A number of years ago the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) began partnering with the University of Nebraska Press to produce a series focused on “Memorable Teams in Baseball History.” Drama and Pride in the Gateway City: The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals is one volume in this series. It is largely a collection of biographical sketches, along with chronological discussions and a commentary on the World Series between the Cardinals and the New York Yankees in 1964. In terms of biographies, these are very solid ones. We will learn the basics about the stars of the team, especially Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, as well as the other players and the coaching staff.
Perhaps the best short biography I have read of Curt Flood is contained in this book. Written by Terry W. Sloope, this essay captures well the enigma of the sensitive player who believed the MLB operated a plantation style labor system. When traded from the Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1969 season, Flood resented that after giving the Cardinals his best for twelve seasons he had still not earned the right to be a part of any decision that affected him so fundamentally. Since the Cardinals no longer wanted him, Flood challenged the MLB “reserve clause,” a seemingly inviolate section of all players’ contracts that allowed the team the right to reserve the services of their players for the next season even without a signed contract. While the contract and the player signed to it could be traded, a player could not unilaterally choose to play for another team even if he did not have a current signed contract. While Flood’s challenge of this system failed, he cracked open a door that would lead to free agency in less than a decade.
The bulk of this book is given over to player, coaching staff, front office and ownership, and broadcasting biographies. These are all useful and some of them, such as the piece about Curt Flood, are outstanding. The remaining chapters relate the course of the 1964 season, the World Series, and the aftermath of the Cardinals in the sixties. Finally, I should mention that while many SABR members are interested in the use of advanced statistics to reveal hidden elements of play on the field, this book does not really contribute much along those lines. I do not mention this as a negative for this book; only to note that anyone who is seeking that type of analysis will not find it here.
Overall, it is a very creditable work, one that should find its way to the shelves of anyone seriously interested in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals.