“As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns" by David Allan Heller
Baseball, professional, history, championship, Browns
September 28, 2012
4 of 5 stars (very good)
For most of their existence between 1902 and 1953, the St. Louis Browns were one of the poorest teams in the American League, both on the field and at the box office. Usually mired near the bottom of the standings, there was one glorious season for the team during World War II, 1944. This book by David Allan Heller captures that season in a quick and fun read.
The book is more of a history book than one that will provide great prose and stories as the Browns' 1944 season is told with many game recaps and side stories that affect the team and other contenders for the American League pennant such as the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, the two teams that made serious runs for the title along with the Browns. St. Louis started the season with nine consecutive victories, setting a new record for starting a season.
From there the season was a roller coaster ride for the Browns as they fell out of first place, regained the position for the better part of two months, fell out again and finally clinched the pennant on the last day of the season by defeating the Yankees. Every important play and game are described in good detail, including the six games of the 1944 World Series that was won by the Browns' cross-town rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.
There are many player stories in the book, from the All-Stars George McQueen and Vern Stephens to lesser known players like Sig Jakucki and Denny Galehouse. The latter was the surprise starter for game 1 of the World Series and the write up of his victory is done in the same manner as his story – not too long, but just enough to let the reader get a good picture of the game and a brief glimpse into the life and career of the player.
There are also frequent references to the draft status of the Browns players. Because many other teams' best players were drafted into military service during this time of World War II, the level of the Browns' competition was not as strong as it typically was. It is noted in the book that many of the Browns' best players were categorized for the draft as 4-F, ineligible for service. The book does mention that their infield was called the "4-F infield" because all four players in the starting infield had this draft status.
This book is recommended for readers who want to learn more about the only pennant-winning season for the Browns. While there is good detail to the game accounts and the pennant race, it is not an in-depth book that would capture the interest of baseball historians – instead it is better suited for more casual fans and at 128 pages, is a very quick but satisfying read for that purpose.
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