Thursday, November 1, 2018

Post # 31

Quote of the day: "...Detroit made one promise to its young people -- a good job. A place on the line at GM, Ford or Chrysler was a part of our birthright, a legacy to the city's children. And then early in the seventies that legacy was withdrawn." Ze'ev Chafets. Devils Night and Other True Tales of Detroit, 1990.

Reviews


Tiger Stadium: Essays and Memories of Detroit's Historic Ballpark, 1912-2009
Edited by Michael Betzold, John Davids. Bill Dow, Johan Pastier and Frank Rashid


Tiger fans who remember Tiger Stadium with great affection will love this book. Newer fans who never saw a game in the old stadium and even lukewarm local baseball fans who watched the occasional game on TV played at Tiger Stadium will come to understand why the grounds on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull has been recognized as "one of the premier proletarian baseball stadiums in the land."

The book offers a thorough history of the ballfield that was built for $10,000 in 1894-95 and beginning in 1895, and for the next 104 summers, was the home of Detroit's major league baseball team. It was also the home of the Detroit Lions for over 30 years. It underwent constant enlargement, remodeling, modernization, and several name changes in its long life. For the hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who were as devoted to baseball and the Tigers as to any religion, Tiger Stadium became a cathedral in which they came to worship the game. Less devout fans will still find the book immensely interesting as several fine narrative essays detail the history of the ballclub, its architectural significance as a classic ballpark, and how changes in ownership were a catalyst for change in the ballpark. The essays are bolstered by charts, statistics, detailed drawings, and dozens of great photographs. 

One of the great insights of the book is how Tiger Stadium had a unifying effect on a metropolitan area that starting in the 1950s was growing ever further apart. White flight, the widening gap between the rich and the lower economic class, and other economic and social barriers further separated the people of metro Detroit. Yet as one of the essays makes clear the stadium, "continued to bring us together and became by default one of the area's last remaining places of common ground." Old Tiger Stadium with its shoulder-to-shoulder seating, crowded concession stands, and narrow concourses forced Tiger fans rich and poor, Black and White to literally rub shoulders with each other. Whereas new stadiums with exclusive seats, luxury boxes, and club sections, do just the opposite. They separate classes. 

The book doesn't miss a single significant moment in the park's history including a home run Babe Ruth hit on June 8th, 1926 that cleared the centerfield wall and landed in the intersection of Trumbull and Cherry Street. The ball traveled 575 feet in the air and is considered the longest home run in baseball history. The book also covers how African Americans were treated less than friendly even after the on-field color line was broken in 1947 and Blacks came in greater numbers to see African American ballplayers. Black fans faced near constant mistreatment, racial slurs, and poor treatment by ushers and concessionaires. The Tigers didn't break the color line on the field until 1958. 

One of the best chapters in the book features players, ushers, concession workers, and fans from every walk of life recalling their favorite or memorable moments in Tiger Stadium. The book's editors detail the history of efforts to move the Tigers to a new stadium as early as 1948. In spite of intense efforts to save it the stadium was torn down in 2008  but fans still come to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull to walk the old baselines, play catch, play in pick up games, or just remember. 

This fine book is the equal of a no-hitter in the seventh game of the world series. It is memorable, full of fascinating details, and darn near perfect.
Tiger Stadium: Essays and Memories of Detroit's Historic Ballpark, 1912-2009 edited by Michael Betzold, John Davids, Bill dow, John Pastier, and Frank Rashid. McFarland and Company, 2018, $39.95 pb.



A Pattern for Murder
by Ann Yost


The Keweenaw Peninsula is remote, strikingly beautiful, sparsely populated, rich in history, and home to its own unique brand of Yooper culture and language that is heavily influenced by a predominantly Finnish population. It's not quite like anyplace else in America and makes for a great background against which to set a mystery novel. 

Hattie Lehtinen (there are more Finnish family names in this mystery than the Helsinki telephone book) has returned to the town of Red Jacket at the end of a disastrous six-month marriage to manage her father's bait shop which she plans on turning into a bait shop and yarn emporium. Deeply civic-minded, Hattie helps in planning and orchestrating the celebration of turning a large, two-family lightkeeper's house into a county old age home. The only incident marring the occasion is the murder of the woman's son who gave the lighthouse to the county. He apparently had returned to the Keweenaw to contest the ownership of the house and took a fatal and involuntary swan dive from the top of the light tower for his troubles. 

The incompetent, do nothing sheriff assigned his nineteen-year-old deputy Ellwood to investigate the murder. The kid is so inexperienced he Googles a website entitled "Ten Steps to Solving a Murder." Hattie has read all of Agatha Christie's mysteries and therefore considers herself more than qualified to solve a murder and appoints herself Ellwood's assistant investigator. And to quote a famous fictional detective, "The game is afoot."

The unraveling of the crime and search for the killer leads to two more murders before Hattie pins the tail on the guilty party. I must admit Agatha Christie novels were never my cup of tea and it wasn't the hunt for the truth and solving of the mystery within these pages that kept me reading. Topographically, historically, geologically, and culturally the Keweenaw is an endlessly fascinating place and the author has done a great job of capturing the uniqueness of the peninsula and the character of its inhabitants. It also doesn't hurt that the author has a well developed sly sense of humor and uses it to full effect in this first in a series of mysteries starring the proprietress of Red Jacket's only bait shop and yarn emporium.

As an aside I must comment on the term "Cozy Mystery." This is the third such self-described mystery in this sub-genre I've reviewed and frankly, I'd like a publisher to define a cozy mystery because I'm at a loss to do so. Their hallmark characteristics seem to be the avoidance of describing any gruesome aspect of the act of murder, little or no swearing, and the sex act, or any approximation of the aforesaid activity, cannot appear between the book's covers. This in spite of the fact the latter could be depicted as cozy and comforting and this book includes the term "Holy Wha" which is described as a Yooper expletive. The American Heritage Dictionary defines cozy as "snug and comfortable" which seems the polar opposite of a murder mystery. It almost feels as if publishers of cozy mysteries are trying to sanitize murder. I would welcome their response.

A Pattern for Murder: The Bait and Stitch Mystery Series, Book One by Ann Yost. ePublishing Works, 2018, $16.99 pb.



Boats Made in Holland: A Michigan Tradition
Geoffrey D. Reynolds

This slim but fact-filled book contains concise, thumbnail histories of the many boat-building companies in the Holland area over the last 120 years. The twenty-four companies briefly profiled are arranged by the era in which they were established and run in length from two to five pages and include numerous photographs.  

Each entry notes the specific kind of pleasure boat the company designed and produced, and highlights any advances in architectural design, construction methods, and material introduced by the company. The first use of a copper alloy steel, which is non-corrosive, for cabin cruiser hulls or the introduction of fiberglass in boat building is noted and described.

I can't help but believe this short book of 120 some pages, not including notes, bibliography, and the index is aimed at a very narrow audience. But for those who are interested in the history of pleasure boat construction and the companies in the Holland area who made pleasure boats their business, then this is the book for you.  It is also another small but appreciated addition to Michigan history.
Boats Made in Holland: A Michigan Tradition by Geoffrey D. Reynolds. History Press, 2018, $21.99 pb.

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August 1, 2019 Post # 45

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