Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fay Vincent's best baseball books

Fay Vincent, commissioner of baseball from 1989 through 1992, and author of The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved (2006), named the five best books on the so-called national pastime for Opinion Journal.

One title -- which Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley has called one "of the best sports books ever written" -- from the list:

Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck (Putnam, 1962).

Bill Veeck's memoir is an irreverent and funny account of his days as an unorthodox baseball owner -- and indeed he did try some silly tricks to draw crowds. Sometimes he went over the line, as with Eddie Gaedel, the midget he sent up to bat for the St. Louis Browns in 1951, and "Disco Demolition Night," which turned into a fan riot in 1979, when he owned the Chicago White Sox. But Veeck also made a serious and singular contribution to the game in 1947 when, as owner of the Cleveland Indians, he brought the first black player, Larry Doby, into the American League. But because Jackie Robinson preceded Doby into the major leagues by a few months, both Doby and Veeck have been somewhat overlooked. In this memoir, Veeck understates his own role and the essential sense of fairness that motivated him. Doby told me that he loved this man, who supported him during those vicious early days and whose friendship underscored the absurdity of baseball's color line. Bill Veeck may have been a bit of a wreck, but he deserves much more attention and credit than he has received.

Read about the only novel on Vincent's list.

--Marshal Zeringue