Synopses & Reviews
After twilight had gone, in the first darkness of the night, a freight train rumbled into the station. When the engine was switching cars on the sidetrack, he crept along the side of the train, pulled open the side door of an empty boxcar, and awkwardly and laboriously climbed in. He closed the door. The engine whistled. He was lying down, and in the darkness he smiled.
-- Jack London, "The Apostate"
My nickname being what it is, you probably automatically assume I must have been a country boy. That's what most people figure. But it's not so. Fact is, my father was the Chief Engineer of the city of Cleveland, and that's where I was born and reared.
Then how come I'm called "Rube"? Well, I'll get to that. But let me tell you about my father first. Like I say, he was the Chief Engineer of the city of Cleveland. As far as he was concerned, the only important thing was for me to get a good education. But as far back as I can remember all I could think of, morning, noon, and night, was baseball.
"Now listen," Dad would say, "I want you to cut this out and pay attention to your studies. I want you to go to college when you're through high school, and I don't want any foolishness about it. Without an education you won't be able to get a good job, and then you'll never amount to anything."
"I already have a job," I'd say.
"You've got a job? What are you talking about?"
"I'm going to be a ballplayer."
"A balIplayer?" he'd say, and throw his hands up in the air. "What do you mean? How can you make a living being a ballplayer? I don't understand why a grown man would wear those funny-looking suits in the first place."
"Well," I'd answer,"You see policemen with uniforms on, and other people like that. They change after they're through working. It's the same way with ballplayers."
"Ha! Do ballplayers get paid?"
"Yes, they get paid."
"I don't believe it!"
And round and round we'd go. We'd have exactly the same argument at least once a week. Sometimes my grandfather--my father's father would get involved in it. He liked baseball and he'd take my side.
"Listen," he'd say to my father, "when you were a youngster I wanted you to be something, too. I wanted you to be a stonecutter, same as I was when I came over from the old country. But no, you wouldn't listen. You wanted to be, an engineer. So you became an engineer. Now Richard wants to be a baseball player. He's so determined that nothing is going to stop him. Let's give him a chance and see what he can do."
But Dad would never listen. "Ballplayers are no good," he'd say, and they never will be any good."
And with that he'd slam the door and go outside and sit on the porch, and not talk to either my grandfather or me for the rest of the evening.
The thing is, I was always very tall for my age. I had three brothers and a sister, and my sister was the shortest of the five of us. She grew to be six feet two. So I was always hanging around the older kids and playing ball with them instead of with kids my own age. When I was about thirteen I used to carry bats for Napoleon Lajoie and Elmer Flick and Terry Turner and a lot of the other Cleveland Indians. They weren't called the Indians then. They were called the Cleveland Bronchos and then the Naps, after Napoleon Lajoie. After the regular season was over, a lot of them would barnstorm around theCleveland area, and sometimes I'd be their bat boy.
Then later I even pitched a few games for Bill Bradley's Boo Gang. Bill Bradley was the Cleveland third baseman--one of the greatest who ever lived--and he also barnstormed with his Boo Gang after the season was over. So by the time I was only fifteen or sixteen I knew a lot of ballplayers, and I had my heart set on becoming a Big Leaguer myself.
One of my friends was a catcher named Howard Wakefield. He was about five years older than I was. In 1906 he was playing for the Waterloo club in the Iowa State League, and that summer--when I was only sixteen--I got a letter from him.
"We can use a good left-handed pitcher," the letter said, "and if you want to come to Waterloo I'll recommend you to the manager." I think Howard thought that I was at least eighteen or nineteen, because I was so big for my age.
Well, pretty soon I got a telegram from the Waterloo manager. He said: "You've been recommended very highly by Howard Wakefield. I'd like you to come out here and try out with us. If you make good, then we'll reimburse you for your transportation and give you a contract."
Of course, that wasn't much of an improvement over Howard's letter. So I went upstairs to my room and closed the door and wrote back a long letter to the manager, explaining that I didn't have any money for transportation. But if he sent me an advance right now fortransportation, then I'd take the next train to Waterloo and he could take it off my salary later on, after I made good.
SynopsisThe Story of the
Early Days of Baseball
Told by the Men Who
Great news for baseball fans--here is Lawrence Ritter's remarkable and universally hailed classic, now available in trade paperback. This is the enlarged edition, with 120 fantastic and rare photographs, of the 1966 original. In the words of 26 players, it describes what it was like to play major league baseball at the turn of the century and in the decades shortly thereafter.
The Story of the
Early Days of Baseball
Told by the Men Who
“Almost perfect . . . a vivid, gentle, and humorous narrative, accompanied by marvelous photographs.”
— Roger Angell, New Yorker
“I could happily reread every summer for the rest of my life that greatest of all baseball books, The Glory of Their Times.”
— Stephen Jay Gould, New York Times Book Review
“Warm, happy, exciting . . . The day after I finished it I started reading it all over again.”
— Ted Williams
From Lawrence Ritter (The Image of Their Greatness, The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time), comes one of the bestselling, most acclaimed sports books of all time, The Glory of Their Times—now a Harper Perennial Modern Classic.
About the Author
Lawrence S. Ritter (1922-2004) was chairman of the Department of Finance at the Graduate School of Business Administration of New York University. He collaborated with fellow baseball historian Donald Honig on The Image of Their Greatness and The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time but is best known for The Glory of Their Times, one of the most famous sports books ever published.