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The Greatest Minor League: A History of the…

The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League,… (2012)

by Dennis Snelling

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227756,278 (3.75)7
In 1903, a small league in California defied Organized Baseball by adding teams in Portland and Seattle to become the strongest minor league of the twentieth century. Calling itself the Pacific Coast League, this outlaw association frequently outdrew its major league counterparts and continued to challenge the authority of Organized Baseball until the majors expanded into California in 1958. The Pacific Coast League introduced the world to Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio, Paul and Lloyd Waner, Ted Williams, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty O'Doul, Mickey Cochrane, Bobby Doerr, and many other baseball stars, all of whom originally signed with PCL teams. This thorough history of the Pacific Coast League chronicles its foremost personalities, governance, and contentious relationship with the majors, proving that the history of the game involves far more than the happenings in the American and National leagues.… (more)



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the kind of baseball history book that I love, exhaustively researched and based on primary sources. Snelling has gone through dozens of newspapers dating as far back as the 1890s, and interviewed dozens of former players. The bulk of the book is a straightforward narrative history of the Pacific Coast League, including not just happenings on the field but the creation of the league and its competition with the National and American Leagues. There's an appendix with lots of lists and statistics, and endnotes that are sometimes so long, they're almost like little articles in their own right. I can see where some people might think a book like this is too dense, but it's a fantastic reference that I'm sure I'll be referring to in the future. ( )
  dkathman | Feb 6, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book overflows with information about the once-vibrant Pacific Coast League, sometimes to a fault; I found that most of the time I could only get through about ten pages before my head started swimming from all the names and dates (especially for players who would appear only once or twice in the whole book). My eyes would also sometimes hurt from squinting at the myriad footnotes in tiny type. But Snelling does tell a compelling story about the rise and fall of the PCL, particularly its ultimately unsuccessful attempts to position itself as a third major league, and it was fascinating to learn about the minor-league origins of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and other major leaguers. ( )
  bostonian71 | Aug 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“The Greatest Minor League” is chock full of information on the great Pacific Coast League from its beginnings until around 1957. Although this league still exist today, it at one point was actually competing against the Major League teams with Hall of Famers such as Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, and others. This league had it all and Snelling does a fantastic job of including just what made this league tick. It’s meticulously researched and indexed, with tables, stats, footnotes, and lists and list of sources. It could probably even be used as a textbook on early baseball history. The one and only issue with the book is that at times it reads like a textbook and is a bit dense. But this is a book that any fan of baseball history will throughly enjoy. ( )
  zzshupinga | Aug 1, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
So much has been written about the history of major league baseball that it's startling to come upon a book that shares stories about teams and sports legends that most people have never heard before. That's because the popular history of baseball during the Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio era is strictly an east coast tale. But for 50 years or more, a third league -- almost on par with the National and American Leagues -- flourished on the west coast. The Pacific Coast League story launched the careers of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and incubated teams that eventually made it to the big leagues themselves: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and San Diego.

The Greatest Minor League, A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling is full of surprises for serious baseball fans who THOUGHT they knew all the baseball lore there was. My little home town of Tacoma, for instance, had a baseball championship before every western city except L.A. (That's the Tacoma squad on the cover.) Joe DiMaggio had a 61 game hitting streak in San Francisco before he had the famous 56 game hitting streak in New York. Babe Ruth wanted to play for San Francisco and tried to get manager jobs in Seattle and Oakland. A team in Hollywood experimented with baseball uniforms featuring shorts. The Black Sox scandal of 1919 involved the PCL. And everyone from Rogers Hornsby to Casey Stengel to Billy Martin to Tommy Lasorda had something to do with the "third major league" out west. There were impressive slugfests, no-hitters, pennant races, and a "Wrigley Field" in this largely forgotten story. There were even early team tours of Japan, spreading the game internationally.

Yes, the people living in the western United States knew of Ruth and Gehrig and Greenberg, but those were stars from far away. The Pacific Coast League was a major league unto itself, scouting and growing talent, west coast stars, and attracting crowds. The Seattle Rainiers* had better attendance in the 30s and 40s than most major league teams back east!

Snelling's research was thorough, including on-the-field AND off-the-field antics, successes, and tragedies. And he did a remarkable job telling the stories, year by year, in ways that make pull you into the team rivalries (e.g. Seals-Angels) as understandably as if he were writing about the more familiar Red Sox-Yankees. The personalities of owners and players thread through the decades with ease, too. Reading this book is like stepping into a parallel baseball universe where the names and struggles are familiar but all new. It's a history of baseball ... that has a different history than you've heard before.

*Another book on the topic that I've read and would recommend: Pitchers of Beer by Dan Raley. It follows the history of the Seattle Rainiers, one of the best teams from the Pacific Coast League.

Find more of my reviews at Mostly NF.
  benjfrank | Jun 11, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Greatest Minor League is chock full of sports, personal, and business details. Its organized into chapters of 2-5 year chunks, actually dipping back into the 1890s, and covering business intrigue, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, what dead balls were, brushes with stars such as Joe DiMaggio, and the end of a golden age as MLB expanded westward. Dennis Snelling's book is meticulously researched and comprehensive. It can be used as a textbook on baseball history due to it's chronological range, tables of league statistics, footnotes, index, and list of many sources. It's only fault is that parts come across as too dense considering the detailed information on mainly unknown characters, and fewer pictures than most baseball history books. But its obvious Snelling spent many years researching and writing, and it will be well worth the time of any baseball history buff. ( )
  JamesPaul977 | Jun 3, 2012 |
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To all those who played in the Pacific Coast League, who supported those chasing their dreams, and those who watched, rooted, reported and worked for the league. And to my son, Connor, whom I love very much.
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The crowd began congregating on a gray, drizzly December morning in 1890 at San Francisco's Clay Street Wharf.
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