Review: The Called Shot by Thomas Wolf

The Called Shot is not just a book about Babe Ruth and the game that served as a turning point in baseball.  It is a book about one of the golden eras of baseball, featuring a cast of characters that all made decisions which led to the fateful pitch and ultimate swing by Babe Ruth.  A casual fan of baseball may not understand the intricacies of the sport as laid out in this title.  Most sports have managers and owners, staff that support the team, but baseball has a long history of incredible supporting roles.  We all know who Babe Ruth is, but how many of us know Roger Hornsby, one of the most feared batters of all time?  How many of us know Charlie Root, the player that pitched to Babe Ruth in this at bat?  I believe this is the brilliance of the book, readers must wait until the precipice of the book to read about the titular event.  The author has packaged this narrative into a tightly written story that flows from one person to the next, one subject to another, until the ultimate conclusion of ‘the called shot’, supplying context along the way.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s candid treatment of the subject at-bat.  He relates that Ruth pointed somewhere in the vicinity of a distant location, above the pitcher’s head, maybe in the outfield, the historical record is hard to decipher in this situation.  Through the book, the author presents chapter after chapter of well-researched, interesting text that shines a light on the inner workings of baseball in this period.  From the endnotes, the reader can glimpse the thorough research that went into this book. 

The author explores every facet of the game from umpires to relief pitchers and everything in between.  The interplay between the league, the management of the teams, and the players is carefully examined in a narrative and engaging way throughout the course of the story.  This is a work of history that captures the spirit of baseball and stays as close to the truth as possible.  Readers will identify that the author has thoroughly researched this work, though not on the level of a historical monograph.  This is a captivating look at baseball in the era of Babe Ruth.

Overall, this is a great read and a fantastic title from the University of Nebraska Press and Thomas Wolf.  I would recommend to any fan of both history and baseball, or someone who is interested in this period and is not necessarily a baseball fan.  This is a great book for a reader interested in learning more about baseball in the summer of 1932.

I received a galley copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Grab a copy of this book today! Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book!


Review: Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing by Carlos Acevedo

Award-winning boxing writer, Carlos Acevedo has given us a beautiful collection of essays highlighting the people, the events, and the complexities that make up the world of boxing.  Sporting Blood: Tales from the Dark Side of Boxing contains 20 essays dedicated to people from Muhammad Ali to Johnny Tapia to Mike Tyson to Eddie Machen and events like Wilfredo Gomez v. Lupe Pintor, the curious death of Sonny Liston, and the interestingly complicated relationship between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. 

Acevedo is an accomplished writer who weaves 20 individual stories into a cohesive narrative that captures the gruesome legacy of boxing.  At one point, Acevedo writes:

“At the core of these apocalyptic fights, where two men take turns punishing each other from round to round, lies the question of motivation.  Not in the sporting sense- that is, not in the careerist sense or anything so mundane as competition- but in an existential sense.”

This book contrasts the stark realities that were fights throughout the history of boxing:  some competitors were subject to extreme family violence, inherent poverty, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incredibly physical and mental harm in the ring.  Writing about Wilfredo Gomez, the author denotes that Gomez’ career caught up to him in the present day.  A life of hard living, extreme physical punishment in the ring, drug and alcohol abuse have left him with a childlike persona and in need of assistance for daily tasks.

Acevedo has put together a compelling and masterful perspective on the darkest side of boxing.  With a foreword from award-winning author Thomas Hauser, this book is a must read for any boxing fan.

I would recommend this to students in Sport History courses, fans of boxing, and anyone looking for a richly sourced perspective on the history of boxing.

Sporting Blood is out now and can be found at most major retailers! 

I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss+.