These smoking bats are at the heart of Kevin Cook’s jazzy Ten Innings at Wrigley, but first there will be some scene setting and then there will be some tidying up after. Along the way, Cook will treat readers to all manner of baseball nuggets, like the kind of color commentator you like to have in the broadcast booth. Plus, there will be a soupçon of baseball patois to keep readers on their toes ... The game itself gets blow-by-blow coverage. There is early season promise in the air and Cook adds enough chatter from the announcers to convey an atmosphere of 1970s radio ... The tempo, the color, the tension all combine to make manifest the excitement as each batter came to the plate ... the soul of the book is the 97 total bases, 11 homers, 45 runs, the at-bat fireworks. Oh boy!
There’s an enthusiasm throughout that is infectious, drawing the reader up into the whirlwind combination of time, place and participants; 1979 was very much a crossroads for MLB, and Cook does a wonderful job of evoking that sense of transience ... an engaging account of one of MLB’s greatest games, a look back at an offensive explosion the likes of which we may never see again. It is informative and evocative, transporting the reader to its ivy-covered, high-scoring locale. Baseball fans with an appreciation of the game’s history will enjoy this look back at an iconic moment in the sport.
In his pregame warm-up, the author struggles a bit with his control ... Mr. Cook too often turns to quotes from journalists and other modern experts to convey information, taking the reader out of 1979 and into the present. The author’s own description and analysis would have been less intrusive ... Fortunately, Mr. Cook saves his best stuff for the game. Like the finest play-by-play announcers, he settles into a good rhythm, alternating between the action on the field and colorful asides ... Some of the stories are moving; others feel like padding ... Mr. Cook might have been better off weaving some of this material into his account of the game and cutting out the rest to maintain narrative tension.
After a brief rundown of the storied histories of both clubs, Cook keeps the focus on the game --- providing an out-by-out, if not a pitch-by-pitch, rundown of each inning. Generally speaking, there is a word for such a thing: tiresome. Almost nobody, not even the most hardened fan, wants to read about every single out of every single game. Even with an eventful game like this one, the narrative lags now and then ... If there’s one thing I could have done without in Ten Innings at Wrigley, it’s the consistent reliance on, and repetition of, every single solitary cliché known to the baseball world ... likely will have zero appeal outside the devoted baseball fan base, and that’s a disappointment. Cook has taken a story that could have been one of those online oral histories you see occasionally and turns it into a feast for the ears of any true fan of the Great Game and the way it was played in the ’70s. But the book isn’t quite enough of an outlier to be truly remarkable.