Top critical review
Too dry to be a popular account, too short to be an academic work
March 9, 2011
Breaking the Slump is a straight forward narrative account of baseball in the 1930s. It does a good job with "who, what, where and when" in recounting the baseball seasons from 1930 through 1941. What Breaking the Slump fails to do is convey a good sense of the game during that period. Further, written by an academic historian, Breaking the Slump simply does not hold the reader's attention as a good baseball history should.
The "color" is pretty much tucked into a single chapter near the end in which Alexander talks about life in baseball during the decade. This is a shame. The game saw some of its most colorful, zany characters during this time period. Hilarious anecdotes involving players such as Dizzy Dean and Lefty Gomez abound, and can be found in the oral histories of the game during this time, as can the more tragic side of the hard scrabble life of the 1930s.
If Breaking the Slump does not serve well as a popular history due to its dryness, it is too short to be a definitive academic treatment of the era either. Nowhere is there a comprehensive treatment of any aspect of the game. Instead, it falls somewhere in between.
In sum, for a solid basic history of the game during this time, Breaking the Slump will do. But it will need to be supplemented with various oral histories and memoirs if the reader is to fully appreciate what made the game so special during this era. It took me longer to read Breaking the Slump than Lee Lowenfish's superb new biography of Branch Rickey, which is more than twice as long. Given the colorful nature of the game and its players during the Great Depression, I'm afraid Alexander must shoulder some of the blame for this otherwise good book being as dry as it is.