"Roger Snell has made an important contribution to the history and literature of our national pastime." -- Michael F. Curtin, Associate Publisher Emeritus, The Columbus Dispatch
I wrote my first book in 2009, 80 years after one of the greatest Cub teams ever.
Cub fans thought 1929 was a long time to wait for a return to the World Series.
Gunshots blasted inside a warehouse just blocks from Wrigley Field as the Cubs boarded the train at Union Station, headed to spring training at the Catalina Island paradise owned by William Wrigley.
The mass killing of bootleggers made headlines as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Lead suspect Al Capone would compete for headlines all of 1929 in Chicago as ace Charlie Root hurled the Cubs toward their first World Series in years.
Thanks to Root's daughter, Della, I captured a rare look of life behind the headlines, a love story, and much more than baseball history.
Root still holds Cub records for the most wins and innings pitched.
One leisurely summer day, as he turned down the sound of a Reds game wafting from his transistor radio, Berly Horne told me for the first time about his baseball career.
Babe Ruth was highest on Horne's list of memories nearly half a century later. Horne said he was in the minors, and the legendary Sultan of Swat was barnstorming in an exhibition game. Even on the raised mound, Horne must have seemed small and vulnerable at 5' 9" and 155 pounds, compared to the Babe...read more...
Praise for the book
It’s spring 1929 at the Chicago Cubs’ training camp on California’s Catalina Island, and Middletown-born pitcher Charlie Root is doing all he can to mask the pain he’s feeling in his throwing arm.
One night his daughter saw her dad crying from the pain. It was the first time she’d ever seen him break down like that.
In the book “Root for the Cubs: Charlie Root & the 1929 Chicago Cubs,” author Roger Snell tells about Root and how his family helped him regain his big league pitching form as the Cubs battled their way to the 1929 World Series.
“I really hope people catch on and realize that this is more than a baseball book,” Snell said. “It’s a love story between a ballplayer and his family.” -- John Bombatch, Middletown News Journal, April 4, 2009.
The book's charm comes mainly from its primary source, Root's 90-year-old daughter, Della Root Arnold, still living in California (where a family car bears the license plate "BABEWHO"), who sat down for long interviews with the book's author, Roger Snell. She gave Snell many clear recollections of events eight decades past, and apparently kept a journal through many years of her father's career. There's quite a bit of detail about Cubs spring training on California's Catalina Island, where the team trained from 1921-51 (with interruptions during World War II). They trained there primarily because the team's owner, William Wrigley Jr., had bought the island for a song not long before.
There's no telling how many pitches right-hander Charlie Root -- born in Middletown in 1899 -- threw in his 3,198 innings of work in the 1920s and 1930s, almost all of them for the Chicago Cubs.
Enough to make him the all-time leader of the Cubbies in games pitched (605), games won (201) and batters faced (13,266). Enough to throw 177 complete games; and enough to help take the Cubs to the World Series four times in the space of 10 years.
But Charlie Root is remembered mostly for one pitch. (Babe Ruth's disputed "called shot" when the Cubs returned to the World Series in 1932).
"Roger Snell's passion for this must-be-told story shows through in every page. The behind-the-scene glimpses at the life and times of Charlie Root reflect the history and lore of America's pastime." -- Stephen M. Vest, Editor and Publisher, Kentucky Monthly
Mike Curtin, Columbus Dispatch, April 14, 2009:
Growing up in the Ohio village of Arcanum, Roger Snell walked to and from school along E. George Street, past the home of "this kindly old gentleman" named Berlyn Dale Horne.
"He lived five doors down the street," Snell recalled.
"He often would be on his front-porch swing, listening to the Reds on radio. I'd chat with him a little, and in the course of discussion I learned he played professional ball."
Displaying skepticism that would later serve him well as a newspaper reporter, Snell continued home and consulted his copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia. Sure enough, there was his neighbor: Berlyn (Trader) Horne. Reliever for the 1929 Chicago Cubs. Pitched 23 innings in 11 games. Won one, lost one.
Horne toiled for 21 years (1917-38) in the minor leagues, winning 229 games over 3,726 innings. He never made it back to the bigs.
As a freshman journalism student at Ohio State University in 1978, Snell recognized the good story material. "I wrote my very first story about Berly Horne and the 1929 Chicago Cubs. It ran in the Greenville Daily Advocate."
In the 31 years since, he has been collecting fodder on those '29 Cubs -- one of the better teams in franchise history, with Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby and Riggs Stephenson. The team lost the World Series that year (four games to one) to the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Cubs' pitching rotation was anchored by Middletown native Charlie Root, who was discovered while pitching for the Armco Rolling Mill company team. Root holds Cubs team records for most wins, games and innings pitched.