The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team That Helped Win World War II
The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team That Helped Win World War II by Anne R. Keene. Sports Publishing. 351 pp. $26.99. Review written by Rob Langenderfer.
Keene crafts a personal and deeply touching tale that describes her father’s experiences as the batboy for a U.S. Navy World War II Cloudbusters baseball team that included Red Sox slugger Ted Williams among its stars. The book is able to recount through many interviews the truly heroic deeds that occurred during World War II and the sense of duty and patriotism that Americans felt during that time while not ignoring the brutality and seemingly endless tragedy that took place during the conflict. Although the book is not solely about Ted Williams (he is perhaps first among equals in the discussions of the many Cloudbuster players that are featured in the work), the material on him that is present in The Cloudbuster Nine makes it a must-read for fans of the Splendid Splinter.
Keene is able to bring back through her writing, reflections and interviews an era in which ordinary major league players had to take working class jobs during the off-season to make enough money to live on until the following spring. Keene portrays the time of the Cloudbusters as purer than today with its millionaire players who lack the love of the game that so inspired their fathers. The experiences of Keene’s father personify this dedication. Devoted and determined to making the major leagues, he toiled for many years in the minor leagues, hobbled by injuries for which there were no effective treatments at that time. When his father, possibly drunk, told him that he never was and never would be a major leaguer and that he should grow up, he was deeply affected and sunk into a depression that lasted the rest of his life. He was an indifferent father himself, always living with the fact that he had not been able to achieve his goal of becoming a major league player. One might expect that Keene would have felt a great deal of bitterness toward baseball as a result. However, her enthusiasm for the game shines through as it allows her to connect with her father in a way that was arguably deeper than what she had been able to do while he was alive.
The anecdotes about Ted Williams in the book show him to be more comfortable with ordinary fans and ordinary people than with those who tried to promote him as a baseball legend. His friendship with Johnny Pesky is shown as a means through which he could relax and feel free enough to open up with some other people around whom he might otherwise be reticent. The photographs in the book are well-chosen and complement the text well, and the bibliography, with the lengthy list of sources and interviews, shows the great effort that Keene demonstrated in crafting a valuable historical yet personal account of World War II baseball. Although the book sags slightly when not discussing Ted Williams or Keene’s family, there are enough compelling World War II stories to hold the reader’s attention until one of the overarching narratives of the book comes back in with all of their emotional force and power.