Field of Screams
The Dark Underside of America's National Pastime
by Richard Scheinin
New York, WW Norton & Co. 1994
This is an entertaining book meant as an antidote to the touchy-feely, Kevin Costner baseball craze that swept the USA in the early 1990's. As such, it is welcomed.
The recurring nightmares of the "Field of Screams" are managers John McGraw, Leo Durocher, and Billy Martin -- their three careers almost a century's worth of win-at-any-cost wickedness. (Coincidence? They all managed in New York.) Decade after decade Muggsy, Leo the Lip and Billy are seen cursing umpires, paying pitchers to throw beanballs, starting fights, beating up hecklers, associating with gangsters and gamblers, and generally giving baseball a bad name.
There are enough baseball cheats, headhunters, gamblers, drunks, and druggies in this volume to satisfy any skeptic. However, our Cardinal Rule (written by Enos Slaughter) for baseball non-fiction is as follows: "If it doesn't have an index, take it with a grain of salt."
The method of writing a book like "Field of Screams" is to first skim off the most damaging stories you can find. Then look for the most biased versions of these stories. Then look for the most unsubstantiated rumors from the most biased versions of the most damaging stories. Copy down these rumors, but leave out all references to where you found them. Print the rumors as fact. It's OK to embellish the rumors a little if you want -- after all, no one is checking. Like I say, it's an entertaining book.
Some day you will get into a barroom baseball argument with a guy who swears that something completely illogical, unproven, and unlikely is the gospel truth. He read it in a book, and they couldn't print that stuff if it wasn't true, could they? This book will be where he read it.
The Library of Book Reviews