Help Me Reach 12 on the Manly Scale of Absolute Gender

If you like the patriotic work we're doing, please consider donating a few dollars. We could use it. (if asked for my email, use "")

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Department of Book Reports: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends

That great harbinger of Spring is upon us. Yes, Baseball's Opening Day. All teams start out even, and all may have hopes now of later October glory. So I've spent some devouring Rob Neyer's new book, Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, The Lies, and Everything Else (Simon and Schuster $16.00). Rob is one the most well-regarded of baseball writers and analysts. He began his career as a protegee of Bill James (who wrote the introduction to this book), and much of his previous work is stat-driven. His previous books also have equally long titles, which you can see at his website.

Needless to say, as a baseball fan, I have always enjoyed his work. This book actually is a series of short essays about the baseball myths and legends that have grown out of the game's years and decades of good stories. Rob asks the question "Did this really happen" of many of them. Did Billy Martin outplay Jackie Robinson every time they met in Series play? Did Negro Leaguer Gene Benson really know Cleveland's second baseman, Johnny Beradino, out of baseball and into his acting career? Was Freddy Lynn the clutch hitter he think he was? Did Leo Durocher really steal Babe Ruth's watch? And did Babe Ruth really call his shot?

The story, in case you don't know it from the truly awful movies made about Ruth's life, is that in 1932 World Series, the Yankees swept the Cubs in four games where there was much bench jockeying between the teams. In the fifth inning, Ruth came up to hit against Charlie Root, a pitcher not known for being a nice guy on the mound. Legend has it that Ruth, with two strikes on him, dramatically pointed to the bleachers, indicating that the next pitch would be deposited there. And on his swing, he indeed homered. But did it really happen? Neyer examines all the eye-witness accounts, and while not completely debunking the story, suggests that it wasn't such a grand gesture. (Root always maintained if the Babe had done so, he, Root, would have knocked Ruth down on the next pitch). Ruth probably held up a finger to indicate that he had one more swing. (By the way, even if you are not a baseball fan, Robert Creamer's biography of Ruth, The Babe, is a great read. Ruth is the stuff of legend and it is a shame the movies gave him such bad Hollywood treatment. One starred William Bendix and the other John Goodman; I recommend Max Gail's one man show, The Babe, which, I'm afraid, isn't on the Youtubes).

Rob's book is available from Jackson Street Books and other fine independent bookstores.

Here's hoping your favorite team is beaten by the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs and World Series this year.

I hear democommie is planning to throw out the first pitch of this season. Let's hope it's a strike.


  1. Take me out of the ballgame
    Take me into the back
    Jack me up with some HGH
    I don't care if I no longer mate
    'Cuz it's shoot, shoot, shoot me with steroids
    I'll rip the hide off the ball
    And it's one, two, three asterisks
    In the record books!


    I loved baseball and its legends, warts and all. But Rupert "Orc Master" Murdoch bought the Dodgers in the 90s--that's like Hitler buying the Green Bay Packers. How could I root, root, root? Even after that ogre sold them it wasn't the same...and yet, the pull of the Dodgers is strong: Torre, Ramirez...shit.

    As much as I enjoyed the McGuire/Sosa home run battle in 1998, it didn't feel right: the ball popped too much, and the athletes themselves looked like Mr. Universe (nothing against those muscle-bound types, but c'mon: they can't pick up a slow roller and flip it to first base. Their bodies would snap in two). Come to think of it, the housing bubble is really just cousin to what has transpired in sports: fuck reality, pump "it" up by whatever means available and cash your checks pronto!

    Dan: I hope to someday tell you a story I first heard told by Vin Scully about Frenchy Bordagaray and Casey Stengel. You could look it up.


  2. Scully has some stories, doesn't he? When the Dodgers moved to LA, I was seven. I was convinced Vinnie was my friend. He always opened his broadcast with 'Hello, my Friends". So I knew he was my friend.

  3. SeattleDan:

    I'm afraid the "first pitch" thing is out. I think I tore my rotator cuff while chucking rocks at skwerls. But like any good reptilican (Sarah Palin) I will keep the travel money and per diem.

  4. Hey...I read that Creamer book and it was capitol "D" dreadful. Leigh Montville's Ruth bio, "The Big Bam" was, on the other hand, one of the best biographies I ever read about anybody.

    Tommy John surgery and a some re-hab and you'll be toeing the slab in no, well okay, a little, time.

  5. Richard:

    There ain't nothin' wrong with my johnson, bub!

  6. demo:

    I'm glad to hear it, but am uncertain as to why I need to know. I'll keep it to myself, though.

  7. Damn it. I misread that "Tommy John" part. I gotta make a resolution to quit reading stuff after the first pint of Everclear.


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.