Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself

Overview

"A fascinating look at an almost forgotten era . . . One of the best baseball books of recent seasons." ?Cleveland Plain Dealer

In Bottom of the Ninth, Michael Shapiro brings to life a watershed moment in baseball history, when baseball was under seige in the late 1950s. He reveals how the legendary executive Branch Rickey saw the game's salvation in two radical ideas: the creation of a third major league?the Continental League?and the pooling of television revenues for the ...

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Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself

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Overview

"A fascinating look at an almost forgotten era . . . One of the best baseball books of recent seasons." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

In Bottom of the Ninth, Michael Shapiro brings to life a watershed moment in baseball history, when baseball was under seige in the late 1950s. He reveals how the legendary executive Branch Rickey saw the game's salvation in two radical ideas: the creation of a third major league—the Continental League—and the pooling of television revenues for the benefit of all. And Shapiro captures the audacity of Casey Stengel, the manager of the Yankees, who believed that he could remake how baseball was played.

The story of their ingenious schemes—and of the powerful men who tried to thwart them—is interwoven with the on-field drama of pennant races and clutch performances, culminating in the stunning climax of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when one swing of the bat heralds baseball's eclipse as America's number-one sport.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Eig
…elegant and exhaustively researched…It's not easy writing a book about a dream that didn't materialize—especially when the pursuit of that dream centers mostly on business meetings, phone calls, memos and drafts of legislation. It's a testament to Shapiro's sharp eye for detail that he keeps the story zipping along.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In 1958, after the Dodgers and Giants had both left New York for California, a group of investors sought to bring the city a new baseball franchise, and their proposal was a bold one. Led by former Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, they sought to create an entire new major league. Meanwhile, as the advocates for the would-be Continental League tried to make their case before the existing major league owners, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel struggled to keep America's most popular team in championship form. Shapiro (The Last Good Season) parallels these two stories, arguing that they represent a hinge point when team owners could have taken radical steps to reclaim the sport's hold on the public imagination, but chose instead to cling tightly to their near-monopoly, paving the way for other sports, like football, to rise in popularity. The history, filled with colorful personalities, is told in a straightforward manner. While its two halves don't always fit together neatly, they offer a lively perspective on backstage dealings that almost changed the course of professional sports in America. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Shapiro (Columbia Sch. of Journalism; The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together) artfully tells a story of backroom ambitions ultimately defeated by the front offices of the MLB. After the 1958 series, William Shea, Branch Rickey, and Casey Stengel announced their plan to build a third major league, the Continental League; it was fated never to field a team. Shapiro ties the arc of his story to the decline of baseball as America's favorite sport. As much a business history as a baseball story; recommended on both counts.


—Margaret Heilbrun, Gilles Renaud
Kirkus Reviews
Parallel tales of two of baseball's greatest lions in the winters of their careers. By the late 1950s, writes Shapiro (Journalism/Columbia Univ.; The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together, 2003, etc.), baseball, though still popular, was in trouble. Attendance had fallen precipitously since the '40s, and the game was being supplanted by football as America's favorite professional sport. Enter veteran baseball executive Branch Rickey, who at age 74 attempted to save baseball by creating a third major league, the Continental League. This new league, envisioned Rickey, would be free of the self-interested and self-destructive myopia of the current major-league owners and would share resources, prospective players and the ever more lucrative revenue from television. In short, the new league would be competitive, which the previous leagues were not. The impetus was the New York Yankees and their wizened manager Casey Stengel, who had made an art of mangling the English language while proving to be a master baseball tactician. Under Stengel, the Yankees had won seven World Series, with consistently dominating performances that made baseball boring. With the "reserve clause" in place, in which players were tied to a team for life, not much promised to change. While Rickey pushed for such change, Stengel, approaching 70, was under pressure to continue the Yankees' winning ways. Both men, each nursing an oversized ego, believed they would succeed because they willed it; in 1960, both men failed. Rickey would find the likely owners for the new league franchises no more open to innovation than the established league owners, and the Continental League woulddie with the expansion of the National and American Leagues. To save his job, Stengel had to win the 1960 World Series; he did not and was promptly fired. Eventually Rickey and Stengel, both of whom loved the limelight, faded from public awareness. Shapiro expertly enlivens these two larger-than-life characters and captures in fine detail an important era in baseball history. A well-crafted story that will appeal most strongly to baseball aficionados.
From the Publisher
"Mr. Shapiro tells his tale with verve. . . . It’s an enjoyable ride."—The Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Shapiro dramatically builds his tale to a walloping conclusion."—Sam Roberts, The New York Times

“A compelling and thoroughly enjoyable trip back in time to a turning point that never turned.”—The Washington Times

"Sharply researched . . . Exactly how the Continental League gathered strength and then faltered, and exactly how its impact is felt today, are treasures to be unearthed in [Bottom of the Ninth]."—Sports Illustrated

"Elegant and exhaustively researched . . . It’s a testament to Shapiro’s sharp eye for detail that he keeps the story zipping along. . . . He captures the sense of loss – not only for Rickey and Stengel, but for baseball and its fans."—The New York Times Book Review

"By far the best investigation of the failure of the Continental League. . . . A fascinating piece on a long neglected aspect of baseball's past."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[An] engaging look at a significant, though often forgotten, chapter in the game’s history."—The Boston Globe

"A must for Mets fans, who should know their roots. . . . Terrific."—Bill Madden, New York Daily News

"Shapiro. . . is a terrific writer. His accounts of Branch Rickey's struggle and eventual failure to create a third major league, the Continental, as well as the last Yankee season of baseball's most successful manager, Casey Stengel (whose team lost the 1960 Series on Bill Mazeroski's home run in the seventh game), makes for compelling reading."—Allen Barra, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Compelling." – Los Angeles Times

"[Shapiro] has once again hit it out of the literary park. . . . This retelling of a little-known chapter in baseball history is exemplary sports reporting."—Tucson Citizen

"This season brings a bumper crop of books about baseball in New York, the best of which concerns a team and a league that don’t even exist. Michael Shapiro’s ‘Bottom of the Ninth’ . . . is one of the best tales of what might have been, how baseball might have harnessed the power of television and how the sport might have staved off the rise of football."—David M. Shribman, Bloomberg News

"A fascinating look at an almost forgotten era. . . . One of the best baseball books of recent seasons. Grade: A."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Michael Shapiro hits another one out of the park."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The fascinating, might-have-been story of the Continental League."—Tulsa World

"Filled with colorful personalities . . . A lively perspective on backstage dealings that almost changed the course of professional sports in America."—Publishers Weekly

"Shapiro expertly enlivens these two larger-than-life characters and captures in fine detail an important era in baseball history. A well-crafted story."—Kirkus Reviews

"If you like an untold story, and who of us does not, and if you are even a little bit of a sports junky than "Bottom of the Ninth" belongs on your reading list. . . .Shapiro, author of "The Last Good Season," is in top form breaking new ground and providing new awarenesses of a little reported on chapter in American sports history. . . . A good read."—Harvey Frommer, author of New York City Baseball, 1947-1957

"Michael Shapiro shines a warm and penetrating light into the largely forgotten era of baseball in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when New York still had the Yankees, but the Dodgers and Giants had fled and the Mets were yet to be. Bottom of the Ninth is a treat for anyone who loves the game or suffers over its stumbles."—David Margolick, author of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink

"Baseball is all about good stories. In this well-conceived and graceful book, Michael Shapiro wraps the superb story of the 1960 World Series within the intriguing tale of Branch Rickey’s concurrent efforts to start a new league—the Continental League. Shapiro argues that baseball made a crucial and irreversible error by aborting that league. Not surprisingly, the on-field stuff outdoes the business stuff, but only barely. A good read."—Fay Vincent, former commissioner of baseball and author of The Only Game in Town and We Would Have Played for Nothing

"Romance (of a sort), betrayal (short of literal backstabbing), conniving potentates, territorial maneuverings, midsummer dreams. Shakespeare? Tolstoy? No, it’s a wonderfully crafted nonfiction book by Michael Shapiro, Bottom of the Ninth, with baseball machinations and great baseball characters the central subject. Read it. You’ll see what I mean."—Ira Berkow, author of Full Swing and The Corporal Was a Pitcher

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805092363
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 987,301
  • Product dimensions: 5.27 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Shapiro is the author of The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together. A professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, he is the author of five previous books, and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2009

    From high interest to confused

    An interesting story aboout how a third major league almsost materialized in the late 50's and early 60's, the principal characters involved, the cities of interest and the behind the scenes maneuvering. In my mind, however the book became confusing when ther were detailed stories of way too many people whose influence in the process was questionable. Adding to the confused plot was that the book moved back and forth chronologically within chapters. Stories of certain players of the era were interesting, but not really relevant. The bottom line- most of those cities that were proposed for the new league eventually got their team.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good book but a little disappointing

    I bought this book to find out more about how the Continental League lead to major league expansion. The book had a lot of good infomaton but I don't understand why there were sections on the Casey Stengel, the Yankees, and the 1960 world series with the Pirates. It seemed like a lot of research was done on that world series and it should have been used in a separate book, not here where it seemed like padding. Those pages could have been better used discussing the Buffalo, Dallas, and Atlanta proposed franchises and how and when they were added to the initially proposed five.

    Also there was no real follow up on the collapse of the proposed league after expansion was announced. Since 6 different ownership groups (and 6 cities) from the Continental League were rejected when expansion occurred, there should have been some strong reactions from those left out. Those feeling could have been explored, if possible.

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    Posted September 29, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2011

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