October will mark the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Black Sox scandal when 8 members of the White Sox team threw the world series for financial gain. Hoopla by Harry Stein is a Black Sox novel first published in 1986. I read it then and will never forget it. Easily, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Wow, that was 33 years ago.
Baseball fan or not, everyone should know this bit of history. The 1919 Black Sox scandal didn’t kill baseball but the wound was deep.
Harry Stein wrote recently:
“Thanks largely to the films Eight Men Out and Field of Dreams, the Black Sox are now firmly embedded in popular culture. As dramatic storytelling, the saga has all the elements: not just avarice and betrayal, but unexpected heroism, genuine poignancy, and moral complexity, with the perpetrators just as easily seen as victims. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” the heartbroken little boy’s plea to fallen star Shoeless Joe Jackson, was probably a sportswriter’s invention, but it’s not for nothing that it still tugs the heartstrings of even those who don’t know Hank Aaron from Aaron Judge.”
I lost my original copy and nearly went into mourning. I had underlined several memorable passages. Harry Stein is a marvelous wordsmith.
The book has remained in print so I still have a copy and intend to read it again in honor of the anniversary of that sordid event. Like all such events, it’s a bit more complicated than a short history would reveal.
Stein gives a full history in his book, and that’s probably what makes it so rewarding for the reader. Along with the brilliant prose style. Any writer can become a better writer by reading this book.
Harry Stein has an essay in the current issue of City Journal commemorating the anniversary of the Black Sox scandal, Black Sox Forever, Reflections on the centennial of America’s greatest sports scandal.
If you aren’t familiar with City Journal I strongly urge you to correct that situation immediately. It’s the intelligent New York City magazine.