One of the benefits of being involved with this blog is that periodically we get books to review. Recently I received a book, which will be released in January, entitled Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds, by Doug Wilson. Mr. Wilson is an ophthalmologist who lives in Columbus, Indiana.
I grew up in Cincinnati in the ‘60’s, but am too young to remember the ’64 Reds. The cast of characters in this book are names well known to any long-time Reds fan. The main character of the book is the manager, Fred Hutchinson, but there are lots of other names that you’ll recognize. Reds all-time greats like Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Nuxhall, and Jim Maloney are all important characters in the story of the ’64 Reds (as are other names that long-time Reds fans will recognize like Johnny Edwards, Jim O’Toole, Leo Cardenas, Chico Ruiz, Billy McCool, and Sammy Ellis). You will also see the emergence of rookie Pete Rose, and understand why Rose always said that Fred Hutchinson was his favorite all-time manager.
The book is told on two different tracks. The first is the life story of Hutchinson. His growing up in Seattle, where he was an athletic legend, his playing career and how it morphed into a career as a major league manager. Before the ’64 season he was diagnosed with cancer and the book follows his courageous fight against the disease throughout the season. The second track is a more traditional baseball story that follows the Reds season down to their heartbreaking loss of the pennant on the final day of the season.
The book is a very quick and interesting read. Other than a few errors, which I attribute to the author not having grown up on Cincinnati (his claim that Cincinnati schools were off on Opening Day (which I don’t remember being true), his talk of an elder man selling peanuts (the well known Peanut Jim), and the description of Cincinnati Gardens as being “downtown” (which it is not), it’s a very good book and an inspiring read.
The book would be worthwhile just to learn about the courage with which Hutchinson battled cancer, but the baseball portion makes it worthy of a high recommendation to any Reds fan.