Books on Cubs:

Tinker, Evers and Chance: A Triple Biography

by Gil Bogen

"....the saddest possible words.....Tinker to Evers to Chance......"

Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance made up one of the most famous double play combinations in history, tied together so closely they all were elected to the Hall of Fame in the same year.

A new book by Gil Bogen goes into the lives of each man in a fascinating "triple" biography, from Joe Tinker hard working and passionate, Johnny Evers, fiery and serious-minded, Frank Chance, leadership defined and competitive to a fault(he endured numerous beanings in his zeal to get on base), Bogen delves into the details of each mans off field lives and their post career ups and downs. Bogen does an excellent job researching each mans life, talking to family members and checking newspaper clippings. I thought it was interesting that all 3 men had difficulties in their post career, with Tinker having some business problems, Evers with numerous financial and emotional setbacks and Chance having his life cut short, most likely from the many beanings he endured as a player.

Bogen also does an excellent job of setting the record straight on something that Ive discussed elsewhere on my website. For years, I was under the impression that Frank Chance was fired by Charles Murphy as manager of the Cubs while in the hospital recovering from brain surgery, but according to this book, Chance was actually fired by Murphy following a loss by the Cubs to Sox in the annual City Series the 2 teams used to play. While being fired for losing an exhibition game is not as egregious as being fired while sitting in a hospital bed recovering from a serious operation, still it is a bit of a slap in the face. If you look in my Thumbnail History you will note the change. Also, I thought Bogen actually did a pretty good job making a case that all 3 men are deserving of their places in the Hall of Fame. Ive always questioned whether Tinker or Evers should be in, but Bogen has given me something to chew on.

I am going to go into this discussion in more detail at a later date, so keep watching.

If you are  interested in the Golden Age Cubs or turn of the century baseball, you should enjoy this book. There are some terrific old photographs as well. This is certainly up there as far as favorite books of the year.

This book is published by McFarland.




Ernie Banks:Mr.Cub and the Summer of '69

by Phil Rogers

1969 was the summer I became a Cubs fan. I was very much aware of Ernie Banks and what he meant to the Cubs. On Opening Day, it was Willie Smith who hit the game winning homer, but what made that game really special was the 2 home runs by Mr. Cub. And for me personally me and my family were lucky to see him hit no.511 in person off of Tug McGraw of the Mets.

Ernie Banks has always fascinated me, from the way he was treated publicly by Phil Wrigley to his persona of the smiling optimistic little kid. So I was anxious to read this book by Rogers, who is a familiar face from his regular appearances on Chicago Tribune Live. And for the most he does not disappoint. Contrasting the aging Banks during the turbulent '69 season with the young Banks growing up, becoming a superstar and finally an icon. One thing that fascinates me the most is how Banks can maintain such optimism when he surely had to have been faced with many of the difficulties African Americans faced in playing professional baseball. From what I can gather from Rogers book is that he was born with this optimism. I also find it interesting that young Ernie had to be bribed to play catch with his father, because he wasnt initially interested in the game. Rogers does do an excellent job of telling the story of how his career evolved and how the season of '69 developed. He even compares the Cubs season with that of the Mets.

Now, the biggest problem I had with the book is in how Rogers handles Philip Wrigley. He seems to almost deify the longtime owner of the Cubs. He paints a picture of a generous, caring man who is almost God-like(at least, thats the way it sounds). Now, please, dont get me wrong. I dont have anything against Wrigley as a person. Maybe he was a kind, generous man who treated his employees well. But Rogers almost seems to ignore the obvious imcompetence of Wrigley as an owner and seems to try to blame other people in the Cubs organization, even trying to paint John Holland and Charlie Grimm as racist yes-men. He seems to especially go out of his way to suggest that Holland only traded Lou Brock because of his color. Maybe he did, but he does not give any evidence to prove that it was true. (Of course, I think a really interesting book could be written about Holland, who I always thought was one of the most misunderstood figures in Cubs history). But Rogers completely ignores the fact that Wrigley was totally clueless when it came to running a baseball team. I dont know if this is because Ernie Banks thought so highly of Wrigley and Rogers is taking his viewpoint or if Rogers really believes what Banks thinks. But the College of Coaches, the Athletic Director, firing a manager for simply giving him the truth, they are proof of Wrigleys inability to run a baseball team. He may have been a nice guy, but "Nice Guys Finish........" well, Im sure you know......

Anyway, that is actually a minor quibble and if anything, it gives you something to think about as you are reading. Technically, it is well written and if you are a fan of the '69 era or an Ernie Banks fan or are like me a find it useful as a part of baseball history and Cubs history you will definitely enjoy it.

Almost from the beginning, I was reading books on baseball, books that educated me on the long history of the sport. My mom was very supportive of my interest in the sport, just as she had been when I developed an interest in the Presidents. One of the very first books she ever got me was a book that has been recognized as one of the best books on the history of baseball. It was  The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter.

Since then I have read many books on baseball and some of them were important to giving me the information I have used here.

I am going to give a somewhat rudimentary list of books I think every baseball fan should read, but especially books relevant to Cubs fans

The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter: See above

Veeck, as in Wreck by Bill Veeck and Ed Linn: Bill Veeck , Jr is an important figure in the history of the Cubs. He planted the ivy that now hangs on the OF walls and his father was probaly the greatest GM in the history of the Cubs, though he is still overshadowed by his son. He talks a lot about his father and gives some great insights into the game. This might be my alltime favorite baseball book outside of the Baseball Encyclopedia and Bill James' Historical Abstract

Nice Guys Finish Last by Leo Durocher: Or, the world according to Leo the Lip. This is a fascinating look at the life of a true original. And there is probaly the most detailed  version of the infamous Clubhouse Revolt that took place in August 1971. No matter how you feel about Leo, its a must read. 

Jolly Cholly by Charlie Grimm: among the first baseball books I ever read, its been a while since I read it, but from what I can remember it was a fairly entertaining book with a lot of stories from the last Cubs manager to wn a pennant. A lot of stuff about Jolly Cholly playing the banjo. Not sure if its even in print anymore. If you can find it anywhere, check it out. 

Americas Dizzy Dean by Curt Smith: even though ol' Dizs career with the Cubs is notable mainly for his stints on tne DL, he is one of the most colorful figures in the history of baseball and this book is an excellent retelling of his life. If you are like me, you probaly grew up with the image of Dean as the smiling, genial clown as potrayed by Dan Dailey in the movie the Pride of St.Louis. But except maybe for the suggestion that he drank a little, the movie pretty much glossed over some of the more unpleasant aspects of his life. He was much more than a clownish, smiling hick. He could be ruthless and even mean. He was not a one dimensional sterotype. He was very complex and the book does a great job in showing that. Thats why this is one of my favorite biographies.

For Love of Ivy by Ron Santo: Ron Santo picks his alltime Cubs team. If you have an interest in All Star teams, then this book is for you. Or if you just like anything from the late, great captain of the Cubs. 

Cubs Journal by John Snyder: a comprehensive resource of facts and figures from each season in Cubs history was invaluble in helping me with my Home page

Essential Cubs by Doug Myers; another compendium of facts, figures, all star teams and more

The Black Prince of Baseball:Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game by Don Dewey and Nick Acocella: Hal Chase is one of the most notorious figures in the history of baseball, having been tied to game fixing more than any other player, including the 1919 World Series. He played for ex-Cubs manager Frank Chance in New York, where Chance couldnt get rid of him fast enough. Its a fascinating look at a player who wasted a talent for playing 1st Base. An excellent book if you are interested in the game fixing scandals that went on. 

The Original Curse by Sean Devaney: See my review in my Blog section

Fred Merkle:Public Bonehead, Private Hero by Mike Cameron: See my review

Billy by Billy Williams and Irv Haag: if you like Billy Williams you will enjoy this biography from 1975. I think he updated it recently, but I dont know the name and I havent read it yet. 

Fergie(I cant remember the name by Fergie Jenkins: a book for Fergie fans. Again, I think its been updated but I havent read it yet.

Mr.Cub by Jim Enright: this is from the mid-70s too. Another fan book

Mr. Cub and the Summer of '69 by Phil Rogers: See my review above

There are other Cubs related books out there, I just cant think of them at the moment. But I will update this list as need be.

Here are books that are not Cubs related, but they are excellent books you can check out if you love baseball.

The Babe by Robert Creamer: this is probaly the best, most comprehensive bio of the greatest baseball player ever. This is an unglossed, fully dimensional look at the Babe, with warts and all. He had his flaws and Creamer doesnt ignore them, but he tries to present as fair a picture of Ruth as anyone has ever done.  It was a bit shocking for 1975, but probaly tame by todays standards. 

Just about anything by Bill James; Stat-heads everywhere consider James a god and he is probaly responsible for the slew of new stats. Yet, for me, what made him entertaining was the irreverent  way that he would make his case. Although even his statistical studies could leave my head spinning, what kept me reading was his wit and satirical take on baseball. His Historical Abstract is a masterful piece of work. 

Baseball Encyclopedia by Joseph Reichler, editor: this is THE granddaddy of all stat books. A statistical profile of EVERY SINGLE major league player in history, this was an invaluble  resource for me growing up and taught me an appreciation of stats. 

I will continue to update as I go along. Keep watching this space!

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