The only problem with getting free books to review from the University of Nebraska Press is that, at times, it overwhelms what this humble blogger can keep up with. The books get read, but sometimes it takes a while before the review gets published. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little more focused on clearing some of my backlog (while still having two books running that I’m reading and more waiting).
One of those books is 1921: The Yankees, The Giants, & The Battle For Baseball Supremacy In New York by Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg. The book focuses, as so many books do, on the teams in the Big Apple, this time when baseball was young and the Yankees weren’t necessarily the top draw in New York. The Giants, after all, were the team that had been winning and been a part of New York culture for so long. Led by John McGraw, these were the bunting, slap-hitting, aggressive team that, well, today might fall under the “scrappy” tag except they had plenty of talent to go around as well.
The Yankees, though, were in the process of redefining what baseball was and what fans wanted to see. 1921, of course, is when Babe Ruth reset the season record for home runs at 59 (after 54 in 1920) and moved into first place in the career leaderboard in that category as well. The Yanks were also being evicted from the Polo Grounds by the Giants and would have their own place, Yankee Stadium, the next year.
All of that sets the background for an exciting season of baseball, expertly told by Spatz and Steinberg. It’s not a dry recitation of games and stats, but instead delves into the people that were playing the game, their motivations and backgrounds, and the time that baseball was in, just starting to shake the shadow of the Black Sox scandal.
Of course, as so many World Series have over the years, this one winds up with these two teams playing for all the marbles, something that takes up about a third of the book. Each game has its own chapter and the drama is built up as much as possible for a Series that happened over 90 years ago.
If you are at all a fan of the history of the game and can stomach reading about New York teams yet again, I’d highly recommend you pick up 1921. It’s about 400 pages before indexes and such, but it’s an easy and engrossing read that you’ll find yourself finishing in no time. Definitely something the serious fan should be including in their library!