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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 35 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
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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 (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An entertaining read for any baseball fan. It transcends the game, into personalities, business and social conditions, historical context, etc. The players are real human beings, warts and all, not just names on a score card. As Joe Garagiola would say, these guys didn’t run on batteries. Dizzy Dean may have been a 30-game winner but he was really just a big kid at heart. “A great big boy,” said his wife. He did have legitimate grievances, however, as no baseball team today would exploit a pitcher’s arm as the Cardinals did his. He had a right to complain of arm soreness.

This was “the most colorful team in the history of baseball,” says author Heidenry, and he has a point. With Ripper playing first base and Pepper playing third, with “The Lip” at shortstop and “The Flash” at second. With Spud behind the plate and Ducky-Wucky in the outfield, this team had some serious color! The pitching rotation mostly consisted of Dizzy and Daffy, with Tex and Wild Bill thrown in for good measure.

The first chapter is about Branch Rickey, the second is about the Dean Brothers. The rest of the book recaps the 1934 pennant race and World Series, punctuated by amusing anecdotes about the antics of a wild bunch of jokers and alpha males! A fun read for any baseball fan, especially those partial to St. Louis. Includes a photo section, index, and bibliography.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An enjoyable bit of Americana, this non-fiction book is a period piece of old fashioned sports writing, devoted mainly to the rise of the St. Louis Cardinals, from an impoverished franchise in 1920 to a major baseball dynasty in the 1940s. The book is devoted to the business acumen of Branch Rickey and Sam Breadon, and to the on the field heroics of Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Pepper Martin, Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick and the arrival of Stan Musial. Much of the book is given to the legend of Dizzy Dean and how it grew, though later authorities insist that J. Roy Stockton, the author, never embellished the story by adding fiction. Stockton wrote under the constraints of an era when the less glamorous side of athletes was little discussed, and he doesn't employ much in the way of conventional statistics to support the narrative, so that the book stands at the opposite extreme from the concerns of modern day sabermetrics disciples. But Stockton had a talent for expressing humor and presenting drama. Additional chapters deal with the rise of Bob Feller, a fascinating story in itself, and the comic opera management of the 1930s Philadelphia Phillies. Other chapters dealing with the supposed superiority of the American League and Jimmy Conzelman, a legendary St. Louis sports figure, may seem more dated, but are not without interest. On the whole, the book is a fine example of the sports journalism of the 1930s and 1940s.
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