EEEEEE! Looks at Books

The Grand Minor League -- Dick Dobbins

by Todd Hawley

Thursday, May 18, 2000

At this point, all of the EEEEEE! reviews I've done have been books about the minor leagues, usually about the Pacific Coast League (PCL). So you could say I've become quite an expert and student about this league. I'd heard about this book and wanted to see what was different about it as opposed to the other PCL books I've read and reviewed.

This book is really an oral history of the league, as told through the stories of former players, managers, and umpires. As I sat down and looked through this book, I was astounded at the level of detail, dedication, and hard work that Dick Dobbins put into this book. I wondered aloud to myself how I could write a review that would capture my thoughts and feelings about reading all these wonderful stories and make people want to go out and buy it?

I realized the only way to do it was to just sit down and write how I felt about it and let my words convey the feelings and emotions I felt while reading through it. As I read some of the PCL's participants sharing their stories, thoughts, and anecdotes, I felt like I was transported back in time to the '30s, '40s, and '50s. You get a sense from this book not only what the league was like, but what ballplayers were like in that era. How some vets would help out the rookies, or how managers would react in different situations, both off and on the field or how the ballplayers all got along.

Each chapter in the book is devoted to a different topic. The first chapter discusses the league's early history. Obviously, since this is an oral history, regrettably it is impossible to talk with players who were around between 1900 and 1930. I would have loved to read stories about the great San Francisco Seals' teams of the 1920s.

The next chapter is devoted to descriptions and pictures of all the old ballparks the teams played in, complete with the sizes of each park. As I've mentioned in other reviews, some of the parks were gorgeous, others were dumps. Next is a chapter about the great teams in the PCL, starting with the 1934 Los Angeles Angels, the Seals teams of the 1940s, the Hollywood Stars teams of the 1950s, and so forth.

Then there are chapters devoted to the players, managers and even the umpires who toiled in the league. The greats like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams are mentioned here, along with others like Billy Martin and Jackie Jensen (the great Cal player) just to name a few. I was amazed to find out how many players and managers in the PCL later became major league managers. Obviously Casey Stengel, but also Gene Mauch, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, and George Bamberger (a former Oaks' pitcher affectionately known as "Bambi") to name a handful.

Lasorda gets mentioned later in the chapter on rivalries. It seems the LA Angels and Hollywood Stars had a very spirited rivalry and Lasorda (an Angels' pitcher at the time) was involved in a brawl that happened in a 1957 game between the two teams. Maybe he was gaining experience for his later Dodger-Giant battles.

There are numerous photos of players and managers throughout the book. It seems almost funny to see Sparky Anderson and Tommy Lasorda as young men, when you're accustomed to seeing them years later as wizened, gray-haired veterans of the baseball wars. There are also numerous pictures of teams' uniforms, hats and other assorted memorabilia.

There are other chapters devoted to other parts of the PCL. In all, this is really a wonderful book about the PCL, as are all the others I've had the chance to read and review. Near the end of the book is a section about Dick getting the chance to have lunch with Joe DiMaggio in the mid 1990s. There's a picture of a young Dick Dobbins snapping a picture of Joe signing an autograph for a fan that was also taken by an Associated Press photographer. I can only imagine what a thrill that must have been for him!

Sadly, Dick is no longer with us, having passed away 18 months ago. But all of us can feel fortunate that he wrote two excellent books about the PCL. This book is truly an excellent companion to Nuggets on the Diamond and well worth the $30 price tag.

You really need to see Todd Hawley's San Francisco Seals page. Simple as that.

Copyright © 2000 by Todd Hawley

Last updated 5/30/00

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