Baseball is full of stories – many we know, but many more which go untold. One of those untold stories is that of Babe Dahlgren – the man who replaced Lou Gehrig at first base for the Yankees when he took himself out of the lineup – and who also had a career tarnished and held back by a vicious rumor.
Rumor In Town, written by Matt Dahlgren, is a chance for the grandson to finally tell his grandfather’s untold story.
The rumor, from which the title gets is name, painted Dahlgren as a user of marijuana, an offense at that time that would have you banished from baseball. While Dahlgren never found out who started it, and never got any help from the commissioner’s office, he had his suspicions and ended up with one of baseball’s most famous managers as the one whose malice resulted in both lost salary and opportunity for Dahlgren – considered to be one of the best defensive first baseman ever. And all because Dahlgren took off-season hitting lessons from someone that manager didn’t like.
This book captivated me as it brought to life the story of a player who I only knew by name. Matt Dahlgren does a tremendous job telling his grandfather’s story, and had me turning the pages to read more. His writing isn’t overly biased – while he’s writing from the position of trying to finally clear his grandfather’s name, it doesn’t come across as such. Compiling records from numerous sources, his approach results in a much more balanced book, and one that is enjoyable to read His use of original documents, such as letters from his grandfather to former teammates, the Players Pension Fund, and other correspondence, combined with pictures from his playing career tie everything in together nicely, and show just how much this false allegation bothered Babe Dahlgren, all the way from when he found out about it until his dying day.
Stories deserve to be told – and Dahlgren does a commendable job telling his grandfather’s – one that Babe Dahlgren had hoped to tell himself. Rumor In Town is a surprisingly good read by taking a player who ended his career some sixty years ago and bringing his life into the present day.
Rumor In Town gets a wholehearted recommendation as a great book to read – history is a major part of baseball, and given the movement with instant replay to get calls right on the field, a replay of Babe Dahlgren’s life is more than worthwhile with the goal of getting his story right.