Book review: White Sox Essential: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Real Fan!, by Lew Freedman

originally posted elsewhere: November 5, 2008

tl;dr: A Reader's Digest overview of 100+ years of White Sox history...

Perhaps Lew Freedman took on a nearly impossible task: compressing 100+ years of history of one of the American League's original franchises into a mere 175 pages of written prose. There have been many books written about single years and episodes in White Sox history, such as the 1919 Black Sox scandal (see Eight Men Out, also made into a movie). There is also an entire encyclopedia devoted to the White Sox (called, surprisingly enough, The White Sox Encyclopedia).

Given that, I suppose that it is somewhat inevitable that Lew Freedman's White Sox Essential would read like a Reader's Digest condensed book. For those who are familiar with the original literature, a condensed version feels light, inadequate, and simplistic. Unfortunately, for a somewhat experienced fan, this is how White Sox Essential felt to me.

A book cover with a white background, with the title in bold black letters and the subtitle and author's name in smaller type, featuring a picture of Paul Konerko in a home White Sox uniform of black pinstripes on white, raising his right hand as he runs in front of the visitor's dugout

Freedman divides his book into major eras (each, roughly, a decade or so), and describes the plight of the team and the major developments during that era. He mixes in quick player profiles of the biggest White Sox stars. And he sprinkles in various statistical lists and trivia questions. None of this information is complete or definitive, so it leaves one hungering for more.

Thus, I would recommend White Sox Essential only to those whose knowledge of the White Sox is minimal, and who want a quick overview and pointers to other reading material. Kids (young fans) may also benefit by reading this book. For baseball fans who already know the basic outlines of White Sox history, and who want to get a greater sense of the current state and recent history of the team, especially the 2005 World Series, I recommend Richard Roeper's Sox and the City.