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Bottom of the Ninth

Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself

Michael Shapiro

Times Books

Fifty years ago, as baseball faced crises on and off the field, two larger-than-life figures took center stage, each on a quest to reinvent the national pastime

In the late 1950s, baseball was under siege. Up-and-coming cities that wanted teams of their own were being rebuffed by the owners, and in response Congress was threatening to revoke the sport’s antitrust exemption. These problems were magnified by what was happening on the field, as the New York Yankees were winning so often that true competition was vanishing in the American League.

In Bottom of the Ninth, Michael Shapiro brings to life this watershed moment in baseball history. He shows how the legendary executive Branch Rickey saw the game’s salvation in two radical ideas: the creation of a third major league—the Continental League—and the pooling of television revenues for the benefit of all. And Shapiro captures the audacity of Casey Stengel, the manager of the Yankees, who believed that he could bend the game to his wishes and remake how baseball was played. Their stories are interwoven with the on-field drama of pennant races and clutch performances, culminating in three classic World Series confrontations.

As the tension built on and off the field, Rickey and Stengel would find themselves outsmarted and defeated by the team owners who held true backroom power—defeats that would diminish the game for decades to come. Shapiro’s compelling narrative reaches its stunning climax in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when one swing of the bat heralds baseball’s eclipse as America’s number-one sport.


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  • Michael Shapiro discusses his book, Bottom of the Ninth

    Michael Shapiro discusses Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself in his book, Bottom of the Ninth.

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REVIEWS

Praise for Bottom of the Ninth

"Mr. Shapiro tells his tale with verve. . . . It’s an enjoyable ride."--The Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Shapiro dramatically builds his tale to a walloping conclusion."--Sam Roberts, The New York Times

“A compelling and thoroughly enjoyable trip back in time to a turning point that never turned.”--The Washington Times

"Sharply researched . . . Exactly how the Continental League gathered strength and then faltered, and exactly how its impact is felt today, are treasures to be unearthed in [Bottom of the Ninth]."--Sports Illustrated

"Elegant and exhaustively researched . . . It’s a testament to Shapiro’s sharp eye for detail that he keeps the story zipping along. . . . He captures the sense of loss – not only for Rickey and Stengel, but for baseball and its fans."--The New York Times Book Review

"By far the best investigation of the failure of the Continental League. . . . A fascinating piece on a long neglected aspect of baseball's past."--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[An] engaging look at a significant, though often forgotten, chapter in the game’s history."--The Boston Globe

"A must for Mets fans, who should know their roots. . . . Terrific."--Bill Madden, New York Daily News

"Shapiro. . . is a terrific writer. His accounts of Branch Rickey's struggle and eventual failure to create a third major league, the Continental, as well as the last Yankee season of baseball's most successful manager, Casey Stengel (whose team lost the 1960 Series on Bill Mazeroski's home run in the seventh game), makes for compelling reading."--Allen Barra, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Compelling." – Los Angeles Times

"[Shapiro] has once again hit it out of the literary park. . . . This retelling of a little-known chapter in baseball history is exemplary sports reporting."--Tucson Citizen

"This season brings a bumper crop of books about baseball in New York, the best of which concerns a team and a league that don’t even exist. Michael Shapiro’s ‘Bottom of the Ninth’ . . . is one of the best tales of what might have been, how baseball might have harnessed the power of television and how the sport might have staved off the rise of football."--David M. Shribman, Bloomberg News

"A fascinating look at an almost forgotten era. . . . One of the best baseball books of recent seasons. Grade: A."--Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Michael Shapiro hits another one out of the park."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The fascinating, might-have-been story of the Continental League."--Tulsa World

"Filled with colorful personalities . . . A lively perspective on backstage dealings that almost changed the course of professional sports in America."--Publishers Weekly

"Shapiro expertly enlivens these two larger-than-life characters and captures in fine detail an important era in baseball history. A well-crafted story."--Kirkus Reviews

"If you like an untold story, and who of us does not, and if you are even a little bit of a sports junky than "Bottom of the Ninth" belongs on your reading list. . . .Shapiro, author of "The Last Good Season," is in top form breaking new ground and providing new awarenesses of a little reported on chapter in American sports history. . . . A good read."--Harvey Frommer, author of New York City Baseball, 1947-1957

"Michael Shapiro shines a warm and penetrating light into the largely forgotten era of baseball in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when New York still had the Yankees, but the Dodgers and Giants had fled and the Mets were yet to be. Bottom of the Ninth is a treat for anyone who loves the game or suffers over its stumbles."--David Margolick, author of Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink

"Baseball is all about good stories.  In this well-conceived and graceful book, Michael Shapiro wraps the superb story of the 1960 World Series within the intriguing tale of Branch Rickey’s concurrent efforts to start a new league—the Continental League. Shapiro argues that baseball made a crucial and irreversible error by aborting that league. Not surprisingly, the on-field stuff outdoes the business stuff, but only barely. A good read."--Fay Vincent, former commissioner of baseball and author of The Only Game in Town and We Would Have Played for Nothing

"Romance (of a sort), betrayal (short of literal backstabbing), conniving potentates, territorial maneuverings, midsummer dreams. Shakespeare?  Tolstoy? No, it’s a wonderfully crafted nonfiction book by Michael Shapiro, Bottom of the Ninth, with baseball machinations and great baseball characters the central subject. Read it. You’ll see what I mean."--Ira Berkow, author of Full Swing and The Corporal Was a Pitcher

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Michael Shapiro

  • Michael Shapiro is the author of The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together. A professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, he is the author of five previous books, and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

  • Michael Shapiro Eliza Shapiro
    Michael Shapiro
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Available Formats and Book Details

Bottom of the Ninth

Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself

Michael Shapiro

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Times Books

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