Book Review: 1921


The Yankees, The Giants, & the Battle for Baseball Supremacy
 in New York
by Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg
A Baseball Book Review
Monte Cely
(512) 310-9777
Do we really need another book about New York City baseball? 
Apparently so, as 1921 is the winner of SABR’s 2011 Seymour Award, honoring the year’s best book on baseball history or biography. The Seymour Medal Selection Committee released the following statement about the winning book:
"1921 describes the pennant races in both the National and American Leagues in that year. For the first time, New York had a subway World Series with the Giants and Yankees hooking up. Obviously, with Babe Ruth versus John McGraw, the World Series takes on added meaning given McGraw’s style of play and Ruth’s home runs. The book’s structure in taking the readers through the season, alternating between the two teams and leagues, is to be commended. The authors also provide significant insight into the thinking of the two great managers, John McGraw and Miller Huggins. In their descriptions and also with the help of quotes from the leading baseball columnists of that period, Spatz and Steinberg provide a rich and colorful description of baseball and life in 1921. This is an important addition to baseball literature.”
Some insights and facts from the book that I found interesting:
  • 1921 was the Yankees’ first AL pennant. 
  • 1921 was the last year that the best-of-nine World’s Series format was used.
  • The Polo Grounds was the first venue to host all of that year’s World Series games. (The Yankees were the Giants’ tenant.) This repeated itself in 1922. The only other occurrence was St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park in 1944.
  • Babe Ruth often coached third base and enjoyed doing so.
  • Although a proponent of "inside baseball", John McGraw did not like to sacrifice.
  • The authors contend that Babe Ruth helped popularize baseball with immigrants, because the home run was easier to understand than the "scientific" approach to inside baseball.

I think the Seymour Medal committee got it right.  This is a well-researched and well-presented book.  Make sure to read the end-notes, as they add a lot of background to each chapter.

Yes, I guess we do need another book about New York baseball !

Here are the key statistics:
Book: 1921 – the Yankees, the Giants, & the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York
Authors:  Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg
Authors’ Credentials: Lyle Spatz is the author of many baseball books including Bad Bill Dahlen and Yankees Coming, Yankees GoingSteve Steinberg is the author of Baseball in St. Louis, 1900-1925 and numerous articles on early 20th Century ball.
Published: 2010, University of Nebraska Press; ISBN: 978-0-8032-2060-7
Length: 515 pages.
Price: Retail list – $31.95; Online – from $15.00 (new) + shipping.

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