Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout by Jack Ebling

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

In many ways, we can read the history of America on its ball fields, written in the dust of the infield or the chalk of the baselines. Well-suited to lazy summer days by virtue of its leisurely pace, and providing a wealth of statistics to keep its fans amused during the off-season, baseball is a uniquely American blend of action, reflection, and squabbles (called “rhubarbs” in the vernacular). And in this, the game oddly reflects the culture that gave it birth.

For those whose appreciation of sports extends no further than the city limits of New York or Boston, a book on a team of mere provincials may prove as alluring to east coast sophisticates as a trip to WalMart to mingle with the riffraff. But for those with a love of the traditions and lore of the Great American Pastime, Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout offers a welcome and tantalizing glimpse into one of the oldest and most successful baseball teams in history. Fast-paced and tightly written, the book will delight Tiger fans, and enlighten fans everywhere.

As the author recounts, in recent years the team from Motown had fallen on hard times. Tiger fans had begun to measure the time between winning teams in decades, rather than seasons, capped by a team-record 119 losses in 2003. Yet in those dark years, careful behind-the-scenes planning was already laying the foundation for the team’s 2006 re-emergence into the upper tier of major league baseball. And the book is filled with past legends and hints of future glory that offer fans the promise of baseball glory in the years to come.

Though often ignored by sportswriters from bigger cities, Tiger legends are among the most gifted and venerated names in the history of the sport. Ty Cobb, for instance, was probably the best player ever to walk onto a baseball field—and arguably the nastiest and most contemptible human being ever to don a baseball uniform. But other Tigers were almost as skilled, yet often labored in the shadows of their better-publicized counterparts from the coast. Hank Greenburg, Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, and other Hall-of-Famers brought off-field class as well as on-field brilliance to the game. As the author notes, their contribution to franchise history is not lost on students or true fans of the game. Though like other stars of Cooperstown, their timeless talents are often obscured by the large salaries and larger egos of today’s lesser stars, fans of all ages and eras will enjoy the stories of how and why baseball in Detroit has grown along with the game that is among the treasures of American culture.

All Americans love an underdog, one who can rise from nothing and soldier on through adversity. Win or lose, there is something about the struggles of the common man that speaks to the American heart, giving us hope for ourselves and our future. A book about baseball will not solve the problems of world hunger or global terrorism, but the magic of sports consists of bringing people together through shared adventures in a sheltered world where conflicts are solved through teamwork and effort. And by sharing some of the hopes and dreams of a long-suffering and newly emerging sports team, Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout reminds us that miracles are everywhere around us. We only need to open our eyes and hearts to the magic, and sports can bring smiles to our souls, no matter what is happening in the rest of the world.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

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