“Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame That Lasted Forever” by Kevin Cook
Baseball, Professional, History, Yankees, Dodgers
August 15, 2017
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
1947 was a very memorable year in baseball as not only did Jackie Robinson become the first African-American player, but the New York Yankees and Robinson’s team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, played a very exciting seven game World Series in which the Yankees prevailed. With those two teams, one expects the stars to play big roles. That wasn’t the case in the 1947 World Series, and this excellent book by Kevin Cook sheds light on some of these forgotten players and also the two managers.
Both managers, Burt Shotton of the Dodgers and Bucky Harris of the Yankees, were unlikely choices to lead these teams. Shotton was considered a temporary manager for the Dodgers until Leo Durocher completed serving his one year suspension. Harris, who had been considered the “boy wonder” when he managed the Washington Senators to the World Series championship in 1924 and nearly repeated the feat in 1925, had little success since then and had been bouncing from team to team. The stories for each man on how he led his team to the World Series made for excellent reading.
However, the best stories are for the four players who were not stars, but played important roles in the Series. There is Bill Bevens, a journeyman pitcher who came within one out of pitching the first no-hitter in World Series history in game four. The Dodger who broke up that no-hitter, Cookie Lavagetto, not only hit a double with two out in the bottom of the ninth, but drove in two runs as two base runners who previously both walked scored on the first Brooklyn hit of the game. Then there is Snuffy Stirnweiss, a solid player who won the American League batting title in 1945 but received little respect for the feat since the game was depleted of its stars who were serving in World War II. Finally, there is Al Gionfriddo, whose catch of a Joe DiMaggio fly ball is well known from the famous reaction by the Yankee Clipper when he kicked dirt after rounding first, realizing the ball was caught.
These six men has their lives changed by these moments that would bring them temporary fame that was soon forgotten. What they went through before, during and after that World Series is captured in great story writing by Cook. He not only tells of the men’s careers and life after baseball, but he tells the readers little known details about each player that will make a reader pay a little more attention each time.
Here is an example of these little-known tidbits. Bucky Harris’s marriage was not holding up to his baseball life very well, and Ty Cobb offered to take the Harris children out to dinner so that Bucky and his wife Betty could get a break and have a night alone. While it never happened, the offer made a big impression on Harris that he never forgot.
One last area the book covers that I found interesting is when Cook writes about the place in history that both managers are and where Bill James, the father of advanced statistics, believe they should be. James feels that both Harris and Shotten are not given their proper credit for the managing jobs they did in 1947 and his reasoning is simple yet not well known.
“Electric October” gets its title from what the World Series was called by television executives that year as it was the first one that was shown nationwide on that medium. The title could very well be used to describe the connection of these six men in that one glorious seven game series as well. An outstanding collection of stories about men, about life and about one glorious World Series, it is one that all baseball readers should add to their libraries.
I wish to thank Henry Holt and Company for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book Format Read: