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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon March 12, 2001
This is a book that is near and dear to the hearts of most baseball fans, frequently cropping up on lists of the best baseball books of all time. Inspired by the example of Alan Lomax, who recorded old blues singers down South in the 1930's, and motivated by the recent death of Ty Cobb, Lawrence S. Ritter, an economist and New York University professor by trade, spent several years (1961-66) tracking down and interviewing old ballplayers, recording their memories of the game for posterity before they too passed away. The book presents these sessions as extended monologues, alternately amusing, proud, defensive, and wistful recollections of their own careers, of the times they played in, and of the characters they knew.
But now, as if the book weren't enough, the tape recordings of the actual interviews are available in audiobook form. Each is introduced by Ritter, who came to know many of the players quite well. And in his introduction, Ritter reveals that it was only years after the project that it occurred to him that one of the things driving him was the death of his own father. Recapturing the memories of the players his father had loved served as a final filial connection.
The interviews include those with : "Wahoo" Sam Crawford, "Rube" Marquard, "Chief" Meyers, Hans Lobert, "Smokey" Joe Wood, Davy Jones, Ed Roush, and Fred Snodgrass. The stories they tell range from Hans Lobert racing a horse around the bases while barnstorming through Oxnard, California, to Fred Snodgrass defending his infamous muff; to a first hand account of the beaning death of Ray Chapman at the hands of Carl Mays; and finally a wonderful recital of Casey at the Bat by Chief Meyers. At the end of many of the interviews Ritter asked the old timers if they had any regrets, and not a single man did : of how few professions would this be true ?
I can't recommend the book highly enough and even if you've read it several times, be sure to give the audio a listen. This is oral history at its very best and an invaluable resource for baseball fans. It does for all of us what Ritter only belatedly realized it was doing for him, it provides a vital connection to an earlier time, to the world of our fathers and grandfathers. It is truly wonderful.
GRADE : A+
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