cover image Baseball Archaeology

Baseball Archaeology

Chronicle Books, Gwen Aldridge, Bret Wills. Chronicle Books, $18.95 (111pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0290-1

This handsome collection of baseball artifacts from 1880 onward is a treat for the baseball aficionado. A focus on equipment explains, for instance, that early gloves ``were not used for catching, but to stop the ball with the least amount of pain possible.'' Most equipment surprisingly doesn't change much: the 1885 catcher's mask is remarkably similar to the 1988 model. The baseball itself evolves from a nonresilient ``deadball'' to a springier ``rabbit ball.'' There are profiles of bygone leagues, including the Negro Leagues, and a sidebar on Moe Berg, the legendary intellectual but weak-hitting catcher whose spy activities won him the Medal of Freedom. There are, however, several miscues. The author says that New York's Polo Grounds ``at its peak'' held approximately 34,000 fans, whereas the real number was closer to 55,000. A pennant is said to belong to the ``1958 Brooklyn Dodgers,'' while 1958 was the Dodgers' first year in Los Angeles. Aside from these errors, this is indeed a welcome dig into baseball's colorful past. Aldridge is a creative director for an advertising agency and Wills is an advertising photographer. (Sept.)