Jockbeat: Some Jocklit to Tide You Over Until Game Six


The First Fall Classic: The Red Sox, the Giants and the Cast of Players, Pugs and Politicos Who Re-Invented the World Series in 1912
By Mike Vaccaro
Doubleday, 290 pages, $26.95

Game Six — Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America’s Pastime
By Mark Frost
Hyperion, 416 pages, $26.99

Sixty Feet, Six Inches: A Hall of Fame Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter Talk About How The Game Is Played
By Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson with Lonnie Wheeler
Doubleday, 288 pages, $26.00

The first official World Series was played in 1903 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans, but in The First Fall Classic, New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro makes a case that the World Series as we know it — the first one to truly capture the imagination of the American public — was played in 1912 between the New York Giants and Boston Red Sox. The eight games would, in Vaccaro’s words, “elevate the World Series from a regional October novelty to a national obsession,” (p. 6) thanks in large part to the presence of ace Giants righthander Christy Mathewson, “The Christian Gentleman” and the country’s first baseball hero.

Vaccaro, author of 1941: The Greatest Year In Sports, does a fine job recreating the atmosphere of burgeoning pre-World War I America, particularly the swan song for Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressive “Bull Moose” Party, and putting a fine nostalgic haze on the time.

No Series in recent memory is more vivid in baseball fans’ memories than the 1975 classic between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox. Mark Frost — author of The Match — has you on the edge of your seat helping Boston catcher Carlton Fisk wave his 12th inning, game six-winning home run away from the foul pole. The next season would bring free agency to baseball, and the game would never again see such a collection of superstars as Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Tiant, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan — to name just six whom Frost interviewed — in one World Series.

Lonnie Wheeler, Hank Aaron’s biographer, has picked the perfect pair to discuss the art of pitching and hitting with grace under pressure, Bob Gibson (7-2 as a starting pitcher in three World Series) and Reggie Jackson (five World Series rings and 18 postseason home runs).

Sixty Feet, Six Inches is a running dialogue between the two Hall of Famers. And not just on what happened on the field. Gibson: “There are two separate areas in all of this. There’s the spirit of the game and there’s the integrity of the game. If you sit on the back porch of the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, shooting the bull with Hall of Famers, you’ll hear some guys who are concerned about one and some guys who are concerned about the other …” Jackson: “Put me down for both.” (p. 273)