LARCENY AND OLD LEATHER: The Mischievous Legacy of Major League Baseball

Eldon L. Ham, Author . Academy Chicago $25 (260p) ISBN 978-0-89733-533-1

Chronicling baseball's history from the early 20th century through the present, Ham (The 100 Greatest Sports Blunders of All Time ) takes a close look at all aspects of the sport to find instances where the players, management and even the umpires weren't on the up-and-up. The author, a lawyer by trade, presents a strong case that baseball has had a naughty side since its inception, when the game's anti-Victorian "tobacco-spitting, sweaty, sometimes wayward players" were seen as a throwback to the "American industrialists, adventurers, and entrepreneurs" who built the nation. The book presents a wide range of examples of baseball's "larcenous side," although they're sometimes haphazardly organized. They vary from observations on the game's psychological aspects ("the art of pitching flows... from one common principle: deception") to some of its humorous moments (minor leaguer Bill Bresnahan firing a "red-seamed potato down to third" base, a trick that later got him fired) to its unforgivable past (the game's exclusion of black players until 1947). Most of these stories have been told before, but Ham does an admirable job collecting them into one volume for trivia-obsessed baseball fans. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Open Ebook - 260 pages - 978-0-89733-809-7
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