Lawrence S. Ritter's "The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It" is the former National Pastime's Old Testament or Illiad.
First published in 1966, the book collects first-person interviews of players from the early days of major league baseball, when each small town in America had its own team. The collection has been reprinted several times, the latest in 2010.
Ritter traveled around the country to track down baseball's pioneers from the early 20th century through the Depression era, when baseball was by far the national sport, drawing big crowds and intense interest across the country.
Players like Rube Marquard, Sam Crawford, Fred Snodgrass, Chief Meyers, Babe Herman, Lefty O'Doul, Goose Goslin, Hank Greenberg and Paul Waner recall their brief years of stardom.
Their stories trace the game's progress from the dead ball era through the rise of the home run. In the early days, pitchers threw spitters and altered baseballs. Scuffed and misshapened balls remained in play.
Powerhouse teams like the New York Giants and Boston Red Sox drew large numbers of fans who were allowed to sit along the foul lines or in the outfield.
Several famous incidents receive repeated attention. Two involved the Giants: Fred Merkle's failure to touch second base in a game against the Chicago Cubs in 1908 that led to the Cubs winning the pennant over the Giants and Fred Snodgrass's dropping a fly ball in the 1912 World Series, a factor in the Red Sox' win over the Giants.
Bill Wambsganns entertainingly explains his unassisted triple play for the Cleveland Indians against the Brooklyn Robins, aka as the Dodgers, in the 1920 World Series.
The Indians won the American League pennant and World Series after the death of popular shortstop Ray Chapman, who died after a pitch struck him in the head. Wambsganns expresses his sorrow over his teammate, the only player who ever died from an injury received during a game.
Mythical heroes like Honus Wagner, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Frank Chance and Joe Tinker keep recurring throughout the book.
"The Glory of Their Times" started the baseball nostalgia movement, leading to the appearance of later classics like Roger Kahn's "The Boys of Summer" and renewed interest in the Negro Leagues.
The book's photos show the old-timers as young men. Their voices sparkle with the energy of an era when baseball and America shared the same story.