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Book review: Looking back at a shot for love
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Book review: Looking back at a shot for love

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Chicago Cub Shot for Love

Chicago Cub Shot for Love

Baseball fans, rejoice!

In “The Chicago Cub Shot for Love,” Jack Bales unearths a story that may have been the impetus for one of the most celebrated and debated moments in baseball history—Babe Ruth’s called home run in the 1932 World Series.

With the research of a librarian (Bales was a librarian at the University of Mary Washington for 40 years) and the storytelling of a Hemingway, Bales unfurls the story of Cubs’ shortstop Billy Jurges and showgirl Violet Popovich and their doomed relationship that almost led to Jurges’ murder in summer 1932.

Reviewer Drew Gallagher and author Jack Bales sit down to discuss Bales' new book, 'The Chicago Cub Shot for Love: A Showgirl’s Crime of Passion and the 1932 World Series."

The Cubs were in the middle of a magical season as Jurges began to assert himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and his team was playing some of the best baseball in its history. Jurges, perhaps sensing the special season unfolding, told Popovich that he did not want to see her anymore so he could focus on baseball and not be distracted by their relationship.

To say that Popovich did not take the news well would be an understatement. Soon after the breakup, Popovich showed up at Jurges’ hotel in Chicago with a pistol and shot him. The wound was not life-threatening, but it resulted in the Cubs getting infielder Mark Koenig to replace Jurges while he recovered.

Koenig was instrumental in leading the Cubs to the pennant, but some of his teammates (including Jurges) did not vote him a full share of the money players receives for playing in the World Series because he had not played the entire regular season with them. When the shares were publicized prior to the Cubs showdown with the New York Yankees, the Yankees (Koenig’s former club) called the Cubs cheapskates and thought Koenig deserved a full share.

That animosity spilled onto the playing field, and some say the barbs escalated to the point where Babe Ruth, in answer to the bench jockeys in the Cubs’ dugout, pointed out to center field bleachers and predicted where the next pitch would land. Movies have been made about that called shot from the Sultan of Swat and Bales argues convincingly that if not for Jurges getting shot by the jilted showgirl, then none of those subsequent events would have occurred.

“The Chicago Cub Shot for Love” can stand alone as a superb and vibrant book on a brief moment in baseball time. But when that brief moment is a falling domino that leads to what may be the most famous home run by the most famous player to ever play the game, the book becomes magic.

Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer in Spotsylvania. For more on this book, go to fredericksburg.com.

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