About the Book
Baseball has had its fair share of one-and-out champions, but few clubs have dominated the sport for any great length of time. Given the level of competition and the expansive length of the season, it is a remarkable accomplishment for a team to make multiple World Series appearances in a short timespan. From the Baltimore Orioles of the 1800s who would go to any length to win—including physically accosting opponents—to the 1934 Cardinals known as the “Gashouse Gang” for their rough tactics and determination, and on to George Steinbrenner’s dominant Yankees of the late twentieth century, baseball’s greatest teams somehow found a way to win year after year.
Spanning three centuries of the game, Baseball’s Dynasties and the Players Who Built Them examines twenty-two of baseball’s most iconic teams. Each chapter not only chronicles the club’s era of supremacy, but also provides an in-depth look at the players who helped make their teams great. Nearly two hundred player profiles are included, featuring such well-known stars as Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and Pete Rose, as well as players who were perhaps overshadowed by their teammates but were nonetheless vital to their team’s reign, such as Pepper Martin, Allie Reynolds, and George Foster.
With a concluding chapter that profiles the clubs that were on the cusp of greatness, Baseball’s Dynasties and the Players Who Built Them is a fascinating survey of what makes some teams dominate year after year while others get only a small taste of glory before falling to the wayside. Written in a lively style with amusing anecdotes and colorful quotes, this comprehensive book will be of interest to all fans and historians of baseball.
With a roster full of superstars, the Orioles captured three straight pennants from 1894–1896. They followed with a pair of near misses, placing second in 1897 and 1898. Along the way, they developed a reputation as one of the nastiest teams in baseball. John Heydler, an umpire who would later ascend to the NL presidency, described the Orioles of the 1890s as “mean, vicious, ready at any time to maim a rival player or an umpire.” Infielder John McGraw was proud of that distinction. “We’d go tearing into a bag with flying spikes as though with murderous intent,” he boasted. “We were a cocky, swashbuckling crew and wanted everybody to know it.”
Pirates great Honus Wagner manufactured a tall tale about a harrowing trip around the bases against the Orioles. After driving a ball deep into the outfield, he claimed to have been tripped at first base by Jack Doyle and then knocked flat by Hughie Jennings at second. Climbing to his feet, he lumbered toward third, only to find John McGraw holding a shotgun on him. “You stop right there!” McGraw allegedly bellowed. Although Wagner’s story is obviously apocryphal, numerous reliable accounts confirm the fact that the Orioles resorted to underhanded tactics regularly. When they weren’t physically accosting opponents, they were treating them to streams of verbal abuse. Baltimore players were so free in their use of profanity that a resolution was adopted in 1898, imposing mandatory expulsions upon anyone using “villainously foul” language.
Even the groundskeepers at Baltimore were deceitful. Soap flakes were mixed with the soil around the pitcher’s mound to make the hands of opposing hurlers slippery when they reached into the dirt. Orioles moundsmen knew to keep untainted soil in their pockets. The infield was mixed with clay and rarely watered, creating a surface not unlike cement. Baltimore players chopped down on the ball, creating dramatically high hops that gave them a head start to first base (hence, the origin of the term Baltimore chop). The outfield was ruddy and riddled with weeds. Outfielders allegedly kept extra balls hidden out there in the event that the ones in play eluded them.
About the Author
Weeks spent most of his life in the Capital District area of New York. He earned a degree in psychology from SUNY Albany. In 2004, he migrated to Malone, NY. He continues to gripe about the frigid winter temperatures to the present day. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, he writes about the game because he lacked the skill to play it professionally. He still can't hit a curve ball or lay off the high heat. Baseball’s Dynasties is his fourth nonfiction work.