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This is a book that is near and dear to the hearts of most baseball fans, frequently cropping up on lists of the best baseball books of all time.  Inspired by the example of Alan Lomax, who recorded old blues singers down South in the 1930's, and motivated by the recent death of Ty Cobb, Lawrence S. Ritter, an economist and New York University professor by trade, spent several years (1961-66) tracking down and interviewing old ballplayers, recording their memories of the game for posterity before they too passed away.  The book presents these sessions as extended monologues, alternately amusing, proud, defensive, and wistful recollections of their own careers, of the times they played in, and of the characters they knew.

But now, as if the book weren't enough, the tape recordings of the actual interviews are available in audiobook form.  Each is introduced by Ritter, who came to know many of the players quite well.  And in his introduction, Ritter reveals that it was only years after the project that it occurred to him that one of the things driving him was the death of his own father.  Recapturing the memories of the players his father had loved served as a final filial connection.

The interviews include those with : "Wahoo" Sam Crawford, "Rube" Marquard, "Chief" Meyers, Hans Lobert, "Smokey" Joe Wood, Davy Jones, Ed Roush, and Fred Snodgrass.  The stories they tell range from Hans Lobert racing a horse around the bases while barnstorming through Oxnard, California, to Fred Snodgrass defending his infamous muff; to a first hand account of the beaning death of Ray Chapman at the hands of Carl Mays; and finally a wonderful recital of Casey at the Bat by Chief Meyers.  At the end of many of the interviews Ritter asked the old timers if they had any regrets, and not a single man did : of how few professions would this be true ?

I can't recommend the book highly enough and even if you've read it several times, be sure to give the audio a listen.  This is oral history at its very best and an invaluable resource for baseball fans.  It does for all of us what Ritter only belatedly realized it was doing for him, it provides a vital connection to an earlier time, to the world of our fathers and grandfathers.  It is truly wonderful.


Grade: (A+)


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Sports (Baseball)
Book-related and General Links:
    -Lawrence Ritter : 1922- : Writer (CBS Sportsline)
    -ESSAY : Color Commentary (Lawrence S. Ritter, Maestro Net)
    -REVIEW : of STENGEL His Life and Times. By Robert W. Creamer (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE PROGRESS OF THE SEASONS Forty Years of Baseball in Our Town. By George V. Higgins (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS The Complete Picture Collection: A 35 Year History, 1951-1985. By Frank Slocum  (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE WAY IT WAS An Oral History of Finance: 1967-1987. By the Editors of Institutional Investor (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A PIECE OF THE ACTION How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class. By Joseph Nocera (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of HIGH ROLLERS Inside the Savings and Loan Debacle. By Martin Lowy (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of OUTRAGEOUS GOOD FORTUNE   By Michael Burke (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
    -PROFILE : Baseball Book Becomes (Chin) Music to the Ears : Celebrated Stories of Babe Ruth,Ty Cobb, Lefty O'Doul Come Roaring Back to Life (DAVID DAVIS, Forward)
    -REVIEW : of THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES. By Lawrence S. Ritter.  (Wilfrid Sheed, NY Times Book Review, September 18, 1966)
    -REVIEW : of The Glory of Their Times (Dan Albaugh)
    -REVIEW : of Glory of Their Times (Erik Lundegaard, Halcyon Baseball Books)
    -REVIEW : of The Glory of Their Times (Royal Rooter, Dickie Thon Fan Club Literary Review, March 1, 1999)
    -REVIEW : of THE STORY OF BASEBALL By Lawrence S. Ritter (1983) (MICHAEL LICHTENSTEIN, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE BABE A Life in Pictures. By Lawrence S. Ritter and Mark Rucker (1989) (Stephen Jay Gould, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Nov 5, 1992 Stephen Jay Gould: Dreams That Money Can Buy, NY Review of Books
       The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story by Peter Lefcourt
       Box Socials by W.P. Kinsella
       The Cleveland Indian: The Legend of King Saturday by Luke Salisbury
       Baseball and Billions by Andrew Zimbalist
       The Diamond Revolution by Neil J. Sullivan
       The Brooklyn Dodgers by Peter C. Bjarkman
       Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter
       The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History by Phil Dixon and Patrick J. Hannigan
       Baseball: The Perfect Game Photographs by Danielle Weil and text by Peter Richmond
    -BOOK LIST : An All-Star Lineup of Baseball Books Selected By Joe Torre, Roger Kahn, Vin Scully, and Roger Angell (NY Times)
    -BOOK LIST : Essential Baseball Library (Rob Neyer, ESPN)
    -BOOK LIST : Bob Costas' Essential Baseball Books (Book Magazine)
    -BOOK LIST : Reading between the lines : An all-star lineup of  baseball books (Todd Leopold, Books Editor)

    -National Baseball Hall of Fame
    -The Deadball Era
    -Total Baseball
    -The OldBallGame
    -"Dummy" Hoy Homeplate
    -The Official Rube Marquard Web Site
    -Shoeless Joe Jackson's Virtual Hall of Fame
    -TY COBB : Baseball's Misunderstood Genius
    -Dickie Thon Fan Club Literary Review
    -Halcyon Baseball Books
    -ARCHIVES : "baseball" (NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : Nostalgia (Jesse Thorn)
    -REVIEW : of TY COBB   By Charles C. Alexander (Jim Brosnan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of  WHEN THE BOYS CAME BACK: Baseball and 1946 By Frederick Turner and THIS SIDE OF COOPERSTOWN: An Oral History of Major League Baseball in the 1950s By Larry Moffit (Robert W. Creamer, The Washington Post, Book World)