Thursday, December 19, 2019

Review of "The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told By the Men Who Played It," by Lawrence S. Ritter

Review of

The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told By the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence S. Ritter ISBN 0688039014

Five out of five stars

 This book is a collection of extended reminiscences by men who played major league baseball right before and generally for three decades after the turn of the twentieth century. While there are a few stars describing their lives in and around baseball, most of the names will be known only to people who have studied the history of the sport. The latest that any of the 26 featured players was in major league baseball was Hank Greenberg, whose last season was 1947. Babe Herman and Paul Waner played their last seasons in 1945 and both admit that was only because the stars were busy fighting World War II. The earliest season that any player was in the major leagues was Tommy Leach in 1898.

 The years covered in this book were those of the growth of baseball into a major sport. Of course, it was the rise of Babe Ruth as a hitting star that made the game one where some players could earn significant money. Stars such as Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Walter Johnson are not interviewed, but are spoken of a great deal.

 One common theme that is a bit shocking to the modern reader is how easily and simply the players talk about their being sold by one team to another. When it happened, their choices were largely limited to acquiescence or retirement. At the time, players were property and there was a bill of sale that was filled out with copies to the player, the buyer, seller, league office and commissioner. An example appears on page 296.

 Yet, despite the poor pay and sometimes poor working conditions, these men truly loved the game and while they were capable, would have done nothing else. This is a great book of oral history by men who generally were not stars yet made the game great.

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