|Book Review: Our Tribe - A Baseball Memoir|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 25, 2003
by Terry Pluto
Published by Simon and Schuster
Although Terry Pluto has written quite a few books and articles over the years perhaps none is as poignant and personal as Our Tribe, which is a posthumous tribute to his father who died several years after being severely impaired by a stroke. It is a remarkable book about his relationship with his father and their relationship with the Cleveland Indians.
Pluto provides a colorful and memorable trip through the history of the Indians and the heroes that he and his father watched. Additionally, he covers all of the early history of the team from their birth in what eventually became known as the American League to the name changes, the owners and even the fans. Personalities such as Bill Veeck, Nap Lajoie, Rocky Colavito, and others shine through and expose the reader to times gone by that they probably would have never known.
The book has a more human side as well; it is about Terry’s father and the father-son relationship. The book delves into the manner in which a son grows up and often forgets to enjoy his father’s company and friendship until something tragic happens to change everything. In this case, it was a stroke that left his father partially paralyzed and unable to converse. Such an event at some point will change all of our lives and through this book I suspect many of us will realize how special the bonds between father and son (or even father and daughter) really are.
Pluto and his dad were bonded - not just by blood but also by the game of baseball. The game provides a common ground that almost all sons can share with their fathers even when education and careers, family, and politics create boundaries between them. With of all that, baseball and other sports can remain a bond upon which our relationships are always safe and even.
Through this milieu, Terry and his father were able to relate even after Terry became a professional baseball writer. Like many of us, he became involved so much in his work that he forgot just what baseball meant to his father - not just going to the games, or watching them, but watching them with his son.
The book contains anecdotes that the author’s father told him about the Tribe. It is filled with stories about the love-hate relationship with a team that never seemed to be a real contender, about games at League Park, about the bravery of Larry Doby, who was the second black man in professional baseball by just a few weeks, and about Bill Veeck and how he grew to love the franchise and turn it around.
Blended into the book is the history of the Indians. Pluto covers everything from the myth of the team being named for Louis Sockalexis (the Penobscot Indian who played for the team when they were known as the Spiders) to the long string of Hall of Famers who played in Cleveland – names such as Tris Speaker, Joe Jackson, Roger Maris, and Bob Feller, to young manager Lou Boudreau who at age 24 became player-manager for the team. He also explains the reason that Frank Lane’s name is still cursed in Cleveland and so much more.
Perhaps even more important than the history itself is the fact the book is a great read and draws the reader in from the very beginning. Before reading this book I knew little about the Indians or their fans but by the final chapter I discovered a whole new outlook and even a new appreciation for the team and the game. It also allowed me to peer into the minds of the fans to see what they saw and to understand their love for their team, despite the many disappointments. Moreover, in many ways it made me consider that special bond that I share with my father.
Give this book 3.5 out of 4 balls for astonishing depth about life both on and off the field.
Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:
One Ball: Average. It has something to say but is nothing special.
Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means its a cut above average, and worth reading/owning.
Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.