Book Review: "Seasons In Hell"

Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and "The Worst Baseball Team in History" - The 1973-1975 Texas Rangers by Mike Shropshire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first third or so of this book is really funny. I mean, tears rolling down my face funny. Shropshire's wry descriptions of the utterly inept 1973 Texas Rangers baseball team is really good reading for anyone who likes baseball and loves schadenfreude. But, as with a lot of books that are funny at the start, this one doesn't maintain it.

I had several problems with this book. For one, the title itself is misleading. Yes, it puts "the worst team in baseball history" in quotes, but only the '73 team was bad. The '74 team was actually pretty good, and the '75 team was mediocre. In addition, well over half of the book is devoted to the '73 season; like the humor, it's as if Shropshire himself ran out of gas. There is a strange preoccupation with spring training, with as much space devoted to that as to the regular season. The big preoccupation here, though, is Shropshire's obsession with drinking. Like most drunks, he places tremendous emphasis and importance on what was being consumed, in what quantities, by whom, and where. Again like most drunks, he makes the erroneous assumption that other people are as fascinated with this stuff as he is. I found it really tiresome by the latter portion of the book.

There are some interesting portraits of such figures as Herzog, Martin, schoolboy wunderkind David Clyde, and such lesser lights as "The Strange Ranger" Willie Davis and "Beeg Boy" Rico Carty, so slow running to first base that "you could time him with a sundial." Shropshire fudges some of his facts--he repeatedly misspells Brewer manager and former Braves star Del Crandall's name--and screws up the timeline of some events.

It was fun to hear how some of these baseball icons talk when it's off the cuff, and having lived in Texas and been a (temporary) Rangers fan myself, I liked hearing stories about this team in particular. In the end, though, the endless frat party that Shropshire describes gets old, and like a drunk who was fun when the evening began, it ultimately becomes a little pathetic. Three stars for being howlingly funny for a while, but not really recommended.

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Sioux Roslawski said…
Shay--You ended this review with such a great simile. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the whole book, since you love baseball so much.
Mama Zen said…
That would get on my nerves really quick!
Anonymous said…
I agree. It seemed to me that the author wanted to put the sportswriting field on par with the professional sports field. He ran out of gas right before halftime. He needed to be in better condition since he was only writing a book. As Bobby Knight famously said, "I learned to write in the second grade. Then I moved on." Shropshire acts like writing is easy but writing well is hard. At least it must be hard for him.
Lynn said…
I always like baseball books - sounds as if this one is iffy.

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