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Kirkus ReviewsAn okay history of the hapless but beloved Chicago Cubs, a baseball team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 or played in one since 1945.
Though this takes the form of an oral history, Golenbock (Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin, 1994, etc.) has to borrow heavily from long-published sources to tell the story of the early years, starting with Albert Spalding's 1876 desertion of the Boston club to pitch for Chicago's White Stockings. He would eventually own the ball team and lead it to a dynasty in the 1880s. They became the Cubs in 1902, and in 1906, under player/manager Frank Chance, they won 116 games. The Cubs lost to the crosstown White Sox in the World Series, but won back- to-back world championships in 1907 and 1908 against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. It would be their last World Series victory, though they won pennants in 1910, 1918, and again in 1945. Veterans of that WW II team—Phil Cavaretta, Len Merullo, Dewey Williams—recall the series for Golenbock, still second-guessing manager Charlie Grimm's selection of a pitcher for the seventh and deciding game. Some great and memorable ballplayers have been Cubs, and Golenbock introduces them throughout his narrative: Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Ferguson Jenkins, Dizzy Dean, manager Leo "The Lip" Durocher, Bruce Sutter, Lou Brock and, of course, "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks, a two-time MVP, with 512 career home runs. (Curiously, the affable Banks, an executive with the Cubs, is not among Golenbock's interviewees, a serious omission.) The Cubs' woes in recent years culminated when future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg walked away from a $28 million contract in 1994 out of sheer frustration. (Sandberg has recently rejoined the team.)
Anecdotally interesting, but Golenbock could have done more legwork in some crucial areas, most notably Banks's outstanding career.