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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Glory of Their Times

Lawrence Ritter, the author of The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It died today in New York City at the age of 81. Ritter's book, whose title is taken from the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, is a famous oral history of baseball as told by the players themselves from the early part of the twentieth century. Ritter traveled over 75,000 miles in a 5 year period from 1961 (the death of Ty Cobb inspired him to take on the project) to 1966 to interview the old ballplayers and capture a perspective that would have been all but lost had he not made the effort.

I had never read the book but several years ago did check out the audio tapes of the original interviews taped on Ritter's little tape recorder at our local library for a long car trip. I was awestruck by the voices of Chief Bender, Davy Jones, Rube Marquard, Sam Crawford, Babe Herman, Smokey Joe Wood, and others as I cruised the highways. For me, it provided a window on the psychology of players playing in the "deadball era" and allowed me to understand a little of what it was like playing in those days. I highly recommend the audio tapes or the CD of the interviews for any fan of baseball history.

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