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Showing 1-10 of 13 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 20 reviews
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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VINE VOICEon March 29, 2008
This is the third of Neyer's "Big Books" and, I think, the best. (His Big Book of Baseball Lineups and Big Book of Baseball Blunders are also quite good - as is his lesser known Feeding the Green Monster; The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers is his one clinker.) In this book, he takes a large number of baseball "legends" and discusses whether or not they are true. I put legends in quotation marks because, although he includes an account of whether Babe Ruth really called that home run during the 1932 World Series and a few other famous incidents, most of the entries are really more stories than legends. Many are from autobiographies, newspaper or magazine stories, or sometimes just casual remarks made by television or radio play-by-play announcers. I really like Neyer's approach. Rather than just tell us what someone claims Bob Feller or Willie McCovey or Bob Gibson said or did, and then give us a quick summary of the results of his research - which would have resulted in a pretty short book - he takes several pages to relate what information is available to check the story, the blind alleys he went up, and the different approaches he took to confirm or refute the story. This more leisurely approach gives the reader a good feel for the variety of sources that exist for doing research on the history of baseball and also provides more context for each story - most of which are really not about earthshaking events. As it turns out, most of the stories he checks were at least roughly true, with only a relatively few apparently having been made up out of whole cloth.

One caveat: like many books of this sort, this one is best read a few entries at a time spread out over a couple of weeks, rather than in one sitting. Finally, I found his discussion of Lawrence Ritter's oral history of early twentieth century baseball, The Glory of Their Times, to be particularly interesting. Although Ritter claimed that his book reproduced his interviews with baseball's early stars with very little editing, in fact, after comparing the book to CDs of the interviews Neyer finds that Ritter did substantial rewriting. Although Neyer argues that on balance Ritter's improving the old players' reminiscences was acceptable, I think it raises some interesting questions about the distinctions between a "good story" and a "true story" - which, I suppose, is the distinction that lies at the heart of Neyer's book.
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on March 15, 2017
The book arrived promptly, and I enjoyed it very much.
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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 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 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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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 July 17, 2008
This is the perfect gift for the man or woman you know who has enjoyed baseball all of their lives. Whether reading about the famous players or actually having lived during their times, it brings it all vividly home to the reader. There are wonderful anecdotes and stories and scenes painted for those legends that grow only stronger over time.
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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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on May 30, 2015
Pretty Good Book !
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