I gave this book five stars on Goodreads. I would give this book more stars if I could. Maybe 10. This is, hands down, the best baseball book I have ever read! It was absolutely delightful! The book is, if I understand correctly, interviews with ballplayers, transcribed from tapes which now reside in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. I had not heard of a lot of these players before, but now love them as much or more than the players I follow today. Players like Rube Marquard, Tommy Leach, Davy Jones, Sam Crawford, to name a few. I knew of Lefty O’Doul and Goose Goslin, Edd Roush, Hank Greenberg, and I think I had heard of Heinie Groh. Such great interviews! And oh, how different this great game was back in those days. Most of these players played around the turn of the 20th century. Many of them played for John McGraw’s Giants. There were Pirates, Red Sox, Braves (Boston Braves), Cardinals, and even a few Yankees.
I learned so much from this book. For example the greatest pitcher who ever pitched was Walter Johnson. Or Smokey Joe Wood. Or Christy Mathewson. The greatest hitter ever was Ty Cobb. Or Paul Waner. Or Babe Ruth. The best outfielder ever was Harry Hooper. Or…hopefully you get the picture. Of course, who was best is always relative, and each one of these players has a different idea of who was best. Walter Johnson was quoted as saying that not a man alive could pitch faster than Smokey Joe Wood. While many of the batters said that Walter Johnson had a fast ball that sometimes couldn’t even be seen.
I laughed. I cried. I made 26 new “friends.” And it made me love baseball all over again. (Not that I stopped, mind you…it just reminded me what a great and glorious game it is.)
One very noticeable thing was that most of these guys talked more about other players than they did themselves. They stood up for people like Fred Merkle who was blamed for the Giants losing the 1908 pennant to the Cubs. They stood up for Fred Snodgrass who was blamed for losing the 1912 World Series. They talked about Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner, who, apparently truly was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He’s more than just a valuable baseball card.
I could go on and on about this one. I intend to keep this book as long as I live and read it over and over again. Perhaps every time I get frustrated with today’s crybabies, and every time baseball breaks my heart like it did in 2011, I’ll pick this book up and fall in love with it all over again. If you are a baseball fan, read this book. If you’re not, perhaps it will make you one.