Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: The Long Season

While in his baseball career Jim Brosnan was a slightly above average major league pitcher, it is his literary career that is much more remembered.

Brosnan who pitched for the Cubs, Cardinals and Reds amongst others as both a starter and a reliever was contacted by Sports Illustrated to write an article about his experiences during the 1959 baseball season.

This article grew into what would become the 268 page The Long Season which is regarded as the first modern novel of major league sports from a first  hand perspective that doesn't gloss over the varying ugly events, personalities and foibles of the participants.  A fluff piece about how Ty Cobb mentored the poor and Babe Ruth was a great husband this is not.

Brosnan's work owes a great deal of itself to the decidedly non-sports writers of the time as I found myself often comparing much of his writing to that of the conversational tone of Kerouac.

Any modern baseball critic owes it to themselves to read this book as it shows that many of the same issues plaguing the sport today are old news.  Complaints of a contracting strike zone, umpires who hold grudges, small ballparks, racism, overly rabid fans, and more are all here.  What is relatively new here is the critique of fellow ballplayers and non-rose colored glasses look at the game.

Here players are carousing in San Fran, drinking everywhere, disdainful of management, and even more dismissive of ownership.  Some players are cheap, others can't play a lick.

Brosnan doesn't get into any truly salacious details regarding what players were cheating on their wives, what players showed up drunk to games or things of that nature but they're all part of the narrative.

The book is a good, quick read and worthy of anyone looking to view and critique major modern sports and their machinations.

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