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January 10, 2013

Local author's book debunks baseball myths

When I was in elementary school we used to order books through something like the book-of-the-month club. It was a great time to purchase paperbacks that might be of interest to us. 

One of the first books I remember ordering was a biography of the first five inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame. I do not remember the title but I do recall being fascinated by the stories of these baseball stalwarts: Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth. Little did I know that many of the “facts” behind these legends were simply bogus.

It really is a shame that many of the great stories from baseball’s glorious past are unfounded. They tend to make our “heroes” more dramatic than they need to be. Often it is the players themselves who either embellish or make up incidents to boost their image. Sometimes it’s poor recollections by either a player or one of his contemporaries and then printed as “fact” by a newspaper or author. Confirmation is not part of the equation.

With these discrepancies in mind it was refreshing to receive a title from a local author who debunks many of the great myths of baseball and several of the not-so-great as well. 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.

With respect to the five original legends of the game, Deane proves that the Baby Ruth candy bar was indeed named after the Babe (I heard that it wasn’t), Mathewson did not develop tuberculosis due to inhaling poisonous gas in World War I (he probably already had it), and Honus Wagner did not break several of Ty Cobb’s teeth with a baseball when Cobb attempted to steal second with his sharpened cleats flying during the 1909 World Series (Cobb never tried to steal second). These incidents just scrape the surface.

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