Book review: "Then Ozzie Said to Harold...": The Best Chicago White Sox Stories Ever Told, by Lew Freedman and Billy Pierce

originally posted elsewhere: April 6, 2009

tl;dr: Grab bag collection of stories; photos plus CD make it worthwhile for true White Sox fans...

Lew Freedman is no Roger Kahn or David Halberstam, serious baseball writers who apply their considerable intellects and writing skills to produce the definitive volumes of their subject matter. Rather, Freedman is more from the mold of the prototypical hack sportswriter who slaps together material with little thought, editing or proofreading, in an attempt to produce quickly consumed and hopefully commercially successful books gobbled up by particular fan bases. This latter style - call it the fanbook style - does fulfill a market need, and can, if executed well, satisfy the fan base.

Even with the lowered expectations of the fanbook genre, I was only partially satisfied by Lew Freedman and Billy Pierce's "Then Ozzie Said to Harold...". The subject matter of the stories themselves spans too wide a gap, from important on-the-field moments in 100+ years of White Sox history, to minor off-the-field antics of the players, such as an A.J. Pierzynski shark fishing trip. Because of this and the short length of the book, it can never be more than a sampler, or a grab bag of stories, with many other stories left untold. Freedman's prose is at perhaps a junior high school level, which makes "Then Ozzie Said to Harold..." accessible to a wide audience, but at the expense of providing insightful, nuanced descriptions and commentary. Freedman does not probe deeply when reciting his stories; the surface level is the only level provided.

A book cover with a gray background, with the title in a white banner and black letters, and the subtitle and authors' names in smaller white letters, featuring a picture of two men jointly holding the World Series trophy, in the background of which is a black nighttime sky and some stadium lights

White Sox legendary pitcher Bill Pierce, who anchored the rotation during the Go-Go White Sox era of the 1950s, is listed as a co-author. Pierce obviously made significant contributions to the 1950s era stories, making that the strongest section of the book. Additionally, there is a touching story at the end about Pierce's statue at US Cellular Field, and what it is like for him when he returns to the ballpark as a White Sox fan. The other strengths of the book are the pictures, and the CD, which contains some of the White Sox radio broadcast of the 1959 World Series, providing a time capsule peek back into the excitement of an earlier era.

As with Freedman's book White Sox Essential, "Then Ozzie Said to Harold..." is nothing more than a quick read to whet one's appetite for more. It would be most appreciated by young White Sox fans, and in fact, I used it as bedtime story material for one of my kids.