The complete title of this book is “Once Upon a Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories / as told to Alan Schwarz”. It was written by Alan Schwarz and was
published in 2007.
I would like to quote the author’s biography from the inside back jacket cover:
“Alan Schwarz is the senior writer for ‘Baseball America’ magazine, the host of ‘Baseball Today’ on ESPN.com, and a regular contributor to the ‘New York Times’. His first book, ‘The Numbers Game’, was ESPN’s 2004 Baseball Book of the Year. He is a frequent on-air analyst for ESPN, National Public Radio’s ‘Talk of the Nation, and MSNBC.”
The bottom of the inside front jacket cover proclaims:
Lavishly illustrated and handsomely designed, ‘Once Upon a Game’ is the perfect gift for any baseball fan.”
“Once Upon a Game” consists of short stories, like 1 to 3 pages short, told by 35 or so “celebrities with a connection to baseball”, including Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Kevin Costner, Bob Feller, Ozzie Guillen, Buck O’Neil, Gaylord Perry, Charles Schulz, Casey Stengel & Joe Torre, among others.
Each of these short recollections is accompanied by 1 or 2 photographs illustrating the time and place of the story. The book is very nicely done.
There is a Foreword by George F. Will in which he describes one of his most cherished baseball memories. Interestingly, that memory “involved neither a hit nor a pitch nor a catch nor a throw. It involved an act of sportsmanship…”
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the book:
- “I knew then, and I know today, that winning World War II was the most important thing to happen to this country in the last 100 years. I’m just glad I was a part of it. I was a gun captain on the battleship “Alabama” for only 34 months. People have called me a hero for that, but I’ll tell you this – heroes don’t come home. Survivors come home.” Bob Feller
- “Michael (Jordan) called me on the way to the arena one day after that. He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you I love doing what I do again.’ He’d gotten tired of basketball, and baseball was just so joyful for him. ‘You guys love what you do,’ he said, ‘and that rubbed off on me.’ I truly think that getting a hit in an important part of a game for the Birmingham Barons meant as much to him that year as any jump shot in the NBA.” Terry Francona
- “But I was feeing so great. So lucky. I was getting paid to do something I loved.” Ernie Banks
- “As he wound up on the next pitch, I could read his grip on the ball and I could tell he was going to throw a screwball. I swung and hit a line drive toward the corner of the left-field bleachers. I stood at the plate and watched the ball for fear the umpire would call it foul. It landed a few feet inside the foul pole for a grand slam.” Hank Greenberg
- “I was only a high school kid, for crying out loud – and Ted Williams said I was going to play in the major leagues….most of all, you have to take hitting seriously – you can’t be a nice guy up there. It’s not a profession for the light approach…. Most of all, though, Ted – excuse me, Mr. Williams – taught me to believe in myself.” Mike Piazza
I enjoyed reading “Once Upon a Game”, and I can tell you that my dad, The
World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan, couldn’t put this book down. He was totally
fascinated by it. I recommend it highly.
I want to thank Houghton Mifflin Company for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.