on July 21, 2012
I grew up in the fifties and followed baseball with a passion. I, like many kids at the time collected baseball cards and I had the facts and figures memorized from the backs of thousands of those cards. I played baseball through college and still play adult softball today. Therein lies the rub. I found a number of factual or intuitive errors in the book, mostly in the chapters dealing with the 1957 World Series. Errors of this type bother me, because it makes me wonder about the rest of the reporting that I am unfamiliar with. I know, for example, that Gene Conley threw right-handed, not left-handed. I also know Tom Sturdivant threw right-handed, not left. And I know that a second baseman cannot range to his "left behind the bag." In at least one case these kinds of factual errors led the author to make assumptions that could not have been true (for instance that left-handed batting Frank Torre hit so well against left-handed pitchers that Braves manager Fred Haney started him against Sturdivant). Oops! True if it had been Whitey Ford, but not Sturdivant.
Had I not bumped into these errors in the last third of the book, I would have given this book a higher rating, because up to that point Klima's writing was simply wonderful. Case in point, I don't know if there has ever been a better analysis of Brave owner Lou Perini's role as a baseball visionary, or in his special care in looking out for and welcoming Hank Aaron.
If during the second printing of this book, an editor goes through this book with a discerning eye to remove the factual and interpretive errors, this is a five-star book in every way. And to those of you that might think that I am nitpicking, I remind you that a brain surgeon can't be mostly right.
on July 23, 2012
After I recently saw a review of this book in the Wall Street Journal, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. As a former Milwaukee boy who was seven years old when the Braves won the World Series, I was not disappointed. Of course, I didn't know about beer drinking and all night partying at that age and I sure didn't think my hometown was Bushville. What I did know is that the Braves were my team and I loved going to County Stadium to watch them play. Having them win the '57 Series (and beat the hated Yankees) was frosting on the cake.
Being only seven at the time and not necessarily being a student of baseball history, I cannot critique the book based on its accuracy. I do remember, for example, that the Journal was the evening paper in Milwaukee, not the morning one, so I am sure there might be a few factual errors elsewhere. Nonetheless, I found Mr. Klima's book to be a wonderful recounting of a different time in America before the internet and 24 hour news cycle. It was a time when baseball writers would drink with the players all night yet keep their secrets to themselves. Good or bad, it was a gentler, more innocent time that I frequently long for.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who grew in Milwaukee or simply wants to read a tale of a baseball team that came together at just the right team under an owner and manager who were ahead of their time. I had never given thought to the fact that Lou Perini was a pioneer who blazed the way for the Dodgers and the Giants to move West. I also learned many more interesting stories but I will leave the readers to find those for themselves.
It was a great read and definitely worth buying.
on July 23, 2012
I loved this book. I grew up in the Boston area a dedicated braves fan. That wasn't easy outnumbered ten to one by Red Sox followers. When they moved to Milwaukee it was a devastating blow, but I followed them loyally through the newspapers after that. This book brought back so many old memories. I still remember the last inning of the fourth game in excruciating detail. When Mathews hit that home run I was in seventh heaven. I fancied they could hear me cheering in Milwaukee.
There was much in the book I never knew - the dreary history of the early Braves,
Lou Perini's purchase of the club, the economics that precipitated the move to Milwaukee, the arrangements that Mr. Perini made with Frank Miller, the urgent desire of the fans in Milwaukee to have a big league team, the hostility of the sports writers, the politics with the league and the phenomenal support of the public. The wild partying and drinking of some of the players was a revelation. I had thought they were knights in shining armor. I had never heard any of that "Bushville" talk, though. I don't recall anyone here deriding Milwaukee. On the contrary people here were enormously impressed by the support the people their gave the Braves.
So many memories! It was wonderful to savor all over again that glorious year.
on August 9, 2012
I can't tell you how many fond memories John Klima rekindled as a result of his painstaking research and fine writing. I'm 62 and that 1957 season is one of my first memories of baseball. Klima splendidly captures that team, the era, Milwaukee and its ravenous fans like a slick 6-4-3 double play. Nicely done! Klima writes like a dream. Even his game story coverage sizzles -- 55 years after deadline. If you like baseball, this book is a welcome addition to your library. But it's more about an era, the opening of baseball to the Midwest and beyond, the visionaries who created the Milwaukee Braves. It's a home run.
on May 7, 2014
When I was 12 years old I was a big St. Louis Cardinals fan, following the team through the radio voice of Harry Carey on KMOX. I remember the fierce rivalry between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Braves and I remember the World Series that year when the Braves brought glory to the National League by defeating the hated New York Yankees. But for over half a century those great Braves' players--Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Johnny Logan, Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn, Lew Berdette and the others have remained little more than names on the radio or pictures on my baseball cards.
Until I read John Klima's book.
Klima makes those long ago stars real people. They were pranksters and beer drinkers, World War II veterans and shy young Africian-American players from the south, unsure of their status in the newly racially integrated world of major league baseball. And they came together in 1957 to accomplish a nearly impossible feat--beating the powerful Yankees of Casey Stengel in the World Series. Klima goes back to 1953 when the Braves relocated from Boston to Milwaukee and were embraced by the local fans as few professional teams have ever been. Then he chronicles the exciting 1957 season, explains how the Braves acquired Red Schoendienst who gave the team stability at second base, details the pennant race to the wire with my Cardinals and then tells the story of the heart stopping seven game World Series.
Although Klima utilizes some pretty jarring metaphors and includes a few paragraphs that sound like he's been hanging out with the Soprano gang, he writes with joy and enthusiasm about the Braves remarkable journey in 1957. He also sees that season as a watershed to the modern era of baseball because it ended New York's stranglehold on World Series championships and launched the expansion of MLB to the west and south. As someone who has written about sports during that era (Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s), I would highly recommend this book to any and all baseball fans. Its a great addition to the literature of modern sports history.
The 1957 Milwaukee Braves were a little before my time (the first World Series I remember is 1959), so John Klima's "Bushville Wins" provided a number of insights. While I knew of the 1957 Braves individually, I didn't know the personalities of Eddie Mathews, Lew Burdette, Fred Haney and others. I also wasn't aware of Milwaukee's "bush league" reputation, the intense rivalry between the Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and forward-thinking owner Lou Perini.
Klima writes that the 1957 Braves were "characters and cronies in a unique time." And, a very talented team, too.
In 1952, the Boston Braves drew a paltry 281,000 and lost $1 million. In 1953, after moving to Milwaukee, the Braves drew 1.8 million fans and posted a 92-62 record. The following year, they became the first team to attract 2 million fans.
Although the Braves had plenty of talent, they narrowly lost the 1956 pennant to the Dodgers. Fred Haney took over the managerial reins from Charlie Grimm midway through the season and immediately announced to the team that they were "playing for World Series money." Besides Haney, another key to the Braves winning the 1957 pennant was the acquisition of 34-year-old infielder Red Schoendienst on June 15, 1957. Schoendienst was the veteran they needed, and he was named team captain.
The New York Yankees arrogance and their snubbing of the Braves is at the centerpiece of Klima's account of the 1957 World Series. Of course, Lew Burdette ("I was the meanest player in the National League") was the star of the series, winning three games, including Game 7 on just two days rest.
I have read all three of Klima's baseball books, and while I have enjoyed them, I am somewhat uncomfortable (both as a reader and a writer) with how he presents what he thinks a subject thought and felt as a particular time. These are often deep, intimate thoughts and emotions that he wouldn't know firsthand. While it makes interesting reading, it requires the reader to almost make a leap to fiction. In contrast, Glenn Stout, who wrote a biography of Olympic swimmer Trudy Ederle, said he wouldn't describe the color of the English Channel water unless he read an account where she had described it. He did, however, find such an account, and only then did he describe the color of the water.
While Klima is obviously a talented writer, he often tries too hard. The result is too many similes and metaphors and overreaching for the story line.
on September 23, 2012
Anyone who knows as much baseball as the author claims to know should know that Gene Conley was a righthanded pitcher, not lefthanded. And anyone who grew up in Milwaukee should know which was the morning paper and which was the evening paper. Lou Perini and his partners (Guido Rugo and Joe Maney) were known as the "Three Little Steam Shovels," not the "Three Shovels" -- a much better nickname, I'd say. And I'm still waiting for an explanation of what "Alabama stride style" hitting is. As one who values accuracy above glibness, I had serious problems with this book.
on August 22, 2014
Lots of little errors contained herein, such as not knowing which pitchers were righties & which were southpaws. The further I got into this book, the worse it got. Suggest trying other books about that '57 Braves team.
on November 18, 2014
I looked forward to reading this book. I should have looked backward. I give this book a failing grade for four reasons.
1. Klima is unable to separate the present from the past. He describes things in terms and concepts that did not exist in 1957, unwittingly showing his ignorance of the game as it was then played. He talks about closers, saves and pitch counts of which were foreign to 1957. He speculates about why trades between the two leagues were rare, obviously ignorant of the fact they were illegal and nonexistent until 1959 unless all players involved cleared waivers and were thereby waived out of their respective leagues.
2. It is written more as an historical novel, complete with quoted dialogue and the thoughts of people long since deceased. Even if he interviewed some of them, no one can precisely remember conversations 50 years past. This throws the authenticity of everything he writes into question. He is guessing, as will be shown below.
3. Apparently unable to express himself in any other way, he litters his account with constant sophomoric scatological, sexual and sacrilegious references. It’s one thing to quote profanity, but even then it can be softened by using the first letter and blanks, but to constantly use gutter terms while describing events in your own words and attempting to write a book with the expectation that it be worth being taken seriously is completely counterproductive. Most of the obscenities are not quotes, but rather his writing style and lack of effective vocabulary.
4. If you are going to write on a subject you ought to know something about it. The book is filled with errors of all kinds, some bordering on unbelievable. This obviously also reflects the talents of his editor or lack of one. For examples: He states the Braves were descended from the 1876 Boston Braves. The Braves are baseball oldest continuous franchise. The Braves were founded in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings. He states the modern Milwaukee Brewers were named from the minor league Milwaukee Brewers but was apparently completely unaware the minor league Brewers replaced the Major League Milwaukee Brewers in 1902 who moved to St. Louis after the 1901 season and thereby fails to tie the St. Louis Browns’ near move to back to Milwaukee to the eventual Braves’ move.
There are numerous factual errors such as stating the Willie Mays hit his first home run on May 26 when at that point he had yet to collect his first hit. Virtually anyone familiar with Mays knows Mays was called to majors on May 25 and the home run in question took place on May 28. That is part of baseball lore. He states that Aaron homered on July 1 to tie him with Mantle for the major league lead with 24. Mantle hit his 22nd that day. This is admittedly obscure, but it calls into question the quality of research and makes one wonder how much of what he writes can be trusted.
He further displays his complete lack of baseball knowledge by implying that a pinch hitter reported to an umpire, and a relief pitcher was forced to take warm up pitches. He stated Casey Stengel was a former infielder and wanted to wear a low uniform number as a manager. He never played a single game as an infielder and wore number 37 as manager of the Yankees. He states the 1959 Braves lost a one game playoff to the Dodgers. Virtually anyone following baseball at the time would have known the playoff was a best two out of three.
He refers to Bob Hazle as an everyday player. During his entire career he had only 15 plate appearances against left handed pitching and only 6 of those were in 1957. Any Braves fan of that era would know he was the ultimate platoon player.
The most egregious error, however, is calling Gene Conley a tall lefty. There is no forgiveness for writing about a team and not knowing who was right handed and who was left handed. He does the same thing with the Yankees Tom Sturdivant. He states that Frank Torre, a left handed hitter, won manager Fred Haney’s confidence and started him against left hander Tom Sturdivant. This is like saying the Korean War started during President Dewey’s administration.
On the positive side there are clever similes, metaphors and descriptive phrases, but they are grossly overdone. There also are instances of subtle humor hidden between the lines.
As pathetic as this work is, I believe a competent editor could have edited the rampant, completely ineffectual profanities and had a baseball authority correct the plethora of errors. If one is writing to a targeted audience, in this case most likely those over 60 who may remember parts of the Braves’ 1957 saga, it is not particularly smart to write in a manner that is certain to offend them.
The bottom line is that there is a lot of information in this book that I did not know, but I simply cannot trust any of it to be accurate. Klima obviously is not a baseball historian. He never should have attempted this work without asking a SABR member or baseball aficionado to proof it and remove the staggering number of blunders.
I believe Klima has writing talent; he just needs guidance and better research habits. Ultimately, I blame his editor for accepting this rubbish. I have read well over 100 baseball books. Given its plethora of profanity and factual errors, I would rate this as the worst baseball book I have ever read.
on May 13, 2014
Lew Burdette should be in the Hall of Fame, and between these covers you will find out why, along with much else that is savory in retrospect and was heavenly in 1957. For readers interested in the period shift of franchises westward, this may be the ur-text. All in all, a rollicking read!