The book: “The Baseball Hall of Fame Collection: Celebrating the Greatest Players of All Time Through Rare Objects, Documents and Photos”
The author: James Buckey, Jr.
The vital stats: Metro Books, 175 pages, $22.95.
The pitch: Originally listed at $39.95, this one authorized by the Baseball Hall of Fame will make you feel you’ve walked out of the Cooperstown archives with some of its most valuable documents.
A reader can dream, can’t he?
We admit, we’re a sucker for these kind of books. Three years ago, the publishers put out an MLB Official Publication called “The Treasures of Major League Baseball” (linked here) — and then reissued it again last year, taking out the cover photo of Roger Clemens and replacing it with David Ortiz — and included such things as reproductions of Albert Spalding’s diagrams tracing the origins of the sport, the official scorecard of the 1988 World Series Game 1 (signed by scorers Vern Pilagenhaif, Jack Lang and Dave Nightengale), or part of the screenplay from “Field of Dreams.”
In this edition, we’re left holding more faux facimilies, but smiling even wider because these are probably better than the originals that can only be handled by white gloves.
Here, we’re taking hold and gazing as such things as:
== A scouting report on the University of Cincinnati’s “Sanford Koufax” written up Bill Zinser in 1954, which includes notes such as an “A+” arm, “tall — muscular — quick reflexes, well conditioned” but “not interested in pro ball until he graduates” and “also plays 1st. because of hitting ability.” Imagine Koufax playing first base on his off days.
== The 1926 standard contract given to the New York Yankees Lou Gehrig, where he was paid $6,500 and included the “loyalty” clause that insisted the player “faithfully serve the Club or any other Club to which, in conformity with the agreements above recited, this contract may be assigned, and pledges himself to the American public to conform to high standards of personal conduct, or fair play and good sportsmanship.”
(Another Willie Mays National League contract shows him getting $105,000 in 1963).
== A scorecard of the game from Sept. 30, 1972 — where Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th, and final, base hit, with him signing the spot on the card in the No. 3 spot. And an official Roberto Clemente Fan Club memebership card.
== An All-Star ballot filled out by New York Mets manager Casey Stengel for the 1964 game, listing his candidates for the eight positions for the National League team (including Joe Torre, of Milwaukee, as the starting catcher).
== A personalized Christmas card from Babe Ruth, with Santa Claus as the umpire watching him hit a home run with the caption: “May this Greeting be the biggest hit I ever make.”
In all, there are 16 pieces of memorabilia reproduced that, to any fan, makes you feel even closer to history as it happened.
How it goes down in the scorebook: If the Dodgers and Angels ever could pull together something like this, we’d be all that more dazzled. Historians, start digging.