I enjoyed The Old Ball Game by Frank Deford. He tells his story well, including enough tidbits to keep readers entertained. Did you know that baseball fans used to be called “cranks?” Deford quotes headlines like “20,000 Cranks Fill Polo Grounds.” (Does that make you want to go to a game?) It also gets into the serious topic of gambling and dishonest players. Even the revered Mathewson bet on games. Gambling was a way some players made ends meet. Some of those who failed literally died in gutters and slums.
How important is a subtitle on a book? On both the cover and on the title page of this new book I see How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball. Having now read this book, I wonder if the author or some marketing editor wrote the subtitle. The book is about McGraw and Mathewson and their relationship, but Deford never really makes the case that they created the modern game. They were innovators and important figures in the history of the game, but the subtitle is an overstatement. I think I would have used "Unlikely Friends" in the subtitle. There is more about relationships than baseball in this work.
The Old Ball Game captures the flavor of the early twentieth century well. Both general readers and cranks will enjoy this book.
Deford, Frank. The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005. ISBN 0871138859