfest when some idiot sportswriter pens something stupid

   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:02 AM (#4716025)
Jack Kearns, Dempsey's manager, bet $10,000 at 10-1 odds that Dempsey would KO Williard in the first round. I'm actually amazed the odds were so low, as Willard had never been knocked down before and towered over Dempsey. Anyways, Kearns told Dempsey about this bet as they're walking to the ring and Jack dutifully went out there and did his best to bring home the bet. Dempsey still holds the record for most first-round KOs by a heavyweight championship fighter - 26 men couldn't last 3 minutes with Jack.

Yet another reason why that era was closer to boxing's golden age. Damn, do I sometimes wish I had a time machine.

----------------------------------------------

That used to be one of the ways that sixth graders used to distinguish boys from girls. The boys hung the paper over the top, the girls hung it under.

What do you do, find a child of uncertain gender and then ask it to point you to the toilet paper roll it most recently hung?


No, we'd just ask them what they did. Jesus, I'm talking about sixth graders, not advanced BTF Primates.
   22. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4716036)
Yet another reason why that era was closer to boxing's golden age.


It was boxing's golden age. Beginning approximately with Dempsey's 1919 title win and extended through World War 2, boxing was the most popular sport in America. As I've mentioned here previously, a former colleague of mine at the IBRO did research who showed there were more registered professional prizefighters in New York City alone in 1929 there there are in America today.

Now if you're more focused on the colorful aspects of boxing and boxers (a topic I'm certainly enthused by) then the golden age has to extend to include the days of semi-legality where the sport was mainly followed by gamblers and sports, leading to such unbelievable-but-true machinations as holding the Bob Fitzsimmons vs Peter Maher title fight on a sandbar in the Rio Grande where neither the US nor Mexico had jurisdiction to halt the bout, constructing a private rail line to Hattiesberg, Mississippi so that John L Sullivan could make his last bare-knuckle title defense without police interference, and as discussed here previously, Gentleman Jim Corbett and Joe Choynski fighting on a barge, with police waiting at the docks. Those are crowds I'd love to watch a bout alongside!
   23. Canker Soriano Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:16 AM (#4716037)
Roger Kahn hang toilet paper in improper underhand fashion.

We have two custodians who work at my office, and you can always tell which one cleaned the men's room by the way the TP is hanging. One likes to hang it overhand, and one likes to hang it underhand. There are two roll holders, and sometimes you'll find the leftover one from the previous day hanging one way, and the backup one hanging the other way.

I like to imagine that they've been fighting about this for years.
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM (#4716048)
As I've mentioned here previously, a former colleague of mine at the IBRO did research who showed there were more registered professional prizefighters in New York City alone in 1929 there there are in America today.

Alas, that's probably also true about pool rooms. We were both probably born about 40 years too late.
   25. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM (#4716051)
I'm talking about sixth graders, not advanced BTF Primates.


Have you looked around lately?
   26. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4716054)
find a child of uncertain gender


Take the cisgender stuff to the OTP thread, for godssakes.
   27. Esoteric Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4716055)
The courtroom scenes between Dempsey and his first wife, Maxine Cates, are compelling reading and hint at some of the darker background that Dempsey sought to obscure once his elite talent afforded him the luxury of reinventing himself from a migrant hobo miner into a proper gentleman of the rugged self-made variety.


Care to elucidate a bit more on what this darker background might have been, for those of us who haven't read the book and aren't experts on such things? Also: Jack Dempsey...America's most unlikely Mormon?

One of the most entertaining YouTube videos I've ever watched, incidentally, was brought to my attention by YR here on BBTF, and I'll toss out the recommendation again: Mike Tyson does a historical review of the great heavyweights.
   28. Rusty Priske Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM (#4716057)
In my office they always hang the toilet paper backwards... hanging off the back.

Whenever I find myself in the stall, I fix it.

Sticking it to the man.
   29. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4716058)
Also: Jack Dempsey...America's most unlikely Mormon?


My god. Where did he tuck his temple garments?

Then again, I don't think I want to know.
   30. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:05 AM (#4716065)
Indy teams in affiliated ball came up as a topic in the dugout this week - there's a fun Kahn book on his foray into that world "Good Enough to Dream" - just a penny used on Amazon.


5 top crimes against humanity according to BBTF:
1. Reclining your seat on an airplane
2. Over use of mayonnaise

And that's why I stick around here.


Roger Kahn hang toilet paper in improper underhand fashion.

I was once at a very drunken baby shower where a fight nearly broke out over this issue - before then, I'd never considered that people had preferences here. (Team overhand, I guess)
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:10 AM (#4716067)
I'm talking about sixth graders, not advanced BTF Primates.

Have you looked around lately?


All I can see around here are geniuses who can explain everything from our 35 year decline to how a secret cabal of Stonecutters** is ruling the world from above.*** I don't think I've seen many sixth graders capable of such insights.

First graders, maybe.


**I think it's called "The Cathedral", but that's just a front name for the real organization.

***Or maybe from below, but whatever.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4716069)
2. Over use of mayonnaise

The real crime is using that blob of fermented snot to begin with.
   33. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4716072)

Yet another reason why that era was closer to boxing's golden age. Damn, do I sometimes wish I had a time machine.


Here you go. And yes, Dempsey vs. Willard is one of the possible matchups.
   34. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4716074)
I was once at a very drunken baby shower


And I thought filling babies' bottles with coke was bad ...
   35. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4716082)
Care to elucidate a bit more on what this darker background might have been, for those of us who haven't read the book and aren't experts on such things? Also: Jack Dempsey...America's most unlikely Mormon?


Well Jack wasn't much of a Mormon, even less so that his father, a "Jack Mormon" who liked to drink and didn't tithe. In fact it was widely-rumored at the time that Dempsey was a crypto-Jew, as the Jews were such successful boxers.

About Dempsey's early days, which is a subject I've researched a fair bit as part of a few things I've been writing (and bless my lovely Southern wife, the English professor, who got dragged around Colorado and Utah on our summer camping trips just so I could try and visit one more defunct newspaper archive). I'll give you the quick version with some specifics added in:

So it is well-known that Jack Dempsey was a hobo, a migrant worker, in the American west in the early part of the 20th century, traveling around the area by hopping boxcars if he was lucky, or "riding the rods" under the freight cars if he was not. He was best-remembered as a miner (which he spoke about a fair bit in his autobiography, saying something to the effect of, "What 16 year-old kid wouldn't be excited to set off dynamite charges?") but also worked seasonally picking fruit, digging irrigation ditches, etc. When Dempsey recounted those early days he did so with a romanticized sheen, complete with funny tales of evading the "railroad bulls" (security) and jumping out of freight cars when he'd oversleep and miss his stop. But there's more in his experience than he wanted to overtly let on - in several interviews Dempsey mentioned that he's frequently have to fight other hobos to protect himself, "especially when [his brother] Andy wasn't with me". Now I think it's perfectly normal for us to think of the hobos of those old days seeking to grab a can of beans from a kid, or maybe push him away from the comfy piles of hay they slept on, or whatever. But hobo life in the west was dangerous for a single boy traveling alone for reasons that should be all too familiar to our modern ears.

You're familiar with the old hobo song, "The Big Rock Candy Mountain"? You know, the one with the buzzing of the bees and the cigarette trees and the lakes of stew and of whiskey too? Well you might not know that the original version has a verse that has been omitted:

The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
And said to the jocker, "Sandy,
I've hiked and hiked and wandered too,
But I ain't seen any candy.
I've hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
And I'll be damned if I hike any more
To be buggered sore like a hobo's whore
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."


Demnpsey was, in fact, constantly fighting to avoid being raped. It's why he was such a violently dirty fighter when he needed to be ("Many said I was ruthless in the ring. How I’d stand over a fellow who was down and clout him as he tried to rise; how I would get behind an opponent staggering to his feet and flatten him with a sucker punch as he turned to face me. I did all those things and more, and I did them well"), and why his training manual for the Coast Guard, How To Fight Tough is full of eye gouges, groin strikes, throat strikes, headbutts, and some really valuable information on using your opponent's clothing to restrict their ability to fight back while you clobber them. I think he even advocates biting at some point but I haven't read this book in many years.

Anyways, Dempsey was fighting from town to town just to get his day's labor lined up, and at night there were brothels and saloons that sprung up wherever you'd expect to find labor camps in the Old West. Dempsey would enter the saloons at night, all 150lb of him, and famously jump on any stage he could find, bellowing, "I can't sing and I can't dance but I'll whip any man here in a fair fight!" And fight he would, and usually win, and usually win decisively. And you won't be surprised to learn that the owners of some of these saloons and brothels started to offer Jack a little money to stick around and keep things from getting out of hand.

In Utah Dempsey did his usual schtick of thrashing some local miners and toughs and attracted the attention of a prostitute and madame, Maxine Cates. Maxine convinced him to stick around and work as the regular bouncer in her establishment beginning some time in 1915. In 1916 they were married.

Jack eventually moved on from Utah to pursue other fighting opportunities (famously taking an almost-certain dive against Fireman Jim Flynn on his way out of town) but the marriage wasn't officially ended until 1919. However, once Dempsey became a famous celebrity prize fighter, his earlier marriage suddenly became tabloid fodder of the day, and for more reasons than one. The most celebrated scandal was that Dempsey had not fought in World War 1, claiming his wife and mother both depended on his income. Maxine and/or her professional associates (there's evidence in favor of both) reached out to Dempsey asking for a nice sum of hush money to stay quiet about his past, which was rebuked by manager Doc Kearns. And so Maxine went to the San Francisco Chronicle with her tale of abuse and abandonment at the hands of the new champion who never sent her money despite claiming her as a dependent to avoid war service. It all ended up in court, but although Dempsey was found "not guilty" of draft evasion some of the testimony against him was incredibly unpleasant, including a claim that Dempsey was charged with personally beating and raping any prostitutes who sought to leave the employ of the brothel. FWIW, Cates also testified in court that the loss to Fireman Flynn was a dive for which Jack received $500 he needed to get to California, which I believe without reservation.

Kahn touches on some of this in his book, but generally waves it away with a "maybe it's true and maybe it ain't" sort of dismissal. I don't doubt that much of it is true, that a 20 year-old Dempsey smitten with a 35 year-old woman of extensive sexual practice and a sort of glamour he hadn't seen before (she spoke French, played the piano and sang, owned some fancy frocks from back East) would do what he was told to do in these circumstances. I also think that the Dempsey of just a few years later was so mortified and disgusted by his actions that it completely changed his dealings with women for the rest of his life - there are no allegations of any abuse against women, and while he did like the ladies enough to cheat on his own marriage, he was very strict about never fooling around with married women whether he was married or single himself. I think of Dempsey as something of an anti-Tyson in how they handled their success - Tyson wanted to "keep it real" and continue with his earlier behavior, while Jack ran as far and as fast from his deprived and violent past as he could.

There's more details to this of course but I think I've yammed on long enough :)

   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4716090)
In Utah Dempsey did his usual schtick of thrashing some local miners and toughs and attracted the attention of a prostitute and madame, Maxine Cates. Maxine convinced him to stick around and work as the regular bouncer in her establishment beginning some time in 1915. In 1916 they were married.

It's too bad that BTF wasn't around for Ray to comment on when Dempsey died.
   37. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4716092)
"Never saw him box."
   38. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4716099)
"Never saw him box."


One of my favorite lines about female UFC fighter Ronda Rousey: "I've never seen her wrestle, but I'd love to see her box!"
   39. Lassus Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4716101)
2. Pen more posts about baseball than about politics, football, movies, or television

Speaking of snarkfests, no one thinks this is a problem.
   40. Esoteric Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4716107)
35. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:32 AM
Thanks very much for this. And as far as I'm concerned, you could yammer on for pages more before I'd get bored. You've got a real knack for putting together a colorful narrative (and a way with the well-chosen illustrative quote). Again, boxing is a sport which I basically know nothing about (ironically enough, aside from that which I've picked up from reading your posts), so it's even more remarkable to me how entertaining I find the boxing talk around here.
   41. zack Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4716109)
I think there's a reason so many ballads are written about boxers. You generally don't find boring people getting into that line of work.
   42. Howie Menckel Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4716122)
Never saw her box.

   43. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4716132)
Never saw her box.

Well, sure, it's dark under those covers...
   44. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4716144)
   45. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4716177)
Thanks very much for this. And as far as I'm concerned, you could yammer on for pages more before I'd get bored. You've got a real knack for putting together a colorful narrative (and a way with the well-chosen illustrative quote). Again, boxing is a sport which I basically know nothing about (ironically enough, aside from that which I've picked up from reading your posts), so it's even more remarkable to me how entertaining I find the boxing talk around here.


Thanks, I enjoy writing about this stuff (obviously) and appreciate the feedback. For me Jack Dempsey is the most interesting and historically-significant boxer of the first-half of the 20th century for reasons both sportive and cultural, the first sports superstar to truly transcend sports despite plying his trade in one of the most intentionally-marginalized sports in America at the time. John L Sullivan was famous across the country as a bombastic Irish brawler, but he was never more than a boxer. James J Jeffries was famous across the country as arguably the best-conditioned athlete in the world, but he was never more than a boxer. Jack Johnson? Famous, but, you know.

But Dempsey was a celebrity. Dempsey was the toast of Hollywood. Dempsey clowned around with Charlie Chaplin. Dempsey went to swanky parties with Douglas Fairbanks. Dempsey shared the stage with Houdini. Dempsey married a movie star. Dempsey was the man who ushered in the age of sporting superstardom, the first man to headline a $1 million prizefight gate (vs. Carpentier) and $2 million gate (vs. Gene Tunney).

How huge was Dempsey? Compare these photos from championship fights:

Jess Willard vs Frank Moran, 1916 estimated attendance 12-15,000

Jack Johnson vs Frank Moran, 1912, estimated attendance 6-8,000

Jack Dempsey vs Georges Carpentier, 1921. Estimated attendance, 80,000+

Something about Dempsey captivated America's mind. There was a romanticism about this hardscrabble kid from the wild wild west who brawled with way through saloons and mining camps and emerged as the most ferocious fighter ever seen - fiercer than Ketchel! More violent than McGovern! And yet he remained handsome, unscarred, friendly and genial outside the ring, a man who truly enjoyed the adulation of fans and was acutely sensitive to writers' characterizations of him as a brute, a savage, a jungle beast.

There's something in Dempsey that spoke of a distinctly American life, the true Horatio Alger man who not only rose from the bottom but looked down from the peak of success and recognized himself in the crowd and never lost his common touch. In my mind the horrific swamp of depredation and violence that he arose from adds necessary depth to who he was and how he saw the new world that opened up for him.
   46. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4716179)
I ate at his (Dempsey's) restaurant on Broadway and 50th in 1973--one week before it was shut down by the health department...
(the cheesecake was phenomenal)
   47. Zach Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:30 PM (#4716181)
It is interesting that there aren't more books written about football or basketball. A few guesses why:

1) Football and basketball are dominated by coaches (who do get lots of books written about them). You don't see as many players hanging around for twenty years. The ones who do, like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkeley, are good candidates for future books.

2) The 1900s through 1950s are very interesting decades to write about. People's ways of life were changing very rapidly, and a single career could span multiple eras. The 60s, 70s and 80s are interesting for reasons that don't come across as well in a biography.

3) Higher salaries translate to fewer interesting story lines. Babe Ruth went on barnstorming tours and vaudeville stages to earn extra money. Tom Brady, what, shows up to a photo shoot? Somebody making $50 million and settling into a genteel retirement is a boring subject for a book. Somebody who makes that much money and blows it might be a good candidate, though.
   48. PreservedFish Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:37 PM (#4716184)
I think the complexity of football makes it a challenge for writers. You can't easily boil things down to man vs enemy, or man vs himself.
   49. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4716187)
YR, you can probably help me with this. Back in the 90's I had every NY Times bound volume from 1914 through mid-1946. I kept most of the more important World Series volumes and the month that Yankee Stadium opened, but sold pretty much everything else. Not enough room in the house, and anyway, I had to make a living and some of them sold for a good piece of change.

But here's the question, and here's the reason for it: Which big time fights were nearly shut down by state boxing commissions during the 1910's and 1920's? I know there must have been at least one, because there were banner front page headlines in the Times about it in the days leading up to the fight. Imagine that today!

The reason I'm asking is that since now every page of the Times from 1851 to 1980 is available in PDF format (to subscribers, anyway), I'd love to find that fight (or those fights) and re-read those articles whose original papers I sold long ago. The site is ridiculously user friendly and easily searchable once you know the date you're looking for, and I wish it weren't behind a paywall so that I could post a lot of the specific articles I've been reading for the non-subscribers here.
   50. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:18 PM (#4716197)
Which big time fights were nearly shut down by state boxing commissions during the 1910's and 1920's?


Any fight scheduled to take place in New York during Nathan Miller's governorship was threatened with cancellation, Miller would invoke the
Walker Act, he actually ended up chasing Dempsey's fight with Carpentier to New Jersey. As soon as he left office Dempsey fought Luis Firpo in the Polo Grounds, the first round of which is usually considered to be the most thrilling opening round in heavyweight history.

Sticking with Dempsey, Jack wanted to fight the top black contender of the day, Harry Wills but promoter Tex Rickard refused to make the bout (an interesting side-story is how Jack attempted to end-run around the promoter who made him the richest athlete in the world to make the fight) and said that he'd received political pressure from unnamed but high-ranking officials warning him not to make the bout.

After Dempsey showed how much money boxing could bring in and how popular it was with regular working citizens (as opposed to the stereotype of the sport as patronized solely by gamblers and goons) I don't know of any real issues with staging fights, there were enough areas on both coasts that allowed it to ensure any marketable bout would be bid on their first and best. The 1880s - 1910s were really the golden age of fight cancellations and raids, Jim Jeffries' title defense against Gus Ruhlin was moved 3 times for political reasons and Ruhlin foolishly said out loud that perhaps Jeffries was scared of him. Jeffries was so insulted that he literally tortured Ruhlin in the ring when they did meet, with Ruhlin reduced to loudly begging Jeffries to take it easy on him. Jack London was covering the fight from ringside and wrote a disgusted paragraph on the subject which I have around here somewhere.

   51. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4716199)
Roger Kahn once asked Pasta to help him move even though the two barely knew each other.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 30, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4716226)
Roger Kahn called Pasta Diving Jeter a limo after their night together and sent him away with a gift basket.
   53. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4716261)
Roger Kahn once asked Pasta to help him move even though the two barely knew each other.

Friends help you move--REAL friends help you move dead bodies.

Nah--my beef with Kahn (from damn near 40 years ago) has to do with an ex-wife (mine) and Kahn's unbelievable sexism/misogny
   54. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 30, 2014 at 06:10 PM (#4716276)
Which big time fights were nearly shut down by state boxing commissions during the 1910's and 1920's?

Any fight scheduled to take place in New York during Nathan Miller's governorship was threatened with cancellation, Miller would invoke the Walker Act, he actually ended up chasing Dempsey's fight with Carpentier to New Jersey. As soon as he left office Dempsey fought Luis Firpo in the Polo Grounds, the first round of which is usually considered to be the most thrilling opening round in heavyweight history.


Still trying to figure out which fight had the banner headlines about attempts to stop it. The Dempsey-Carpentier fight had this headline on the day of the fight, and three front page banner headlines the day after.

But that's still not the one I was thinking of, so I'll keep trying to locate it.

The front page headlines for the Firpo fight were "only" three columns wide, but they still conveyed the scene rather graphically:

DEMPSEY WHIPS FIRPO IN SECOND ROUND
OF FIERCEST OF HEAVYWEIGHT BATTLES;
90,000 IN POLO GROUNDS, 25,000 RIOT OUTSIDE


Even in the middle of the Babe Ruth era, no baseball game ever rated front page coverage like that. When the Yankees and the Giants were about to open their first subway series, the only mention of it on the front page was a tiny box with a headline that read "Don't Ask By Phone About World Series Games" And when the Giants took the final game, it still only rated one front page column.
   55. AndrewJ Posted: May 30, 2014 at 06:22 PM (#4716280)
Kahn does have a book on Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey due out later this year. He says it's his last one.
   56. KingKaufman Posted: May 31, 2014 at 12:25 AM (#4716445)
The ’60s are easy. When I find a book called Rick Dempsey’s Caught Stealing, and when I learn it’s by the That Thing You Do! actor Johnathon Schaech, that’s my baseball book for the ’60s.


Yeah, when I think 1960s baseball, Rick Dempsey is the first name that comes to mind.

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