Bottom of the Ninth
Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the
Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself
by Michael Shapiro
A Baseball Book Review
Bottom of the Ninth is the story of the ill-fated Continental League, and how its conception and ultimate demise led to Major League Baseball expansion in the early 1960s.
The main story-lines revolve around Branch Rickey and Casey Stengel, focusing mainly on a 1958 – 1960 timeline. Rickey is portrayed as the aging genius reaching for one more innovation with his proposed third major league. Stengel’s role is to represent baseball’s past and resistance to change. Supporting characters are Walter O’Malley (as the NL strongman), Del Webb (AL strongman), Bill Shea (Rickey’s “man in New York” for the Continental League), and expansion interests in Houston, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto, and LA.
The book did a good job of bringing the planning, politics and intrigue of the Continental League back into the daylight. The machinations of the National and American Leagues to first block the Continentals, and then co-opt the new league by agreeing to expansion, are both intriguing and mind-bending. The profiles of baseball power brokers of this era are insightful (although the Stengel sub-plot seems off-point and superfluous; he seems to have had no involvement with the Continental League). The book also highlights the concurrent founding of the American Football League, and discusses how the AFL succeeded where the Continentals failed.
SABR members interested in 1950s-1960s baseball history and the “business of baseball” should enjoy this book.
Here are the key statistics:
Book: Bottom of the Ninth
Author: Michael Shapiro
Authors Credentials: Shapiro is a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, has authored five previous books including The Last Good Season, and has had articles published in the New York Times and Sports Illustrated.
Published: 2009, Times Books, ISBN 978-0-8050-8247-0
Length: 303 pages
Price: Retail list – $26.00; Online: from $6.95 (used) + shipping.