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Book Review: 'Alou Makes The Catch'

What if Moises Alou had caught that ball in the 2003 NLCS? A new book looks at what might have happened afterward.

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Well, what if? The incident pictured above is, unfortunately, one of the most iconic moments in the recent history of the Chicago Cubs. We all know what happened next, and have dissected it often here at BCB.

But what if Alou had made that catch? That, and several other "what-ifs", are the topic of George Castle's new e-book, "Alou Makes The Catch", available at that Amazon link.

The book takes a look at several turning points in Cubs history, and not just game events. In addition to the cover incident, the book looks at the famous Merkle Game from 1908, and the crucial turning-point Game 4 of the 1929 World Series, where the Cubs blew an 8-0, seventh-inning lead. Each chapter starts with the real event or events, then moves on into the "what-if" conclusion.

But Castle also looks at larger events. What if the Cubs had kept Greg Maddux after 1992? What if P.K. Wrigley had fired Leo Durocher after the Camp Ojibwa incident in 1969? And what if... they hadn't traded Lou Brock? From the book, here's what might have happened:
Brock was too good to be held back on the base paths. Kennedy increasingly flashed him the green light to steal. By June 1, Brock was batting .277 with 13 steals. The left-field bleacher fans even began to hold up signs reading “Go-Go Lou.” At 23–19, the Cubs continued with the progress they’d made in 1963, when they ended up with an 82–8O record, a dramatic improvement from 1962’s worst-ever franchise record of 59–1O3.

Holland and frequent trading partner Bing Devine, General Manager of the Cardinals, briefly flirted with the idea of putting together a trade that would allow Holland to add to his “Big Three” pitching rotation of Larry Jackson, Dick Ellsworth, and Bob Buhl. But Devine had problems of his own. Broglio, an 18-game winner in ’63, had suddenly developed elbow problems. Devine had no starting pitching that he could spare to trade.

Holland dangled top outfield prospect Billy Ott and shortstop Andre Rodgers in front of the league trying to find another pitcher, but with the trade deadline looming, he found no takers. He had to make do with veterans Lew Burdette and Glen Hobbie to round out the rotation. The team would just have to compensate for its shortcomings in the bullpen with more offense—including a dash of flash from Brock.

The Cardinals never win the 1964 pennant, in this alternate reality, without Brock. The Cubs, meanwhile, go on to win future pennants. They do so in most of the what-if scenarios, though not always right away, and not as many times as you might guess. I found the alternate-reality timelines to be interesting and realistic.

This e-book is a good read; it'll make you sigh wishing many of these things had been actual reality, instead of something written in a book years after the fact. At $2.99 in the Kindle store, it's a good value. If you don't have a Kindle, it's readable on the Kindle app for your iOS or Android device (I read it on my iPad).

It's good baseball reading for the offseason. Highly recommended.