Tourtellotte: Testing the stories of ‘Glory of Their Times’

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on February 27, 2017:

I took a little more time to linger over The Glory of Their Times, and all the stories the baseball players inside were telling. As I did so, the skeptic’s voice inside me kept chiming in, wondering “Did it really happen the way he says?”

There is nothing new or particularly disrespectful about such doubts. The first entry in the book, pitcher Rube Marquard, tells some of the best stories in the whole volume. Subsequent research, however, showed that a remarkable amount of it, especially around his personal rather than professional life, was whole-cloth fabrication. It may be tough to find a single page of his chapter that was fully truthful.

This is the risk of oral histories. The interviewer has to let his subjects speak, and picking at their stories is a sure way of drying them up. The reader values these participants and their words, and is thus inclined to take their word for it.

I leaned that way myself in previous readings, but not this time. And since everybody in this book has long since departed this world, who was going to resent my digging, apart maybe from some proud grandkids and great-grandkids?

So I collected some of their recollections that I found both interesting (which didn’t narrow things too much) and testable, and proceeded to test them. It will not spoil things badly to reveal that the rest of the players have a much better collective record for accuracy than Marquard. (Also to avoid spoiling things too badly, I will quote as little as I can manage from the book. For the full flavor of the experience, you need to go to its pages.)

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Originally published: March 2, 2017. Last Updated: March 2, 2017.