Jason Cannon’s Charlie Murphy biography wins 2023 SABR Larry Ritter Book Award

Charlie Murphy: The Iconoclastic Showman Behind the Chicago Cubs, written by Jason Cannon and published by University of Nebraska Press, a meticulously researched and splendidly written biography of the mercurial magnate who constructed the Cubs dynasty in the early years of the 20th century, is the winner of the 2023 Larry Ritter Book Award.

The award is granted annually by SABR’s Deadball Era Committee to the author of the best book about baseball between 1901 and 1919 published during the previous calendar year. The winner’s work must demonstrate original research or analysis, a fresh perspective, compelling thesis, impressive insight, accuracy, and clear, graceful prose.

Cannon masterfully resurrects Murphy’s legacy. When he is remembered, it is generally for his battles with baseball’s establishment and eventual ouster from the game rather than the determination that drove Murphy to rise in rags-to-riches fashion, assemble and drive the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance Cubs to four National League pennants and two World Series titles in his eight plus seasons as team owner, and leave a lasting theater legacy in his hometown.

“The Murphy Story is captivating because he really is an American success story,” Cannon said. “His parents, obviously immigrating from Ireland, being a key component to that. He was a hustler and he worked hard, and he had a creative genius, a sense about him that not only served him well in business, but also in meeting people, getting to know the key players around town, not just in sports but in the business world. So, he net- worked, and he really outworked a lot of people, not just as a baseball owner, although that’s the part of the story that intrigues our audience the most.”

Cannon is a middle school English teacher, and he and his wife Reagan live in Castle Rock, Colorado. He is currently working on a book project profiling the relationship between Billy Williams and Willie McCovey, who grew up in close proximity in Alabama before becoming National League stars in the 1960s.

The other finalists for the 2023 Larry Ritter Award were:

  • Harry Dietz Jr., Covey: A Stone’s Throw from a Coal Mine to the Hall of Fame (Sunbury Press)
  • Ronald T. Waldo, Deadball Trailblazers: Single-Season Records of the Modern Era (Sunbury Press)

Conferred annually since 2002, the award is usually presented at the DEC meeting at SABR’s annual convention each summer. This year’s presentation will be virtual.

The award winner is selected by the Larry Ritter Book Award Committee, chaired by Doug Skipper, with members Mark Dugo, Ben Klein, Craig Lammers, Mark Pattison, Andrew Milner, Don Jensen, and DEC Chairman John McMurray.

For more information on the Larry Ritter Award, including a list of previous winners, click here.

Originally published: May 25, 2023. Last Updated: May 25, 2023.