Talking Baseball

Nov. 02, 1998
Nov. 02, 1998

Table of Contents
Nov. 2, 1998

Faces In The Crowd
Pro Basketball [bonus Piece]

Talking Baseball

The Glory of Their Times
By Lawrence S. Ritter
HighBridge Audio, $29.95 for cassette volume ($39.95 for CD)

This is an article from the Nov. 2, 1998 issue Original Layout

When Glory, subtitled The Story of the Early Days of Baseball
Told by the Men Who Played It, was published in 1966, it was
instantly and justifiably acclaimed as a classic of baseball
literature, a brilliantly conceived oral history of the game's
antiquity. Now, through the good offices of producers Henry
Thomas and Neil McCabe (themselves baseball authors of repute),
the oral history has turned aural.

When Lawrence Ritter, then a professor of finance at New York
University (now emeritus), set off in the early 1960s to tape
the recollections of ballplayers who starred in the early
decades of the century, he envisioned not only a written but
also a recorded version of his labors. In fact, Ritter did make
a single-disc LP album that is now a collector's item. Alas, of
the 100 hours of conversation Ritter had with the surprisingly
glib old-timers, the technology of the time allowed only
snippets to be heard above background clatter. Don't fault
Ritter, who used a state-of-the-art Tandberg recorder that
picked up sounds of all kinds. It is the current technology of
noise reduction that allowed the producers to eliminate most of
the jarring background clatter. Now, in this newly released
audio book, more than five hours of these memorable interviews
have been recaptured. For this, baseball fans and, for that
matter, anyone with an interest in American history should be
forever in the author's and the producers' debt.

On these tapes we hear a stentorian Smoky Joe Wood, then in his
mid-70s, agonize over the sore arm that virtually terminated his
amazing pitching career after a 34-5 season in 1912: "I used to
love to throw; just rear back and let 'er go." Here too is
84-year-old Sam Crawford deploring the bigotry of his teammate
Ty Cobb and depicting the star's enormous ego. Cobb, he tells
us, "wrote a book. Too much 'I' in there, I thought.... Cobb
wanted to be the whole thing. All the time. All the time."
Listen to Goose Goslin chuckling over the altitude achieved by
even a routine Babe Ruth fly ball: "By the time it come down,
you'd be dizzy lookin' for it."

Not all the ballplayers from the original book are included, but
here is Chief Meyers reciting with theatrical gusto Casey at the
Bat. And Fred Snodgrass, himself a 1912 World Series goat,
sympathizing with teammate Fred Merkle for his "bonehead" play
that cost the Giants the 1908 pennant: "Merkle was just a

There is a purity to these recollections, a pervading sense of
joy expressed by men who, in contrast to today's plutocrats,
proudly proclaim again and again, "I'd have played for nothing."
These tapes are truly a found treasure.

--Ron Fimrite

COLOR PHOTO: HIGHBRIDGE AUDIO [Cover of audio book The Glory of Their Times]