THE OLD BALL GAME: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball

Frank Deford, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (241p) ISBN 978-0-87113-885-9

At the turn of the 20th century, "every American could want to be Christy Mathewson," Deford writes, and "every American could admire John J. McGraw." For a generation of fans in the era before Babe Ruth, Giants pitcher Mathewson was the best baseball had to offer and the epitome of good sportsmanship. By contrast, McGraw was a hard-drinking player/manager frequently ejected from games for attacking the umps. When McGraw came to New York (after wearing out his welcome elsewhere), though, the two became so close that they moved in together along with their wives. Deford, expanding on an article he wrote for Sports Illustrated , provides an entertaining string of anecdotes peppered with his own observations, focusing on one player and then looping back to address the other. An NPR Morning Edition weekly commentator, Deford has a thoughtful eye for the details of a century past, but he also points out how much early 1900s baseball culture shares with today's, as when he compares early gambling scandals to the contemporary steroids controversy. Though not quite a full biography of either player, this lively volume offers great diversion for any baseball fan. B&w photos. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Apr.)

Forecast: Heralded by GQ as "the world's greatest sportswriter," Deford is sure to get plenty of media attention at the start of the season.

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-8021-4247-4
Hardcover - 347 pages - 978-0-7862-7660-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-7544-0
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