In honor of the opening of the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox I thought it only fitting that I review a book about major league baseball (MLB) in 1946, culminating in the first meeting in the World Series of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. I first read this book when it was in manuscript and I worked to acquire it for the “Sports and American Culture” series that I edited for the University of Missouri Press. Unfortunately, with a ridiculous decision to terminate the University of Missouri Press in 2012—which I have talked about here—the press had to let the author take manuscript elsewhere and it has now been published as The Stars Are Back: The St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, and Player Unrest in 1946.
Fortunately, Ned Stuckey-French and others organized a protest against the decision. Their facebook page, “Save the University of Missouri Press,” became information central on what has been happening. Moreover, Janese Silvey of the Columbia Daily Tribune was been very effectively covering the unfolding drama. Check out her stories on the subject here. In the end the unversity president relented and the University of Missouri Press has been retained and is still publishing the “Sports and American Culture” series.
Jerome M. Mileur’s book is an excellent account of the 1946 MLB season. It discusses the return to baseball of hundreds of players that had been in the military during World War II. As I blurbed on the dust jacket: “In the first post–World War II season, with their greatest players Stan Musial and Ted Williams back, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox squared off in a dramatic seven-game World’s Series. But the season was more than a summer of great baseball; it portended changes to come as the modern era of major league baseball emerged.”
Those changes included both the breaking of the racial barrier in MLB, which would be achieved first by Jackie Robinson when he reached the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the rise of the Mexican League, and the creation of a nascent labor movement among the players that would eventually lead to much greater control over their careers.
In the end the Cardinals won a see-saw series with the Red Sox to capture the championship. It was a difficult loss for the Red Sox, which would not play in the World Series again until 1967, when they lost again in a seven-game series to the Cardinals. In many respects 1946 represented the culmination of several years of success for the Cardinals, but they would not return to postseason play until 1964, and it was the penultimate triumph for the Red Sox, who lost in the World Series in 1967, 1975, and 1986 before finally winning two championships in the twenty-first century, in 2004 and 2007. Both teams are legendary in the MLB, the Cardinals for a tradition of excellence second only to the New York Yankees and the Red Sox for their failures in the postseason.
Jerome Mileur’s narrative is a fine addition to the history of baseball and a fitting preamble to the 2013 World Series between the same two teams that are featured in it.