Baseball Stars 1961, edited by Ray Robinson
Four out of five stars
The “Baseball Stars (year)” books contain brief biographies of baseball players based on their performance in 1960 and earlier. Hence, they are predictions of future success and not a reference to the events of 1961. Some of the players profiled, such as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn were clearly on a path to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Others players that are profiled are largely forgotten in history, generally they had a great year and showed promise for the future, but never fulfilled that promise. Their appearance in this book is more a lesson in obscure baseball history than anything else. For example, Vern Law had a record of 13 wins and 11 losses over the 1961- 62 seasons. Norm Larker declined rapidly after 1960 and was out of baseball by 1964. The same is true for Jim Lemon, he hit .258 in 1961, after that he struggled to hit over .200 and was no longer an active player in 1964.
Meant as a snapshot of baseball before the 1961 season began, this book does age, but not significantly so. Part of the charm of baseball is trying to predict how the next season will go and being surprised and disappointed when the players and teams under and over perform.
The writing is that of the time, loaded with superlatives and very little in the way of negative reality. The exception is the piece on major problem child Jimmy Piersall, a man with great talent but with instability that made him unpredictable. Sometimes that made him entertaining, but most of the time it made him a threat to upset the flow of the game.