Baseball's Best Ever: A Half Century of Covering Hall of Famers

Baseball's Best Ever: A Half Century of Covering Hall of Famers

by Ira Berkow
Baseball's Best Ever: A Half Century of Covering Hall of Famers

Baseball's Best Ever: A Half Century of Covering Hall of Famers

by Ira Berkow


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“Big-league baseball is subtle; cloaked in summer languor, moving with the slow, supple grace of a ballerina practicing backstage, yet taut and technical in its skills. To view a baseball game and appreciate it takes concentration.”
So begins Baseball’s Best Ever. Encompassing a selection of some one hundred columns and featured stories written over 50-plus years, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist share stories on some of the greatest baseball players to ever grace the diamond. But rather than snippets and information known to anyone following the game, Berkow, shares insights on these men: men dealing with tragedy, struggle, highs and lows—showing that while they we at the top of the game, at the end of the day they are mere mortals.

With stories from Satchel Paige throwing his “bow tie pitch” close to a batter’s brow, the humorous side of Phil Rizzuto and Casey Stengel, a rookie Carl Yastrzemski battling through a slump, and Ted Williams talking about is favorite subject—no, not hitting: fishing.

Arranged by decade, Berkow shares his interactions with those at the top of their game. We all know their stats and accolades, but not many fans truly know the person under the uniform. Offering an inside view as to who these men truly are, readers will be able to better understand their favorite ballplayers. While they have accomplished things we only do in our dreams, you will see that these men, under the surface, are no different than any of us.

Though we may never hit like Joe DiMaggio or Babe Ruth, play the outfield like Willie Mays, or run the bases like Jackie Robinson, Berkow offers us a view of these stars that only an acclaimed journalist can. And with a half century of reporting under his belt, Baseball’s Best Ever will let readers onto the field, in the dugout and locker room, and at home with their family and friends.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683584452
Publisher: Sports Publishing LLC
Publication date: 07/12/2022
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 484,924
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Ira Berkow is both a Pulitzer-prize winner for national reporting and a Pulitzer-prize finalist for distinguished commentary, and the author of twenty-six books, including the bestsellers Red: A Biography of Red Smith, Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar, and Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool (with Walt Frazier), as well as nine anthologies of his journalism. A sports reporter and columnist for the New York Times for over two decades, his work has regularly been reprinted in literary anthologies, college rhetoric textbooks, in the prestigious annual anthology Best American Sports Writing, as well as The Best American Sports Writing of the Century. He resides in New York City.

Table of Contents

Foreword: On Visits to the Hall xiii

Introduction: The Smell of the Ball xix

Part I From 1903 to the 1920s-The Babe and Beyond 1

Babe Ruth and a Jug of Whiskey Sours 1

How Good Was Babe Ruth? 4

Ruth and Gehrig in a Classic Home-Run Race 7

Waite Hoyt in the Rain 10

The Son of Ty Cobb 13

"Stained-Glass" Casey Stengel 16

Casey Stengel the Vaudevillian 18

The Great Honus Wagner Outplayed at Shortstop by Freddie Parent in First Ever World Series (1903) 21

Tony Lazzeri Faces Grover Cleveland Alexander Again 23

When Joe Sewell Replaced Ray Chapman Who Was Killed by a Pitch 26

The Day Rookie Bob Herman Caught Walter Johnson 29

Christy Mathewson: Blending Myth and Reality 32

Connie Mack: Correspondence with a Promising Pitching Prospect and Wounded War Hero 35

The Hand of Ojeda and Three Finger Brown 41

From Tinker to Evers to Chance 44

Part II 1930s-The Splendid Splinter and Joltin' Joe Head a Memorable Lineup 49

An Evening with The Kid, or Teddy Ballgame 49

Ted Williams: The Slugging Professor 52

The Two Loves of Ted Williams 55

For Ted Williams: A Joy Found in the Debate 58

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe 61

Joe DiMaggio, a Neighbor, the Quake 63

DiMaggio, 80 Today, Still Stars 66

Lefty Gomez Was Hard to Beat 69

Hack Wilson's Lesson Still Valid 71

Edd Roush: The Original Holdout Makes a "Comeback"-and John I McGraw 74

Dizzy Dean Still Had Enough in the Tank 76

Gabby Harnett and Al Capone 78

Part III 1940s-The War Ends and a Loathsome Barrier Falls 81

Jackie Robinson's Place in History 81

Jackie Robinson: Hope by Example 84

How Pee Wee Reese Helped Change Baseball 86

No, Robinson Wasn't the First, but Cap Anson Provided the Racism 92

Larry Doby Crossed the Color Barrier, but in Another's Shadow 95

Yogi Berra: Baseball's Oddest Marvel 101

For Yogi Berra, a Happy Return 103

Warren Spahn: War Hero, Baseball Great 109

Lou Boudreau, Once Known as The Boy Wonder 112

Stan Musial: As Good as It Gets 116

Part IV 1950s-Willie, The Mick, and a Heartfelt Call 119

Willie Mays: Price of a "Hero" Tag 119

Willie Mays: From Three Angles: the Greatest, Smartest Play Ever Made 121

Willie Mays at Twilight 124

Mickey Mantle: "Baseball Is All I Ever Knew" 127

Remembering Mickey Mantle 130

Whitey Ford and, Yes, Salvador Dali 133

Hank Aaron: Up From Obscurity 135

Hank Aaron Still Wields a Hammer 138

Whew! Rizzuto Talks Circles Around the Hall 141

The Phone Rings for Nellie Fox's Widow 144

Robin Roberts in an Unforgettable Doubleheader 146

Minnie Miñoso: "The Cuban Comet" 149

Part V 1960s-A Galaxy of Hurlers Amid Brilliant Batsmen 153

Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg: Stars of David 153

Drysdale Could Laugh at Himself 160

Roberto Clemente's Legacy 163

Bob Gibson: Only His Pride Hasn't Changed 166

Brooks Robinson: A Touch of Gold 168

Harmon Killebrew: The Big Surprise 172

Harmon Killebrew: A Gentle Giant Comes Back 175

Al Kaline Wondered If He Should Have Been a Doctor 177

Vince's Story, with an Assist from Mickey Lolich and Al Kaline 180

"Cubs Family" minus "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks 183

The Hands That Caught Nolan Ryan's Heat 186

Nolan Ryan, Satchel Paige, and Rules for Keeping Young 189

Satchel Paige: "A New Generation is Taking Over" 192

Jim Banning: Standing on the Bully Pulpit 194

Orlando Cepeda Is a Hero to Kids at P.S. 83 197

Juan Marichal Remembers Bumbo Ramos, His Idol 199

The Day They Entered Baseball Heaven 201

The Victory Laps of Johnny Bench 204

The Winter of Yaz's Content 207

In a Slump, Richie Ashburn Took His Bat to Bed with Him 209

The Mets-and Ashburn-Twenty Years Later 209

Gil Hodges and the Saints of Lost Causes 211

Part VI 1970s-Triumphs and a Tragedy 215

Tom Seaver Goes for 300th Win 215

The Tom Seaver I Came to Know 219

Reggie Jackson: Old "44" Returns to Yankee Stadium 222

Reggie Jackson: "Mr. October" is Now "Mr. Cooperstown" 226

The Goose (Gossage) in His Old Nest 229

Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer Weather the Weather 232

Joe Morgan Was Barred from an All-White Golf Course 235

A Vote for Hoyt Wilhelm 238

Rod Carew Is Next in Line for the Hall 241

Rod Carew: A Baseball Legend Confronts a Moral Reckoning 244

Gary Carter Gives the Signs of Confidence 247

Luis Aparicio: Switching Sox, From White to Red 253

Ted Simmons's Case: Cause Without a Rebel 255

Billy Williams Says No 257

Catfish Hunter, Who Pitched in Six World Series for the A's and Yankees, Dies at 53 260

For Ferguson Jenkins, Another Tragic Twist in the Road 267

Tony Oliva: A Neglected Name on the Hall Ballot No More 277

Part VII 1980s-Record Breakers and Then Some 281

Dave Winfield: One Definition of a Winner 281

George Brett: The Eternal Pine-Tar Case 284

Mike Schmidt Has Impeccable Credentials 287

Lou Brock: High-Speed Data Analyst on the Base Paths 294

Paul Molitor's Hitting Streak: "It Was Fun While It Lasted" 297

Eddie Murray: 3,000 Hits Later, a Few Reluctant Words 300

Unflappable Bruce Sutter 304

Steve Carlton Tries A Comeback 308

Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs: Heartfelt Induction 310

Wade Boggs: "Magnitude" Is a Very Big Word 313

Ozzie Smith: Acrobatic Shortstop 315

Phil Niekro: Trying to Pitch Forever 318

Gaylord Perry: The Lonely Quest for Victory No. 300 322

Bert Blyleven and His Magical Beard 329

Jim Kaat Proving His Theories About Baseball Are Timeless 332

Part VIII 1990s-Artistry and Oddity 337

Jack Morris and John Smoltz: Game 7 Was a Gift from Above 337

Greg Maddux: Modern Art of Mastery on the Mound 340

No False Modesty for Henderson 343

Kirby Puckett Is a Rich Man 346

Ivan Rodriguez's Wedding Was Set for Home Plate, Until… 348

Ken Griffey Jr. Isn't Counting Homers (So He Says) 351

Roberto Alomar Has Shed His Baggage 354

Part IX 2000s-A Look Back and a Look to the Future 357

So Many Hits, So Much Time for Derek Jeter 357

A Final Salute-and Fireworks-as Ripken Bows Out 360

Piazza Will Be Catching Games, Not His Breath 364

Pedro Martínez Is Not Playing Favorites 367

Randy Johnson: Something Old, Something New 370

Frank Thomas: "The Big Hurt" Feeling Pained by His Contract 374

Mariano Rivera and the Snow 377

Don Sutton: A Dream That Wasn't So Dumb 378

Hall of Famers with the Flip Side of Greatness 380

Part X The Leadership Branches 385

Marvin Miller, the Nonpareil Bargainer 385

Joe Torre Knows Victory Isn't Everything 388

Earl Weaver's Mind Keeps Whirring 391

Sparky Anderson: Compassion Mixed with Foresight 393

Whitey Herzog: The White Rat Is Fiddling 396

Tommy Lasorda's Recipes for Winning and for Minestra E Fagioli 399

Leo Durocher: "The Lip" 402

Walter Alston: The Methuselah of Managers 404

Eddie Mathews: A Different Sort of Skipper 407

Bill Veeck: A Pied Piper 410

The Many Poses of Bowie Kuhn 413

Where Did Happy Chandler Stand on Jackie Robinson? 417

Part XI In the Writers' Wing of the Hall 421

Ring Lardner: Literary Trail Blazer 421

Red Smith: None Better 423

Jerome Holtzman: They Had Ice Cream Every Friday 431

Shirley Povich Dies at 92; Washington Post's Longtime Sports Columnist 434

A Formidable Foursome: Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon, Dick Young, Jim Murray 438

Roger Angell: "Summer Habits" 440

Part XII A Quintet of Sportscasters 443

Ralph Kiner's "Amazin" Interview with Casey Stengel 443

Harry Caray: Nearly a Part of the Playing Field 444

Tony Kubek on Don Mattingly: No Ring, No Matter 448

Jack Brickhouse and the Confessions of a One-Time Little Leaguer 449

Joe Garagiola: When Old Ballplayers Are in Need of Help 453

Part XIII A Few Who Knocked at the Hall Door, But Have Been Denied Entry 457

The Universe and the Case of Pete Rose 457

The Signed Confession of Shoeless Joe Jackson 460

Barry Bonds Blocks Out Controversy and Focuses on Hitting 463

Curt Schilling: Improving as a Pitcher, Improving as a Person 466

Alex Rodriguez Would Add, Not Subtract 470

Credits 475

Acknowledgments 477

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