Mike Lackey’s “Spitballing” wins 2014 Larry Ritter Book Award

In a hotly contested competition, the 2014 winner of the Larry Ritter Book Award is Mike Lackey’s Spitballing: The Baseball Days of Long Bob Ewing (Orange Frazer Press).

The Ritter Award is given by SABR’s Deadball Era Research Committee for the best book related to the Deadball Era published in the previous year.

Lackey’s work was chosen from a group of four finalists which included David L. Fleitz’s Napoleon Lajoie: King of Ballplayers (McFarland); William F. Lamb’s Black Sox in the Courtroom: The Grand Jury, Criminal Trial and Civil Litigation (McFarland); and Gerald C. Wood’s Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend (University of Nebraska Press).

The subcommittee that is charged annually with selecting the best book published on baseball’s Deadball Era (1901-19) consists of Jack Carlson, Mark Dugo, Craig Lammers, John McMurray, Mark Pattison, Gail Rowe (chair), Doug Skipper, and Trey Strecker.

The Larry Ritter Book Award Subcommittee released the following statement about Lackey’s Spitballing:

Lackey’s scrupulously researched work is special in several respects. First, it focuses on Bob Ewing, a little known player, who during most of his career was not even the best player on his team. Also, Lackey’s interest in, and treatment of, Ewing’s long-time wife and partner is unusual in baseball biographies, demonstrating his wife’s strong influence upon Ewing and those around him. Impressive, too, is Lackey’s resistance to the usual author’s tendency to claim more for his subject than his subject deserves.

Lackey understands that Ewing was not a superstar or even a star; Lackey makes no effort to exaggerate Ewing’s role or his successes in baseball, while simultaneously giving Ewing the praise he deserves. Lackey thus offers his readers a superbly drawn portrait of one of early baseball’s grinders and his era. In addition, Lackey provides his readers imposing and informative endnotes as well as an impressive bibliography. 

Finally, Lackey writes well and argues his conclusions persuasively and clearly. It should be noted that of all the books in the Ritter Book Award competition this year, Lackey’s was clearly the best designed and most attractive. The publishers and its editors took care with this production, serving its author and his readers spectacularly.

The award will be presented during the Deadball Era Committee’s meeting at the SABR 44 convention, July 30-August 3, 2014, in Houston, Texas.

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

Originally published: March 18, 2014. Last Updated: March 18, 2014.