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Book Review: “The Year of the St. Louis Cardinals”

One of the perks to winning the World Series – or at least being a fan of a team that has just won it – is the chance to purchase all of the beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime merchandise that follows the championship. Books, DVDs, bobbleheads, pennants, posters, and much, much more, the average fan could spend hours browsing through it all and picking his or her favorites. If you’re lucky, some special someone takes the time to peruse that wish list and turn fantasy into reality.

And then you get moments like I had this morning – the chance to actually hold an amazingly well-crafted piece of championship swag in my hands. The item – The Year of the St. Louis Cardinals: Celebrating the 2011 World Series Champions.

As soon as the World Series was over, magazines and special print editions of collectible books of all kinds were overwhelming newsstands. But simply picking up this version – the Official MLB Collector’s Edition – made it clear it was far and away a different breed. With a thick, trade paperback binding  and smooth, muted texture, the make and style of the book immediately speaks to its quality.

Honestly, the heft, feel, and general appearance reminds me of a team yearbook, although less dime-store glossy and clearly more carefully considered. But perhaps the best way to describe this edition is to tell you just what sets it apart from other, cheaper books.

Scope: Inside, the book attempts to cover the entire St. Louis Cardinals postseason using an easy to read, comprehensive approach…but it doesn’t stop there. In what appears to be a clear attempt to provide perspective, the editors included pieces specifically designed to properly place the Cardinals’ historic run in context with the rest of the MLB season. Month-by-month recaps of the regular season discuss runs and injuries by the Giants, Yankees, and other teams alongside monthly check-ins with the Champion Cardinals. One page features profile a number of topics, including the “greatest night of baseball’s regular season,” a behind-the-scenes look at World Series ticketing prices, and a brief look at the history and identity of the current incarnation of Busch Stadium. And the book’s presentation is ultimately fleshed out by tables and snapshots of statistical performances and player data that, as Bilbo Baggins would say, “fills up the corners” nicely.

Photos: It’s easy to see that the contributors of this book placed a premium on high-quality photographs. From the outset, large, high-definition shots dominate the pages in an attempt to chronicle not only the players, but the overall experience of the season. Picture quality is so high that even the weave and pattern of the player’s uniforms can be made out in most shots. When references to the rally squirrel and pics of the World Series logo being painted on the Busch Stadium grass appear side by side in the same photo spread…that’s a win.

Quality: From page one, this book stands out as the result of painstaking effort and attention to detail. The presentation, the format, the accuracy, and the content is top-notch…but what really does it for me is the anchor piece near the end of the book by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Passan is one of the most talented – and one of my favorite – sports writers in the industry today. His down-to-earth perspective blended with lofty idealism and gritty reality makes for truly unique and entertaining reads. In this article, he takes on the special stature of Albert Pujols. As much as I can’t stand reading Pujols stories now, Passan’s piece deserves to be the centerpiece of such a memorable collection of World Series content. The editing team should be commended for having the wisdom to include such a young, talented baseball writer.

When it comes down to it, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed flipping through this book. There were predictable pieces – like postseason game recaps – and pleasant surprises such as a look at the design process behind the World Series logo. If you are a Cardinals fan intent on collecting World Series memorabilia, and you find yourself dithering in front of the newsstand trying to decide between the hundreds of magazines and spur-of-the-moment publications…save yourself some time, get online, and grab a copy of The Year of the St. Louis Cardinals: Celebrating the 2011 World Series Champions. You won’t be disappointed.

Wrap-Up

Of course, no review would be complete without a list of suggested improvements…so here it goes:

1. More Meat: The content found within the book is extensive and honestly leaves very little room for more at the current price point…but it would be nice to have a bit more, anyway. Simply adding three or four multiple page articles from newspapers from around the country could really fatten things up a bit. Maybe a bit of reaction from the Post Dispatch after Game 6 of the World Series, or an original piece or two on the context and place of this World Series in history. Just a bit more.

2. Photo Section: The book does an excellent job with the photos it includes – and there are quite a few – but they were so good that they left me wanting more. I would like to see an entire section near the end of the book dedicated just to telling the story of the Series in pictures. No words…just candid shot after candid shot of players, fans, and anyone/thing else that helps capture the visual flavor of #11 in ’11.

3. Hardcover: The book is such a high quality piece, it seems a shame it’s only available in paperback (unless I missed it). It would be nice if Random House Canada offered the same edition in hard back for serious collectors – maybe even a leather slipcase edition? I know, I know…overkill…but for truly rabid St. Louis fans, is there really such a thing as “overkill”? I don’t think so.

GO CARDS!!!

And in case you missed it…CLICK HERE to buy your copy today.

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