Baseball was different in earlier days—tougher, rawer, more intimate—when giants like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb ran the bases. In the monumental classic The Glory of Their Times, the golden era of our national pastime comes alive through the vibrant words of those who played and lived the game.
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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.
Read an Excerpt
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 aballplayer? 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 grandfathermy 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 the Cleveland 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 basemanone of the greatest who ever livedand 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 summerwhen I was only sixteenI 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.
I wrote Howard that my Dad didn't want me to play ball, so I didn't think he'd give me the money to go. If I asked him, he'd probably hit me over the head with something. Except for that, I was ready to go. Now if they could possibly arrange to send me some money for transportation . . .
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 for transportation, then I'd take the next train to Waterloo and he could take it off my salary later on, after I made good.
Table of Contents
Preface to the New Enlarged Edition ix
Original Preface xv
1 Rube Marquard [1908-25] 1
2 Tommy Leach [1898-1918] 20
3 Davy Jones [1901-15] 34
4 Sam Crawford [1899-1917] 47
5 George Gibson [1905-18] 70
6 Jimmy Austin [1909-22] 78
7 Fred Snodgrass [1908-16] 91
8 Stanley Coveleski [1916-28] 117
9 Al Bridwell [1905-15] 124
10 Harry Hooper [1909-25] 139
l1 Joe wood [1908-22] 154
12 Chief Meyers [1909-17] 170
13 Hans Lobert [1903-17] 185
14 Rube Bressler [1914-32] 198
15 Babe Herman [1926-45] 201
16 Edd Roush [1913-31] 218
17 Bill Wambsganss [1914-26] 231
18 Sam Jones [1914-35] 241
19 Bob O'Farrell [1915-35] 251
20 Specs Toporcer [1921-28] 259
21 Lefty O'Doul [1919-34] 271
22 Goose Goslin [1921-38] 279
23 Willie Kamm [1923-35] 290
24 Heinie Groh [1912-27] 299
25 Hank Greenberg [i933-47] 306
26 Paul Waner [1926-45] 332
Picture Credits 251
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The author interviews players that were around when baseball was just beginning to become a professional sport. There weren't that many still alive, so the ones he interviews were lesser known players. They still share some fascinating stories.This is definitely a book for those who enjoy the deeply personal part of the early days of baseball. Not a lot of gossip or strategy. Just some stories of what men did to play the game they love, and what life was like on a ball team.
Lawrence Ritter made a career compiling oral histories from some of the 20th century's early baseball stars. The Glory of Their Times has interviews with Hall of Famers Sam Crawford, Goose Goslin, Stan Coveleski and a host of others. Honest, fascinating, a real insight into how the game was played. If you love the baseball as a historical and social phenomenon, read this book.
Right around when pitchers and catchers report, I dust off my well-worn, oft-borrowed copy of Glory of Their Times. I've probably read it a dozen times all the way through and each time I'm charmed all over again. The beauty and genius of Glory is in the fact that Ritter had the sense not to interfere with the players' stories. You get a feel for their voices and personalities, and how their experiences helped shape them as individuals. In its own way, the book is a vivid and important portrait of American life at the beginning of the twentieth century. And it's a dang good baseball book.
Our grandson thought it was a great book! He learned a lot about the "old" days in baseball.
If you love baseball, this book is a unique history told from the perspective of great platers...in their own words. Fascinating reading!
I loved it, my kids loved it, my grandkids loved it. A must read for any baseball fan.
Great book for the true baseball fan. Funny stories and information probably known to very few fans.
This is a book that every younger baseball fan should read and learn from. It's stories take the reader back to the time when baseball captured America's heart and before it became just another business populated by vagabond millionaires. The lessons taught about loyalty among fans and players are well worth learning.
This is a must read for anyone who loves baseball,history or just the good story. These are tales of the early days of baseball told by some of the greatest to ever play the game. Its one of those that you re-read every year during the long drought of the off-season just to feel the excitement of baseball. Ritter was able to track down and interview some of the best, and hardest to find, who were involved in the game. It is a flashback to the earlier days and a reminder to everyone who reads it that baseball was always full of the amazing plays, the horrific misplays, and the constant controversy.