McMurray: Lawrence Ritter’s interviews with baseball pioneers

From SABR member John McMurray at the Library of Congress on January 29, 2019:

The oral history interviews that Lawrence S. Ritter recorded with early-20th century baseball players are among the great treasures of baseball history. Twenty-six of Ritter’s interviews make up “ The Glory of Their Times: The Story of The Early Days of Baseball Told By the Men Who Played It ” (1966) . Wrote Thomas Lask in the “New York Times” following the book’s release: “In ‘The Glory of Their Times,’ Lawrence Ritter has fashioned an authentic piece of Americana, and if there is a youngster over 50 who does not respond to it, he must have a heart of stone.”

Imbued with a firm knowledge of the game’s history, Ritter steered his interview subjects with a light hand, generally avoiding questions about specific events. “Asking no more than he had to,” wrote David Margolick in the “New York Times” in 2002, “Mr. Ritter listened, even when nothing was being said.” Ritter also refrained from interrupting when players went on tangents or made periodic errors of recollection. “When his subject s embellished or dissembled, he let them be,” said Margolick. Whatever historical imprecision exists in Ritter’s interviews, the players’ voices endure.

The result is a tale of baseball — and American life — from a time when the sport was finding its way.

Read the full article here (PDF):

Originally published: January 29, 2019. Last Updated: January 29, 2019.