my book report
Alex Belth, one of the proprietors of the excellent Yankees blog "Bronx Banter," has written a new book that looks at the life and struggle of Curt Flood. An acquaintance of mine through mutual friends, Alex had the publisher send me a copy so that I could give it a read, and I plowed my way through it posthaste.
And so, here are my thoughts on Stepping Up:
In a very small nutshell, it’s a worthwhile read. I learned a great deal about Flood, his life, his case, and all the surrounding circumstances. It’s well-researched and it’s clear Alex took significant interest and care in the topic. If you’re interested in Flood, you’re going to learn a lot. If you’re interested in the Cardinals and baseball history, then you really should be intersted in Flood.
That, actually, is one of the best things about Stepping Up: bringing attention to one of the most moving and important stories of the last 40 years in baseball. Far too many players, never mind fans, have no idea who Curt Flood was and what he brought about. So if people read the book, and learn, it will be a good thing right off.
I had a few small complaints, but I’m picky — I would have liked some more first-hand interviews with some of the guys mentioned (guys like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Mike Shannon), and the tone of the baseball segments seemed aimed at more of a novice than a hardcore fan. But those are relatively minor, matters of taste to some extent.
The one thing I really would have liked for Alex to do was to re-structure the book somewhat. The initial section, detailing Flood’s upbringing, was very valuable. He did a fine job of showing the elements that led Flood to become the man he eventually became. It’s important to know, and it’s well done.
From there, however, Stepping Up features too much play-by-play. The middle segment about the Cardinals mid-60s glory years covers a lot of ground that’s been covered before, in books like Halbertstam’s October, 1964. It should be there, because it’s part of Flood’s career, but it doesn’t need to be in nearly that much detail. And if it’s going to be in that kind of detail, it should be more about Flood and less about his teammates.
By the time the reader reaches Flood’s suit against baseball, the book is two-thirds over. And that’s the good stuff. The detail becomes richer. The drama becomes higher. The suit is the guts of this book. Ultimately, it’s what the book is about, and it should have a larger portion of the page and word count. Similarly, the aftermath for Flood is incredibly compelling stuff. By all accounts, including Alex’s, Flood was never the same after the suit. I want more of that, too.
What Alex did in Stepping Up, he did quite well. He certainly accomplished something I have never done and something I admire and envy — he completed a worthwhile and interesting book. But he "buried the lead" a little bit, to use a newspaper term. If Stepping Up had been more about Flood’s battle with baseball and the aftermath, it would have been an even more compelling read and telling document.
(now playing on the iPod: New Order, Low-Life. Yes, I’m still old)