Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It

Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It

Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It

Baseball When the Grass Was Real: Baseball from the Twenties to the Forties Told by the Men Who Played It

Synopsis

Donald Honig crossed the country to meet and interview former big-league ball players. They shared their memories with him and the result is a book packed with nostalgia, statistics, action, revelations-an extraordinary oral history of baseball in the halcyon days beween the two world wars. Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Dizzy Dean, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, and many others are brought to life through the recollections of Wes Ferrell, Charlie Gehringer, Elbie Fletcher, Bucky Waters, Billy Herman, Cool Papa Bell, Spud Chandler, Pete Reiser, and a host of others. Those were the days when the grass was real, salaries were modest, Bob Feller was America's most famous seventeen-year-old, and idealism was in full swing. "Baseball builds your pride," said pitcher Wes Ferrell, who played it in order "to be a better guy."

Excerpt

Anyone familiar with Lawrence Ritter classic The Glory of Their Times will recognize immediately the inspiration for the present book. As were thousands of others, I was both charmed and entertained by Larry's book and, like thousands of others I'm sure, wished he would do another, telling the stories of the players who followed those whose memories he had so superbly recorded.

Most of the players interviewed in The Glory of Their Times were born before the turn of the century; consequently, their stories reflected a game and a society, too, that have undergone vast changes. With the passage of time and the mellowing of memories, I felt another collection of baseball reminiscences was justified, recording the stories of players of a later era. For several years I urged Larry Ritter to do another book. For various reasons, he couldn't. I persisted. Finally he said to me, "Why don't you do it?" The suggestion was too tempting to ignore.

So in the spring of 1974 I set out across the country to meet and talk with former big-league ballplayers. Predictably, there was no pattern to where they lived and what they were doing. I found them in big cities and in small towns; some were retired, some employed outside baseball, and some still maintained their affiliation with baseball in one capacity or another. Spud Chandler, Billy Herman, and Clyde Sukeforth are scouts; Pete Reiser in 1974 was coaching for the Chicago Cubs. With all of them, however, baseball was never far from their thoughts. They follow the game today, and their memories of their own playing days are bright and vivid. And their willingness to share these memories made interviewing them a pleasurable experience.

Their careers extended from the early 1920's to, in a few cases, the 1950's. The greatest emphasis, however, is on the 1930's, an era bound on the one side by Babe Ruth and Lefty Grove and by Ted Williams and Bob Feller on the other. It was the time of the Depression and the approach of a world war, both of which baseball survived, a rock of stability and diversion in times of great turmoil and upheaval.

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