This thin book was published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in conjunction with their 2006 convention here in Seattle. It's an interesting and entertaining collection of vignettes about baseball in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia -- and not what I was sort of expecting it to be, which was a comprehensive look at, well, "baseball in the Pacific Northwest."
The book is divided into 22 chapters which read, and are generally formatted like, articles from the sports page. This is probably appropriate, since many of the contributors seem to be sports journalists. After a slow beginning (largely a sad chronicle of one failed league after another in the early 1900s), the book really gets to work with profiles of many key players, managers, owners, or teams who enlivened Northwest baseball over the seasons.
Of these, the ones I found most interesting were Steve Steinberg's tale of Spokane Indians pitcher Stan Coveleski; Dan Raley's look at Emil Sick, "the savior of baseball in Seattle" (the first of many?); and Jim Price's tragic story of the bus crash that killed nine Indians players in 1946. Also noteworthy is Mark Armour's piece about Jim Bouton and the hugely influential Ball Four, his memoirs of the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Appropriately, this is followed up by a contribution by Bouton himself about his mid-'70s Portland Mavericks. (It's perhaps "ironic" -- as people would say these days -- that Bouton's piece, probably the best-written chapter in the book, wasn't written for this book at all. It's a reprint of an article he wrote for The Portland Oregonian in 2001. Nevertheless, it's right at home in these pages, and definitely worth reading. "Will there ever be a Mav Old Timers' Day, you ask? I doubt it. Too many players in the witness protection program.") There are also good chapters on Fred Hutchinson, Juan Marichal, Vancouver magnate Bob Brown, and a look at the record-setting 2001 Mariners focusing on how GM Pat Gillick cobbled the team together. The book is heavily illustrated, with most (all?) of the photos coming from the awe-inspiring David Eskenazi Collection.
As I noted, "Rain Check" is largely a collection of individual moments, teams, or personalities, and so the sum is an impressionistic look at baseball in the Northwest. There's nothing really tying all the trees together into one comprehensible forest. That's a book that I'd still very much like to see written. But living here in the Northwest, it's obvious that individual trees can be very beautiful things, especially when talented minds craft them into works of art like books and baseball bats.
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Andrew S. Rogers (Cascadian)
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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This is a collection of more than 170 photos and two dozen essays and which tell the 120-year history of baseball in the Pacific Northwest. The stories range chronologically from the origins of the professional game in the region in the 1890s through the account of the 2001 season of the Seattle Mariners and focus on baseball in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver, British Columbia.