So, Wednesday, The Best St. Louis Sports Arguments showed up at my door. A trade paperback-sized book, it numbers 265 pages (not counting the index and biography of author Bryan Burwell) and puts out 100 different debatable topics.
Actually, that 100 number is a little inflated. For example, Burwell runs down his “dream team” for the Cardinals–but each player is counted as a separate question, from 31 to 51. It would make sense if you only got to use each position once. I mean, if you had to argue the best pitcher in Cardinal history, sure, that’s a topic. But when you get to select 5 starters, three first basemen, two second basemen, two third basemen and 6 outfielders, it seems a little padded. A better job is done with the football squad, where it is more limited to one per position.
There’s a lot of Cardinal baseball in this book, but it is not 95% about the Birds, like you might imagine. There are a lot of topics about the Rams and football Cardinals, not to mention the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA. College sports were also addressed, but I felt that was a little bit of a “cheat” as well.
Because the colleges that are selected from are Missouri, St. Louis University and even Illinois. Burwell states that is because of the heavy local interest for those teams, and perhaps that is so. I don’t live anywhere close to St. Louis so I’m not qualified to comment on that.
However, if I were writing about the greatest moments of sporting history of my town, even though most everyone follows the University of Arkansas up in Fayetteville, I wouldn’t let those top moments be on my list. I would limit it to the local college, which would seem more reasonable to me.
On the whole, I found myself agreeing with many of Burwell’s choices. I wasn’t thrilled with his conclusion that St. Louis really isn’t a baseball town, just appears to be one, but he backed up his argument (booing fans, leaving early, bad attendance when the team isn’t good) pretty well. I’d argue that some of being a baseball town was the knowledge of the fan base, the appreciation of both teams, and the following the team has, even if it doesn’t translate into numbers. But I can definitely see where Burwell is coming from.
He also didn’t think the Cards/Cubs was a real rivalry, mainly due to the Cubs’ lack of success, which meant that the games rarely meant anything. It might not have the hatred and vitrol of the Red Sox and Yankees, but I think it’s a good rivalry nonetheless.
I don’t want to give away too much of the book, because it’s definitely worth reading for yourself. You may disagree often with him, especially if you are more knowledgeable of the St. Louis scene than I am, but that’s part of the charm of the book. If you do pick it up, though, you’ll want to read the brief exchange between three people about Albert Pujols. When two of them are Buck O’Neill and Lou Brock, it’s worth listening to!
Save for a couple of inconsistencies (in one place, Burwell writes Gibson gave up two earned runs in 95 innings during 1968, another place two earned runs in 99), it is a well-written book, free of obvious typos (which can be so irritating. It’s a quick read, due to the larger font and the size of the book, and I enjoyed going through it.