The Dark Side of the Diamond – Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime — by Roger I. Abrams

The Dark Side of the Diamond

We tend to forget – or maybe it’s deny – that ballplayers are human beings, just like us. They perform what seem to be such superhuman feats of physical activity, and command such superstar salaries for doing this — that we quickly dissociate with them.

We forget that players are competitive – some to the point of cheating to get ahead. We forget that they have vices and addictions, and are susceptible to the same temptations that the average person. “Wine, women, and song,” one of my high school teachers would say.

Yet while all these are part of baseball’s past – they are all part of baseball’s present in one way or another. Abrams traces the roots of dishonest and unethical behavior on and off the diamond and does a remarkable job bringing it into the present.

Abrams brings together a wealth of quotes, sources, and insight from legendary figures throughout the history of baseball to shed light on why baseball has such a dark side.

You’ve probably heard of a few of the players mentioned in the book – Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and some guy named Bonds. When tackling a topic such as this, it’s easy to wonder what might be new to add to the discussion – especially if you’ve read other works on the subject.

However – it’s the smaller things that Abrams bring to light that carry the book. The book spends a good amount of time in the 19th century – which while it seems distant now, provided quite a bit of influence for the modern game. While baseball started with a basic set of rules – it was the cheaters who affected changes in the rules as much as anybody.

The Dark Side of the Diamond is a succinct look at a side of baseball that is very important despite not being something that everyone likes to talk about. For the reader who is not familiar with the subject, this book serves as a very accessible introduction to the subject, while it gives the more knowledgeable reader a bit more insight into some of the lesser known aspects of cheating, drugs and alcohol in baseball. I’d be surprised if anyone read this book and didn’t learn something.

Overall – this is a good, quick read that you should enjoy as it widens and deepens your knowledge of baseball history.

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