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Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself Hardcover – May 12, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1958, after the Dodgers and Giants had both left New York for California, a group of investors sought to bring the city a new baseball franchise, and their proposal was a bold one. Led by former Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, they sought to create an entire new major league. Meanwhile, as the advocates for the would-be Continental League tried to make their case before the existing major league owners, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel struggled to keep America's most popular team in championship form. Shapiro (The Last Good Season) parallels these two stories, arguing that they represent a hinge point when team owners could have taken radical steps to reclaim the sport's hold on the public imagination, but chose instead to cling tightly to their near-monopoly, paving the way for other sports, like football, to rise in popularity. The history, filled with colorful personalities, is told in a straightforward manner. While its two halves don't always fit together neatly, they offer a lively perspective on backstage dealings that almost changed the course of professional sports in America. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Mr. Shapiro tells his tale with verve. . . . It’s an enjoyable ride."--The Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Shapiro dramatically builds his tale to a walloping conclusion."--Sam Roberts, The New York Times

“A compelling and thoroughly enjoyable trip back in time to a turning point that never turned.”--The Washington Times

"Sharply researched . . . Exactly how the Continental League gathered strength and then faltered, and exactly how its impact is felt today, are treasures to be unearthed in [Bottom of the Ninth]."--Sports Illustrated

"Elegant and exhaustively researched . . . It’s a testament to Shapiro’s sharp eye for detail that he keeps the story zipping along. . . . He captures the sense of loss – not only for Rickey and Stengel, but for baseball and its fans."--The New York Times Book Review

"By far the best investigation of the failure of the Continental League. . . . A fascinating piece on a long neglected aspect of baseball's past."--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[An] engaging look at a significant, though often forgotten, chapter in the game’s history."--The Boston Globe

"A must for Mets fans, who should know their roots. . . . Terrific."--Bill Madden, New York Daily News

"Shapiro. . . is a terrific writer. His accounts of Branch Rickey's struggle and eventual failure to create a third major league, the Continental, as well as the last Yankee season of baseball's most successful manager, Casey Stengel (whose team lost the 1960 Series on Bill Mazeroski's home run in the seventh game), makes for compelling reading."--Allen Barra, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Compelling." – Los Angeles Times

"[Shapiro] has once again hit it out of the literary park. . . . This retelling of a little-known chapter in baseball history is exemplary sports reporting."--Tucson Citizen

"This season brings a bumper crop of books about baseball in New York, the best of which concerns a team and a league that don’t even exist. Michael Shapiro’s ‘Bottom of the Ninth’ . . . is one of the best tales of what might have been, how baseball might have harnessed the power of television and how the sport might have staved off the rise of football."--David M. Shribman, Bloomberg News

"A fascinating look at an almost forgotten era. . . . One of the best baseball books of recent seasons. Grade: A."--Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Michael Shapiro hits another one out of the park."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The fascinating, might-have-been story of the Continental League."--Tulsa World

"Filled with colorful personalities . . . A lively perspective on backstage dealings that almost changed the course of professional sports in America."--Publishers Weekly

"Shapiro expertly enlivens these two larger-than-life characters and captures in fine detail an important era in baseball history. A well-crafted story."--Kirkus Reviews

"If you like an untold story, and who of us does not, and if you are even a little bit of a sports junky than "Bottom of the Ninth" belongs on your reading list. . . .Shapiro, author of "The Last Good Season," is in top form breaking new ground and providing new awarenesses of a little reported on chapter in American sports history. . . . A good read."--Harvey Frommer, author of New York City Baseball, 1947-1957

"Michael Shapiro shines a warm and penetrating light into the largely forgotten era of baseball in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when New York still had the Yankees, but the Dodgers and Giants had fled and the Mets were yet to be. Bottom of the Ninth is a treat for anyone who loves the game or suffers over its stumbles."--David Margolick, author of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink

"Baseball is all about good stories.  In this well-conceived and graceful book, Michael Shapiro wraps the superb story of the 1960 World Series within the intriguing tale of Branch Rickey’s concurrent efforts to start a new league—the Continental League. Shapiro argues that baseball made a crucial and irreversible error by aborting that league. Not surprisingly, the on-field stuff outdoes the business stuff, but only barely. A good read."--Fay Vincent, former commissioner of baseball and author of The Only Game in Town and We Would Have Played for Nothing

"Romance (of a sort), betrayal (short of literal backstabbing), conniving potentates, territorial maneuverings, midsummer dreams. Shakespeare?  Tolstoy? No, it’s a wonderfully crafted nonfiction book by Michael Shapiro, Bottom of the Ninth, with baseball machinations and great baseball characters the central subject. Read it. You’ll see what I mean."--Ira Berkow, author of Full Swing and The Corporal Was a Pitcher


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,099,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Forrest Wildwood VINE VOICE on March 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Michael Shapiro writes a fascinating account of a little remembered baseball event namely the rise and fall of baseball's short lived Continental League. Covering the time period of Fall of 1958 through the famous Yankee's/Pirate's 1960 World Series, he unfolds the chain of events starting with Walter O'Malley's Dodgers leaving Brooklyn to head to LA and New York's search for another baseball team. William Shea was sent by the Mayor on this quest. Frustration would lead him to baseball executive Branch Rickey and there would begin baseball's third major league the Continentals. The fear of competition, congressional threats to baseball's anti-trust protection, and the player monopoly of the reserve clause, (reversed in 1974 with advent of free agency), would end the Major's expansion resistance and doom the Continental league.

The early chapters of the book deal with a lot of behind the scene business and political wrangling to get the major league owners to accept the Continental league. Shapiro does a great job unfolding the characters and players involved in this event. This was interesting and educational but had a tendency towards information overload with a lot of individuals coming in and out of the story. There was almost the need for a score card to keep track of everyone in this book. Overlapped within the Continental league's story is, in my opinion, the best part of the book and that was the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the Pirates. This is where the book really starts to come alive in an almost mini series play-by-play. Casey Stengel's demise would coincide with baseball's dropping popularity and the real winners, beside expansion to cities across the country, would be the NFL. With television contracts and splitting money evenly for competitive balance, football would see its' popularity on the rise. This is one of those great sports reads and a definite must for anyone interested in the history of major league sports.
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Format: Hardcover
My husband always tells me that he loves sports for the stories they tell, and it's with that lens that I have finally come to appreciae baseball, soccer, basketball, and even football. This book was very satisying to my point of view. It explores the politics, sociology, and economics of a major turning point in major league sports in America.. Readers steeped in baseball history, or not, should enjoy this book. It is interesting and educational, although sometimes overwhelming.

I was excited to learn about the later years of Branch Rickey's career, who I first became acquainted with by reading Jackie Robinson's memoir My Own Story. In his last years of baseball influence he developed the Continental League to expand Major League Baseball to new metropolitan areas in the country and challenge the power of the Yankees. It is fascinating to learn how thi got wrangled up into political battles not only with New York but US Congress (over anti-trust taxation), and inevitably led a decline to baseball popularity and rise in football fans!

A great read; Give it a go!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the Dodgers and Giants arrival in California from New York, an act that made baseball a true coast to coast game. The effects of this move would be far reaching, but as shown in Michael Shapiro's book Bottom of the Ninth, it could have been even more transformational.

The protagonists of Bottom of the Ninth are Casey Stengel and Branch Rickey. As the main story begins, it is late 1958 and the Yankees are again in the World Series. More than its recently departed neighbors, the Yankees were the center of the baseball universe, and it was Stengel who had kept them there over the past decade. The Yankees were almost too dominant; it was such the natural order of things for them to win it all that even their World Series games weren't automatic sellouts. In 1958, however, the Yankees would be upset and doubts would begin to surface about Stengel.

Meanwhile, Branch Rickey was involved in a scheme to create a new baseball league, one to compete with and eventually join the other Major Leagues. His model was Ban Johnson's founding of the American League and Rickey, one of the savviest executives in baseball (who, among other things, was responsible for Jackie Robinson's debut with the Dodgers), had the knowledge and clout to make this new Continental League come into reality. Or so he thought.

By 1959, Stengel found his Yankees faltering and not even making it into the World Series, while Rickey was working to assemble his new league. The crux of this plan would involve having a new New York team at a site in Flushing Meadows. There were two big problems: getting enough teams and the resistance of the Majors. Rickey had plans for both these issues.
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With "Bottom of the Ninth," author Michael Shapiro provides a comprehensive snapshop of baseball around the year 1960.
In this book Shapiro really weaves several stories, as well as a shift of power in baseball, and baseball's fall from being the nation's most popular sport. One of the primary stories involves the New York Yankees, who were coming off of two decades of dominance with an aging Casey Stengel as manager.
The other primary story is about the attempt of Branch Rickey, Bill Shea and others to establish a third league, the Continential League, to compete directly with the established American and National leagues and bring baseball to cities that were growing in population and wanted to be "big league" by having its very own team. Shapiro provides an in depth look at all of the back-office meetings that went on between the owners, who wanted to keep the status quo, and the leaders of the upstart Continental League, who wanted to launch the eight-team league. Throw into the mix the commissioner's office, the city of New York (which wanted to return National League baseball to the city), and background about congressional activity that protected the established order.
Similary, he illustrates how Casey Stengel was ending his run as manager of the New York Yankees, and gives a detailed summary of the famous 1960 World Series, which saw the Pittsburg Pirates defeat the Yankees in seven games. Casey would be fired following the 1960 World Series, deemed too old to manage the Yankees.
Another key compenent of the book is parallel Shapiro draws between the Continential League and the upstart American Football League.
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