Something I never expected when I started my own website was for people to approach me to review their book. Call me naive, but I still am a little floored whenever anyone clicks on an article let alone offers feedback or contacts me about anything related to the site. Needless to say, I was pretty jazzed when a publisher wanted me to review a baseball book, but then the book came with a personalized card from the publisher and I said out loud, “Oh crap, what if I don’t like it?”
The above being the case I still didn’t go into Baseball Gods in Scandal any differently than I would other books. I know what I like in my baseball books and it would be up to the author, Ian S. Kahanowitz, to deliver what I liked. In that regard, I can tell you that Baseball Gods in Scandal both delivered and came up short. The premise was interesting enough, a decade’s old scandal involving Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. The first few chapters laid the groundwork nicely and I was all ready to dig into the dirt of the scandal and all those involved.
The book took a turn a few chapters in, mainly because Kahanowitz tried to fit a 250-page book into a short paper. There’s certainly enough happening for the story to merit a good historical analysis. However, information was often repeated 1, 2, 3 times and it became clear very early on that either consciously or subconsciously information was being repeated because there wasn’t enough content for 250 pages of historical analysis. This resulted in the book having somewhat of a disjointed feel and a clear timeline never truly being established. Both are big barriers for me when it comes to reading about history and the deeper I got into Baseball Gods in Scandal the more these elements stood out.
Little ticky-tack things like Kahanowitz continually referring to MLB as baseball is ultimately a personal gripe that seems to exist only with me and a very small number of others. Lots of editing mistakes were also troublesome, but that’s not an issue with the author but the lack of thorough editing by his publisher. For the most part, Kahanowitz does a fine job with the meat and potatoes of the main crux of the book, the Dutch Leonard Affair.
Where I think Kahanowitz does suffer is in his attempt to not editorialize at times. Speaker’s status as a player of class is the glaring example. Kahanowitz cites Speaker’s history of gambling and the stories of him being a racist and member of the Ku Klux Klan. Kahanowitz never goes deeper than that though and allows numerous characterizations of Speaker as an upstanding citizen to go unchallenged. I would have loved to read Kahanowitz get a little dirty and push back on the reality of someone like Speaker.
If nothing else Baseball Gods in Scandal further cemented my belief that Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a sham of a Commissioner. To read this book is to go deeper than his obvious racism and see how he ruled based on petty disagreements and prejudices. For that alone, I am thankful to have spent time with this book. On the whole, I found Baseball Gods in Scandal to be enjoyable. It is Kahanowitz’s first book and I think the groundwork is present for him to do more focused and deeper historical analysis in other baseball books he may publish. That being said I can’t recommend Baseball Gods in Scandal, it’s just too disjointed and full of too many editing mistakes for me to praise it that much.
Lead photo courtesy of Summer Game Books