Archive | June, 2022

Review of “She’s Bound To Be A Goer”: Fairhope, Alabama and the Steamboats of Mobile Bay, 1894-1934, by Creighton C. “Peco” Forsman

28 Jun

Today Baldwin County, Alabama’s Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, a thriving tourist destination, and among Alabama’s most desirable locations for residence. It is therefore easy to forget that not too long ago, historically speaking, the area was an economic and cultural backwater, isolated from the rest of state owing to inadequate regional roads. A region of small farming and fishing communities, its lone reliable link to the regional population and trading center of Mobile across the bay was at one time provided by ferry boats running between the port city and places such as the emerging villages of Daphne, Montrose, Point Clear, and the experimental “single tax colony” of Fairhope. These “Bay Boats” have come to assume a unique place in the area’s history, as they are symbols of a formative era and played a key role in its economic development.

Published in 2014, Creighton C. “Peco” Forsman’s chronicle of the heyday of this regional form of transportation, “She’s Bound To Be a Goer”, is a valuable compilation of information on these boats, their captains, the routes they ran and the communities they served. Forsman’s work is drawn almost exclusively from meticulously researched historic newspapers and illustrated with a unique assemblage of photographs of boats, piers, passengers, and captains. The book brings to life a forgotten era which came to a sudden and unceremonious end with the construction of vehicular bridges between Baldwin County and Mobile in the 1920s. Even more importantly for those interested in the history of the Eastern Shore region, the book forms an unparalleled resource on a key, if admittedly narrow, aspect of the area’s past. The book is intensely local, and as such is likely to only have appeal to a limited audience. It is nonetheless a good piece of local history that will serve as an important reference resource for generations to come.


Review of Dawg Pile, A Celebration of Mississippi State’s 2021 National Championship Season, by Steve Robertson

14 Jun

Mississippi State University (MSU) has not been very successful in college athletics. They were one of three Power Five conference schools nationwide to have never won a national championship in any sport. They had gotten close a few times but had never finished the job. Baseball had been its most successful sport with lots of conference championships, impressive attendance records and scores of Hall of Fame players but had never won the national title. That finally changed in 2021. Avid Mississippi State sports fan and writer Steve Robertson captured the magical year where MSU finally won it all with Dawg Pile, A Celebration of Mississippi State’s 2021 National Championship Season.

Robertson is very familiar with Mississippi State athletics having covered it daily since 2014. His previous books have covered the Egg Bowl rivalry with Ole Miss and an investigative work on that same rival’s football’s recruiting. In Dawg Pile, he provides a straightforward look-back at the Bulldogs’ memorable season. His first few chapters set the background of MSU’s storied history with special emphasis on long-time legend Ron Polk who made the Bulldogs a national power in the early 1980s and put college baseball on the map. The last few years saw a few more coaches gain success but never get the team completely over the top.

Most of the book is divided into chapters that trace each weekend of MSU’s journey from early season games in the cold of February to late June where the Dogs won it all in Omaha, Nebraska. Robertson basically provides basic recaps of games interspersed with interviews of players and coaches. Robertson’s writing style is short and compact, nothing flashy.  Readers will learn of State’s early season victories and details of the grueling thirty-game SEC schedule. State fans will enjoy reminiscing about big wins over LSU and Ole Miss but would have gladly forgotten the embarrassing series loss to last place Missouri or the shellacking at the SEC Tournament in Hoover when fans thought MSU was destined for another postseason disappointment. However, State powered through their Regional and overcame a stout Notre Dame ballclub in the SuperRegional to make it to Omaha. And State fans were finally rewarded when past demons were exorcised when State dispatched Texas and Vanderbilt on the way to the title.

Robertson’s concluding chapters were some of his strongest when he provided a few meaningful stories of players and coaches. Of special note was the heartwarming story of pitching coach Scott Foxhall relating his conversation with his ailing father on prized recruit Will Bednar who eventually won the College Series Most Valuable Player award.  Robertson hits hard how this season was the culmination of many, many years and that it belonged to the entire MSU baseball family (coaches, players, and fans alike) who had emphatically supported the program for so long.  Long suffering Bulldog fans will treasure this book and enjoy reliving the magical season, but this fan was hoping for more in-depth (behind-the-scenes) stories and information that had not already previously been told. Those who are not diehard Bulldogs will probably tire of the summary recaps and the obviously biased book that is basically a memento of the school’s first national championship.