Plenty of appealing book choices for Cubs and White Sox fans this spring
Chicago baseball fans are in for a literary treat this spring.
There are at least four books that will keep readers busy until at least the all-star break. Two of the books are biographies of Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, both titled "Let's Play Two."
One is a novel about the 1908 Cubs World Series winners, and another is a biography of late Cubs and White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray.
Here is a brief look at each.
The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball's Greatest Salesman, by Don Zminda
Harry Caray earned his greatest fame as the play-by-play announcer for the Cubs from 1982 until his death in February 1998. Unfortunately, he also is remembered by many for mispronouncing players' names and committing other gaffes.
Fortunately, Zminda, a native of Chicago, reminds us that Caray was one of the most influential broadcasters in history, virtually ruling the airwaves in St. Louis, both as the Cardinals' announcer and host of a sports radio show.
In his day, Caray could paint a word picture on radio with the best of them.
The author brings us inside Caray's lonely childhood, imperfect family relationships and feuds with players, managers and owners.
The Caray years with the White Sox (1971-81) were among the most entertaining in team history, and Zminda details Caray's breakup with the Sox and his signing with the Cubs, which caused no small problems with broadcaster Milo Hamilton, who thought he was heir to the throne of legendary Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse.
Caray's triumphant return from a stroke also is well chronicled.
Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, The Life of Ernie Banks, by Ron Rapoport:
This book soars largely because Rapoport had a personal relationship with Banks and was able to unlock a lot of the secrets of Banks' life, both on and off the playing field.
Rapoport succeeds in getting past the happy facade Banks put up for all of his life to provide a well-balanced portrait of Mr. Cub's complex life.
Let's Play Two: The Life and Times of Ernie Banks, by Doug Wilson
Wilson did not have the advantage of a close personal relationship with Banks that Ron Rapoport enjoyed, but his research is impeccable, and his storytelling is solid. Just as with Rapoport's book, Wilson gives us a good sense of the challenges Banks faced growing up in segregated Dallas, playing on losing Cubs teams and dealing with mistreatment from manager Leo Durocher.
The Run Don't Count, The Life and Times of Frank Chance and his 1908 Chicago Cubs, by Herb Gould
This is an entertaining novel penned by former Chicago Sun-Times sports writer Gould.
"I've always been a baseball history buff," Gould said. "I have a whole wall of books and have spent countless hours looking at old newspapers and magazines. I started out thinking about writing a biography of National League president Harry Pulliam but kept getting more and more interested in Tinker, Evers and Chance (of Cubs double-play fame in the early 1900s). They were such fascinating characters as well as winning athletes. The more I thought about it, they were naturals for a fact-based novel that brought out their personalities."
Gould does just that, but more impressive, he gives us a vivid picture of baseball and life in the early 20th Century, so much so that you can hear the clicketyclack of the trains rumbling across country and smell the aromas (not all of them pleasant) of the big cities.
The story is told through the eyes of a fictional Cubs batboy, who has a "chance" encounter with Cubs player-manager Frank Chance, and centers on the controversy of the Cubs winning the 1908 NL pennant.