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The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series--and America's Heart--During the Great Depression Hardcover – March 26, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heidenry (The Boys Who Were Left Behind) offers a thorough if occasionally dry account of the "immortal, implausible, impossible gang of ballplayers known officially as the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals." The author draws on a wealth of books and publications to tell how a visionary named Branch Rickey invented the idea of using a farm system of minor league baseball clubs to develop talent, and then forged an unlikely, low-budget contender in a city far from the sport's Eastern power base. Rickey's team became known as the Gashouse Gang, owing to its role as a ragamuffin bunch with an indomitable spirit to whom Americans in the Depression could relate. The straightforward, detailed storytelling can make for some dull reading, particularly in the beginning, when Heidenry meticulously lays out the background of Rickey and the club. But anecdotes about the Cardinals' memorable characters, who included Leo "the Lip" Durocher, Casey Stengel, Pepper Martin and brothers Dizzy and Paul Dean, liven things up considerably. Dizzy takes center stage in the book, whether scheming new ways to get more money from management or mouthing off to the press. Baseball fans will appreciate this comprehensive look at the oddball pitcher and the team he led to glory. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, "the Gashouse Gang," are among the best known of all baseball teams and not only because of their dramatic World Series win over the Detroit Tigers. The team was operated by Branch Rickey, who later integrated baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947; it was managed by future Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch; and among its notable players were Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin, and Ducky Medwick. Heidenry, who wrote last year's entertaining account of the St. Louis Browns' improbable 1945 World Series appearance (The Boys Who Were Left Behind), carefully researched newspaper accounts, player biographies, and baseball histories for the anecdotes and game accounts that provide the substance for another highly readable slice of baseball history. America had endured the worst of the Depression by 1934, and though times were still lean, baseball attendance was on the rise. The Gang's colorful exploits, daredevil style, and working-class bravado caught the attention of dormant sports fans. A memorable, engaging account of a great baseball team made up of many of the game's most colorful characters. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (March 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484194
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #954,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Just finished The Gashouse Gang, by John Heidenry, and I'd highly recommend it. I greatly enjoyed this book.

This is a fun, easy book to read that covered the 1934 pennant race and World Series - with Dizzy Dean as the centerpiece of the book.

What makes the book such a joy to read is that the author refrains from going into excruciatingly minute detail of the 1934 baseball season - as many period authors do with a lot of information that you can never hope to retain - but rather presents it all as a interesting backdrop to the improbable cast of characters that made up the Gashouse Gang, including, among many others, the Dean brothers, Leo Durocher, Frankie Frisch, Pepper Martin, Joe "Ducky" Medwick and Rip Collins. He includes just enough relevant detail about the pennant race without the book ever becoming boring and devotes most of his efforts to developing all the zany personalities and all the many interesting baseball interactions and relationships. A lot of space is devoted to Branch Rickey and how he put this team of characters together and actually made it work. There's a lot of "local color" and 1930's "baseball flavor" that I really enjoyed. By the end, you really feel that you know the personalities of this group of talented players and what made the Gashouse Gang click as an exciting, one-of-a-kind championship team.

A lot of the information in the book will be familiar territory to baseball fans, but the author presents it all in such a lighthearted, engaging writing style that it kept me turning the pages. It was one of the few books I've read that I was disappointed when it ended. I've read other books about Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang, but this was easily the most enjoyable. If you want to brush up on this era in baseball history - a time when Dizzy Dean and the St. Louis Cardinals were on top of the baseball world - this is the book for you!
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Format: Hardcover
When I was a boy, I used to watch Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blatner (later, Peewee Reese) on the "Game of the Week" every Saturday afternoon. I remember Ol' Diz driving the English teachers crazy with his fractured English.

The Ol' Diz in Heidenry's book isn't quite so loveable. He went on strike in the middle of the 1934 season, demanding a larger salary for him and his brother Paul; he was a braggart, and he laughed at Hank Greenberg's futility against his pitches in the World Series. I find that last example rather hard to believe since a hitter can always drag bunt and take it out on the pitcher at first base.

The title of Heidenry's book is somewhat misleading. Most of the book is about Dizzy, I would imagine because Heidenry had the most information about him and because Diz was the most colorful of the Gashouse Gang. Heidenry refers to Ducky Medwick as a solitary loaner who picked fights with his fellow Cardinals, but the only evidence he gives us is a fight with Paul Dean that Dean started. The second most talked about player is Leo Durocher. Heidenry details his many marriages, his pool hustling, and his bench jockeying capabilities, but there's not that much detail. Heidenry limits himself, for the most part, to play-by-play, especially in respect to the 1934 World Series. About the most interesting segment was Heidenry's explanation of how the Gashouse Gang got its name. Apparently they were named after a New York street gang from the gashouse district of New York, an especially depressed area of the city. They were generally unshaven and their uniforms were dirty and in need of repair.
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Format: Paperback
Heidenry has written an engaging, anecdote-rich history of the 1934 Cardinals, with entertaining focus on the Dean brothers. But the book could have used a decent editor, for there are numerous errors, some of them howlers. Following an early 1919 meeting Branch Rickey was moved to join the army and go to Europe to train troops exposed to poison gas, but came home after the war ended in November 1919. This confusion, putting some of the events a year later than they actually occurred, makes one wonder about the accuracy of other information. Such as writing about 1925 as being in the middle of the Great Depression? The Texas League as Triple-A? Beating the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1931 World Series v. the Philadelphia A's? Saying the Cardinals finished both 6th and 7th in 1932, just five pages apart? Calling the early 30s a golden age for pitchers, over a decade after the demise of the dead ball era? Crediting an increase in attendance in 1934 and 1935 to night ball, which didn't get its major league start until 1935? Calling Satchel Paige's famous "bat dodger" pitch a "back dodger?" Both baseball history and general history get mangled far too frequently for a serious book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book climbs to the top wrung of my baseball ladder. Rather than a statistical or play-by-play book so common in baseball pages, this features personality development of some of the wackiest players of all time. Learn that Ducky Joe should have been Mean Joe, that Leo the Lip couldn't handle relationships, or that Dizzy Dean was really Jerome or Jay or Hanna or Herman, maybe that he was from Arkansas or Oklahoma or Texas -- well, you get it.

This book captures the thrill of a season and the joy of a team effort. It really makes you think of the Oakland Athletics of the Catfish days.

Just one observation: John Heidenry missed the point of the moniker, "Gashouse Gang." He can't figure out where it came from. He even ponders how "Gas Tank" became "Gashouse." During that day, electricity was provided by manufactured gas plants, sometimes called "witch's brew." The main structure was known as the "gashouse." The working class fellows who toiled away in those dirty gashouses were known as "the gashouse gangs." They cursed, they played dirty and hilarious tricks on each other, they had great and sour dispositions -- necessary to get through the tough days, and yes, their clothes were always filthy. Sound like the beloved Gashouse Gang?

Snag this book, and you will enjoy several hours of quiet time, if you can block out your own laughter.
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