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Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else Paperback – April 1, 2008
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Author of "Liar's Poker" and "Moneyball"
Rob Neyer is one of those writers who can make his subject more interesting than anyone ever imagined it could be. He has written a delightful book for ardent baseball fans, but even people with a casual interest in baseball will find something to think about here.
"Rob Neyer is the best of the new generation of sportswriters. He knows baseball history like a child knows his piggy bank. He knows how to pick it up and shake it and make what he needs fall out."
-- Bill James
About the Author
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"Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends" is sort of like reading the diary of a fact checker. Neyer, a writer for ESPN.com 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).Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
....the quote from John Ford's movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence". That quote is :"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Always. Read morePublished on May 20, 2014 by Joe Mugsy
A nice book about baseball stories. Not in depth enough for me. Too abbreviated. Nothing to tie them together. Get a different book if you want something special.Published on February 18, 2013 by roseramsey
This book while being somewhat humorous was really just a collection of useless trivia about our national game.
I was definitely not overwhelmed.
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... Read morePublished on May 8, 2010 by Marc Ranger
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. Read morePublished on January 8, 2010 by Jaytodd13
ROB NEYER DOES COVER MANY BIG AND SMALL STORIES AND MADE UP STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION OF BASEBALL TALES. Read morePublished on October 18, 2009 by COOL JEWEL