Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review of "Seasons in Hell"

I was in the mood for a lighter book to review, and I was able to obtain an inexpensive digital copy of this book originally published in 1996.  This one did the trick, as it was one of the funniest books on baseball that I have read.  Here is my review of "Seasons in Hell." 

“Seasons In Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and the ‘Worst Team in History’ the 1973-1975 Texas Rangers” by Mike Shropshire

Baseball, Rangers, Humor, history

Publish date:
March 25, 2014 (digital version. Originally published 1996)

219 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)

When a young sportswriter received the news that he was going to be working on the Texas Rangers’ beat in 1973, he didn’t really know what to expect.  That sportswriter, Mike Shropshire, ended up writing about that assignment in this hilarious book about what was arguably one of the worst baseball teams in the history of the game.  

That season the Rangers finished with 105 losses and was managed by Whitey Herzog, who would later achieve more success managing the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals.  The bulk of the stories and book is centered on this 1973 team and many of the quotes that Herzog has in this book, especially on the abilities and skills of his players, is reason alone to invest some time in this book.

This is not a new topic for books – the inside stories of a major league baseball team, some of which are not family-friendly. However, unlike other books that have been written by players, I felt that this version of that theme, from the vantage of a writer who travels with the team and has to submit a story every day during the season, gave the reader a different perspective.  Instead of simply telling everything that happened to him, Shropshire’s version of these wacky stories has the feel of being that “fly on the wall” – and it is a very funny version.

Even after that terrible season, the book stays as funny as ever when Billy Martin becomes the new Rangers manager. Anyone who knows about Martin’s history for drinking and fighting will appreciate these stories as well. They stay in the same short, compact format that makes the book easy to read and enjoy.

While it is entertaining, there are editing and factual errors that pop up and were a distraction for me.   One is the misspelling of names such as “Mohammad” Ali and Don “Larson” instead of Larsen, the correct spelling of the man who pitched the only perfect game in a World Series. 

Even worse, when Jim Bibby threw a no-hitter for one of the few bright spots in that 1973 season for the Rangers, Shropshire mentions that it is the third no-hitter in the Senators-Rangers franchise history. He even lists the other two – Walter Johnson in 1920 and Bobby Burke in 1931.  Problem is – that Washington Senators franchise did not become the Rangers, but instead moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. The franchise that became the Rangers was the “new” Washington Senators that started play in 1961 to replace the team that left for the Twin Cities. 

While these errors may take away from the historical accuracy, history is not what this book is about.  It is about sharing funny stories about a team that was one of the worst the game has seen.  In that context, this book is certainly worth reading as the reader will be entertained from the first page to the last.

Pace of the book: 
This was a very quick read as I completed it in less than two hours of total reading time.  It was a page turner for me because it was so entertaining.

Do I recommend? 
Yes, to baseball fans who enjoy humorous stories will enjoy this as it is geared toward readers who enjoyed books such as “Ball Four” and “The Bronx Zoo.”

Book Format Read:
E-book (Nook)

Buying links:

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