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Some ten years ago a friend gave me a copy of the audiotapes that were the basis of Lawrence Ritter's book The Glory of Their Times. I was enthralled to listen to those old-time ballplayers talk about their experiences in our game around the turn of the twentieth century. Ritter made such a wonderful contribution to my understanding of the game in those days that I thought about emulating him with players from the 1930s and 1940s, who came along after those whom Ritter featured. One day I idly mentioned my idea to my good friend the estimable investment banker and great baseball fan Herbert Allen, who instantly encouraged me and pledged financial support if I would go out and do the interviewing. This book was born of that conversation.
Here's a handy rule of thumb, if you're going to read a book that's rather derivative, make sure it derives from a great book. That's certainly the case with this first installment in what looks like being a very worthy project from the last Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Fay Vincent, who is assembling a series of oral histories of the game in the style of Lawrence Ritter's classic, The Glory of Their Times. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this book isn't the equal of its predecessor, but some of the interviews do seem stilted by comparison. And you can't really attribute that to editing because if you've ever listened to the audio version of Glory it was apparently transcribed almost word for word. Maybe it's just a matter of some of the guys featured here not being quite as good a talkers, because the chapters with Buck O'Neill and Ralph Kiner really stand out, and we know they're gifted gabbers going in. Indeed, one of the chief attractions of the book for me was that it captures these favorites one last time. Having grown up a Mets fan, I genuinely miss listening to Mr. Kiner 162 times a year and it's fun to hear him tell his stories once more. And, as folks have oft-noted about the Ritter interviews, the uniform appreciation for the game of baseball that every one of the interviewees expresses is another pleasure. If we step back for a moment and judge the book in its own right, rather than by comparison, it's a solid enough effort. Let's call it a ringing double.
See also:Sports (Baseball)
-Fay Vincent (Wikipedia)
-Francis T. Vincent, Jr.: Eighth Commissioner of Baseball, Elected: 1989-92 (MLB.com)
-Fay Vincent : Executive (Baseball Library)
-PROFILE: The only game in town (SCOTT EYMAN, April 16, 2006, THE PALM BEACH POST)
--INTERVIEW: The Only Game in Town: Q&A With Fay Vincent (Rich Lederer, 5/02/06, Baseball Analysts)
-INTERVIEW: Fay Vincent (Maury Brown on 11/4/05 and 11/8/05, The Business of Baseball)
-REVIEW: of THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved By Fay Vincent (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of The Only Game in Town (James J. DiGiacomo, America)
-REVIEW: of The Only Game in Town (David Conrads, CS Monitor)
Book-related and General Links:
-Ken Burns' Baseball (PBS)
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