Schechter: The baseball book that changed my life

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on November 11, 2015:

The baseball book that changed my life was published in 1966, when I was 15 years old. Before then, my education in baseball history had come from talking to my father and reading, over and over again, the compilation titled My Greatest Day in Baseball. Long-ago legends like Cy Young, Honus Wagner, and Rogers Hornsby recounted their most memorable games, “as told to” editor James Carmichael and other sportswriters.

This 1966 arrival supplanted Carmichael’s as the book I couldn’t help reading over and over again. It was The Glory of Their Times, the pioneering oral history put together by Lawrence Ritter. My father, born in Cincinnati in 1906, loved this book because it told the stories of the players of his youth. He idolized Edd Roush, not just because Roush was a terrific player but because he would hold out every year, skip spring training, and, my father gloated, “still get three hits Opening Day.” In The Glory of Their Times, Roush told Ritter, “Why should I go down there and fuss around in spring training? Twist an ankle, or break a leg. I did my own spring training hunting quail and rabbits.” Voila! Now we both knew Roush’s rationale!

On every one of the book’s 300 pages, the long-gone era of my father’s youth came alive, and I’m still in its thrall a half-century later. And not just the baseball era. I learned about the world of the early twentieth century—how people made a living outside of baseball, how they traveled, their habits, the obstacles they overcame, and how baseball molded their existence. I learned about men like Stan Coveleski whose baseball skill allowed him to escape the grim coal mines; men like Rube Marquard who defied his parents to pursue a profession regarded harshly by most people; men for whom baseball became not just a job but a calling, a way of life.

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Originally published: November 11, 2015. Last Updated: November 11, 2015.