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In Once Upon a Game, Alan Schwarz, author of the critically acclaimed The Numbers Game, assembles a one-of-a-kind volume of first-person recollections about baseball from some of the game's all-time legends and its most famous fans. Ernie Banks recalls the moment he coined the phrase "Let's play two!"; Mike Piazza recounts his backyard batting lesson with Ted Williams; Cal Ripken Jr. tells of his first call-up to the major leagues; Roger Clemens reminisces about the night of his first twenty-strikeout ...
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In Once Upon a Game, Alan Schwarz, author of the critically acclaimed The Numbers Game, assembles a one-of-a-kind volume of first-person recollections about baseball from some of the game's all-time legends and its most famous fans. Ernie Banks recalls the moment he coined the phrase "Let's play two!"; Mike Piazza recounts his backyard batting lesson with Ted Williams; Cal Ripken Jr. tells of his first call-up to the major leagues; Roger Clemens reminisces about the night of his first twenty-strikeout masterpiece—after almost missing the game; and George H. W. Bush reflects on his brief meeting with the one and only Babe Ruth. With intimacy and insight, dozens of the game's greatest players and lifetime fans remember their finest baseball moments on and off the field.
Lavishly illustrated and handsomely designed, Once Upon a Game is the perfect gift for any baseball fan.
The best part of being a baseball writer isn’t writing. It’s listening.
Any day I want, I can go to any ballpark, walk into the clubhouse, and talk with superstar and scrub alike about the games, the personalities, and the moments that all of us love to relive. Not just fans and writers. I’ve found that even though players are out there on the field performing, a part of them—like Tom Sawyer—is up in the balcony watching, appreciating the small role they’re playing in the timeline of this wonderful sport. Listen carefully and you’ll hear that they’re fans, too.
This book is designed to let you pull up a chair with us and with every turn of the page listen in as some of baseball’s greatest names recall their most personal memories. You’ll hear Ernie Banks describe the first time he was moved to say, “Let’s play two!” Roger Clemens remembers how he beat a traffic jam to strike out 20 Seattle Mariners one night in 1986. Gaylord Perry takes us back to the first game he won with a spitball, and Derek Jeter remembers the moment he realized he wanted to be a big-league ballplayer. How did Cal Ripken feel when he was just a struggling rookie? What was going through Bobby Thomson’s mind before he hit the Shot Heard ’Round the World? What was it like for Terry Francona to be Michael Jordan’s baseball manager?
Some of the best memories are from nonplayers—Kevin Costner describes the making of Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, and Charles Schulz, the late Peanuts cartoonist, shares why poor ol’ Charlie Brown keeps losing games 400. George H.W. Bush takes us back to the day he shook hands with Babe Ruth. Every one of these vignettes comes from a personal interview with me—except a few, from long-deceased players, which come straight from old, long-forgotten articles I unearthed. Babe Ruth on his first home run as a 6-year-old? Casey Stengel on his first day in the big leagues? Those are simply too much fun to leave out.
From Yogi Berra to Curt Schilling, Nolan Ryan to Pedro Martinez, you should feel as if you’re right there with me, listening to one great baseball storyteller after another. It’s one big Ozzie Smith backflip. Speaking of which, turn to page 132.
—Alan Schwarz New York City, December 2006
Copyright © 2007 by Alan Schwarz. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Foreword by George F. Will 10 Introduction 12
Ernie Banks On the First Time He Said, “Let’s Play Two!” 14
Yogi Berra On Turning Pro with the Yankees 18
George Brett On His Infamous Pine Tar Home Run 22
George H. W. Bush On Meeting Babe Ruth 26
Roger Clemens On His First 20-Strikeout Masterpiece 30
Kevin Costner On a Lifelong Love for Baseball 34
Dom DiMaggio On His Own 34-Game Hitting Streak 38
Bob Feller On Serving in World War II 42
Terry Francona On His Right Fielder,Michael Jordan 46
Nomar Garciaparra On His First Glove 50
Hank Greenberg On His Pennant-Winning Grand Slam in 1945 54
Ken Griffey Jr.
On Going Deep with His Father 58
Ozzie Guillen On Roberto Clemente’s 1971 World Series 62
Keith Hernandez On Game 6 66
Reggie Jackson On the Three Home Runs 70
Derek Jeter On His Dream of Becoming a Major-Leaguer 74
Pedro Martinez On the Bus Rides of the Pioneer League 78
Christy Mathewson On Poor Old Fred Merkle 82
Joe Nuxhall On Becoming the Youngest Major-Leaguer Ever—Only 15! 86
Buck O’Neil On the Signing of Jackie Robinson 90
Gaylord Perry On His First Win with . . . You Know What 94
Mike Piazza On a Backyard Hitting Lesson from Ted Williams 98
Cal Ripken Jr.
On Being a Struggling Earl Weaver Rookie 102
Alex Rodriguez On Turning His First Major-League Double Play 106
Babe Ruth On His First Home Run—Ever 110
Nolan Ryan On His Record-Breaking 383rd Strikeout 112
Curt Schilling On the Bloody Sock 116
Mike Schmidt On His Wild Four-Homer Game at Wrigley Field 120
Red Schoendienst On Watching Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash 124
Charles Schulz On a Baseball Childhood 128
Ozzie Smith On His Trademark Backflip 132
Casey Stengel On His First Day as a Major-Leaguer 136
Bobby Thomson On His Shot Heard ’Round the World 140
Joe Torre On His Toughest In-Game Decision Ever 144
Dontrelle Willis On the Birth of His Crazy Delivery 148