The book: “The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball”
The author: Charles Fountain
The vital statistics: Oxford University Press, 290 pages, $27.95, Released October, 2015
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com and at the publisher’s website. (The publisher, by the way, is the same that makes the Oxford Dictionary).
The pitch: We admire Charles Fountain’s gumption for trying to fix something about the most well-known fix in baseball history.
For all we know, or think we know, about this incident creeping up on its 100th anniversary, this journalism professor from Northeastern University and former sportswriter who has already churned out a 1993 bio about Grantland Rice and the rites of spring training (which we reviewed as the first book of the 2009 season) finds a need to revisit something with a fresh set of cynicism.
This came out during last year’s World Series, so it missed the 2015 review list, but we’re not going to let it slip by that easy.
Much like what Glenn Stout did with the 1919 sale of Babe Ruth, Fountain is all about setting the record straight.
In a very subtle way, for example, he refers to Eliot Asinof’s “Eight Men Out” as “the best known if also the least-reliable book on the subject” just a few sentences into his book. So there goes any reference point you might have had in the literary world.
He acknowledges that the 1963 classic is “the single most influential telling of the Black Sox story, for it has shaped every telling that has followed. It has also made subsequent retelling of the Black Sox story difficult, for while ‘Eight Men Out’ is confidently presented and highly readable, it is also questionably sourced, and as much a work of imagination as history … (and) Asinof made no apologies for seeing and telling the story in dramatic terms and had originally conceived the project as a screenplay.”
Fountain is hardly spouting off. And we’re drinking it all in.