Customer Reviews: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else
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on February 25, 2014
Can't say there's been a baseball book quite like this one before.

"Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends" is sort of like reading the diary of a fact checker. Neyer, a writer for and the author of some good baseball books, here takes an approach that must be unique. He has gone through all sorts of material -- autobiographies, other baseball books, newspaper accounts, television commentary, etc -- and tried to find out if they were true or not.

You'd expect that something like Babe Ruth's called shot is examined here, and it is ... in great detail. But all sorts of other stories are checked out, in no particular order. Neyer obviously put a lot of work into this project.

Let's take an example to show you what's going on here. Jim Palmer tells a story about charting a game involving teammate Mike Cuellar, who was facing the Minnesota Twins. Cuellar had given up a leadoff hit, with Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew coming up next. Palmer told manager Earl Weaver that Cuellar had thrown 135 pitches. Weaver responded by saying, "I'll let you know if he's tired."

Neyer went back through Cuellar's starts on Retrosheet, and discovered that Cuellar had 21 starts against the Twins while pitching for the Orioles. The author couldn't find anything that came close to matching that set of circumstances. Neyer concludes that while there's probably some bit of truth in there somewhere, he couldn't find specific evidence of it.

That's something of a theme for the book. The Internet is a great resource for such research these days. Neyer also has a huge baseball library, and access to records from the Society for American Baseball Research and the Hall of Fame (among others). So if Johnny Bench claimed in his autobiography that he caught a Gerry Arrigo pitch without a glove to make a point, you'd think it would have made some news at the time. But Neyer couldn't find it.

It's fun to follow Neyer along in these quests for correct information. He attacks a specific issue with logic and tenacity. But one question does come up while reading this: What's the point? Bill James even wonders about that, somewhat implicitly, in his introduction. James writes that it's good to remember personalities over times, even if the facts in the stories about them may not completely add up.

There's some fun in reading about a story from a 1936 baseball game and finding different accounts of the same incident spaced over time. Memory does do some strange tricks over the course of time. But does it work as a book?

Hmmm. "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends" may work for some. Just not for everyone. So read about it at, and then feel free to make a judgment.
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on April 5, 2011
Rob Neyer has really hit on a winning format. Anecdotes are either famous episodes and we learn something we didn't already know (like they're completely bogus) or the anecdotes are, perhaps, something we hadn't heard before. Either way, they are generally well-written none of the self-contained "Legend" really exceeds a few pages, so if you've got a short attention span (and who doesn't these days?), you can pick it up and put it down. All told, a very enjoyable book.
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on January 11, 2009
My first impression was that book would only be for baseball nerds who enjoy puncturing myths/good stories. But the style is not negative at all. The stories are good reads, many of which I'd never heard before and even if they don't always hold up to contemporary records, it's fun to read about what really happened.
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VINE VOICEon October 25, 2008
You can count on Rob Neyer for an interesting, informative and entertaining read when it comes to his Big Books. This is his third in the series (Lineups and Blunders being the first two). While it's interesting, I think it's the least interesting of the three. It's not necessarily Neyer's fault.

The premise of the book is that Neyer takes some legendary tales and tracks them down (much easier today thanks to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) retrosheet web site and some digitized newspapers), trying to prove whether or not they're true. And, if so, to what extent.

Sometimes it turns out the tale is basically true with just a few minor errors. But, who really cares whether the score was 6-5 instead of 5-4, whether the home run was hit in the third inning instead of the fifth inning or if the incident occurred in August rather than July?

Neyer and the book are at their best, however, when he proves a tale couldn't possibly have happened.

Here's an example: Pitcher Nellie Briles tells the story that shortly after he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was pitching in a game with the tying run on second base with two outs in the ninth inning. A left-handed pull hitter was at the plate, but second baseman Bill Mazeroski insisted upon playing up the middle, despite Briles' objections. The hitter singled through the hole, Clemente fielded the ball and threw out the potential tying run at the plate. After the game, Mazeroski explained to Briles that he and Clemente had been working on that play all year.

Sounds like a great story, but Neyer couldn't find any game where the situation closely resembled what Briles described.
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on April 16, 2010
While i really enjoyed Rob's book on Baseball Blunders, this one was not nearly as engaging. It is organized like his other books in what seems to be a series of articles and it is an approach that works well. What didn't work well for me was the occasional use of profanity which seemed forced and out of place and that the whole book is about disproving people's baseball stories. As a history teacher, I understand the need to debunk myths. But in baseball, the myths are part of what makes the game great and a book that's only goal is to point out the fact that they are not true seems to be more of a party pooper than a party.
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on January 2, 2010
Should be required reading for all citizens to demonstrate what my mom always said "don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see". Tedious in some places, a really good dissection of stories, some a hundred years ago and some only a few months or years old.
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on May 8, 2010
Without a doubt, this book is Rob Neyer's weakest. Time is lost reading about how he did some research on baseball facts, and time and time again he share the same tale of research...
You may learn a thing or two in there but the reading is rather laborious.
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on May 31, 2009
Rob does it again with this book. Tons of entertaining stories and myths, all impeccably researched and either confirmed or debunked. Think of it as a "Mythbusters" for baseball fans. Rob Neyer continues to be the best baseball writer and researcher around.
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on January 8, 2010
My favorite ESPN writer - love his books as well. This book is broken up into short chapters - best to read them in small sections rather than all at once. I love the premise - looking at anecdotes and then seeing if the facts really are true. (My favorite tidbit so far was the revelation by umpire Ken Kaiser that when a pitcher requested a new ball - he'd simply return the same ball. Only Jim Palmer (one my all time favorite players) ever noticed and called him out on it - hysterical)

The only problem is the formatting on the Kindle. Because there are stories within the stories, the chapters sometimes get broken up and you find yourself reading a totally different story without finishing the current one. It's a little disruptive - they could have formatted it so these mini-stories come after the main one.

Overall - another great read from Neyer.
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on June 11, 2008
If you believe the line out of the great western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend", then you might have some problems with this book. Rob Neyer obviously spent ALOT of hours checking on the validation of several player stories from past books and articles. He proves that either some players have faulty memories, or some players like to appear to have faulty memories to make themselves look more heroic in stories. Either way, the book is still a very good read, and whether a story is validated, somewhat validated, or plain shot to heck, the stories can still be enjoyable.
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