Heroes of Baseball Author:Robert Smith What is unusual about this book is that the emphasis is on the players who were stars before the turn of the twentieth century. Of the thirty-two players/managers/owners described, approximately two thirds did most of their playing before the year 1900. The only ones profiled who could be said to have played in the modern era are Babe Ruth, Dizz... more »y Dean and Jackie Robinson. Therefore I read the exploits of Alexander Cartwright, Dickey Pierce, Harry Wright, Edward Nolan, and others with great interest. They were the true pioneers of the sport, their actions molded other games into what we now know as baseball. It is unfortunate that they do not receive the recognition that they so richly deserve.
Two main points stick out from these brief biographies. The first is that so many of them died young, often from excessive drinking. The second is that so many of the different styles of play that are considered new were used in the early years of baseball. Before reading the biography of Thomas Ramsey, I did not know that the knuckle ball pitch was first used in the 1880's. Another pitch that is described was almost certainly the "split finger fastball" that Bruce Sutter made famous again in the 1980's.
This is a history of baseball from the early days and was an interesting read. Many of these men were tough, very tough. As a commentator in the Ken Burns film about baseball said, "These were men from the steel mills and coal mines, and if they didn't play baseball, that was where they would be." Therefore, they fought for their position, against the opposing team, the umpires and even their teammates if they had to. Some players used every dirty trick they could think of, tripping a runner, grabbing the belt loop of an opposing player when the umpire wasn't looking, knocking a fielder off stride, deliberately stepping on another player and sliding with spikes high. This is a true description of how the game used to be played, where winning was everything, because to many players it really was.« less