A Celebration of Baseball’s Greats In Stories and Images, The Complete Roster of Inductees, by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Little, Brown and Company, 648 pages. $35.
In a sense, it’s not fair to judge a book like this. After all, who has more resources about the history of the game and its personnel than the Hall of Fame? How can they not put out a great product?
The book is divided by position, with the players listed in order of their induction. Each section is prefaced by an in-depth essay from a player (or manager, in the case of Tommy Lasorda) from that group. The entries consist of a full-page photo, a shot of the player’s plaque, and an essay contributed by an assortment of writers, including authors Tim Wendel, Lew Freedman, Bruce Markusen, and Tim Wiles, a former research director at the Hall. The Hall concludes with reproductions for the plaques of umpires and executives without benefit of the introductory appreciation, which is a shame. Surely they could have found someone to that (although none of the inductees themselves, save for umpire Doug Harvey and exec Pat Gillick, are extant.)
This is a massive undertaking, yet it could have been so much more, especially in light of the Hall’s 75th anniversary. One issue is that all this material is done, albeit to a much lesser degree, each year in the form of a yearbook to mark the HOF inductions. And if you have any book of this type you wonder about the necessity of adding another to your library. Nor can this be considered “memorabilia porn” like Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame full of photos of the historic pieces residing in Cooperstown.
Still, the price is right; at $35 MSRP, it makes a nice coffee-table gift.