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The Biographical History of Baseball

The Biographical History of Baseball

by Donald Dewey, Nicholas Accocella, Nicholas Acocella

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This new, revised edition of The Biographical History of Baseball uses up-to-date statistical research to create the most accurate picture possible of the on-field accomplishments of players from earlier eras. It offers original summaries of the personalities and contributions of over 1,500 players, managers, owners, front office executives, journalists, and ordinary


This new, revised edition of The Biographical History of Baseball uses up-to-date statistical research to create the most accurate picture possible of the on-field accomplishments of players from earlier eras. It offers original summaries of the personalities and contributions of over 1,500 players, managers, owners, front office executives, journalists, and ordinary fans who developed this great American game into our national pastime. Each individual included has had an impact on the sport as mass entertainment or as a cultural phenomenon, as an athletic art or a business enterprise. It also includes for the first time entries on players like Sammy Sosa and Albert Belle, and expands on the entries for players like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds in order to demonstrate the impressive outburst of offense since the last edition.

But more important, this second edition of The Biographical History of Baseball uses more general research to paint the most accurate picture ever of the inner workings of baseball. For example, the entry on Hal Chase, baseball's all-time poster boy for corruption, chronicles for the first time the extent -- including perjury -- to which such baseball luminaries as National League president John Heydler and Giants manager John McGraw were willing to go to paint Chase as the fountainhead of all the gambling evils that infested the game in the early 20th century. And more recent examples include George W. Bush's (yes, that George W. Bush) incautious revelation that baseball teams keep two sets of books, one for internal consumption and the other to prove they were losing money; and Commissioner Bud Selig's caution-to-the-winds movement of franchises, owners, and millions of dollars like tokens in a board game, enriching members of the club while chanting the time-honored mantra of "the best interests of baseball."

This comprehensive Who's Who of baseball covers the game's outlaws, clowns, thieves, and hustlers -- on and off the field -- as well as statistics and engaging facts on every key player in history: Hall of Famers from Ty Cobb to Mike Schmidt; record holders from Cy Young to Anthony Young; heroic performances from Zip Zabel to Ichiro Suzuki. By using the individuals involved to retell every major moment in baseball's grand legacy, The Biographical History of Baseball provides a fascinating, personalized narrative that leads the reader through the detailed highlights of America's grandest sport.

Editorial Reviews

A history of America's national pastime through original summaries of the personalities and contributions of some 1,500 players, managers, owners, journalists, and fans involved in baseball. Entries are arranged alphabetically and include b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Carroll & Graf Edition

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The Biographical History Of Baseball

By Donald Dewey, Nicholas Acocella

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2002 Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57243-470-7



HANK AARON (Hall of Fame, 1982)

Aaron ultimately prevailed over the racist lunatics who threatened him during his pursuit of Babe Ruth's career home run record, but he has had a much more difficult time erasing the impression that his feat was a sequel to Ruth's achievement rather than an improvement upon it. Baseball's vested interest in promoting its all-time icon has also served to reduce Aaron to a one-dimensional slugger, obscuring not only his all-around skills as a player but also his significant role as the farm director of the Braves for many years. This is why Willie Mays and other contemporaries have continued to insist into the new century that the righthand-hitting outfielder with a drawerful of lifetime offensive records and a plaque in Cooperstown has remained the game's most underrated figure.

Aaron started out with the Milwaukee version of the Braves in 1954 after Bobby Thomson's broken ankle opened up a starting spot in the outfield. Over the next 23 years he batted .305, forging major league career records not only with his 755 homers, but also with his 2,297 RBIs, 6,856 total bases, 1,477 extra-base hits, and 15 years of scoring 100 runs, 15 seasons with 30 or more home runs, and 20 campaigns with at least 20. He averaged higher than .300 14 times, won hitting titles in 1956 and 1959, led National League batters in home runs and RBIs four times each, drove in 100 runs 11 times, had the most doubles four times, reached 200 hits three times, and had at least 40 home runs in eight years. His 3,771 lifetime hits trails only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. For all that, Aaron won merely one MVP award — in 1957 for leading the Braves to a pennant by pacing the NL in home runs (44), RBIs (132), and runs (118), batting .322, and slugging a round .600. It was also the first of three straight years that he won a Gold Glove as the league's premier defensive right fielder.

Although he eventually lost his franchise in fielding awards to Roberto Clemente, the Gold Gloves suggested Aaron's defensive qualities. Before tearing up a leg, he was also a superior baserunner with a full complement of Negro league abilities at forcing infielders to hurry throws and outfielders to make them to the wrong base. Aaron had only three opportunities to show off his talents under postseason pressures, but he made the most of them. In the 1957 World Series against the Yankees, he clouted three home runs and batted .393. In another meeting with the Yankees the following year, he batted .333. And against the Mets in the first NLCS in 1969, he homered in each of the three games. Especially during the feel-good years in Milwaukee, Aaron seldom called attention to anything but his playing. With the Braves move to Atlanta in 1966, however, the Alabama native began responding to inevitable questions about playing in the South by denouncing baseball's continuing aversion to hiring blacks as managers or general managers. After years of pooh-poohing reassurances that the situation was much better than it had been, he himself demonstrated it wasn't by attracting death threats for encroaching upon the "white man's record" in 1973. As bad as the poisonous scrawls and anonymous telephone calls were the ostensibly intelligent, objective discussions held on radio and television about whether the Ruth record should be broken. The climate was thick enough with hatred for the Atlanta Police Department to assign Aaron a bodyguard. To complicate matters further, he ended the 1973 season with only 713 homers — one shy of Ruth — so police surveillance had to be continued over the winter. With the Braves scheduled to open the 1974 season in Cincinnati, Aaron came under additional pressures when Atlanta owner William Bartholomay made it clear he wanted the outfielder benched for the contests at Riverfront Stadium so the Ruth record could be broken at home for attendance purposes. This brought a storm of criticism from traditionalists and prompted Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to intervene with an order to have Aaron in the lineup for the opener against the Reds. The slugger responded by tying the record with his 714th home run in his first swing in the ?rst inning, but that was it. Bartholomay got his wish when 53,775 poured into Fulton County Stadium on the cold and miserable night of April 8, 1974 and saw Al Downing of the Dodgers surrender number 715.

Only a few months after surpassing Ruth, Aaron got another lesson in baseball's race relations when Braves general manager Eddie Robinson ridiculed his candidacy as a successor to the ?red Eddie Mathews as manager; Robinson also broke with franchise tradition by giving Clyde King a multiyear contract, just in case Aaron got the idea that he would be a fallback choice in the immediate future. The King appointment effectively ended the outfielder's ties to the Braves as a player; he agreed to return to Milwaukee, to the American League Brewers, after the season. Clearly on his last legs, he generated mild interest as a gate attraction in 1975 but made it clear prior to the start of the 1976 campaign that it was going to be his last. As it developed, his career as an active player ended sourly. On the final day of the season he singled in his last plate appearance and was then removed by manager Alex Grammas for pinch-runner Jim Gantner. Gantner eventually scored with a run that would have enabled Aaron to break a tie with Ruth for second place in that category behind Cobb. Chagrined by Aaron's anger at having been lifted for Gantner, Grammas explained he had only wanted to give him one last chance to run off the field to a standing ovation.

After his retirement Aaron served for a number of years as farm director of the Braves. Those who didn't write him off as merely an emblematic presence altogether were hard put to credit him with the development of several prospects who directly or indirectly led to the revival of the franchise in the 1990s. On several occasions he also gave interviews putting his own name forward as a candidate for baseball commissioner; he never received a serious response.

By his own admission Aaron has never been able to separate his satisfaction at retiring as baseball's greatest home run-hitter from the hatred he and his family endured over the months leading up to the drive off Downing. Not only has he kept the ball that broke the record, but also some 500 letters warning him off belting number 714.


Abrams became the shame of Brooklyn when he was thrown out at the plate in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1950 season with what would have been a run forcing a special playoff between the Dodgers and the Phillies for the pennant. Over the years, the bang-bang play on Richie Ashburn's throw to home after Duke Snider's single has been alternately attributed to Abrams's small lead off second and third base coach Milt Stock's rashness in sending him to home plate. In fact, the outfielder had little choice trying to score since Pee Wee Reese, the runner behind him, was dashing up his back to get to third base.


Adam was honored by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society after the 2001 season for making his training staff on the Brewers the best in the major leagues. He received the award a few weeks after being fired by Milwaukee for not dealing adequately with the team's injuries.


Adams had as ?ashy a rookie year for the Pirates in 1909 as he had a messy end with the same club 17 years later. After a debut season that saw him win 12 games and post an ERA of 1.11, the righthander stunned Detroit in the World Series by throwing three complete-game victories for a Pittsburgh championship. Until 1926 he remained a mainstay of the team's staff, winning 20 games twice. In that final year, however, he became innocently involved in a bitter me-or-him showdown between coach Fred Clarke and outfielder Max Carey. The nub of the controversy was a Carey-led mutiny against Clarke's presence on the bench after the coach had compared his effectiveness to that of the team batboy. Although a majority of the team refused to back Carey and another outfielder, Carson Bigbee, in the revolt, and Adams himself voted to keep Clarke on the premises, the coach wouldn't leave well enough alone, insisting that owner Barney Dreyfuss get rid of all those opposed to him. Mainly because Adams was on record for saying "managers should manage and nobody else should interfere," the owner agreed with Clarke that the pitcher had also been part of the uprising. The upshot was that two of the A(dams) B(igbee) C(arey) Mutineers, as the Pittsburgh press branded them, were released, while Carey was sold to the Dodgers. The three players protested to National League president John Heydler, but Heydler, while absolving the trio of insubordination, also upheld an owner's right to get rid of any player he wanted to. Adams, 44 and near the end of his pitching effectiveness, didn't attempt to catch on with another team.


Among the candidates for the honorific title of Father of Baseball is Adams, a medical doctor and president of the Knickerbocker club from 1847 until 1862. As the head of the country's oldest baseball team, he was given the gavel at an 1857 convention of clubs, and in that role established nine innings (rather than 21 runs) as the duration of a game. After that first meeting seeded the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1858, Adams chaired the rules committee, and in his three years in the position set the distance between the bases at 90 feet and from the pitcher's box to home at 45 feet.

Adams had begun playing an early version of baseball in 1839 for exercise and amusement. He had a hand in making the Knickerbockers balls and bats, and claimed to have been the first to move into the shortstop position — less to improve infield defense than to make it easier to relay the relatively light balls of the day from the outfield.


Writing for New York's Evening Mail, Adams published one of baseball's most famous verses in 1910 under the title of "Baseball's Sad Lexicon." The work's popularity was key to the election of Cubs infielders Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance to the Hall of Fame; in fact, not one of the trio ever led the National League in double plays for his position. Adams's verse goes:

"There are the saddest of possible words —
Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Trio of bear Cubs and fleeter than birds
Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Thoughtlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double,
Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble —
Tinker to Evers to Chance."


Although not on a level with Hall of Fame teammates Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Adcock accomplished a number of prodigious slugging feats while playing for the Braves in the 1950s. His 336 career blasts included four in one game against the Dodgers, the first ball ever hit completely over the left field grandstand of Ebbets Field, and the first ball ever hit to the left-center field bleachers of the Polo Grounds (an officially estimated distance of 465 feet). In the July 31, 1954 game in which he hit Brooklyn pitchers for four home runs, he also clouted a double, setting a total bases record.

Adcock, a righthanded first baseman, also hit the "non-homer" that ended Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game on May 26, 1959; when he ran past Aaron on the bases in what he later admitted was a "daze," the hit was scored a double. As a pinch-hitter in his 17-year career with the Reds, Braves, Indians, and Angels, he established the best career ratio for home runs, hitting a four-bagger every 12.75 times he came off the bench.


An outfielder for Chicago in 1876, Addy is credited with being the first player to slide into a base. He apparently pioneered the technique while playing for the Forest City Club of Rockford, Illinois in the 1860s. A bit of an eccentric, Addy was forever contriving schemes he considered more worthy of his talents than conventional baseball; among them was an effort to popularize ice baseball in a Chicago skating rink he owned.


There have been many great catches made by outfielders in World Series games, but Agee has been the only one to make two in the same contest. Diving grabs of drives up the alley by Baltimore's Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair in the third game of the 1969 World Series saved the Miracle Mets in two crucial situations, helping pave the way to New York's eventual championship. Although usually slotted in the leadoff spot for his speed, Agee also had five straight years of more than 100 strikeouts, including a high of 156 in 1970. Only Bobby Bonds had a worse strikeout ratio among leadoff men.


Long before Deion Sanders was holding up the Braves for contract concessions that would allow him to play professional football, Ainge was lavished with the same rights by the Blue Jays so he could pursue basketball. In 1979 the high school star made it clear he preferred the court to the diamond, but Toronto was so insistent that it drew up a pact practically fitting baseball around the National Basketball Association schedule. After three partial seasons and a .220 batting average, Ainge dumped the major leagues for his first love.


Ainsmith's 15-year (1910–24) career as a backup catcher for the Senators and several other teams assumed secondary importance in 1918, when he appealed against being drafted into the military during World War I on the grounds that he was engaged in a patriotic endeavor since baseball was the national pastime. The appeal, engendered by Washington's Clark Griffith, prompted a ruling from Secretary of War Newton D. Baker that baseball was an inessential amusement, with all its players and personnel subject to the draft. Prior to the Ainsmith case players had been able to appeal their call-ups on a case-by-case basis. Earlier the same year Yankees pitcher Happy Finneran had successfully argued that his 10 years of professional baseball had left him unequipped for seeking another job after getting out of the service and that he had to play to maintain his standing. At the heart of both the Ainsmith and Finneran cases was baseball's refusal to ask for a special exemption as an essential public entertainment — as various branches of show business had. The ownership stance of asking the War Department to rule on a player-by-player basis aided Finneran but ultimately worked against Ainsmith and those called up after him.


By being traded from the Tigers to the Red Sox during the 1932 season, Alexander became the first major leaguer to win a batting crown while splitting time between two teams. His overall average of .367 could not have come as a surprise to Detroit, since he had batted .343, .326, and .325 in his earlier seasons with the club and had also driven in more than 130 runs in two of the three years. Pressed to explain the exchange for outfielder Roy Johnson, manager Bucky Harris said that he couldn't stand watching Alexander's ineptitude around first base. As it developed, Boston had little to crow about. In 1933 team physician Doc Woods decided to treat an Alexander leg injury with an innovative heat lamp treatment during a game but then got so caught up in a home team rally that he forgot about his patient. By the time he got back inside the clubhouse, Alexander had third-degree leg burns that later degenerated into gangrene. That was the end of his career.

GROVER CLEVELAND ALEXANDER (Hall of Fame, 1938) There weren't many things that Alexander didn't accomplish during his 20-year (1911–30) career — and not many that he wasn't forced to do afterward because of his physical ailments and his alcoholism. If the righthander had one statistical shortcoming, it was his failure to snatch the 374th victory that would have broken his tie with Christy Mathewson as the National League's all-time winner.

Alexander's biggest numbers include: six years of leading the NL in wins, five in ERA, six in complete games, six in strikeouts, seven years in shutouts (including a record-setting 16 in 1916), nine years of at least 20 wins (including three seasons in a row of more than 30, in which he also set the pace in ERA and strikeouts to take the pitching Triple Crown). Between 1915 and 1917 he rolled up 94 victories, while his ERAs between 1915 and 1920 were 1.22, 1.55, 1.83, 1.73, 1.72, and 1.91. Most astonishing, he achieved these numbers while pitching all but three of his seasons in hitter-friendly Baker Bowl and Wrigley Field.

As smooth as his accomplishments often appeared between the lines, Alexander had a full quota of off-the-field demons. Even before joining the Phillies, he had to battle attacks of double vision to win 29 games for a minor league Syracuse team. Toward the end of the 1917 season he made the mistake of informing Philadelphia's money-grubbing owner William Baker that he was about to be drafted and was promptly sold to the Cubs. An accident while in military uniform rendered him deaf in one ear and prone to epileptic seizures — both conditions strengthening his dependence on the bottle. For a few years Alexander kept all his disabilities at bay, winning two ERA crowns and posting two 20-win seasons for the Cubs, but by 1926 he was reeling off the field more frequently than he was reeling off victories on it. Waived to the Cardinals, he had enough left not only to provide key victories down the stretch for a St. Louis pennant, but also to hurl two complete-game wins in the World Series against the Yankees and then make a dramatic relief appearance in the seventh inning of the final game to strike out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded.


Excerpted from The Biographical History Of Baseball by Donald Dewey, Nicholas Acocella. Copyright © 2002 Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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