By Joe Christensen
Before the Twins’ annual holiday party Wednesday, the team’s employees received another surprise from Santa Morneau.
Last year, Justin Morneau and his wife, Krista, gave scarves to each Twins employee. Teammates teased Morneau for making the rest of them look bad for not giving their own gifts, but the Morneaus were undeterred. This year, they gave winter hats and autographed cards.
I’ve been meaning to write a post with my own gift ideas — books, always books — so here goes:
The Machine, by Joe Posnanski
A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series — The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds
Posnanski delivers with this highly anticipated book profiling the Big Red Machine, then and now. It has the reporting and writing we’ve come to expect from Posnanski, and he does a masterful job weaving cultural events from 1975 into the narrative. He captures the personalities of Manager Sparky Anderson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez — especially the enigmatic Rose. The beginning and ending anecdotes about baseball’s all-time hits leader stick with me, several weeks after reading it.
The First Fall Classic, by Mike Vaccaro
The Red Sox, The Giants and the Cast of Players, Pugs, and Politicos Who Reinvented the World Series in 1912
This book snuck up on me because, unlike “The Machine,” I had no idea it was coming. I started reading a few pages and couldn’t put it down. (This happened with Posnanski’s book, too, but I’d been looking forward to that one for so long, there wasn’t the element of surprise.)
If you love history, Vaccaro takes you back to the year Fenway Park opened and back to a time when gambling hovered over the game. You ride the train between Boston and Manhattan between games with Christy Mathewson, Tris Speaker, Smoky Joe Wood and Boston’s Royal Rooters. After scouring newspaper accounts, Vaccaro uses his writing touch to bring these characters back to life. An excerpt from before Game 3, as the writers interview Giants manager John McGraw (from page 112):
“Will sharing the Polo Grounds [with the New York Highlanders in 1913] be awkward?” Grantland Rice of the Mail wanted to know.
“Those animosities are long gone,” McGraw insisted, his generosity no doubt fortified by the 50-102 record the Highlanders posted in 1912. “Besides, when our park burned last year, they showed great hospitality to us. They took us in, and treated us neighborly, and we plan on treating them the same exact way. Though they’ll likely need a new name now that they won’t be playing in the highlands of Manhattan any longer.”
“Our headline writers already call them by a different name,” said Damon Runyon of the American. “They call them the Yankees.”
“Yankees, eh?” McGraw said. “Hmmm. I wonder if that name will catch on?”