Having never heard of the Hollywood Stars before obtaining this book, I was interested to learn more about this team – and this book is a great source of information for them. Here is my review of “Lights, Camera, Fastball”
The Hollywood Stars may not have been the most successful minor league team during their 27 season existence existence, despite winning three Pacific Coast League pennants. Where their success came was at the box office, their innovations and their celebrity fan base. This book about the team by Dan Taylor is one of the best sources for information about the team that is not only well researched but also and easy read – only troubled by trying to keep all the names of their fan base straight.
The driving force behind nearly everything that the Stars were noted for can be traced back to the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant, Robert Cobb. Using much of the business acumen that made his restaurants success, Cobb brought int baseball when he purchased the franchise in 1039. His first action was to get many celebrities on board as part owners and/or stockholders. A sample of these stars make up a Who’s Who of Hollywood at the team – Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bing Crosby, Gail Patrick and Gene Autry. The last man listed is notable as he later purchased another team based in Southern California in Major League Baseball, the latest team called the Angels.
As for the Hollywood Stars on the field, they usually struggled to find the best players. When it seemed like they finally found the right players, they would often lose them to either major league clubs, a rival team in the PCL or to the military in World War II. However it was not all gloom for the team and when they did win in 1949 for their only championship (the previous franchise with the same name won the 1929 and 1930 titles), Taylor’s writing brings the fans close to the celebration, both in the locker room with the players and all the parties in Los Angeles as their famous fans were celebrating.
Cobb’s team borough several innovations to the game. Some of them caught on and became staples for the game, both in minor and Major League Baseball.these include televising games, dragging the infield during the fifth inning for a “time out” to give fans time to visit concession stands and the use of batting helmets. They also designed uniforms wearing shorts, which of course didn’t go over as well. It should also be noted that Cobb built a new ball park for the team instead of sharing the Los Angeles version of Wrigley Field, building Gilmore Field and drawing many fans to the games regardless of the Stars record on the field.
With the arrival of the Dodgers, Cobb and his group decided to sell the team instead of moving and operating them elsewhere. When that happened a colorful portion of West Coast baseball ended and this book talks about all aspects of the Hollywood Stars that is such a good read that any fan will want to pick it up.
I wish to thank Rowman and Littlefield for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.