My dad (“The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan”) spent the Fourth of July with me at my home. Watching the Cubs game was a red letter item on the day’s agenda. My dad dozed off a couple of times during the game. Afterwords, my brother-in-law observed: “Now I know how you can stand to watch the Cubs every day – you sleep through most of it!”
Later, I told my dad that I was sorry his Cubbies didn’t win the game (they lost 14-3). He laughed and said “Oh heck – I don’t let it get me down. As soon as the game ends, I forget about it.” Words to live by, from The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan. And now, on to the book review.
The complete title of this book is: “Chicago: Baseball in the City”. It is written by Derek Gentile, with foreword by Studs Terkel. It was published in 2006. This, is a coffee table book. It is oversized and it contains many large photographs.
When I saw the cover (which, by the way, features the Cubs colors of red, white and blue), I thought this book was going to be about the Cubs and Sox. As it turns out, it is about those 2 teams, but it’s about a whole lot more, too.
The foreword is by the late Studs Terkel, who came to Chicago from NYC and who was a White Sox fan. As the late Mr. Terkel explains it: “I was a Giants fan as a kid, so I couldn’t be a Cubs fan…” That is an explanation which I can understand.
The book is arranged into three sections:
- The Leagues and The Teams;
- The Places; and
- The People.
Following the Foreword and a short Introduction, the body of the book itself opens with a decade by decade review of the Chicago Cubs, followed by a similar review of the Chicago White Sox. This stuff is required reading for everyone interested in the history of professional baseball in Chicago.
“The Leagues and The Teams” section continues with essays on:
- Little League in Chicago (in which I once participated),
- The Federal League and The Chicago Whales (which resulted in the construction of what is now known as Wrigley Field),
- The Negro Leagues (very informative) , and
- The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (immortalized in the movie ”A League of Their Own”).
Section 2, titled “The Places”, contains photos and text about
- the Home of the Chicago Cubs (Wrigley Field) and about
- the Homes of the White Sox, (Comiskey Park I and II, and US Cellular Field).
Inexplicably, Section 2 (The Places) also contains:
- “The Top 10 Most Dramatic Moments in Chicago Baseball History “, and
- “The Top 10 Most Disappointing Moments in Chicago Baseball History”.
Section 3, (The People) begins with a presentation of All-Time All-Stars, position by position, of the Cubs, and then of the White Sox. These listings, like the opening decade by decade team reviews, are required reading for anyone interested in the history of Major League baseball in Chicago.
Next up are 2 compilations titled “Hometown Heroes”, which are about ballplayers who were originally from Chicago. The first group are Minor League players from Chicago, and the second grouping are the more familiar Major Leaguers from Chicago.
The last 2 chapters of the book are about “The Broadcasters” and ”The Fans”.
- “The Broadcasters” contains familiar names and faces. Familiar to locals, that is.
- And as the book says about “The Fans”: “For more than a hundred years, Chicago fans have had a simple choice: Cubs or Sox. You don’t get to pick both. There are no diplomats in foxholes.”
There are many, many large historical photographs included in this book, most of which I had not seen before.
I enjoyed looking through and reading “Chicago – Baseball in the City”. It really is a kind of a family photo album, with detailed explanations. Being a fourth generation Chicagoan, this illustrated look back through time was particularly pleasing to me.