The Glory of Their Times
by Lawrence Ritter
MacMillan Books, Inc. 1966

There's no better way to indulge a baseball junkie than with a fix of The Glory of Their Times, one of the greatest baseball books ever written. You can read the book in about three hours, but you'll come away from it decades richer in baseball lore.

The author, Larry Ritter, interviewed twenty-two ballplayers from the first three decades of the 20th century to write the book. Ritter took great pride in the fact that the ballplayers are the ones telling the story. True, but Ritter did a masterful job of editing the text. Each chapter contains narrative from a different ballplayer, but the topics are interwoven so skillfully that the book flows easily.

Some of the ballplayers who were interviewed were famous (like Wahoo Sam Crawford and Fred Snodgrass), but all of the storytellers recanted tales of the best players in the game (Cobb, Waddell, Delahanty, Walter Johnson, McGraw, Babe Ruth, Christy Matthewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Gettysburg Eddie Plank).

The stories are engrossing and interesting: Learn why Rube Marquard always used to visit a particular firehouse whenever the Giants visited Chicago. Discover how umpires started calling balls and strikes with their hands. Learn how asking for a chew of bologna could ruin a ballplayer's career (Harry Coveleski). Find out how Germany Schaeffer of the Tigers stole first base. Read how the Brooklyn Dodgers would end up with THREE men on third base.

Ritter fondly remembers the ballplayers and stories of an old era that has passed by into the annals of history. The baserunning snafus of Schaeffer and the Brooklyn Dodgers are told with a twinkle in the respondent's eye. Fans want to warmly remember the players of their youth. It's a formula that made the book very successful.

Maybe too successful. The Glory of Their Times was such a big seller, and so widely read by the baseball community when it came out in the sixties, the book became an authority on the game. Several ballplayers with questionable credentials were elected to the Hall of Fame:

  • Rube Marquard
  • Stan Coveleski
  • Harry Hooper
  • The book has also spawned thousands of imitators. Yet, its influence remains massive.

    Check the bibliography of any baseball book - especially those books about the history of the game. The Glory of Their Times will invariably be a reference.

    You can also take a page from the Royal Rooters of Boston if you want to learn how to distract Honus Wagner:

    Honus, why do you hit so badly.
    Take a back seat and sit down.
    Honus, at bat you look so sadly
    Hey, why don't you get out of town.

    Glory of Their Times may be available for purchase on the net at one of these sites.

    --Royal Rooter, March 1, 1999

    1999 Rob Homa