Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review of "In Pursuit of Pennants"

There are several good baseball books that will be published this spring.  I have been fortunate to be able to obtain advance copies of two of them.  One was previously reviewed, the biography of Twins great Tony Oliva.  This post is my review of the other one, which is an excellent dissection of methods used to build winning baseball teams.  This focuses on the front office and owners and is an entertaining, well-researched book.  Here is my review of "In Pursuit of Pennants." 

“In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations From Deadball to Moneyball” by Mark L. Armour and Daniel R. Levitt

Baseball, management, history, Yankees, Reds, Pirates Royals, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants

April 1, 2015

504 pages

5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)

In the synopsis of this book, this question is asked: why do some baseball teams win while others don’t?  It is a question that has been around as long as the game itself.  This well-researched and well-written book examines the method used by winning teams to not only put together that successful club but also what was done to either keep winning or why the success had to come to an end. 

Nearly the entire history of professional baseball is covered, from the early days of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise to the current success of the San Francisco Giants.  The reader learns how different owners and general managers from Barney Dreyfuss (Pirates for 32 seasons in the early 20th century) to Colonel Ruppert for the New York Yankees in the 1930s and 1940s, to Branch Rickey, George Steinbrenner and Billy Beane, they are all covered in this book.

The stories from various baseball executives are entertaining, funny and keep the book light despite some of the heavy research material. It reads like a fun history book without worrying about the next assignment or essay that might be due. 

Nearly every type of strategy to build a winning baseball team that has had some degree of success is analyzed.  Whether a team was built through its farm system, by signing free agents, building through the first-year player draft, statistical analysis or any combination thereof, this book will discuss the way it is done  and the men behind that club’s success. 

Any reader who has even a passing interest in baseball will enjoy reading this book.  I especially enjoyed the sections on how the teams of the first half of the 20th century were able to build their winning clubs.  However, if more recent history is what the reader wants to learn, the stories from modern times are just as good.  This is an excellent source of baseball history through the lens of the front office.

I wish to thank NetGalley and the University of Nebraska Press for an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No.  This was a very interesting baseball history lesson wrapped up in a book, so I wanted to make sure I read every word.

Pace of the book:
Very good – even with the extensive research required, it was a smooth easy read.

Do I recommend?
This is an absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys the game of baseball and is curious about why a winning team is so successful.

Book Format Read:
Ebook (Kindle)

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