‘.721’ chronicles remarkable winning season of ’54 Indians

There are some numbers any baseball fan can identify, like 61, the number of home runs Roger Maris hit in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth’s record; 714, Ruth’s home run record, which Hank Aaron broke in 1974; or 2,130, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games, later surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr.

Baseball writer Gary Webster has another memorable number: .721, the winning percentage of the 1954 Cleveland Indians, a number that remains an American League record. His book .721: A History of the 1954 Cleveland Indians analyzes both that remarkable season of 111 wins and the stunning collapse in the World Series, in which the Indians were swept by the New York Giants.

Webster starts with an appraisal of General Manager Hank Greenberg and Manager Al Lopez, who had been extremely popular as the Indians’ shortstop. As for the players, Webster cites “a classic example of a team that was greater than the sum of its parts.” With a roster that included Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Al Rosen, Larry Doby and Hal Naragon, those parts were impressive.

The season didn’t have a promising start, but by mid-May the Indians were in a tie for first place, and by the time the pennant was theirs, the only question was how many games it would take for them to win the Series. Lopez particularly wanted to “wind it up here in Cleveland. … But just so we win.” Everything went wrong, most memorably Willie Mays’ spectacular Game One catch of Vic Wertz’s would-be home run.

.721 (195 pages, softcover) costs $29.95 from McFarland. Gary Webster is an alumnus of Kent State University.

To kick off the Indians’ season, Webster will appear at noon Friday at the Cleveland Public Library, 325 Superior Ave. NE, as part of a panel discussion of baseball historians, including Bryan Fritz and Ken Krsolovic (League Park: Historic Home of Cleveland Baseball, 1891-1946) and Scott Longert (The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians Became the Kings of Baseball 1916-1920).

Characters return in witches’ story

In his previous “Up North Mystery” books, Copley resident Douglas Ewan Cameron has related the troubles of a tiny lake community in Northern Michigan. The Body in the Perch Pond and The Body Under the Ice involved shocking discoveries by locals, and Muddy Waters, suitable for teens, found two boys on a dangerous adventure.

Characters from all these books are back in The Witches of Hibbard Corners, which includes Chippewa lore in the strange ritual that four women conduct on the thinning ice of Hibbard Pond.

The violent outcome of the ceremony stuns them, and one of them is lost in the frigid waters. The surviving witches scatter and keep mum, but the dead woman’s daughter, Jennifer, unknowingly inherits her powers. While the police search for the missing woman, Jennifer comes to realize that, though two of the surviving witches have no power, the third is pure evil. Jennifer must find help, both from local friends and the supernatural, to defeat the Witch of the West.

Another of Cameron’s titles, Payback is a Bitch, gains a sequel with Payback: Time to Die … Again. In the first book, a man named Stuart Andrews survived a murder attempt and went all-out planning his revenge, using an alternate identity and skills beyond those expected of a financial adviser, his stated profession.

In Time to Die, Stuart, using his apparent real name of Dawoh “Daws” Mbayo, is ruthless and efficient, a one-man special-ops team. A caller appears at the door of the house Daws shares with his girlfriend: an international criminal organization the man once worked with is now trying to eliminate him, and he needs Daws’ help. The complex plot includes more changed identities, body swaps, explosions and basically the screenplay for a Liam Neeson movie.

The Witches of Hibbard Corners (263 pages) and Payback: Time to Die … Again (310 pages) cost $17.99 in softcover from online retailers. Douglas Ewan Cameron is a retired professor of mathematics from the University of Akron.

Events

Case Western Reserve University (Wolstein Building Auditorium, 2103 Cornell Road, Cleveland) — Jane Smiley, whose A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, presents the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities’ Rose Wohlgemuth Weisman Women’s Voices Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive) — Bryan Fritz talks about and signs League Park, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Registration requested; call 440-238-5530.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Northwest Akron branch, 1720 Shatto Ave.) — Richard A. Hasler, author of Surprises Around the Bend: 50 Adventurous Walkers, talks about notable people and their experiences while walking, 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Coventry Library (1925 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels reads from and signs The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church (20401 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River) — Stephan Pastis, creator of the Pearls Before Swine comic, signs Pearls Fall Fast, his seventh compilation of strips, 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Cleveland Public Library (325 Superior Ave. NE) — Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words that Hurt, Words that Heal and Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say about the Jews, continues the Writers & Readers Series at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma branch, 6996 Powers Blvd.) — Scott Longert signs The Best They Could Be, 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Middleburg Heights branch, 15600 East Bagley Road ) — Scott Longert signs The Best They Could Be, 7 to 8:45 p.m. Thursday.

Visible Voice (1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland) — Orange Village author Louis B. Burroughs Jr. signs Middle Passage: The Artistic Life of Lawrence Baker, 7 to 9 p.m. Friday; poets Lisa Panepinto and Marco Wilkinson read from their works, 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Gerry Koproski, owner of Trifles Café in Chagrin Falls and author of Cooking Gluten Free: Healthy Recipes for Everyone, discusses gluten-free cooking and brings samples, 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Annabell’s Bar & Lounge (782 W. Market St., Akron) — Eric Shonkwiler, author of Above All Men, Meghan Lamb (the forthcoming Silk Flowers) and Lizzie Harris take part in “The Big Big Mess Reading Series,” 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.