|Book Review: The Greatest Minor League|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 12, 2012
Most modern fans don't know a lot about the Pacific Coast League and that's a shame.Â The Pacific League wasn't just the forerunner of West coast baseball; it was also the greatest and highest ranked minor league ever to exist.Â It also was the only league, other than the American League, which ever took on Major League Baseball and won.
The Pacific Coast League was the equivalent of Quadruple A baseball for much of its existence, and featured plenty of players who made it to the Majors and even to the Hall of Fame.Â And if any league was going to become the third major league, the Pacific Coast League was the one that was likely to have done it.
And plenty of the names who managed, owned and played will be familiar to any baseball fan: Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Tony Lazzeri, Paul Waner, Ernie Lombardi, Hal Chase, Casey Stengel, Branch Rickey, PK Wrigley, Earl Averill, Walt Dropo, Bill Mazeroski, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson, Frank Crosetti, Babe Pinelli, Smead Jolley and even Babe Ruth.
It's likely that the PCL could have become another Major League if the owners had been able to stay united and follow a plan.Â But discord was the rule.Â That led to teams being located in cities that couldn't really support them, squabbles over expenses and a handful of owners who sold off their stars to the Majors for a quick profit anytime the opportunity arose.
So while some owners paid salaries that were as good, if not better than their Major League counterparts, the drain of top talent to the Majors became a factor that eroded the quality of the PCL even during its glory years.Â While they squabbled, technology advanced, and while the local teams eschewed television figuring it would cut into gate receipts, television brought the Majors to the fans.
That lead to the erosion of the fan base and opened the door for the annexation of the West Coast by the Majors -- and turned the PCL into a league that still exists but as a minor league and one subservient to the Majors.
This book is the story of the greatest minor league, the only one to ever earn an "open classification" rated about AAA, and one which could, and at times did, resist having its players drafted by teams from the Majors.
Dennis Snelling has created the definitive book on Pacific League baseball.Â Here are the names, the history, the statistics and comparisons, as well as the back office workings of ownership and how they guided, or at times failed to guide, the league.
It's a dense book, but a great one for anyone who really wants to know about the history of West Coast baseball.Â And while it doesn't capture the true essence of the rivalry between teams like the Hollywood Stars and the LA Angels, or the intensity of stars like Jigger Statz, it gives a great overview of what was truly a great baseball league.
Give this one a solid 3 balls for anyone with a real sense of history and who can bring themselves to overlook the fact that the book isn't about the Majors, or even the minor leagues as we now know them.Â For everyone else, call it a solid 2 ball read, but be aware this isn't a light breezy read, but one full of facts, analysis and interesting tidbits -- often about guys you've never heard of, but probably would have enjoyed watching.
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Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.