Top Baseball Reference Work: "Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia"
Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review
(May 10, 2000)
Just off the presses and in time for browsing,
referencing or use an armchair television companion - - "Baseball:
The Biographical Encyclopedia" (Total/ Sports Illustrated, $49.95,
1298pp.) is a super compendium that cross references generations of
personalities from more than 150 years as our national pastime.
From Aaron to Earnshaw to Katt through Saberhagen
through Waddell to Yount to Zisk and including 2,000 others, this clearly
and carefully organized publication offers in depth essays on those who
have been part of baseball including the Negro Leagues.
Entries are capsule histories of subjects: birth and
death dates and sites, major league debut dates, career stats and essays
on careers. There are also many historic thumbnail photographs and
some lively illustrations by artist Andy Nelson.
Authors Dave Pietrusza, Mathew Silverman and the late
Michael Gershman (to whom the book is dedicated) have amassed much
information on the legendary performers and also on some individuals whose
time in the majors was limited.
The book is a veritable feast for those with a love of
the game and its stats and stories. Side by side on page 389 are Eddie
Gaedel and Gary Gaetti - an unlikely pair to be paired but both deserving
of inclusive. The 3'7" 60 pound Gaedel's major league career
consisted of one major league appearance - a four pitch walk.
Gaetti's major league debut was that a long ago September 20,1981 and he
survived through spring training 2000. He was one of just 40 players to
appear in over 2,500 games.
Arranged in alphabetical order, "Baseball: The
Biographical Encyclopedia" also showcases some owners, team
executives, media personalities and all nine baseball commissioners.
All of the entries have personality at work which makes
this book nit only an excellent research tool but also a book that is fun
to read. The entry on Rocky Colavito, for example, begins: "When
Cleveland general manager Frank "Trader" Lane traded Indians
idol and American League home run champ Rocky Colavito for league batting
champion Harvey Kuenn, he had no idea what a firestorm of protest he would
unleash. "They wanted to lynch me," said Lane.
There will be no one who will want to do any
"lynching" of the authors or any of those involved with
"Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia" It
is a mighty effort, detailed yet manageable, selective yet inclusive. It
is a worthy companion to "Total Baseball," the signature
reference book of Total/ Sports Illustrated.
Not wanting to be picky, I would be remiss as a reviewer
if I did not point out the following. A work of this nature with all the
juggling of facts and figures is bound to have some errors - - and there
are some. The most glaring is in the entry of Jerry Coleman, the former
Yankee and today a San Diego Padres announcer. The entry lists Coleman as
having died on April 9, 1998. ? I spoke to him a couple
of weeks ago and fortunately he is alive and well.
Book Ends: Published by the Society for American
Baseball Research and distributed by the University of Nebraska Press
Bison Book Imprint comes "Uncle Robbie" by Jack Kavanagh and
Norman Macht ($12.95, 208pp.) and "Lefty Grove: An American Original
by Jim Kaplan ($12.95, 225pp.). For those with an interest in
old time baseball personalities as a reflection of their time - these slim
volumes are for you.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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