Recently, I contacted Skyhorse Publishing after seeing a certain book pop up on my Amazon screen. They were gracious enough to send along a copy and I settled in to read St. Louis Cardinals: Where Have You Gone?
The premise was an interesting one. Rob Rains and Keith Schildroth went and caught up with a number of names from Cardinal history. Not the Hall of Famers or anything like that–we typically know what Bob Gibson or Lou Brock are up to these days. (Even though a back-flipping Ozzie Smith is on the cover, he’s not in the book.) No, these were the second and third string guys in Cardinal history. Some (like Jack Clark) were big starts when they were with the club. Some (like John Morris) were those that might have been known by the fan base at the time, but didn’t necessarily resonate across time to those fans of today.
I’m going to have to split out my review of this book into two parts–the content and the technical. The content was outstanding. For Cardinal fans, just seeing the names of those that wore the birds on the bat in the past makes for an enjoyable experience. If you are an older (ie, watched the team before Whitey Herzog left the scene) fan, these names will take you back in time, remembering when these guys were ballplayers instead of the coaches, doctors and psychologists of today.
A number of the players, like Tom Nieto and John Stuper, went into coaching after their careers were over. Maybe they were in the minors, maybe they were in college. None of those listed ever made the bigs as a manager, but not for the lack of trying. Of course, many moved on into business, either baseball related (local coaching, camps, etc) or not. We tend to think that baseball sets up people for life, but that’s not always the case. Those fringe players may make better money than you or I do (well, at least I do) but it’s not enough to retire at the end of their career.
So if you want to read about former Cardinals and what they are up to, I’d recommend this book. (If what I’m about to say doesn’t dissuade you, at least.) It’s a quick read, as many of the chapters are only 2-3 pages and none are much longer than that. It’s an easy read and you could probably spend a nice rainy afternoon with it and possibly finish it up. Again, though, there are issues.
When you read the introduction, you find out that Rob Rains wrote the bulk of this book in 2005 and Keith Schildroth came behind and updated in 2011. That’s all well and good and, indeed, it’s a great idea to add some information and refresh some details. Especially in a book like this, a lot of things change and keeping up with these people makes a lot of sense.
The problem was in the execution. Large chunks of Rains’s work were left the same, including time references. So when you see the phrase “the last couple of years”, you aren’t sure if that means 2003-2005 or 2009-2011. About the time you’ve determined it’s the latter, it turns out to be the former.
New information wasn’t necessarily elegantly added either. A sentence might be updated in one paragraph even though the next paragraph works better with the original instead of the update. New stuff could be discussed before old items. Many players weren’t re-interviewed, so all the quotes have a dated feel to them for a book that was reissued so recently.
One of my major issues, because I’m a bit OCD like this, is that the players are in the book in no rhyme or reason. They aren’t alphabetical, they aren’t by era, they aren’t by position. Maybe they are in the order Rains originally interviewed them, but that’s just a wild guess. So you have Ernie Brogilo between Andy Van Slyke and Rick Horton. That’s a bit jarring.
And, to pick the tinest of nits, all the players have a picture with a border that looks like an old Topps card. (Like the Rookies app, but in printed form.) Save our final subject, Lee Thomas. Thomas, as Schildroth explains in his intro, was one of (if not the only) addition he made to the lineup. Which is great, save the picture on Thomas’s page is a plain picture of Thomas, not in uniform or anything, just a picture of him perhaps at a press conference or something. This picture also does not have the baseball card border, which is striking since it’s the last one in the book and you’ve gotten accustomed to seeing the pictures in that way.
Look, this really is a nice read and if you are a Cardinal fan, you could do worse than having this on your shelf. You just have to be able to look past its faults and enjoy what information there is.