A Gallery of Rogues, by Jonathan Weeks. Scarecrow Press, 2013.
Until there is no more baseball, there will always be books like Baseball’s Most Notorious Personalities. It’s our predilection for schadenfreude and curiosity that leads us to red stories about the likes of Ty Cobb (who graces the cover), Carl Mays, Pete Rose, the 1919 Black Sox, et al.
Weeks compiled this group of “liars, cheats, hotheads, and ax murders” (just one, thank goodness), but the word “notorious” is much a blanket, covering sins both great and small. For example, the author includes Jim Bouton as a “tattletale” for publishing Ball Four, certainly no crime, although considered a shocking betrayal by some in the game at the time.
There’s also a chapter for those who had momentary lapses, such as Roberto Alomar, who famously spit at an umpire; Randall Simon, who once clubbed a Milwaukee Brewers sausage mascot with a bat; and Pedro Martinez, whose tussle with Yankees coach Don Zimmer may or may not be considered enough to brand put him in the same category as others in the book. It’s some of these later incidents that warrant such a book, the theme of which has certainly been done before (see Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo’s series of Baseball Hall of Shame titles or Connor Floyd’s two volumes of Baseball’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Bad Hops, Screwball Players, and Other Oddities).
While Baseball’s Most Notorious is certainly an entertaining book for those interested in such lurid material, some might find the cover price for the slim hardcover — $45 is — even more shocking.