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Baseball Myths

Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond

Bill Deane

Baseball followers have been perpetuating, debating, and debunking myths for nearly two centuries, producing a treasury of baseball stories and “facts.” Yet never before have these elements of baseball history been carefully scrutinized and compiled into one comprehensive work—until now. In Baseball Myths: Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond, award-winning researcher Bill Deane examines baseball legends—old and new.

This book covers such legendary players as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose, and Derek Jeter, while also looking at lesser-known figures like Dummy Hoy, Grover Land, Wally Pipp, and Babe Herman—not to mention people who found fame in other fields, such as Civil War General Abner Doubleday, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Deane’s original research and logic will educate, amuse, and often surprise readers, revealing the truth behind such legends as the inventor of baseball, the first black player in the major leagues, and even the origin of the hot dog.

With photographs, stats, and more than 80 myths examined, this book is sure to fascinate everyone, from the casual baseball fan to lifelong devotees of the sport.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 216Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8108-8546-2 • Hardback • September 2012 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-4422-4419-1 • Paperback • March 2015 • $21.00 • (£13.95)
978-0-8108-8547-9 • eBook • September 2012 • $20.00 • (£13.95)
Bill Deane was Senior Research Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame from 1986 through 1994. He has authored six books on baseball and was managing editor of Total Baseball. Deane won the SABR-Macmillan Baseball Research Award for his book, Award Voting, and in 2003 he won the Utica-Cooperstown SABR chapter’s “Cliff Kachline Award.”

Baseball’s Infancy
Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball
Ninety Feet Is a Magical Distance
Today’s Reds Are Baseball’s Original Pro Team
Old Hoss Radbourn Pitched His Team’s Last 27 Games in 1884, Winning 26
The Pitching Distance Was Increased from 50 to 60½ Feet In 1893
Mike Grady Made Four-Plus Errors on One Batted Ball
Home Plate is So Named Because it is Shaped Like A House
Negro Pitching Legend Rube Foster Taught Christy Mathewson the Screwball
Concessionaire Harry M. Stevens, with Help from a Cartoonist, Introduced the Hot Dog
The World Series Was Named After a Newspaper
Dummy Hoy, a Deaf-Mute, Created Umpires’ Hand Signals
Nick Altrock Won a Game Without Pitching a Ball
Honus Wagner Objected to Tobacco Products
Honus Wagner Viciously Tagged Out Ty Cobb on a Steal Attempt in the 1909 World Series
Tinker, Evers and Chance Were a Great Double Play Combo
Ty Cobb Psyched Joe Jackson Out of a Batting Title
Old-Time Relief Pitchers Were Nothing More than Washed-Up Starters
Grover Land Hit a 65-Foot Home Run
Christy Mathewson Died As the Result of a Gassing Incident in World War I
Charles Comiskey Gypped Ed Cicotte Out of a 30-Win Season and Bonus
The Reds Hit an Inordinate Number of Triples Toward Joe Jackson’s Position in the 1919 World Series

The Truth About Ruth
The Red Sox’s Owner Sold Ruth to Finance His Theatrical Production,
No, No Nanette
Ruth Replaced George Halas as the Yankees’ Right Fielder
The Yankees Adopted Pinstripes to Make Ruth Look Slimmer
The Baby Ruth Candy Bar Was Not Named After the Yankees’ Slugger
Ruth Won Only One MVP Award in His Career
Ruth Promised and Delivered a Home Run to Johnny Sylvester
Ruth Didn’t Really Call His Shot in the 1932 World Series

The Lively Ball Era
A Lively Baseball Was Introduced in the 1920s
Center Fielder Johnny Mostil Caught a Foul Ball
A Headache Cost Wally Pipp His Career
Babe Herman Tripled Into a Triple Play
Grover Alexander Clinched the 1926 World Series Despite Nursing a Hangover
The Yankees Beat the Pirates in the 1927 World Series Before the Games Even Started
For 5½ Years, Chuck Klein Was as Great a Hitter as Baseball Ever Saw
Al Simmons’s Holiday Cost Lefty Grove His 16-Game Win Streak
Mel Ott Owed All of His Success to the Polo Grounds
Ted Williams Risked His .400 Average on the Last Day of the 1941 Season
Bill Veeck Tried to Buy the Phillies and Stock it with Black Players, Years Before Jackie Robinson
Leo Durocher Said “Nice Guys Finish Last”
Enos Slaughter Scored from First Base on a Single to Win the 1946 World Series
Joe DiMaggio Was One of the Best Outfielders Ever
Jackie Robinson Was the First Black Player in the Major Leagues
Bill Bevens and Cookie Lavagetto Ended Their Careers on the Near No-Hitter in the 1947 World Series
A Boston Writer Cost Ted Williams the 1947 AL MVP Award
The 1948 Braves Won the Pennant Only Because of Spahn and Sain
Ted Williams Lost the Closest Batting Race in History
The Indians Could Have Had Aaron, Mays, and Banks
Hoyt Wilhelm Homered and Tripled His First Two Times Up, then Never Hit Another Homer or Triple in His 21-Year Career
Willie Mays Caught a 480-Foot Drive in the 1954 World Series
A Racist Manager Prevented Brooks Lawrence from Winning 20 Games
Fidel Castro Was a Pro Baseball Prospect
The 1955-60 K. C. Athletics Gave Away Their Talent to the Yankees
Jerome Holtzman Invented the Save

Timeless Myths
A Hit That Bounces over the Fence is a Ground-Rule Double
The Curveball is an Optical Illusion
“I Got Stan Musial Out Forty-Nine Times in a Row”
Abbott and Costello Are in The Baseball Hall of Fame
There Are Writers’ & Broadcasters’ Wings at the Baseball Hall of Fame
The Head-First Slide is Dangerous
A Star Relief Ace is as Valuable as Any Other Great Player
Artificial Turf Increases Batting Averages and Shortens Careers
A Team with a 91-71 Record is 20 Games Above .500
The Quality Start is a Meaningless Statistic
Derek Jeter is a Great Clutch Hitter

The Expansion Era
Stu Miller Was Blown off the Mound in the 1961 All-Star Game
Roger Maris’s Home Run Record Was Marked with an Asterisk
Sandy Koufax Suddenly Matured to Become Great
Bill Dewitt Gave Away Frank Robinson, Calling Him “An Old 30”
Tony Conigliaro Was the Youngest Man to Hit 100 Homers
Curt Flood Pioneered Free Agency
Hank Aaron Rode ‘The Launching Pad’ to the Career Home Run Record
Pete Rose Ruined Ray Fosse’s Career in a Meaningless Game
Joe Morgan Became a Superstar Because He Escaped the Astrodome
Ted Simmons Was a Lousy Catcher
The Designated Hitter Rule Was Introduced by Charlie Finley in the 1970s
Minnie Minoso Was the Oldest Man to Get a Hit
Willie Aikens Was Named after Willie Mays
Pete Rose Broke the Career Hit Record Only Because He Was a Manager, Permitting Himself to Play
Bill Buckner Lost the 1986 World Series for the Red Sox
Pete Rose Was Banned from the Hall of Fame and Jailed for Betting on Baseball
Billy Martin Died While Driving Drunk
Expansion Has Diluted Baseball’s Talent
The 1991-2005 Braves Were Underachievers
Shorter Fences Have Aided Modern Home Run Hitters

An honored member of the society for American Baseball Research, former senior research associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and author of six books and numerous articles and book chapters about baseball, Bill Deane has outstanding credentials....Readers unfamiliar with baseball myths will find this book a useful starting point.
American Reference Books Annual

“Bill Deane, who lives in Cooperstown and spent eight years working at the Hall of Fame, has written a book called “Baseball Myths: Debating, Debunking, and Disproving Tales from the Diamond.” It clears up a lot of misconceptions about our national pastime”

“Deane deserves a lot of credit because to disprove many of the myths of baseball requires detailed analysis of baseball statistics, box scores and historical records of the game. The author clearly is a statistical junkie. He belongs to an organization called Society of American Baseball Research, which includes people like himself who have an extraordinary love for the game, its statistics and its history.”

For anyone who loves baseball this is an enlightening read. It covers so much ground that you are bound to learn something you didn’t know before. Like Babe Ruth’s “called shot” baseball provides a lot of intrigue. Deane just brings it out.

The Cooperstown Crier

Baseball Myths is . . . interesting, sensible, and readable . . . primarily because the method used by Deane is historical, rather than statistical, analysis. The more than 85 myths shattered by Deane are arranged by era, with those related to Babe Ruth making up a chapter by them-selves. If you still believe that the rarity of the most valuable baseball card is due to Honus Wagner’s objection to tobacco, that ‘A Headache Cost Wally Pipp His Career’ that ‘Tony Conigliaro Was the Youngest Man to Hit 100 Homers’ or that ‘Billy Martian Died While Driving Drunk;’ then reading this book will elevate your baseball reality quotient.
Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine

I have known Bill Deane ever since his days at the HOF, and no one is better qualified to separate baseball fact from fiction. Here, he uncovers its nearly two centuries of growth with confidence, accuracy, and superb writing. For the baseball purist, this book is like mining gold.
Wes Parker, Dodger first baseman, 6-time Gold Glove Award winner, and 1965 World Series champion

Bill Deane is a master sleuth and myth-buster. He knows more about the game, from beginning to end, than anyone, and all baseball experts stand in his debt. Now he has written the most deliciously provocative baseball book ever.
John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball