Friday, June 05, 2009

St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present (a Review)


Back on 22 April I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Doug Feldmann about his new book, St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present. The interview can be downloaded here.

Unfortunately I didn't receive the book until 2 days after I did the interview, and due to a variety of circumstances, I didn't get a chance to finish reading it until I was on a plane Monday. But I did make it through the book, and as I agreed to do when I accepted my copy, I offer this review.

The book is billed as a coffee table volume on Cardinals history, and it definitely delivers on that score. Past and Present is chock full of photographs, which span the rich history of the club. Lots of them brought Cardinals memories of mine, some long buried, back to the surface. Ozzie Smith's backflip (pg 7). Those ugly blue road uniforms. Andujar losing his mind (pg 23 and 102) in the 1985 World Series. Jack Clark's follow through on his '85 NLCS home run (more on that event during the next UCB topic). Rick Ankiel and John Tudor pitching. And so on.

However, to me the most interesting photos are the defensive action shots. They show just how much the game has changed over the years. It used to be a much more physical game on the bases. Witness Red Schoendienst vs Johnny Pesky (pg 62), or Marty Marion vs Eddie Stanky (pg 65), and compare those plays to the Renteria/Eckstein photos on page 67. Guys tried to take people out routinely to break up double plays; now, when Mark Teixiera does it (like he did last night against Texas), it's news.

The writing is clear and concise. However, this is a high level look at Cardinal history. It's a great book for someone who doesn't know anything about that history, or is a casual fan of the team. Hard core followers of the Redbirds will be familiar with much of what Dr. Feldmann presents.

To be fair, although I consider myself a hard core fan, I did indeed learn some new things. I never understood why Johnny Keane left the Cardinals to become the Yankees manager after the 1964 season; Feldmann sheds some light on that event (page 33). I did not realize the Cardinals were the last of the original 8 NL teams to appear in a World Series (pg 15). And he presents an interesting spin on Curt Flood's reserve clause challenges.

There are some inconsistencies in the book. His statement that Ozzie Smith 'graciously' split time at short in 1996 with Royce Clayton isn't supported by the facts, at least not those remarks Ozzie made to the press then and since. On page 8, he states the Cardinals were the western and southern most franchise until 'expansion in the 1960s', which is wrong; the Dodgers and Giants moved west in 1958. Later in the book (page 126), he corrects his page 8 error. However these items don't detract from the book overall.

In short, I enjoyed St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present and recommend it for the pictures alone if nothing else. It makes a nice addition to any Cardinal fan's personal library. Amazon.com, among other locations, offer it for something less than $25.00.

1 comment:

TRob said...

I enjoyed the writeup and I will definitely be purchasing the book!

I'll agree with the reduced physicality of the game today. It doesn't stop at just breaking up double plays, either. Consider the overall mentality of Bob Gibson on the mound. He was a mean son of a gun, something I have a feeling wouldn't fly too well these days. Things have changed for sure, and not just in baseball. Consider the ridiculous rules the NFL keeps adding to protect quarterbacks. Its nigh impossible to register a sack these days, as it seems that every offseason, a different kind of hit is outlawed...

Anyways, I enjoy your blog, keep writing!