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The Inside Track

Hot Corner

January 08, 2002

A consumer's guide to sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "Win or Go Home: Sudden Death Baseball"

Author: Gary R. Parker

Publisher: McFarland & Co.

Price: $29.95

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Only eight times in the last 120 years of major league baseball have teams tied for first, then squared off in a playoff to determine a division or pennant winner. This book examines those playoffs and the seasons leading up to them.

The author grew up in Los Angeles and fell in love with baseball as a fourth-grader in 1959. What did it for him was the National League pennant race that year involving the Dodgers, who had moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn the previous year, and the Milwaukee Braves. The Dodgers advanced to the World Series by beating the Braves in the first two games of a best-of-three playoff .

Parker, a freelance writer who lives in Palm Desert and works as a publishing consultant for Sun Microsystems, is a typical baseball fan. He is disillusioned by much that has transpired and is very much against the wild-card playoff system that was introduced in 1994.

"The wild card has knocked a century of baseball tradition on its ear and in the process done irreparable damage to a vital component of the game's timeless appeal: its pennant races," Parker writes in the introduction.

Parker writes that he spent four years researching and writing the book. He uses the playoffs as a backdrop to delve into a lot of history and the people involved.

The playoffs examined are the Dodgers-St. Louis Cardinals in 1946, the Boston Red Sox-Cleveland Indians in 1948, the Dodgers-New York Giants in 1951, the Dodgers-Braves in 1959, the Dodgers-San Francisco Giants in 1962, the Red Sox-New York Yankees in 1978, the Dodgers-Houston Astros in 1980, and the Seattle Mariners-Angels in 1995.

The book includes forewords by Carl Erskine and Clem Labine, and the well-researched text is supplemented by material gathered from more than 30 interviews with players involved in the sudden-death games. Also included are box scores from those games, plus some interesting pictures and newspaper cartoons.

Larry Stewart

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