The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians became the Kings of Baseball, 1916-1920

The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians became the Kings of Baseball, 1916-1920

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by Scott Longert
     
 

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Since the founding of professional baseball, few teams have risen above years of mediocrity only to see their fortunes interrupted by war and tragedy. Fewer still have then rallied to win the World Series. In the early twentieth century, the Cleveland Indians brought the world championship to their city of passionate fans in a spectacular style that has yet to be…  See more details below

Overview


Since the founding of professional baseball, few teams have risen above years of mediocrity only to see their fortunes interrupted by war and tragedy. Fewer still have then rallied to win the World Series. In the early twentieth century, the Cleveland Indians brought the world championship to their city of passionate fans in a spectacular style that has yet to be replicated. The Best They Could Be recaps the compelling story of the ballplayers and team owner who resurrected this proud but struggling franchise. Although the Cleveland ball club had been an active part of professional baseball from the late 1860s and a charter member of the American League, by 1915 the team was on the brink of collapse. Into this dejected atmosphere came new owner James C. Dunn, who, lacking baseball experience, nonetheless had the business savvy to bring his club to the forefront, acquiring superstar center fielder Tris Speaker, Larry Gardner, and other great players. But during the rise of the franchise, the outbreak of World War I interrupted baseball. Then, in 1920, as the Indians were leading the pennant race, shortstop Ray Chapman died after a pitch fractured his skull. The outpouring of sorrow from teammates and fans alike made the Indians more determined than ever to fight their way to the top. Scott H. Longert’s entertaining and poignant narrative traces the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of America’s most beloved baseball teams.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Scott Longert blends a strong sense of history, solid research, and fine writing. This isn’t just for Cleveland Indians fans; it’s for anyone who wants to experience baseball during the era of the First World War, when players climbed out of the coal mines, onto the diamonds, and into fans’ hearts.”—Marc Bona, Cleveland Plain Dealer editor

“Scott Longert’s well-researched story of the making of the 1920 Cleveland Indians is one of the true underdog tales in baseball history. The Best They Could Be is a welcome addition to the baseball library.”—Mike Sowell, author of The Pitch That Killed and One Pitch Away

“In The Best They Could Be, author Scott Longert brings to life the triumph and tragedy of an unforgettable season in Indians history. A must read not just for every serious Cleveland sports fan, but for all baseball fans.”—Bud Shaw, Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist

“Scott Longert takes the reader back to a time when Cleveland was one of America’s mightiest industrial cities and baseball was the king of sports. His detailed account of how the Cleveland franchise rebounded from financial peril to win the World Series five years later is a tale worth being remembered and celebrated.”—Matt Underwood, Cleveland Indians announcer

"It’s World Series time. And for fans of the Cleveland Indians, that means lots of football, leaf raking and pining for days gone by. . . . Longert’s 280-page missive on the ’20 Indians is for the serious Tribe fan who wants to be either reminded or taught about how the Indians went from bottom-feeder to contender in the late 1910s."—Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal

Akron Beacon Journal - Phil Trexler

"It’s World Series time. And for fans of the Cleveland Indians, that means lots of football, leaf raking and pining for days gone by. . . . Longert’s 280-page missive on the ’20 Indians is for the serious Tribe fan who wants to be either reminded or taught about how the Indians went from bottom-feeder to contender in the late 1910s."—Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal
Marc Bona

“Scott Longert blends a strong sense of history, solid research, and fine writing. This isn’t just for Cleveland Indians fans; it’s for anyone who wants to experience baseball during the era of the First World War, when players climbed out of the coal mines, onto the diamonds, and into fans’ hearts.”—Marc Bona, Cleveland Plain Dealer editor
Mike Sowell

“Scott Longert’s well-researched story of the making of the 1920 Cleveland Indians is one of the true underdog tales in baseball history. The Best They Could Be is a welcome addition to the baseball library.”—Mike Sowell, author of The Pitch That Killed and One Pitch Away
Bud Shaw

“In The Best They Could Be, author Scott Longert brings to life the triumph and tragedy of an unforgettable season in Indians history. A must read not just for every serious Cleveland sports fan, but for all baseball fans.”—Bud Shaw, Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist
Matt Underwood

“Scott Longert takes the reader back to a time when Cleveland was one of America’s mightiest industrial cities and baseball was the king of sports. His detailed account of how the Cleveland franchise rebounded from financial peril to win the World Series five years later is a tale worth being remembered and celebrated.”—Matt Underwood, Cleveland Indians announcer
Inside Game - Bill Lamb

"The Best They Could Be is a congenial page-turner, a fluidly-written and thoroughly researched account of an under-appreciated championship club."—Bill Lamb, Inside Game

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612344935
Publisher:
Potomac Books
Publication date:
04/28/2013
Pages:
280
Sales rank:
670,391
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

SCOTT H. LONGERT is the author of Addie Joss: King of the Pitchers and has written numerous articles on baseball history for the Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, TimeLine, The Baseball Research Journal, and The National Pastime. He lives in Beachwood, Ohio, with his wife, Vicki, and golden retriever, Blair.

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The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians Became the Kings of Baseball, 1916-1920 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Review: The 1920 Cleveland Indians championship baseball team was not built just out of good luck, an owner with deep pockets or even because of their good fortune.  While some it was true, this team overcame a lot of hardship and even a death of one of the better players to win the World Series that year.  Scott Longert’s book on how that team was built and what they overcame is a terrific read that any baseball fan will enjoy. The book takes the reader from the time that Jim Dunn became the owner of the club in 1915 up to the end of the 1920 World Series that Cleveland won 5 games to 2 over the Brooklyn Robins.  At that time, the World Series was a best-of-nine series. Through the chapter on the World Series, it is noted that three historic events took place all in game four and all were good for Cleveland.  Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam homer in World Series history to put the Indians up 4-0. Indians pitcher Jim Bagby followed up with a three run shot of his own, becoming the first pitcher to homer in a World Series game.  Then Bill “Wamby” Wambsganss turned the first (and to date, only) unassisted triple play in World Series history.  Each achievement gets special treatment during Longert’s recap of the game. These are but a few examples of the excellent writing about the baseball played at that time. What sets this book apart from other baseball history books is Longert’s writing about off the field activities that affect the Cleveland Indians. His telling of how Dunn acquired the team was a rich collection of stories not only about Dunn himself, but also of the business climate at that time in the country as well as some good research on the owner and American League president Ban Johnson.  The chapters about how baseball dealt with World War I and the government’s order for all men aged 21-30 to “work or fight” was well researched and gives the reader a clear picture of what the game meant to the country at that time.   However, I felt the best part of the book was the moving passage about the death of Ray Chapman.  The Indians shortstop became the first player to be killed on the field when he was hit in the temple by a fastball thrown by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays on August 16, 1920 and died the next day.  The stories of how Chapman’s death shook not only the Indians, but the soul of a city and of a sport were some of the best researched and written baseball stories I have read.   It felt like I was grieving along with Chapman’s teammates. This was an outstanding book on that time span in which the Indians became the toast of baseball.  The research and writing is top-notch and all baseball fans, regardless of team loyalties, will enjoy this book.  I wish to thank Mr. Longert for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  Pace of the book: Very good as it is an easy read that chronicles the team for those five years. The interruptions of the history with brief biographies of players were well placed in the book and enhanced the particular story being told at that point in the book.  Do I recommend?   This book is an absolute must-read for not only Cleveland Indians fans, but all baseball fans, especially baseball historians who want to learn more about how this team was built.  Book Format Read: Hardcover
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my husband for Father's Day.   I was impressed with the editorial reviews and that the author was so well versed on the Cleveland Indians.   My husband has read just about every book about "The Tribe" so the fact it had just been released in the Spring, I knew it was one he had not yet read.   He loved it and read it in less than a week.