Baseball Reflections

A Book Review: Jack and Larry by Barbara Gregorich

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What do you get when you cross a successful Major Leaguer, one of the most historic teams in Major League baseball and an adorable dog? Author Barbara Gregorich answers this question in her new book Jack and Larry: Jack Graney and Larry, the Cleveland Baseball Dog.

In this children’s book told in a prose style, the story of former Cleveland ballplayer Jack Graney and his relationship with a dog named Larry is chronicled. Graney is not a ballplayer many fans, even from Cleveland, remember even though he had a solid Major League career and perhaps because of this, his dog Larry has become forgotten in many circles as well.

Gregorich brings to light the emotional story of one man’s relationship with a dog who became much more than a four legged friend to the ballplayer and his teammates.

The author describes how Larry became the team’s mascot for essentially a decade and became perhaps the most well-known dog in the United States during the first two decades of the 20th century. Knowing that Jack and Larry had a special relationship might make one immediately think that Larry was always Jack’s dog and he took some steps to convince the team that his dog needed to spend time with him at the ballpark.

In actuality, Larry was not Jack’s dog to begin with Larry became a companion of Jack’s one summer when Jack was injured and his manager noticed he was down. His manager recommended that Jack take Larry, who was by then a staple at the ballpark, home with him. From that time on, Jack and Larry became inseparable.

Not only was Larry around during home games, but as the official team mascot, Larry also travelled with the team on the road. During those days, teams would typically travel by train when going from city to city. Unfortunately for both Jack and Larry, dogs weren’t allowed to ride in the same boxcars as people were even if that dog happens to be the official mascot of a Major League Baseball team. While almost all journeys turned out successful for the pup, the reader does get an exciting story when Gregorich describes a time when Larry didn’t get routed to the same place as the rest of the team, creating a search and rescue scenario.

The author does a great job describing the enthusiasm that Larry had for what he was expected to do as the team mascot. Even though to many he may have been perceived as “just a dog,” Larry seemed to have a genuine interest in how the Indians did on the field. It was almost as if he could feel what the attitude of the team was at any time and acted accordingly. If the team was on a losing streak and needed a lift, they could always count on Larry to pull something silly like grabbing some of the players’ gloves and taking the gloves out to the field for them.

As with most people’s relationships with their pets, Jack and his career outlive Larry, but that is not to say that Jack wasn’t thinking about Larry even on the last day of his career. Although Jack has his most successful season in terms of wins when Larry is no longer able to be with him, it is clear by the writing that Jack played with a heavy heart as if Larry was there with him the entire time.

Although the book is meant to be a work for children, adults can certainly find this book entertaining as well. It would be a fast read for any adult, but it does have a story line that carries, so it is worth the read. If reading to a child, at 92 pages, it might be good to spread it over a week of nights for bedtime stories as there are some emotional highs and lows.

Rating: 3.5/5

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