posted on Feb, 3 2006 @ 08:27 PM
I just found a website with a list called "Baseball Biographies: Best Books on the Legendary Players."
Obviously this is just one person's opinion, and for my part I'll say I sharply disagree with him about the Lefty Grove biography, which in my view is
poorly written and mainly suitable for stats freaks. [Like Hootie and I can't take care of that stuff.] Reading it was a big disappointment for me,
especially given that both the author and I, like most baseball historians, consider Grove the greatest pitcher of all time.
But I have a lot of the books on this guy's list, and for the most part I think his choices and the order he puts them in are sound decisions. I
certainly agree with him about #1. Why he doesn't have the Oscar Charleston biography on here, I don't know.
For those of you interested in reading up on some baseball greats, here are the titles and authors, with bracketed info provided by me, where I think
it will be helpful:
1. Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, by Robert Creamer. [This is like picking "Hey Jude" as the greatest song of the 1960's, or "Stairway to Heaven"
as the greatest song of the 1970's. A lot of people may disagree, or even dislike it, but it's an overwhelming consensus choice as the greatest
sports bio ever... and for good reasons. I really urge everyone at this site to buy and read this book. It won't cost much, and I'm confident you'll
2. Walter Johnson: A Life, by Jack Kavanagh. [Be sure to get THIS one, not the horrible hagiography written by Johnson's grandson.]
3. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, by Jonathan Eig. [A powerful book about an inevitably emotional subject.]
4. Matty: An American Hero: Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants, by Ray Robinson. [Another inevitably emotional book, this one about the great
pitcher who won 373 games, lost but 188, and died in his mid-40's from the garbage he had to breathe in WW I.]
5. Lefty Grove: American Original, by Jim Kaplan. [See above.]
6. Ty Cobb, by Charles Alexander. [See my previous comments to Hootie about this scholarly, excellent book. A man who was as great a player and as
major a figure as Cobb deserves a great bio. This is the one.]
7. The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great, by Rick Hun. [I have never read this book, but Sisler was a guy who played in an absolute
paradise for left-handed hitters, STILL didn't hit many HR's, batted .340 for his career, but never walked and thus had a lower career on-base
percentage than Gene Tenace and a lot of other guys nobody gives a second thought to. Bill James calls him "the most overrated player in baseball
history." If it weren't for Roberto Clemente, I would agree. I hope Hun didn't spend much time on this project.]
8. Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. [I don't have this book, but it is said to trash DiMaggio from cover to cover. And being
from the same urban area as DiMaggio, it's my understanding he deserved it.]
9. Rube Waddell: The Zany, Brilliant Life of a Strikeout Artist, by Alan Howard Levy. [I am going to buy this book. This guy was an early day
Nolan Ryan, only with a lot more personality. He was, in essence, a goofball with a tremendous arm which some thought stronger than Walter Johnson's.
They were probably right, as Waddell had a better lifetime strikeout-to-innings-pitched ratio.]
10. Rogers Hornsby: A Biography (Baseball's All-Time Greatest Hitters), by Jonathan D'Amore. [This is most sympathetic portrait of Rogers Hornsby
you will ever have a chance to read.]
11. Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball, by Jerrold Casway. [Delahanty played from 1888-1903 and had a .346 career batting average. Like so
many early players, he was a revolting drunkard. One night in 1903, he got thrown off the team train at Niagara Falls. In a stupor, he walked
through an open drawbridge... and into Niagara Falls, thus avoiding the decline phase of his career.]
12. A Clever Base-Ballist: The Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward, by Bryan Di Salvatore.
13. Honus [Wagner]: The Life and Times of a Baseball Hero. [MANY baseball history experts, including Bill James, consider Wagner the second
greatest player of all time, or, now, the third greatest behind Ruth and that jackass in S.F. I don't agree and think Wagner was the third best of
the Dead Ball players, behind Cobb and Speaker.]
14. Shoeless: The Life and Times of Shoeless Joe Jackson, by David L. Fleitz.
15. John McGraw, by Charles Alexander. [The same Alexander who wrote the great book about Cobb. This book is nearly as good, and it's about a man
who: (i) is the consensus choice as the greatest manager ever; and (ii) had the third highest on-base percentage ever, albeit in a very, very
different era, prior to 1900.
16. Big and Little Poison: Paul and Lloyd Waner, Baseball Brothers, by Clifton Blue Parker. [Paul Waner was a great right fielder who is one of the
top 10 rightfielders ever, but not one of the top 5. Lloyd Waner was his brother, and that is just about the only reason he is in the Hall of Fame.
One of their worst selections, but not nearly the drunk Paul was.]
17. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence Ritter. [The famous book about Dead Ball players,
written while many of them were still alive.]
18. Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, by Leigh Montville. [This is a book which views Williams as a man who interrupted his career
twice to serve his country in war, and whom his fans adored. That makes for a great memory, but it's not true. Williams fought the Draft Board, even
during WWII, and many Boston fans HATED him for a long time, not least of all because of his penchant for making obscene gestures at them. Someday I
will reproduce everything Bill James wrote about how hated Williams was in his day. For now, suffice it to quote this portion of James' comment: "He
was a lot like Rogers Hornsby, whom he knew well and liked, and he is a lot like Bobby Knight, who is a close friend. He had a great deal more in
common with Ty Cobb than he did with Babe Ruth."
19. Rube Marquard: The Life and Times of a Baseball Hall of Famer, by Larry D. Mansch. [The worst, least-qualified pitcher in the Hall of Fame. As
such, he's never interested me enough to make me want to learn about him. Just know this: His career "Adjusted ERA" was only three percent
better than the league average during his years, with park adjustments. What a Hall of Famer, huh?]
20. Brooks Robinson, by Rick Wolff.
21. Cy Young: A Baseball Life, by Reed Browning.
22. Tinker, Evers, and Chance: A Triple Biography, by Gil Bogen. [A story of baseball's most famous double-play team and, again, some real dubious
Hall of Famers.]