Who would have thought that a book about a baseball corruption scandal published in 1963 would be such a page-turner? Certainly not me, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had such a hard time putting it down. Of course, I do like baseball.
I'm not sure why I decided to include this in my summer reading project. I like baseball, I like nonfiction, and I'd always heard about the World Series scandal of 1919. I guess that was enough to land it on my reading list. Anyway, I enjoyed this book tremendously. My only complaint was how the book ended, which I'd say was abruptly. I guess I expected some philosophical winding-up or some thoughts on the human desire for money at all costs, or something.
The book is divided into five parts, each of which deals with a different part of throwing the World Series: the setup, the Series, the trial, the aftermath. The thing that makes this book so easy to read is that the author does a fair amount of imagining conversations and fabricating encounters. That technique is probably frowned upon in nonfiction or history writing today, but perhaps in the 1960s, absolute accuracy took second place to readability. I actually appreciated this technique, as it made the sometimes dry retelling of baseball plays more palatable and easy to read.
I came away from this story feeling sorry for the eight baseball players who threw the World Series. Sure, they did commit a crime, but it seemed like they were punished disproportionately for their sins. The mishaps and misbehavior of the other characters in the story (the lawyers, the club owners, the gamblers, and the judges) seemed very suspicious and went relatively unpunished as far as I could tell.
Although I really enjoyed the readability of this book, I wonder what a more scholarly interpretation of the scandal would reveal, since Asinof didn't really go into details about his sources. I found myself wondering more than once about where the information about the actual plot came from, whether it was just from the testimonies of the players, or from corroborating sources.
I'd recommend this book to anybody who is vaguely interested in early twentieth-century American history, since the book really has strong descriptions of life in 1919, and the ways in which the World Series was so important to so much of the American population. It's so readable that I think people who aren't necessarily baseball fans would be able to enjoy it.