Sports Collectors Digest, Vintage Books Section

Long Overdue Biography of Babe Ruth Rang True
In this centennial year of Babe Ruth’s professional and Major League debut, it is interesting to note that the first book about him was not published until 1930, by which time he was already one of the most recognized people in America. more

You Know Me Al
It’s been nearly a century since Ring Lardner introduced America to a smart-ass ballplayer named Jack Keefe, and readers were able to get inside Keefe’s head with letters he wrote to his pal Al Blanchard back in their hometown of Bedford, Indiana. This was all before Babe Ruth, the lively ball, the Black Sox and radio. more

This Great Game
It was 1971, the start of Major League baseball’s 11th decade, and MLB published what was essentially its’ first “coffee table” book, a handsome volume called This Great Game. This was a major feat for baseball, which had never been particularly astute in marketing itself.  more

Pete Palmer
From 1951 until its 10th and final edition in 1979, the Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson was the standard of baseball research in encyclopedic form, even it the stats were limited to games and either batting average or won-lost record. more

NYT Best-sellers, 2012 edition, for Vintage Books SCD
Twenty-eight baseball books made the New York Times best-seller list in the decade of the 2000s (great than the total from 1935-1999). There have been nine so far in the 2010s. Fans are buying baseball books like never before. more

“This year, 1919, is the greatest season of them all.” So said Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, in his biography, “Commy,” published just months before the Black Sox lost the World Series and nearly destroyed the public trust in baseball when eight of its players conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series. more

Bucky Harris
Harris is a somewhat forgotten figure in baseball history, but half a century ago, he was one of the best-known in the game, and at the time, fourth among all managers in career victories. more

Bean and the Cod
As Fenway Park approaches its 100th anniversary in 2012, I turned recently to a long forgotten book from 1947, which glorified the Red Sox franchise long before it became the darling of literary society and the focal point of a “Red Sox Nation” concept. The book was called The Red Sox: The Bean and the Cod, and if you grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s as a Red Sox fan, it was “must reading,” because there wasn’t much else. more

Bill Shannon
The New York sports scene was rocked in late October by the death of Bill Shannon, 69, at a fire in his New Jersey home. Shannon was one of those fellows you thought would go forever, and in fact, never even considered what his age might be. He was best known to New Yorkers as the lead official scorer at both Yankee and Met games – he’d been doing it since 1979 – and so occasionally, if a controversial call came up, the broadcasters might mention his name. more

McGraw/ 30 Years
The Giants world championship last fall, their first in San Francisco, had people recalling how few World Series this storied franchise had actually won over its long history. Even the great John McGraw, the team’s legendary manager, won only three World Series in his ten appearances in the post-season, which would surprise most people.  more

Milton Gross/ Yankee Doodles
In preparing a forthcoming volume on the history of the Yankees, I recently stumbled on a fairly obscure book published in 1948, which, it turns out, was a little gem of a book! The reason for it’s high rating is that the author, Milton Gross, was a top rate journalist, part of a hustling team of New York Post sportswriters who would come into their own in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, but by 1948 was already taking shape. more

Before they slipped into their current funk, the Baltimore Orioles were considered one of the classiest, best-run organizations in baseball by those who worked in the game. And as if often the case with such reputations, published material, either by the team or by outsiders reflected that. more

The original Mets, the 1962 reincarnation of National League baseball in New York, the team that lost 120 games and played in the Polo Grounds, is a team now glorified in New York folklore and sports history. No expansion team since has managed to win over so many fans with such horrendous play.  more

Mel Allen
I wonder sometimes if Mel Allen would get hired today to broadcast baseball. I mean, today’s top broadcasters come loaded with situational stats and the benefit of well spoken colormen, and the ability to brush up on opponents by easily following other teams on the Internet in the days before the games begin. more

Big Mac
And now, a word about Big Mac. I’ve been spending a lot of time at lately, finding new twists and turns, and admiring all that it includes. What a fabulous site it is.  more

It’s been ten years since Harold Rosenthal passed away at 85, and those of us who attended his memorial service (quite a literary affair), still miss the rascal and still grouse about the New York Times not deeming him worthy of an obituary. He was a giant on the New York sports scene for decades, and was even an impact player in retirement, with his letters and occasional columns always stirring up good conversation. more

Jimmy Piersall
Jimmy Piersall was in the news recently, with some memories stirred over a loony event from 1963 when he hit his 100th home run – and ran the bases backwards. more

Daguerreotypes. Funny name, yes? Da-GUR-e-o-types. Daguerreotypes of Great Stars of Baseball. It was a terrific book in its day, and an argument could be made that it would still be, if updated. But it’s been nearly 20 years since the last edition. more

The Ultimate Baseball Book
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of “The Ultimate Baseball Book”, and after 30 years, it still does a good job at holding onto that title.It’s not a statistical wonder, and there have been other fine coffee table books published since, but using the word “ultimate” was a great marketing tool, and no one who has bought this book has ever felt shortchanged. more

SF Giants Oral History
With the publishing industry entering rough seas during our nation’s recession, (let me know when we can start calling it Great Depression II), many authors of marginally mainstream books are finding happiness in the world of self-publishing.  more

Red & Green Books
Baseball America’s Almanac stands alone as the hard copy annual Guide, and who knows how long that will last. More and more publications are abandoning hard copies in favor of online only versions. more

The Phillies
While baseball celebrates the success of the Philadelphia Phillies and their 2008 world championship, it is interesting to recall – especially for younger fans – how sad this franchise’s history has generally been. more

Hank Greenberg Saluted with Cooperstown Ceremony
The 75th anniversary of Hank Greenberg’s rookie season was celebrated with a day-long symposium and film screening at the Baseball Hall of Fame on June 29, which also featured the introduction of two Greenberg-related collectibles. more

Farewell Yankee & Shea
Doesn’t it seem like to earth should shake a little when the last out is recorded in Yankee Stadium next fall? Or when the (I can hardly say it) wrecking ball hits. more

Douglass Wallop
I noticed recently that a new version of Damn Yankees was back on the stage in New York. It’s a terrific play that never seems to grow tired, and it gets revived every 15 years or so and finds new audiences. more

The Red Sox
We always hear that the Red Sox attract the most literary attention and bring out the finest in writers whether from the world of sports, or outside of it. Think Stephen King, David Halberstam or John Updike. That is part of what we now know as Red Sox Nation – a gathering place in sports for the nation’s literati. more

Jerome Holtzman
Growing up with The Sporting News as a bible (it was, after all, the “Bible of Baseball”), those of us of the right age were exposed on a weekly basis to the baseball columns of Dick Young, Joe Falls, Jim Murray, Bob Addie, Shirley Povich, Melvin Durslag, Leonard Koppett, Jerome Holtzman, Furman Bisher and others. more

Charles Alexander
When you think about it, I guess we don’t really need biographies written for every member of the Hall of Fame. The story of Joe Kelley, for instance, who played 1891-1908 and went into the Hall of Fame in 1971, is one we seem to have managed without just fine. more

Connie Mack
I was recently researching some facts about the 1950 season, which was Connie Mack’s last as a manager. It has always struck me as fascinating that rookie Whitey Ford actually pitched in the major leagues with Connie Mack in the opposing dugout. In Mack’s first year as a manager, 1894, he managed against King Kelly. Talk about spanning the generations. more

The Mitchell Report
I needed several days to digest all of the Mitchell Report material and decide how I felt about it, and how it will affect baseball. And now, several days later, there is still too much information to process. I feel somewhat overwhelmed by it all. more

Phil Rizzuto
The recent passing of Phil Rizzuto, at 89 the oldest living Hall of Famer, brought back so many wonderful memories for me. It was hard to think of Scooter – even in the week he passed away – without a smile. more

Who’s Who In Baseball
It being the week before Opening Day, I stopped at my local magazine store and purchased the 2008 edition of “Who’s Who in Baseball.” I’ve been doing this now for 47 years, but this is the 93rd edition, as it says on the cover, so I am sure there are others with a longer streak going. more

Israel Bronx
I had the pleasure of being part of two rather extraordinary events within days of each other recently, with both getting a lot of interest from baseball fans. First, I was on a public relations assignment to Israel for the launch of the first pro baseball league in the Middle East – the Israel Baseball League. more

Sol White
So King Solomon White is in the Baseball Hall of Fame! What do you know! I was thinking of doing a column on Sol White’s “History of Colored Baseball” one of these days, and bang, he becomes one of the 17 with Negro League roots to go into the Hall of Fame! more

Phil Pepe has averaged almost a book a year wrapped around a journalism and broadcasting career that goes back to 1954 when he began working part-time for the New York World Telegram & Sun. more

False Spring
We lovers of baseball books grew up clinging to every word in Jim Brosnan’s two diaries and to Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” but in 1975 came a different sort of first person account, one that might have been titled, “Portrait of a Baseball Failure.” more

Ross Newhan
Imagine being a pitcher and having a year so dominating, that they move the mound back ten feet the following season. Not just for you, but for everyone, and you’re the reason. You’re just too good for the game, and it can’t continue under existing standards without too many people striking out. Moving the mound changes the course of baseball forever, and it’s all your doing. more

Bowie Kuhn
Memoirs by baseball’s handful of commissioners are important volumes for students of baseball history, but they have generally been a mixed bag in terms of satisfying our curiosities. more

Who was grumpy about baseball way back in 1962? The answer is Rogers Hornsby, that ol’ .358 lifetime hitter, 7-time batting champion, two-time MVP, and probably the best second baseman in the game’s history, who by then had put 48 years in as a player, manager, coach and scout. more

Book of Baseball
It’s been 96 years since baseball had its first “coffee table” book, a term that didn’t even exist during the Taft administration. Today, coffee table books about baseball are turned out all the time, but it was a breakthrough then and it was called “The Book of Baseball: From the Earliest Day to the Present Season.” more

Sporting News Baseball Guides
Quietly, like the passing of Oldsmobiles, Hydrox cookies and sports cartoonists, the Sporting News Official Baseball Guides passed from the scene this year. more

Books on Commissioners
Memoirs by baseball’s handful of commissioners are important volumes for students of baseball history, but they have generally been a mixed bag in terms of satisfying our curiosities. more

World of Baseball
Almost 15 years ago, a beautiful set of baseball books was introduced, intended to be sold as a continuing series, to number 20 volumes when complete, and to take its place among the more handsomely designed books on the game ever issued. more

Tom Meany was one of the gentleman writers of baseball in the mid-section of the 20th century, whose books and magazine articles were a staple of what the nation’s fans of the time seemed to demand: good reporting, nothing too controversial, writing designed to harbor baseball as the National Pastime. more

Lee Allen
If you haven’t noticed, the classic pitching windup is a goner. With the exception of Hideo Nomo, there really aren’t any pitchers who bring their hands over their head prior to delivery, an act that managed to survive for more than a century but has quietly all but vanished from the baseball landscape. more

Bronx Zoo
The Yankees’ Sparky Lyle was the first relief pitcher to ever win the American League Cy Young Award. A few days after the award was announced, the Yanks went out and signed Goose Gossage to take his job. more

Branch Rickey
Branch Rickey, one of the most influential figures in baseball history, never wrote his autobiography. We have autobiographies from Joe Charboneau, Bo Belinsky, and Eldon Auker, but nothing from the man who integrated baseball, created the farm system, and allowed 13 runners to steal while catching for the New York Highlanders in 1907 (still an American League record). more

Fireside Books of Baseball
The recent publication of “Baseball: A Literary Anthology” by the Library of America (edited by Nicholas Dawidoff) has been hailed as one of the best new baseball books of the year, but to many, it really recalls those wonderful “Fireside Books” edited by Charles Einstein beginning almost half a century ago. What fun they were! more

Saddest of Possible Words: Tinker to Evers to Chance
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the appearance in a Cubs box score of a double play marked 6-4-3, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” It would be six years before Franklin P. Adams immortalized the three by writing a poem about them in the New York World under the title “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.” more

Joe Garagiola: Baseball is a Funny Game
As best as I can determine, the first baseball book to ever hit the New York Times best seller list was “Baseball is a Funny Game” by Joe Garagiola, published in 1960. more

Robert Smith & Jack Rosenberg
This is a little column about two baseball pictorial history books I always liked. There is a lot of repetition between them, but you can only tell the story in so many ways. The best part for me, certainly, were the wonderful photos – hundreds of them, all black and white – that defined early baseball for me. more

Bob Feller & Stan Musial
The sad passing of Ted Williams reduces to just two, the last of the ‘immortals of baseball’, players who were already stars before Jackie Robinson integrated pro baseball and took us into the post-war, modern era. more

Evolution of Baseball Encyclopedias
Long before lovers of baseball stats fell in love with Total Baseball and before that, The Baseball Encyclopedia (“Big Mac,” after MacMillan, the publisher), there were three important works that preceded it. And although they are long out of date and as such, not especially important anymore, they were the roots from which Big Mac and Total Baseball emerged. It is worth remembering them. more

Don Honig & David Voigt
We recently caught up with the man who may be the most prolific of all baseball authors, Donald Honig. more

Collective Works of Babe, Lou, Joe & Mickey
It sounds like a joke, right?“ The Collective Works of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.” more

Harold Seymour
A few months ago we did a column on the late Gene Schoor, the prolific author of sports biographies. In the article, we cited a similar author of the times, Milton Shapiro, and made note of a lawsuit involving his biography of Warren Spahn, which seemed to bring an end to the Messner biographies many of us enjoyed in the ‘50s and ‘60s. more

Ray Robinson’s Baseball Stars Series
One of the best series of baseball paperbacks was the long-running “Baseball Stars” books, which began in 1950 and ended in 1975. more

Putnam Team Histories
Shortly after Lou Gehrig’s tragic death in 1941, sportswriter Frank Graham approached G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a New York-based publisher, with an idea for a Gehrig biography. The result, “A Quiet Hero,” was one of their major successes for the next two decades, went to more than 20 printings, and was practically required reading for schoolboys. more

Glory of Their Times
Two score and two hernias ago, Lawrence Ritter, a professor of economics and finance at NYU, set forth on a 75,000-mile journey that would lead to the publication of what is arguably the finest baseball book ever written. more

Gene Schoor
It was in fourth grade that I did a book report on Mickey Mantle of the Yankees by Gene Schoor. more

Who’s Who in ML Baseball
Of all the “classic” early baseball books still to be found at pricey used book stores and through antiquarian dealers, an 8 ½ x 11, hardcover volume from 1933 remains one of the most handsome and informative reference works ever associated with the game. more

Eight Men Out
One of the amazing things about the wonderful book “Eight Men Out” is that it was the first book written about the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, and it took 44 years to get the story told. more

Great Players, Great Games
When Willie McCovey broke into the big leagues on July 30, 1959, he smacked two singles and two triples in his debut game, and by the next day, the whole nation was talking about Willie McCovey. more

Only The Ball Was White
In the history of baseball literature, few books were able to break new ground as did “Only the Ball Was White,” written by Robert Peterson and published by Prentice-Hall in 1970. more

Growing Up on Babe, Ty & Lou
I meet a lot of fans today who tell me the first baseball book they remember falling in love with was Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. Those would be fans who are in their 40s now or just about getting there. more

Ken Smith
When we watch the sensational fielding in Major League Baseball today, perhaps all the more remarkable because of the risk players throw themselves into despite their guaranteed contracts and enormous wages, we have to wonder, “Can it get any better?” more

Bob Creamer/Babe Ruth
The best baseball biography ever written, for my money, was BABE: The Legend Comes to Life, by Robert W. Creamer. more

A Day in the Bleachers
The Willie Mays catch. No further explanation is really needed, is it? Any baseball fan who can talk about the great plays in history knows about that over-the-shoulder, back-to-the-plate catch Willie made in Game One of the 1954 World Series (not to mention the throw that followed), and knows it was one for the ages. more

John Durant
I have a feeling we are going to see baggy baseball uniforms again in my lifetime. Or maybe in yours. Call it the “whatever goes around” syndrome, but they can only be tight or baggy, and it just seems to me that the black culture or the Latin culture are going to bring this to baseball just as Chris Webber and his teammates at Michigan changed the look of basketball uniforms in the early ‘90s. more

Maury Allen
Maury Allen’s 36th book, Brooklyn Remembered, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers’ only world championship in Brooklyn. Maury has been so closely identified with the Mets over the years, that we found it necessary to ask which was his favorite franchise – the “Bums” or the “Amazins.” more

Dick Young
More than a half century ago, A.S. Barnes and Company, a champion in the publication of baseball books, created an annual series with biographies of the winners of the MVP Awards. more

Marc Okkonen
The recent World Series pairing of the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox found a lot of columnists and commentators recalling the strange history of the uniforms worn by the two teams. From the Astros “Colt 45 revolver” uniforms at their inception, to the rainbow Cesar Cedeno era jerseys, there was plenty to smile about. As for the Sox, they were the first team to wear “throwback” uniforms – and fulltime at that – when the 1976 team took on the look of the 1902 team. more

Bklyn Dodgers
The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers only world championship (The Marlins have already won two!) also creates an opportunity to look back at some of the literature surrounding this colorful franchise. more

Jim Brosnan
It’s been 60 years since he signed his first pro contract (at age 16!), and 46 years since the publication of “The Long Season”, but Jim Brosnan’s place in the hearts of admirers of baseball literature remains secure. more

NY Times Best Sellers
Here’s something for book collectors to ponder: would it make an interesting collection to have a copy of every baseball book to ever make The New York Times best seller list? more