So there I was the other day, browsing the shelves at my in-laws’ community library where all books are donated by residents. (I often donate books too and was looking for one that I thought I’d mistakenly donated, “Ted Williams’ Hit List“.)
Instead of “Hit List” I found a treasure on the give-away shelf: An original, hardcover edition (with dust jacket!) of The Detroit Tigers by Frederick G. Lieb, published in 1946.
My first question was “Who is Frederick Lieb?” (Actually, my first question was “Who in their right mind didn’t want this book?!”)
Well, it just so happens that Lieb is one prolific baseball writer who penned many baseball books including The St. Louis Cardinals, The Baltimore Orioles, and Connie Mack. Do an Amazon search for him and get a load of all he works produced.
Though I haven’t dug into the book yet, a quick review offers a taste of the language used in 1940s sportswriting. Take, for example, this snippet from the jacket flap:
High or low in the standings, the Detroit Tigers have always been a fighting baseball club, snarling and scrapping to the finish. From the time of Watkins’ famous Detroits of the early National League, who in 1887 defeated the St. Louis Browns in a circus 15-game World Series, to Steve O’Neill’s Tiger Kings of 1945 everything has happened in Detroit baseball â€” except a tailender.
Admittedly, I needed to lookup “tailender” to see what the word meant in this context. According to Merriam-Webster OnLine a tailender is one positioned at the end or in last place, “the tailenders in a race”. Now I know.
And then there’s this, also from the jacket flap:
Fred Lieb … tells the dramatic and exciting story of the Detroit Tigers, a ball club that has never known how to quit, one that has always held the threat of exploding a rally and going on to win when the chips were down. Win or lose, the Tigers have always been a spirited club.
I did some noodling around online and discovered that a new paperback edition of the book will be published in July by Kent State University Press. The book will include a new foreword by author and Tigers Podcast guest, Tom Stanton. Check it out.
And then I found this!
If stumbling onto a rare Tigers book weren’t enough, I found an unexpected bonus tucked inside: a tattered and yellowed copy of The Detroit News sports page dated Sunday, January 19, 1947.
The main headline read “12,656 Watch Notre Dame Top U.-D.”, but the story of the day was the reaction to Hank Greenberg‘s contract being sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates for $75,000. (Oh, and the Wings lost to the Maple Leafs 7-4 in Toronto.)
Sports writer Paul Chandler wrote a piece titled “What the Fans Say About Frank’s Going” and it’s filled with gems such as this one from telephone operator Vivian Rigg:
They can’t do that. He’s our star player â€” the only one I recognize. He draws the crowds. Pittsburgh, of all places!”
And this from Detroit policeman John Prakes, who should’ve received a call from central casting for “Dragnet“:
I won’t kid. Greenberg was my favorite ball player. There’s that sergeant down at the station. All he talks about is Hank. Wow! Wait’ll I tell him. He’ll burn for a week.”
The rest of the cluttered page contains small stories related to the trade, including:
- (Hal) Newhouser Regrets Deal: “Hank’s a great guy, and it’s tough to see him leave with that big bat of his,” Newhouser told the Associated Press.
- (Pirates manager Billy) Herman Ponders Greenberg’s Job: “I’m pretty sure we’ll use Hank in the outfield,” Herman said.
Greenberg played only one season in Pittsburgh before calling it quits at 36. Though he finished 1947 with a .249 average — his lowest by 20 points — Hank still hit 25 homers, drove in 74 and led the National League with 104 walks. Of course, his final career line is flat-out stunning: .313 average, 331 home runs, 1,276 RBI, two MVP awards and five All Star Game appearances over 12 seasons.
Before I found these two items I didn’t frequent this particular library very often. But with luck like this, I may become a regular.