- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

For anyone who has followed professional baseball in the nation's capital after 31 years without, is that phrase an oxymoron? a must-read is "Images of America: Baseball in Washington, D.C." by Frank Ceresi, Mark Rucker and researcher Carol McMains ($19.99, Arcadia, 128 pages, illus.).
This slim volume contains dozens of pictures ranging from the 1860s to the expansion Senators' 1971 departure for Texas and beyond. I hadn't seen many of the photos, and I kept wishing there were more pages and more pictures. The book is that fascinating.
Ceresi, formerly an Arlington judge and then curator of the National Sports Gallery at MCI Center, is in business for himself now, along with McMains, and he knows how to find all sorts of photographic memorabilia. Unfortunately, the book contains a number of minor errors i.e. Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak is listed as 2,131 rather than 2,130 but Ceresi says they will be corrected in subsequent editions.
No matter what your age, you'll find stuff you didn't know existed. In one memorable picture before the text even starts, Capitol pages are choosing up sides for a game in 1922 with the Washington Monument in the background. Another shows Walter Johnson, the Senators' Hall of Fame pitcher, accepting a loving cup full of money donated by appreciative fans after he won 36 games in 1913.
The images keep on coming. Washington's wooden ballpark is shown on Opening Day 1911, shortly before a fire destroyed it and led to the building of concrete-and-steel Griffith Stadium on the site. Johnson is shown on the cover of Baseball Magazine heralding a story called, "Why I signed With the [outlaw Federal League]" in 1914 which, of course, he never did.
Police guard officials of the Senators as they carry boxes of tickets for the 1924 World Series. President Calvin Coolidge, not a baseball fan, dourly greets members of the '24 Series champions as they visit the White House. Bert Shepard straps on an artificial leg necessitated by a war injury before he goes out to pitch (briefly) for the Senators in 1945. Negro League slugger Josh Gibson crouches to look over a low pitch while playing for the Homestead Grays before nearly empty stands at Griffith Stadium.
It's a wonderful book that will bring back memories for older fans and introduce younger ones to the fact that baseball once lived and thrived in the nation's capital and may again someday soon. It's available at area booksellers or may be ordered on the Web at www.fcassociates.com.
"The Baseball Almanac"
by Dan Schlossberg ($14.95, Triumph, 376 pages, illus.) advertises itself as a "big bodacious book of baseball," and indeed it is. Included are page after page of tidbits, pictures and statistics.
The soft-cover volume is what I call a bathroom book the kind you can pick up and read for five, 10 or 15 minutes when the mood and opportunity strikes. The emphasis is on humor, which means there's nothing boring here.
For example, picking a page (115) at random, the Cincinnati Reds became the first major league team to fly, on June 7, 1934; two players, Mark Koenig and Jim Bottomley, refused to board the plane and took a train instead. And in 1961, Jackie Jensen of the Red Sox lost $750 in salary when he said no thanks to the idea of flying from Washington to Los Angeles.
Can you name the only two players to play major league baseball in five decades? Answer (on page 126): Nick Altrock (1898-1933) and Minnie Minoso (1949-80). Twenty-five players have appeared in four decades, including still-active Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines Sr.
If you enjoy frolicking through this sort of minutiae, grab this one.
"Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years in Baseball"
by Tom Keegan ($24.95, Triumph, 290 pages, illus) is a highly worthwhile accounting of the broadcaster's career, which matches those of Vin Scully and the late Harry Carey for longevity.
Harwell, one of baseball's nicest and most decent people, is one of many Southern broadcasters who headed north to find prestige and popularity, following the likes of Mel Allen and Red Barber. Harwell is an icon in Detroit, where he has done Tigers play-by-play every season except one since 1960. Before that, he genteelly yakked into mikes for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles.
Now 84, Harwell was doing the first nationally televised sports event on Oct.3, 1951, when Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" won the National League playoff series for the Giants. But his relatively restrained comments were not recorded, while colleague Russ Hodges' hysterical radio broadcast ("The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! ") became the most famous call in sports history.
Keegan, a former baseball writer for the Baltimore Sun, opens the book with a painful recounting of how Tigers president Bo Schembechler attempted to retire Harwell in 1991 only to encounter more opposition than he ever did as Michigan's football coach. After one season off the air, Ernie was back and better than ever.
Although the book's title suggests that Harwell wrote it, his story is told in the third person by Keegan. Anecdotes flow heavily, such as this one: When former star third baseman George Kell was a neophyte broadcaster, he asked Harwell what topic he should discuss on the air with Casey Stengel, the Yankees' jabberwocky manager. Harwell suggested asking Stengel what qualities he looked for in each spot in the batting order.
Later, when the interview was over, Harwell asked Kell how it had gone.
"It was fine," Kell replied, "but Casey talked for 15 minutes and never got past the leadoff hitter."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide