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An essay by co-editor Matthew Silverman on Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia
This book is not just for people who love baseball, but also for people who love good stories. More than two dozen writers and editors contributed to this colorful 1,300-page book, which covers the lives of baseball men and women from the mid-1800s through the present. As a result of exhaustive research, a photograph accompanies each entry. Ballplayers are more than just statistics on a page, and Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia brings them to life.
The book is filled with 2,000 stories of the people who have touched the game, whether as the manager of the 1914 “Miracle Braves” (George Stallings), the center fielder of the 1969 “Miracle Mets” (Tommie Agee), or the announcer who called the 1951 “Miracle at Coogan’s Bluff” (Russ Hodges). There’s a story behind every face.
Stallings, for example, was one of the most superstitious men in the most superstitious of games. When something good happened to his team, Stallings often froze in whatever position his body was in, and stayed there until his luck changed. One day he was leaning down to pick up a piece of paper when a Brave got a hit; he was still bending over nine hits later when the rally ended. He had to be carried out of the dugout. Good thing he wasn’t a player-manager.
Agee is famous for the two spectacular catches he made in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series. At the plate, however, Agee had to persevere. He came to the Mets in 1968 from the White Sox, along with another future hero of the ’69 Series, Al Weis. Agee could not hit a lick. He tied Don Zimmer’s franchise record by going 34 straight at bats without a hit and batted just .217 with 17 RBIs in his first season as a Met. His rebirth as a hitter the next year, however, helped spark the Mets’ miracle. He hit 26 homers during the regular season and two more in a sweep of the Braves in the Championship Series. He then led off Game 3 of the World Series with a home run off Jim Palmer, before saving five runs with his glove.
“The Giants win the pennant” was repeated so many times by announcer Hodges on October 3, 1951, that it almost became a mantra. It still echoes today, almost 50 years after Bobby Thomson’s homer beat the Dodgers for the 1951 National League pennant. Hodges, who had played halfback at Kentucky before he broke his ankle, earned a law degree but became a broadcaster instead. He worked with Mel Allen in the Yankees booth before switching to the Giants in 1948. The only reason his famous call of Thomson’s homer still exists is because a fan—a Dodgers fan at that—taped it and sent it to the radio station.
Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia is not a “just the facts” kind of book, although there is no shortage of information in its pages. Birth, death, and baseball debut dates are included along with major league career statistics. The book is arranged alphabetically, which creates some interesting pairings through proximity. Chub Feeney, whose grandfather owned the New York Giants and who himself became a league president, is on the same page as Players Association executive director Don Fehr, an adversary of baseball executives. Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Heinie Manush, and Rabbit Maranville follow one another. An eight-page segment of the K chapter profiles six Hall of Fame players: Tim Keefe, Wee Willie Keeler, George Kell, Joe Kelley, George Kelly, and King Kelly. And two of the most successful baseball families of the past 40 years, the Alomars and the Alous, are profiled side by side.
It took thousands of hours of work to assemble this book, which serves as a compliment to Total Baseball, the official encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. Total Baseball editors David Pietrusza and Mike Gershman, each a winner of Casey Awards (for the best baseball book of a particular year), joined me as editors of this project. Mike, a dear friend and a true baseball fan, died during the production of the book; Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia is dedicated to him. I know he would have liked the finished product, and I hope you enjoy it, too.
Posted May 23, 2000
This is definitely one of the best baseball encyclopedias that I have read in a long, long time. It is great if you like to go beyond the stats and read in-depth biographies on some of the games greatest people. It's a great compliment to any regular baseball encyclopedia. I am really enjoying this book and I highly recommend it to any avid baseball fan!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.