Book Review–Finding the Fountain of Youth

Kilby, Rick. Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de Leon and Florida’s Magical Waters. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 2013. Bibliography, color & b/w photos. ISBN 9780813044873, $14.95.

I imagine in some ways we are all searching for the Fountain of Youth. We may want to have the wisdom of being a few years older but for most of us we want to hang on to our youth as long as possible.

In his beautifully illustrated book, author Rick Kilby  lets us in on the myths and legends surrounding Juan Ponce de Leon, the Fountain of Youth, and how this dream has been, and continues to be, used in marketing.

Mr. Kilby points out a common narrative in regards to many of the springs in the state. First is that these sites are sacred to Native Americans who lived near them for years before colonial settlers take up residence near them, drawn by the cool and pure water. As tourism becomes more important to Florida, entrepreneurs such as steamboat owners, begin using the “fountain of youth” myth to draw visitors to the healing waters. With family travel becoming more common these springs were often turned into tourist attractions with highlights such as waterskiing elephants (De Leon Springs), glass bottom boats (Silver Springs), mermaids (Weekie Watchie), and more. In the days of segregation African-Americans could visit locations such as Paradise Park, which was “For colored people only” according to period advertisements.

The myth of Juan Ponce de Leon searching for the “fountain of youth” is laid out and addressed thoroughly by Mr. Kilby. Let’s also be honest; how was Ponce supposed to find the real “Fountain” when it seems to have been located in so many places. Florida cities as diverse and far away from each other such as St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Sarasota County, De Leon Springs, and Venice, have use the “fountain of youth” motif in advertising and promotion. But let us not forget that drinking a glass of Florida orange juice may also be the key to staying young.

While this book is fun, enjoyable, and upbeat, there is also a sadness to be recognized when one realizes much of what Mr. Kilby puts forth is no longer available. The interstate system, along with the ease of flying, have put many of these locations out-of-the-way and no longer relevant to today’s visitor to the state. The quaintness of these attractions make them seem outdated and boring when compared to billion dollar theme parks with every bell and whistle imaginable. A cell phone in hand is oftentimes more interesting to not just the young but their parents as well. In addition, the reality is that today’s world is doing considerable damage to springs and our underground water reservoirs. Fertilizers, pesticides, and septic field runoff, have changed many springs from clear and beautiful to overgrown with algae and murky to the eye. Fish, which were often abundant, can be difficult to find in some locations.

All is not a lost cause however. Many of the springs are now part of state parks so they have a measure of protection. Many of them are regularly open and can be used for recreational purposes and these are often full of visitors to whom the water seems clear because they do not know better. It will take a large turnabout however to fully save and replenish these natural beauties. We need to look at and address population growth. Further, the use of native plants should be encouraged rather than trying to all have lawns that look like manicured golf courses. Fertilizers and pest control are large problems for our spring systems.  Nature is resilient and these wonders can return to their former state if we allow them to.

While not a large book this is a book that packs a wallop. It is full of dozens of vintage images including brochures, photos, post cards, and more. There is a retro, or maybe kitsch, vibe here that is quite appealing. The writing is easy to follow and presents a lot of interesting information. Those interested in natural Florida, those interested in the history of tourism in our state, and those with a nostalgic bent, would be wise to pick up a copy of this book and enjoy a couple of hours of reading! You won’t regret it.

Rick Kilby is the President of Kilby Creative, a graphic design and advertising firm.

You may keep up with Rick by reading his Old Florida blog.

Other reviews of University Press of Florida books may be found here.

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Book Review–Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Jordan, Michael L. Hidden History of Civil War Savannah (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 159 pages, index, selected bibliography, notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781626196438, $21.99.

Attracting nearly 14 million visitors a year who make an economic impact of over 2.5 BILLION dollars, Savannah is a tourist mecca whether it be for partying such as St. Patrick’s Day, the food and drink selections, or for business. There is no doubt many of these visitors will be taken by the beauty and the history this city has to offer. Of those interested in history a high percentage will certainly be interested in the Civil War if for no reason other than the  famous words sent by William T. Sherman to President Lincoln; “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” A book such as this will be a good introduction to the city for those interested in the “late unpleasantness” or maybe a souvenir for the armchair historian.

Nine different aspects of Civil War history in Savannah are covered in the book. The first chapter jumps right into the fray by discussing Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens “Corner-stone Speech” from March 21, 1861, given in Savannah. It was in this speech that Stephens uttered the words; “…that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery–subordination to the superior race–is his natural and normal condition.” Those looking for the cause of the war should probably look no further.

Further chapters cover the story of local hero Francis Bartow and his untimely death during the Battle of First Bull Run. An interesting story here concerns the placing of what might be called the first battlefield monument in his honor, though it was later destroyed by relic hunters and Union soldiers.  Future Army of Northern Virginia leader Robert E. Lee made stopped in the city before the war and then returned after the war in the spring of 1870. The story of the ill-fated ironclad CSS Atlanta is told here for those with an interest in naval concerns. The hard to maneuver, deep drafted ship never did put up a good fight as its multiple design flaws led to it running aground during its first battle.

As the war continued the number of prisoners of war increased and as the war came further south, in March 1864 Savannah became home to more than 600 Union officers who had been captured and imprisoned. Before being transferred to Charleston these men remarked on the decent food provided, the shade of the live oak trees, and humane treatment by guards. In October more than 7,000 prisoners being evacuated from Andersonville called Savannah home for a very short time. Despite conditions being better than they were accustomed to, more than 100 of the ill prisoners died while in the city.

The final chapters tell the story of the Confederate Army escape from the city in anticipation of the arrival of Sherman and his men. A seemingly out-of-order chapter on the Savannah fire of January 1865 that while not set by Union troops occurred while they inhabited the city tells an interesting story considering the legends of Sherman burning his way through the state. The story of the citizens of Savannah wanting to rejoin the Union, particularly once the city was occupied by Union forces is given a chapter. The book closes with the mandatory chapter on Confederate memory in the city. Efforts by the local Ladies Memorial Association and their contribution to the Laurel Grove North (read that as white) cemetery are covered well. The history, and controversy, over the large Confederate monument in Forsyth park is well told.

Overall I found this to be a good introduction to the city and it’s part in the war. This is certainly not a full in-depth treatment and much more could be said. For most however this is a book that will fill their needs. It covers some basics, includes plenty of notes for those wanting to find further sources, and is easy to read.

For those wondering, this is not a tour guide. If that is what you are looking for you should also consider picking up a copy of Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah. This book contains two walking and two driving tours that will lead you to many well-known, and some lesser known locations. These two books, taken as a pair, will be more than enough for the majority of visitors.

Book Review–Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

Cover--Pickett's Charge
Cover–Pickett’s Charge

Hessler, James, Wayne Motts, and Steven Stanley. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. El Dorado Hills, CA, Savas Beatie. 2015.

Details: 310 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, color and b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781611212006, $37.95.

A reader may ask themselves several questions before making a decision to purchase yet another book on Gettysburg in general and another book on Pickett’s Charge specifically. Heck, there are several excellent Day 3 books available including books such as Pickett’s Charge–The Last Attack at Gettysburg (Civil War America)by Earl Hess, Gettysburg, Day Three by Jeffry Wert, and others. Once you take a look at this beauty you won’t be asking yourself any questions. All you will say is Ted Savas has done it again. You will have to have purchase it.

Part travel guide and part history this is a book that despite its heft can be used to tour the battlefield The book has the field is divided into four tours for ease of use. Tours include Confederate Battle Line, Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, Pickett’s Charge, and Union Battle Line. Tour stops include full GPS coordinates making it easy to pick and choose should a reader wish to only visit certain locations. Driving directions from stop to stop are included as well. Also included in the book is a full order of battle. The research is thorough, the bibliography is massive and there are nearly twenty pages of end notes. While the end notes take a bit of getting used to due to the numerous, yet informative, sidebars they are complete and a must review for those looking for further information. The book is full of maps and photos, both historic and modern.

Authors Hessler and Motts are both Licensed Battlefield Guides, a group who prides itself on strenuous standards and accurate story telling. The maps are beautifully crafted by cartographer Steven Stanley, who is known for his excellent work for the Civil War Trust.

This is a book that is highly recommended for any level of student of the battle of Gettysburg. The text is accessible and easy to read. The photos and maps are beautiful to look at. The book itself is sturdy and built to withstand use on the field or look great on a bookshelf. Don’t miss this title. It should be in every Civil War library.

Book Review–Lincoln in Indiana

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 132 pages, notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

The newest title in the Concise Lincoln Library series is Lincoln in Indiana written by Anderson University history professor Brian R. Dirck. Dr. Dirck has written several other books on Lincoln and received the Barondess Award from the Civil War Roundtable of New York for his book Lincoln the Lawyer. Here in a few short pages, Dirck confirms his spot as a strong Lincoln scholar.

Slim in pages this book packs a pop when it comes to the understudied period of 1816-1830 when Lincoln was molded by his years in Indiana. As Dr. Dirck points out there is little material to work with on these years. Lincoln himself left a sparse 800 written words about this time. For other sources questions have to be asked. Are these memories correct, what biases and agendas might the person have had, and finally does martyrdom play a role in the views people put forth.

It is in the seeming wilds of Indiana that the anti-slavery Thomas Lincoln took his family in order to escape the peculiar institution, which he felt he could not compete against. Free whites could not compete with farmers who owned African slaves. It was here that Lincoln learned about hard physical labor; grubbing and   log-rolling were not what the young Lincoln ultimately wanted out of life however. He also learned of loss with the death of his mother, Nancy, due to milk sickness.

While Thomas did not fail as a farmer it can not be said that he was successful either. The farm teetered and Thomas used his marginal skills as a carpenter to bring in extra for the family.

As young Abraham grew up the bonds between father and son grew strained despite a good relationship with his stepmother Sarah. Thomas needed the young, strong Abraham to help provide labor. While education was important it was not a priority for the elder Lincoln. Abraham had an overriding interest in accomplishing more than his father. His lack of a formal education haunted Abraham in many ways as an adult.

By 1829 Abraham wanted out of Indiana. He was  tired of his labors supporting his father. Intellectually he was moving on as well. He became interested in politics and was often found at the local courthouse when court was in session. Despite his yearnings Abraham followed his family to Illinois where Thomas failed miserably. Within a year Thomas has returned in Indiana.

By this time Abraham was gone. The gulf between father and son had developed such that the younger Lincoln did not visit his dying father nor did he attend Thomas’s funeral in 1851.

Dr. Dirck has written a book that is easily readable and digestible. The length of books in this series make it easy to consume them in a couple of brief sittings. The research looks to be of high quality and the notes and bibliography are extensive for those looking to follow-up on source material.

Highly recommended for not just an introductory level work but even for those with a deeper knowledge of Lincoln. This developmental period in Lincoln’s life is important and this volume helps explain why.

Book Review–18 and Life on Skid Row

Bach, Sebastian. 18 and Life on Skid Row. New York: Dey Street Books. 2016. 431 pages, color and b/w photos. ISBN 9780062265395, $27.99.

While a new generation of fans may know Sebastian Bach from his Broadway roles in Jekyll and Hyde and Rocky Horror Picture Show or perhaps his work as Gil on Gilmore Girls, Sebastian Bach owes his fame to his time as front man for the band Skid Row.

In his new memoir 18 and Life on Skid Row Bach details his life from his early days, where he was influenced by his parents divorce to his hard rocking (and heavily drug and alcohol filled) days with Skid Row to his solo career to his reluctance to appear on Broadway, to the tragedy of losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

Several themes popped out to me in reading this tale of life in the fast lane. First is that of excess. If Bach is to be believed it is amazing that he and his friends are still alive. The level of drug and alcohol abuse is a sad testament to the lifestyle of fame they were leading. Was there nobody who could rein them in? This is a story that has been told over and over; naïve young musicians who find fame, and they believe, fortune that they feel will be flowing forever. As with the majority of young musicians that pipeline of record label advances dries up and for Skid Row it slammed them hard when after a successful tour they ended up in the hole and owing the label money. Of course if you believe record labels are honest I have plenty of oceanfront property to sell you at bargain prices.

A second theme is that of loss, disappointment, and abandonment. Bach has suffered greatly in his life there is no doubt. The divorce of his parents was a terrible blow as was the death of his influential father at a young age from cancer. On multiple occasions Bach speaks of his hero worship for other musicians and yet at several times he was let down by these men despite Bach already having achieved a level of fame. Bach specifically calls out some of them including Ace Frehley of Kiss and his former band mates from Skid Row. Don’t mess with a musician and his song writing royalties. While Bach has certainly persevered and has had success post Skid Row, his firing from the band in December 1996 and ultimately being dropped by both his management and record label left a large gap in his life. For somebody who had spent their entire life wanting to rock the change in music fashion was a hard pill to swallow (OK, that’s a bad pun when you consider all the drug use recounted in the book).

Despite these triumphs and setbacks it appears that Bach is happy with his life. He says he is happily married to his second wife. He has kids with his first wife that he loves. He has a successful career as a musician, actor, and now author. And while there is no real mention of being clean and sober (thank God, I didn’t want to read a book about 12 step programs and the like) we can hope that the days of partying excess are behind him. Life really is much better sober.

If you grew up in the generation of bands such as Skid Row, Poison, Motley Crue at their best, Cinderella, and other hair metal bands (a term Bach despises by the way)  pick this one up. You will actually get to read about somebody with good things to say about Axl Rose!

 

Book Review–Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia

Mills, Charles A. Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing.  2017. 128 pages, ISBN 9781467124225, $21.99.

The grounds of Virginia practically ran red with the blood of the Civil War. With bloody battles such as The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Manassas I and II, Chancellorsville, and dozens more, thousands of men lost their lives in the Old Dominion. Even more were injured, many to a level they never returned to a normal life.

In his introduction author Charles A. Mills estimates there are more than 1,000 cemeteries in northern Virginia. Using this as a baseline it is easy to see that a book of only 128 pages can only scratch the surface.  Once mammoth cemeteries such as Arlington National Cemetery are taken into account that lessens even further the inclusion of smaller and lesser known cemeteries.

Mills relies on two sources for images in the book; his own images and those from the Library of Congress collection. Unfortunately this leads to some images being relatively already well known and then the problem with inconsistent quality of author taken photos. An example is shown on page 70; two images of stones from Falls Church both of which could have been taken at a different time of day and had better results. Library of Congress images often contain standard photos of generals and other war era scenes.

I also noted a few issues throughout the text that could have been remedied. On page 18 Mills uses the number 600,000 in regards to Civil War combatant and non-combatant deaths. Recent scholarship has placed that number to be around 750,000, a number that has been gaining much more acceptance. On page 111 a photo of Abner Doubleday recounts the story of his being the inventor of baseball. A short line then attempts to throw doubt on that story; “an honor that some contest.” A review of one of the leading baseball statistical websites disproves the baseball story and it would have been better left out.

These qualms aside I did enjoy this book and made fast work of it. There are some fascinating stories included and while there were more non-cemetery photos than I would have preferred in many instances it was important to the story to show background history. I particularly enjoyed seeing church cemeteries such as Pohick Church, the parish church of George Washington. Anybody with an interest in cemeteries can not help but be moved by Arlington National Cemetery and Mills does a fine job representing both historical and modern images of perhaps the greatest cemetery in the United States.

For those with an interest in cemeteries this is a book that should be added to your collection. If you are interested in Civil War memory this is one you might consider thumbing through though it will probably not end up on your bookshelf. For the average Civil War enthusiast this is a book well worth including in your library despite the reservations mentioned above. The photos are well worth the overall minor quibbles I had regarding text.

Thanks to Arcadia Publishing for providing a complimentary review copy.

Book Review–Central Florida’s World War II Veterans

Central Florida's World War II Veterans cover
Central Florida’s World War II Veterans cover

Grenier, Bob. Central Florida’s World War II Veterans (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2016. 128 pages, b/w photos. ISBN 9781467116794, $21.99.

The Greatest Generation is silently, yet rapidly, passing on to their reward. When you stop to think that the end of World War II was more than 70 years ago you can easily fathom that it will not be long until the last veterans from the war pass.

Author Bob Grenier, who wears many hats including historian, museum curator, Walt Disney World employee, politician, historical activist, and more, has written what I find to be a very fitting tribute to the common soldier. This is not a book glamorizing the Generals or the Colonels, or even the Lieutenants. This is not a book glamorizing war nor condemning the enemy. Instead, it is a book that reminds us the soldiers who went to serve in far away lands they might not have been able to find on a map were real people. They were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, or boyfriends. In some cases, they were daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, or girl friends who served in organizations like WAVES, or as nurses, or were part of the Red Cross. Not all of the men in the book survived. Some, like Medal of Honor recipient Robert McTureous, paid the ultimate price.

The book is broken down geographically into eight chapters with a concluding chapter titled Florida’s Gallant Sons and Daughters. The chapters feature soldiers who lived in or moved to an area and markers or memorials to the War. Each chapter is loaded with photos; some contemporary, some from the war, some personal such as wedding photos, and some are memorials and remembrances. All tell a story though and through the limited text allowed for each image Grenier helps evoke feeling of the image whether it be happy, sad, uncertain, confident, or scared.

This book reminds us how precious life is and that our time is fleeting. A generation called the greatest is rapidly leaving us. It will be left for us, the living, to remember them. With this slim volume Bob Grenier has provided us a way to remember the men and women who helped stop Axis forces and allow the American way of life to continue. One can not finish this volume and not be moved. Highly recommended.

**For full disclosure: Mr. Grenier has spoken at the museum where I work and I would consider him to be a friend. I did however purchase my copy of his book and he has in no way asked for me to write a review. The review is based upon my own reading and viewing of the book.

Book Review–The Crash Detectives

Crash Detectives book cover
Crash Detectives book cover

Negroni, Christine. The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters. New York: Penguin Books. 2016. 276 pages, 264 pages text, bibliography, index, b/w photos. $17.

Author Christine Negroni is said to be a “thought leader” in the aviation industry and as such contributes regularly on the subject of air safety. Her background is in journalism and broadcasting. Her work led her to the field of aviation and she in not a pilot or an engineer.

The subject of this book is one that I was highly looking forward to. I had anticipated a more in-depth look at a small number of air disasters. I don’t think that was an unreasonable assumption based upon the title and the background of the author.

The Introduction is fairly well done though simplistic. It points out the myriad of reasons Negroni finds for air traffic accidents: communication failure, an over reliance or misunderstanding of technology, errors in airplane or engine design, or a lapse in performance whether it be crew, operators, or mechanics. That doesn’t leave much room for anything else. She then states that crashes are not investigated to provide closure to families (tell that to grieving survivors) or to assign blame (tell that to prosecutors and attorneys). Instead, investigations are done in order to prevent similar accidents in the future. Unfortunately, as you read along you will find out that is only true if aircraft manufacturers, airlines, governments, and the flying public pay attention. The Introduction wraps up with her theory that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) was downed due to an electrical malfunction that lead to a rapid depressurization of the plane that lead to the pilots quickly becoming incapacitated. Remember that this is just a theory and little proof is available to back it up at this time.

I would have preferred this book stick to just a couple of crashes and describe what happened and then cover the investigation. Instead we are treated to many brief snippets about crashes throughout air travel history. Really way too many in my opinion and it waters down the effectiveness of what the author is trying to get across.

The author makes a strong point that despite all the progress that has been made there is still a huge gap in knowing where aircraft are when they are over open waters. Once a plane leaves the range of land based radar pilots and towers are living off satellite communication that is both expensive and slow. Planes communicate their location approximately every 15 minutes via satellite. This time gap allows a plane to travel up to 150 miles before the next signal, if one is sent. As we know, that is more than enough time to become hopelessly lost to those on land.

Another well made point is the issue of technology and can pilots keep up with it. Pilot error has often led to calls for automation in the industry. With automation however come the issues of complexity and complacency (page 226). If pilots become too trusting in their machinery how will they know if what the computer is telling them is wrong? Garbage in garbage out. As planes continue to grow in size and complexity this issue will continue to be one that manufacturers and airlines must keep up with. More advanced training, which can become very expensive, will be needed for pilots to fly the planes of tomorrow.

Air travel is no longer the way of the wealthy. While flights are expensive they are within range of many travelers, especially due to the growth of budget airlines. When there is an accident, whether there is loss of life or not, it is big news. That goes to show the level of safety the industry has achieved. An airline disaster is good for nobody and the industry works hard to keep safety standards high. Are there bad apples? No doubt. However, we have to trust that the industry and the market will weed them out. When there is a genuine disaster there are men and women who will work tirelessly to get to the bottom of it both for the families and for the industry.

While this book could have been more focused and thus have done a better job of meeting its goals I found myself drawn back to it each night despite having several others books started. The writing was fine and I found the subject interesting. This book is no doubt written for the general public and as such would probably not offer much for those with more than a passing bit of knowledge.

Book Review–On this Day in West Virginia Civil War History

The cover for On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History
The cover for On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History

Graham, Michael B. On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2015. Bibliography, b/w photos. 191 pages. ISBN 9781467117913, $21.99.

Having broken away from Virginia in 1862 and being admitted to the Union in June 1863, West Virginia despite being small in size and population was still an important border state especially with an uncertain election happening the following year.

In his new book Dr. Michael B. Graham takes a day by day look at the war through the eyes, ears and terrain of the Mountaineer State. I should clarify that this is not an attempt to tell the story of the war in West Virginia. Rather, for each day a fact is provided relative to the war and the state.

If you were to scan through and take a sampling of years you would find that all years are covered. The length and depth of entries varies from just a sentence to at most half a page. This brevity is both a blessing and a curse. The book can be digested in short snippets. If you only have a few minutes you can read through a day or twos events with little problem and not feel bad about putting it down. Because of this brevity however this is little flow and so it becomes easy to put it down and not pick it up for a few days.

The book is interesting and the writing is fine. The research appears to be quite solid (more on that in a minute). Because there is no continuity or background I often found myself confused. I am not familiar with West Virginia geography so a map would have been a tremendous help. Also, from day-to-day, readers will find themselves going from one campaign or battle to another, from a regiment activity to a brigade level action on the other side of the state. Perhaps if I was more familiar with West Virginia history and geography it would make more sense.

As mentioned, there is no map, so finding where events took place requires an outside source. That said, having worked with them I know Arcadia has firm space limitations and the cost of developing a map would fall to the author. The book contains more than fifty photos, the majority of which are from the Library of Congress. There are no footnotes, again, most likely a concession to space. The bibliography however is over ten pages long and features many primary sources along with more current scholarship. It’s obvious Dr. Graham did his homework.

This is a book that I can certainly see being very popular in the state. It takes events relevant to home and puts them in an easy to read and digest fashion. I know that living in Florida I enjoy the Florida version. Recommended for those living in the geographic area or for those just looking for a brief introduction to the war efforts in West Virginia.

Book Review: Baseball in Pensacola

Cover image for the book.
Cover image for the book.

Brown, Scott. Baseball in Pensacola: America’s Pastime & the City of Five Flags (Sports History). Charleston:  Arcadia Publishing. 2013. ISBN 9781609497828, $21.99. 255 pages, b/w photos, index.

Baseball in Florida is big business, in more ways than one. First off, Floridians take the game seriously. Just go to any Little League game and see the pressures that parents and the players put on themselves and you’ll see that from a young age the players take the game seriously. Secondly, baseball is a huge financial driver in the state. Whether it be spring training or class A or AA baseball, pro ball is important to the communities who host teams. Finally, for fans of these pro teams, they make a huge emotional investment in their following. Just ask fans how they feel when a team leaves their city.

Author Scott Brown describes the history of baseball in the city of Pensacola, a city that due to it’s geographic remoteness is often not discussed when the subject of Florida baseball comes around. Brown takes baseball and breaks it into seven time frames. Based upon the history of the sport in the city this seems to work. In other cities, with a stronger tie to Major League Baseball, or professional baseball in general, this might not have been the best idea.

For me, one of the more interesting parts of the book was the story of baseball during World War II. Ted Williams was one of just several stars who were serving time in the military and played for the Naval Air Station team. Also the  interesting, and moving, story of locally born Toronto Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek, is a worthy read. There are plenty of other fascinating stories as well, including histories of now defunct semi-pro leagues, the building of a new ball park, and the creation of coaches as local heroes.

For me, the main problem was there was too much coverage given to “Johnny Johnson from Pensacola Junior College was drafted by the Cleveland Indians” type stories. Unfortunately, I can’t say I found myself caring. Usually these were left at short sentences with little, to no, follow up. This would lead me to believe these young men washed out quickly in the minors, like the majority do. For some, of course, they made it further, and these men received additional discussion. I suppose these stories, when taken as a whole, show just how many players are drafted from the area and that Pensacola has been a hot-bed of draftable talent.

The book wraps up with a brief coverage of the then new, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a Cincinnati Reds AA Southern League team. Unfortunately, the team was just starting as the book was being concluded so we don’t find out much about the team. Considering the quality stadium, strong fan support, and the Reds having an A level team in Daytona Beach, it would appear that professional baseball has a strong future in Pensacola.

As with most Arcadia titles there are plenty of photos. The photos here range from classics from the early days to modern publicity shots. The quality is solid and overall they are a great addition to the text. My issue is one I often have with Arcadia titles, there are no end notes nor is there a bibliography. Having published with Arcadia I understand the space and word count restraints authors are under, however, in a book this size, this seems to be a glaring editorial oversight.

I feel this is a book that really proves the Arcadia strategy of localized books. For me, not living in Pensacola, it didn’t work so well. I can clearly see however that if I lived in the area this would probably have been a home run. Author Scott Brown has a strong resume and is president of the Mordecai Brown Legacy Foundation. His research appears to be solid and the book was easy to read.

For residents of the Pensacola area and those who can’t get enough baseball history you should pick this one up.