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Top Baseball Reference Work: "Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia" 

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge          

(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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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

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.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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