Monday, June 01, 2009

Book Review: 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

This is the highest compliment I can pay 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die: I would love to hear Vin Scully read it aloud.

For those used to consuming author Jon Weisman's writing in blog-sized chunks at Dodger Thoughts, 100 Things proves a pleasant revelation of Weisman stretching a single into a double on the written page, where his prose often reaches heights of unabashed lyricism. (Thing #95, practically a poem about some of the more mellifluous names to wear Dodger Blue, is just about worth the price of admission alone.)

Weisman, on Scully (a top-ten (T10) Thing*):

He's an artist. Of course he's an artist. You don't need a book to tell you that the man could broadcast paint drying and turn it into something worthy of Michelangelo.**

Weisman, on Walter O'Malley (#14), "something of a five-tool coat-and-tie":

His effort to keep the team in Brooklyn is well-chronicled and undeniable, but aging Ebbets Field was a pitch he ultimately couldn't drive. Like a savvy hitter, O'Malley went the other way for a hit, and smacked an opposite-country home run.

The book is much more weighted toward the "know" than "do" side of matters, appropriate for a franchise with over 125 years but only three major stadiums (T10, #18 & #49) in its existence. Weisman proves his mettle as a historian and researcher, bringing a snappy you-are-there quality to his narration of ballgames, regardless of era. Whether it's Brooklyn's "Wait 'Til Next Year" loss to the Yankees in the 1941 World Series (#54) or 2006's 4+1 game (#24), the descriptions are crisp and vivid.

From a historic perspective, Weisman doesn't shy away from Dodger controversies (such as leaving Brooklyn (T10), the occupancy of Chavez Ravine (#11) and Al Campanis on Nightline (#39)), although he takes pains not to throw anyone under the bus, not even Campanis. The O'Malley family is given due respect—Peter O'Malley wrote the book's foreword and Walter O'Malley's official website provided historic photos—and Weisman exonerates the Dodger organization from the "specter of looted art [that] hovers over Chavez Ravine."

With multiple sidebars, 100 Things is actually well over 100 things.

Weisman also shines the spotlight on a roster of deserving players, from the unsung Dick Nen to the under-appreciated Hideo Nomo (#19). The sections on the ahead-of-his-time Zack Wheat (#58) and spitballer Burleigh Grimes (#74) are as illuminating as Thing #46 is maddening—Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez on the Dodgers? It almost happened. Also, it's probably safe to say 100 Things is the only work where you'll find Piazza (#23) and a Tolstoy novel in the same sentence. And who knew Leo Durocher (#57) was such an asshole?

Avid Dodger Thoughts readers will be pleased to find Weisman's waggish wit in fine fettle throughout his book. Witness the 4+1 home runs, described thusly:

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back back back back back backs.

Or a tidbit on Dodger Stadium's sadly defunct Cool-a-Coo ice cream sandwiches:

A similar dessert is the It's It, but is an It's It it? It isn't.

Or Thing #71, simply titled "Manny Mota Mota Mota Mota Mota."*** Very nice.

With multiple sidebars, 100 Things is actually well over 100 things, all of which are rewarding reading for Dodger fans of all stripes. The breadth of the book's scope is a tribute to not only Weisman's Dodger knowledge but also the richness of the team's history. Like Dodger Thoughts, 100 Things is fun, educational and clearly a labor of love. Highly recommended.

And Mr. Weisman? We're looking forward to your book about Don Newcombe (#17).

100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (Amazon.com)

*The exact order of which I won't spoil.
**"It's tiiime to watch paint dry. Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be. Today primer takes on semi-gloss...."
***Interestingly, Mota and Pedro Borbon never played on the same team.

6 comments:

Fred's Brim said...

I got this about a month ago and really liked it as well. there are a lot of Dodger books on the market of varying quality, but what sold me was that Jon mentioned on Dodger Thoughts that there was a sidebar in the book for the Dodgers-Phillies game in 1990 where the Phils scored 2 in the 8th and 9 in the 9th to win 12-11. That game was one of the saddest in my baseball life and for some reason it felt good to read someone else's opinion about it after all these years of avoiding it

Neeebs said...

I really enjoyed reading this book in five or six chapters at a time. It's a book that you shouldn't race through, as you will lose the effect and purpose of the book (IMHO)

Neeebs said...

And just for the Record:

The commenters on Jon's blog generally SUCK!

The commenters on SOSG blog generally ROCK!

Have you read some of the idiotic posts that Jon has to deal with? Feh!

fanerman said...

I comment on both. Does that mean I Rock-Suck? Ruck? Sock?

Neeebs said...

There are a significant number of DT posters who make good points, and stick to the rules (written and unwritten.) Its the knuckleheads that bother me.

And you Fanerman...You Rock.

But I do note for the record that I post in DT under a different moniker, and its not Tom Paciorek.

Rob said...

Whiskey tango foxtrot?