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Electric October: Seven World Series Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame That Lasted Forever
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Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for "Electric October", the October book selection.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I will start this one with my review - it was one of the better baseball books I have read this year.


1947 was a very memorable year in baseball as not only did Jackie Robinson become the first African-American player, but the New York Yankees and Robinson’s team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, played a very exciting seven game World Series in which the Yankees prevailed. With those two teams, one expects the stars to play big roles. That wasn’t the case in the 1947 World Series, and this excellent book by Kevin Cook sheds light on some of these forgotten players and also the two managers.

Both managers, Burt Shotten of the Dodgers and Bucky Harris of the Yankees, were unlikely choices to lead these teams. Shotten was considered a temporary manager for the Dodgers until Leo Durocher completed serving his one year suspension. Harris, who had been considered the “boy wonder” when he managed the Washington Senators to the World Series championship in 1924 and nearly repeated the feat in 1925, had little success since then and had been bouncing from team to team. The stories for each man on how he led his team to the World Series made for excellent reading.

However, the best stories are for the four players who were not stars, but played important roles in the Series. There is Bill Bevins, a journeyman pitcher who came within one out of pitching the first no-hitter in World Series history in game four. The Dodger who broke up that no-hitter, Cookie Lavagetto, not only hit a double with two out in the bottom of the ninth, but drove in two runs as two baserunners who previously both walked scored on the first Brooklyn hit of the game. Then there is Snuffy Stirnweiss, a solid player who won the American League batting title in 1944 but received little respect for the feat since the game was depleted of its stars who were serving in World War II. Finally, there is Al Gionfriddo, whose catch of a Joe DiMaggio fly ball is well known from the famous reaction by the Yankee Clipper when he kicked dirt after rounding first, realizing the ball was caught.

These six men has their lives changed by these moments that would bring them temporary fame that was soon forgotten. What they went through before, during and after that World Series is captured in great story writing by Cook. He not only tells of the men’s careers and life after baseball, but he tells the readers little known details about each player that will make a reader pay a little more attention each time.

Here is an example of these little-known tidbits. Bucky Harris’s marriage was not holding up to his baseball life very well, and Ty Cobb offered to take the Harris children out to dinner so that Bucky and his wife Betty could get a break and have a night alone. While it never happened, the offer made a big impression on Harris that he never forgot.

One last area the book covers that I found interesting is when Cook writes about the place in history that both managers are and where Bill James, the father of advanced statistics, believe they should be. James feels that both Harris and Shotten are not given their proper credit for the managing jobs they did in 1947 and his reasoning is simple yet not well known.

“Electric October” gets its title from what the World Series was called by television executives that year as it was the first one that was shown nationwide on that medium. The title could very well be used to describe the connection of these six men in that one glorious seven game series as well. An outstanding collection of stories about men, about life and about one glorious World Series, it is one that all baseball readers should add to their libraries.

message 3: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 113 comments How much do they discuss the network and the decision to broadcast the series, as well the process of broadcasting it?

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
I will read anything that discusses Jackie but I'm bogged down by the playoffs now. Hopefully there will be a copy at the library next month.

Gerard (gkwilecki) This is a great book selection for October...just started reading it. Is Burt Shotton the same Burt who Branch Rickey hired to replace Durocher in 1947, as depicted in the movie 42?

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "How much do they discuss the network and the decision to broadcast the series, as well the process of broadcasting it?"

Not a lot - the book deals with the personal stories of the players and managers I mentioned in the review. The fact that it's the first WS on television is more a footnote (and the inspiration for the title) than anything else.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Brina wrote: "I will read anything that discusses Jackie but I'm bogged down by the playoffs now. Hopefully there will be a copy at the library next month."

Or you can email the publicist I mentioned in the email blast. She is looking for reviews. And of course, since this is the postseason, keeping this open through November as well.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
I just emailed her and waiting for a response. I will look from the library as well and will stay away from this thread until I get a copy.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Gerard wrote: "This is a great book selection for October...just started reading it. Is Burt Shotton the same Burt who Branch Rickey hired to replace Durocher in 1947, as depicted in the movie 42?"

He's the one.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments I just emailed her too

message 11: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 113 comments Me too

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments LOL!

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
No response yet. She will have a busy inbox tomorrow haha.

message 14: by Lance (last edited Oct 02, 2017 05:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I sent her the email I sent to the group...she was worried seeing there are over 500 members in the group. I told her that there are probably 10-15 very active members that would be requesting. She did ask me whether anyone uses NetGalley - that is how I got my copy. Best guess is that she might have to wait unti today before answering anyone. I didn't mean to scare her!

message 15: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 113 comments Truth be told, if she had to be worried about 500 potential readers, she probably wouldn't have needed to reach out in the first place. As you said, maybe 10-15 of us replied with interest to help out. Cook has written a number of well-regarded books, but he needed a stronger social media profile to launch this book, especially if they were launching in August. There was hardly any buildup for Electric October.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
She got back to me and said there a few print copies available if people prefer that, first come first serve. I hope I actually have time to read this month because once the playoffs start I can not concentrate on books.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I got a message from her too, stating that she has sent a response to everyone who contacted her and will continue to monitor for a couple weeks. I figured many who are interested in this may not read during the postseason, hence why I am making it a two-month period.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments She sent me a link for the book, but I can't download it so I'll pass.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Unfortunately, since my link was from NetGalley, I can't transfer it.

message 20: by Bob (new)

Bob D'Angelo | 83 comments Here is my review of the book. Lots of great detail and Cook's interaction with the families of the subjects was tremendous. I enjoyed his mindset of following those men who had a quick brush with fame. There were plenty of stars in the 1947 World Series, but these guys played big roles:


message 21: by Bob (new)

Bob D'Angelo | 83 comments Dave wrote: "Truth be told, if she had to be worried about 500 potential readers, she probably wouldn't have needed to reach out in the first place. As you said, maybe 10-15 of us replied with interest to help ..."

I know, the book came out in August and the publicist wrote to me on Sept. 11. Of course I wanted the book. Just finished and reviewed it. But I was surprised that it had been released in August because I hadn't heard about it.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I only found out about it before publication because I stumbled across it on NetGalley. That is where I find most of the books I review for any sport,

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
In light of these pointy ball protests and the book featuring Jackie, one would think it would be a timely discussion. I'm surprised that it hasn't gotten more publicity.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments Thank you Bob especially for the video of the series. That was such fun! Did you hear Allen call Berra Lawrence? I never heard him referred by his name. Secondly, The Gionfriddo catch is almost routine today. Dewey Evans made a better catch. Rizzuto looked like a little leaguer. That was the first time I ever saw Pete Reiser on film. I remember the shadows on the screen when I'd run home from school in the early 50's to watch from about the 4th inning onward.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments PS I got my book but I just started a library book of Daniel Silva's newest. I'm going nuts because it's 519 pages and i'll never finish. I hope she can wait two weeks for a review.

message 26: by Bob (new)

Bob D'Angelo | 83 comments Harold wrote: "Thank you Bob especially for the video of the series. That was such fun! Did you hear Allen call Berra Lawrence? I never heard him referred by his name. Secondly, The Gionfriddo catch is almost rou..." Gionfriddo must have turned three times while trying to catch that ball. It was a great catch in the sense that it was Game 6, the game would have been tied and the Yankees were up 3-2 in the Series. I loved the videos; there is one of Lavagetto getting the hit to break up the no-hitter, but there's no sound. How about that?

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
Just got my copy today. She has a few print copies left first come first served if you prefer that so ask soon. Very exciting because I'll be offline for 3 days so if I can't watch baseball at least I can read about it.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
I love reading all of your comments. This is a history book for me but some of you actually remember this series. Hard to imagine a hall of famer like Yogi not getting to start every game because he had yet to develop as a catcher. But the portions of the managerial decisions were among my favorite in light of all of the pitching changes and other decision making managers have to do today.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments Bucky Harris, the first manager to employ a closer in Joe Page.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
He had already employed one on the Senators but that was overlooked.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I really enjoyed the chapters on Cookie Lavagetto. Not only because he was the first Twins manager, but also because of the influence Durocher had on him.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
Joe D babysitting for Sternweiss' kids was precious. And with descriptions of Sternweiss' wife I am left wondering if maybe Joe D was the oldest daughter's father. Or not.

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Or speaking of babysitting, how about the offer by Ty Cobb to babysit the Harris children to give Bucky and his wife a night alone? While it was never confirmed, that was interesting as well?

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
Yes it was. It showed a side of Cobb that most people are unfamiliar with. A shame the Harris' didn't take him up on it and attempt to save their marriage.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments Here's my review. It reflects what I liked best, but I agree with your comments. I felt really bad for Bevans. Cookie seemed the happiest. For Snuffy could never catch a break.
The title of this wonderful book capsulizes its content. This is the story of one of the greatest World Series ever played, and the role of six men whose fate will forever be linked to that 1947 series. Kevin Cook brings it alive and the reader is sucked into the battle between the analytical Yankee skipper Bucky(Wonder Boy) Harris and his counterpart Burt Shooten of The Dodgers. Shooten was old school and managed from instinct that didn't serve him well in 1947 despite a full seven game series. I was mesmerized by the life stories of these six men that included two Yankees, pitcher Bill Bevens and second baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss. The former is remembered in baseball lore for almost throwing a no hitter in a world series and the latter for his .429 on base percentage in that series. Snuffy is almost a forgotten hero. he won a batting title in 1945 but was always teased by teammates as a "cheesy title" because it was war time and many players were drafted. Snuffy never got over that insecurity. The two Dodgers are little know Al Gionfriddo who made "the catch" before Willie Mays made his 1954 miraculous catch. His grab came off of a DiMaggio ball that could have tied the tied game six. Until that day, his manager couldn't even remember his name. He would call for that "little Italian" fellow on the rare occasion that he played in a game. The other is more famous. His name was Cookie Lavagetto, a utility player, and he and big Bill Bevans(the city boy and the farm boy) would forever be linked by the double Lavagetto hit to break up Bevans' no hitter with two outs in the bottom of the 9th of game four. Joined like Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson, Bevans would often ask Cookie why he had broken up his no hitter. Was it rhetorical or was Bevans serious? Bevans was bitter for decades thereafter because he was remembered for the loss rather than his successful relief stint in the last and deciding game of that series. I'll covey one story of many that I found fascinating. Bevans was haunted by his game four loss. He remembered, that an inning or two before Al Gionfriddo had stolen second base, umpire Babe Pinelli had assured Bevans that if there were a close play at second base, Pinelli would call the runner out. Yet on this very close call, Pinelli yelled safe. That fatal call led to Lavagetto's double and two men scored. Pinelli would never answer Bevans' question why he didn't give him the benefit of the doubt and keep the no hitter in tact.
Lavagetto, famous for the double and for the reaction from DiMaggio(kicking the dirt near second base-a rare display of emotion from Joe D), went on to coach or manage in the majors as did Bucky Harris. I found the life story of Harris the most compelling. Here was a guy who at age 24 was a player/manager of the 1924 Washington Senators that won a World Series. He then managed the Dodgers and ultimately near his death made the Hall of Fame. He literally dined with Presidents(Cal Coolidge), became a DC socialite, but baseball life ruined his first marriage. His last days were hard to learn about. Harris was an innovator. he created the first relief pitcher and the first closer in baseball. When he neared the end of his career, he welcomed the bright stars of Mantle and Mays and said the modern player was better than the idealized players of old. Yet all these men have a thread to others-especially Lavagetto. It's fascinating to read the six degrees of separation that these men have with other more famous players Like Billy Martin, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb,Tommy Lasorda et. This is a must read for baseball fans and it's written in an easy going fashion-very reader friendly.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
Great review. And if anyone hasn't read this yet, today's as good a day as any because there is no baseball at all. Shades of the off season.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments Brina wrote: "Great review. And if anyone hasn't read this yet, today's as good a day as any because there is no baseball at all. Shades of the off season."
Thanks Brina. I really enjoyed this book. Thanks Lance for getting it for us.

Brina | 8112 comments Mod
Thanks again Lance and Jessica at Henry Holt. Best baseball book I've read this year about history. I wish I didn't read it so quickly because now I have a few hours of time to fill and want to do something baseball related.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments Man that Larry McPhail was really a sick dude. I had read about his drunkenness in several books but he was a bit demented.
And on another note, Cook pretty much eviscerates Casey Stengel for his open racism and incompetence in later years.

message 41: by Lance (last edited Oct 17, 2017 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
I agree, Harold...every time I read something about him (McPhail) the more he falls under the category bat s**t crazy.

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments The other thing that I found interesting was the self made trade that Wes Westrum and Cookie Lavagetto made which was agreed to by ownership so Cookie could go to the west coast and Westrum to the Mets.

message 43: by Wayne (new)

Wayne Baker Dave wrote: "How much do they discuss the network and the decision to broadcast the series, as well the process of broadcasting it?"

Dave, if I recall correctly, in 1947, only a few hundred (maybe a few thousand, but not many) had access to TVs. NY, Wash, Philly and an upstate NY city, I think. First coast to coast MLB game, as I recall, was Game 3 of 1951 NL playoff. A more complete source -- and a great book -- Voices of the Game, by Curt Smith, pub about 1987, with great review of MLB radio, TV, the broadcasters, great anecdotes, and great non MLB cultural history to boot.

message 44: by Wayne (last edited Oct 16, 2017 04:19PM) (new)

Wayne Baker Hello, all. Just want to first give props to the gal at Henry Holt and Co. for letting us get e copies of the book to read.
I generally agree with most of the reviews, but here are a few comments. For an uncorrected proof of the e book, there were just a few mistakes they probably fixed. I've seen far worse in other review copies.
I will give the book 3.5 stars out of 4. I liked the focus on the four players and two managers.
Now, some general comments: While title came from a TV event, in that era of late 1940s, only a very very few folks had TVs. For a great book on history of MLB on TV and radio, see Voices of the Game, by Curt Smith, pub about 1987. Well written, great anecdotes, and word for word highlights of great moments in baseball broadcasting at the start or end of a lot of the chapters.
Also, I like how author Cook in back did detailed notes on his sources. That said, remember, in all books about baseball dealing with events before, say, 1950, take a grain of salt. Remember, very few writers did clubhouse interviews, analysis, etc until Dick Young came along. Recall what you have read about the so-called Babe Ruth bellyache or whatever it was in 1925. Beat writers looked the other way prior to Young. If Ruth were playing today, it would have been scoped out eventually as whatever that bellyache actually was. Plus, a lot of managers, players, who do books or have ghosted books are often sloppy or remember incorrectly. I point you to the recent Rob Neyer Big Book of Baseball Legends. Example per Neyer: When did Whitey Herzog and SF manager Roger Craig have their feud? Not when Herzog said they did in his book,You''re Missing a Great Game. Neyer checks Retrosheet to prove that Herzog did not remember it well (another aside: Herzog book came out in 1999. If I recall that book correctly, he had some great ideas to improve MLB: Limit or restrict relief pitcher changes, limit pickoff tries at first base to one per batter (would open up the running game, create more "little ball" chances). and more ideas I cannot remember.
Finally, if you have read this far, disclaimer: I think I only posted to this site once or twice previously. So you may have seen this before, but: Final book recommendation: Anything written by Roger Angell. Great, great, great writer, sharp with his analysis. First non newspaper beat writer inducted into writers' wing of Baseball Hall of Fame...and it was long overdue. My favorite long Angell pieces for The New Yorker: Distance (Bob Gibson), Gone for Good (Steve Blass), Not So, Boston (agony of winning, then losing in playoffs, World Series in 1986), and Agincourt and After (tremendous piece on 1975 playoffs, and WS, worth it alone for his descriptions of the many deliveries of Luis Tiant). Also, Web of the Game, he watches Ron Darling vs. Frank Viola in Yale vs St John's NCAA regional playoff game alongside Smokey Joe Wood of the 1912 Red Sox. Wood coached Yale team for years.

message 45: by Patricia (new) - added it

Patricia Kerster | 19 comments Thanks for having this is the book of the month! I hadn't even heard of it, but I would have grabbed it had I seen it. And, I hadn't used Netgalley before, so now I am a member.
There was so much good stuff in this book. I knew of Gionfriddo's catch, but I was surprised that I didn't know about an almost no-hitter in a World Series until now.
The other big one for me was the train accident that killed Sternweiss - I lived most of my life in NJ, and had never heard of this tragic accident before.
Lots of interesting information about the players and their lives (as other have mentioned). I've read a lot about the NY teams, but not much from the 1940's, so it was great to fill in some blanks.
Great pick! And though I am a Reds fan, I'm a NY/NJ girl, so I definitely root for the Yankees too. It's been an exciting post-season to watch them.

message 46: by Harold (last edited Oct 20, 2017 06:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 17532 comments I felt sorry for Snuffy because he always felt he was an imposter on a great team, I agree it did provide a lot of fill in information for me too especially about Bucky Walters. I had heard of him as a boy but never knew about his playing/managerial days.

message 47: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike (mike9) | 6338 comments Recieved my copy of Electric October in the mail yesterday. Nothing better then getting a free book in the mail, except reading it of course.

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