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Baseball Anecdotes

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Most anecdotal looks at baseball offer only one type of material: humorous stories, or feats of the great players, or unusual facts. As compiled by baseball historian Daniel Okrent and sportswriter Steve Wulf, BASEBALL ANECDOTES combines all these approaches. By arranging their myths and facts in primarily chronological order, they present a history of the sport including Fred Merkle’s base running blunder which cost the Giants the 1908 National League pennant, Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six game hitting streak in 1941, the Mets’ dramatic comeback against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, and portraits of colorful characters from King Kelly to Bobo Newsom to Joaquin Andujar.

BASEBALL ANECDOTES blends well-known legends with obscure trivia. Despite the dubious claims on his behalf, Abner Doubleday never claimed to have invented baseball. Because his teammates criticized him for not putting on clean underwear after showering, Babe Ruth forswore these garments altogether. In 1930, the Phillies’ owner left the team to his secretary, and her husband, a former shoe salesman, ran it into bankruptcy. Dodger outfielder Frenchy Bordagaray once lost his cap while chasing a fly ball, stopped to retrieve it, and still caught the ball. An elderly Ty Cobb became outraged when Ted Williams, in the midst of a friendly conversation between two of the greatest hitters ever, reminded the Georgia Peach that Rogers Hornsby occasionally had a higher batting average than Cobb. One of the strangest stories is of how Bob Feller, then nine years old, raised five dollars to buy a ball autographed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig by collecting a bounty on gophers.

The many pleasures of the book are somewhat diminished by an embarrassing number of typographical and factual errors, by the often-arbitrary placement of anecdotes, and by the reluctance of Okrent and Wulf, who say they have drawn from the work of “countless writers,” to credit their sources.