My Greatest Day in Baseball
As told to John P. Carmichael
A.S. Barnes & Company, 1945

As sports editor of the Chicago Daily News in the 1930s, John P. Carmichael was struck with a brilliant idea one day: Since baseball is the great American past time with talking baseball coming in a close second, why not get some of the greatest players in the history of the game to retell the stories of their greatest day in baseball?

"My Greatest Day in Baseball" ended up being a staple of the Daily News sports page for many years, and in 1945, some of the best of the columns were collected together in a bestselling book of the same name.

They're all here--Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Joe Tinker, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson, among others. In all, 47 players told their stories to Carmichael and other Daily News reporters.

The stories are told in a wonderful first-person fashion, an early form of the oral baseball histories that were made famous in Lawrence Ritter's 1966 classic The Glory of Their Times. Reading the reminiscences, you get a real feel for how those old-timers talked.

The Babe leads off the book with his telling of his famous "called shot" in the third game of the 1932 World Series. Babe says that he didn't point to the fence until Cubs pitcher Charlie Root had two strikes on him.

I took two strikes and after each one I held up my finger and said: "That's one" and "that's two." Ask Gabby (Hartnett, Cubs catcher)...he could hear me. Then's when I waved to the fence! No I didn't point to any spot, but as long as I'd called the first two strikes on myself, I hadda go through with it. It was damned foolishness, but I just felt like doing it and I felt pretty sure Root would put one close enough for me to cut at, because I was showin' him up...Gosh, that was great feelin'...How that mob howled. Me? I just laughed...laughed to myself going around the bases and thinking: "You lucky bum...lucky, lucky"...

My Greatest Day in Baseball is just filled to the brim with wonderful baseball stories such as that, being told by the actual participants. Gabby Hartnett is there talking about his 1938 "homer in the gloamin'" that won the pennant for the Cubs. Johnny Evers talks about the "Merkle Boner" that won the pennant for his Cubs back in 1908. Rogers Hornsby relates how he played and managed the Cardinals to a World Series victory over the Yankees in 1926 with the help of Grover Alexander's wonderful clutch pitching. Walter Johnson speaks on the rush he got from winning his first World Series after near-twenty years of amazing pitching.

Some of the best moments in the book come as small anecdotes in relation to the main stories being told. One is Buck Weaver's talk of the rough World Series between the White Sox and Giants in 1917. Weaver relates his preparation for game five, pay special attention to his thoughts on Hall of Famer Eddie Collins:

We went out to the ball park early, took the files and sharpened our spikes till they were like razors. We were goin' in there cuttin'. There was only one guy who didn't sharpen his spikes–that was Eddie Collins. Why? Well, he was a different type of ball player. He never went in for that sorta stuff because he figured they might come back at him and he'd get hurt playin' there in the infield. He was a great guy to look out for himself. If there was a tough gent comin' down to second, he'd yell for the shortstop to take the play.

Not every player who relates a story in My Greatest Day in Baseball was a major leaguer. The famous Satchel Paige wit shines through and through when the Negro League superstar can't decide what his greatest day in baseball is. He finally focuses on a game that he pitched for the San Domingo All Stars sometime in the thirties (Paige is unclear on the date.) It seems that San Domingo president Di Rafael Trujillo had paid many of the Negro League stars of the time to field the best team of the history of the Caribbean in order to bring honor and prestige to his country and to help him win an upcoming election. Satchel says:

Down there they don't know much about baseball rules, anyway. They get a baseball guide, only maybe it's a 1907 guide or something like that, and then they read part of the rules, them they can understand, and the rest they make up themselves.

So in the championship game of the season against the Estrellas de Oriente, Paige is on the mound. He knows that if the San Domingo team doesn't win, there is a good chance that Trujillo wasn't going to let the high-priced Negro League players out of the country alive. The Estrellas de Oriente team was also full of colored league stars and Paige ended up winning a close one, 6 to 5. The team hightailed it out of San Domingo as soon as the game was over, and Paige had this to say as a conclusion:

I read in a newspaper that Dr. Aybar, our manager, says "baseball in Trujillo City is not commercial. Money makes no difference. Baseball is spiritual in every respect, as indulged in by the Latin races." I am saving the clipping of that paper because I am thinking that if he is right and baseball is spiritual as it is played there, ol' Satchel could be a spirit right now if we didn't win that big game.

My Greatest Day in Baseball is full of fantastic anecdotes like this. Almost every major event in baseball that took place between 1900 and 1945 is covered at some point.

This is not only recommended reading for the baseball history fan, it should be required.

My Greatest Day in Baseball may be available for purchase on the net at one of these sites.

–JingleBob, March 5, 1999

1999 JC White