- Historical Dictionary of Baseball by Lyle Spatz
In an age where information about practically any subject is readily available on-line, one might rightfully ask if a reference work, such as the Historical Dictionary of Baseball, is superfluous in today's publishing marketplace. However, it is readily apparent, even after a cursory glance of Lyle Spatz's excellent and well-informed volume that such a book is not only extremely helpful and easy-to-use but also urgently needed as it provides trustworthy and concise information about players, teams, leagues, and terms not easily found elsewhere.
Lyle Spatz, an award-winning baseball historian and current chairman of the Baseball Records Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research, takes a long and broad view of baseball history. He begins with a twenty-two-page chronology of baseball, from its first reference in 1791 through 2012. Included are highlights and important developments in amateur and professional baseball in the United States and in other countries [End Page 507] where baseball is played. For example, the Professional Baseball League of Cuba was founded in 1878, the National League eliminated the pitching box thereby establishing the modern pitching distance of 60'6" in 1893, and in 2012 the National League (NL) and American League (AL) instituted a new Wild Card format. Short essays on baseball's beginnings, its rules, its evolution and growth, business, and baseball around the world follow. The chronology and subsequent essay reveal the vibrancy and adaptability of baseball through the decades.
The bulk of the volume consists of an alphabetically organized dictionary with entries on a wide-range of personalities, teams, stadiums, and terms. Included are baseball players, managers, and executives already in the Baseball Hall of Fame, such as Lou Gehrig and Al Simmons; those likely to be elected in the future, such as Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez; and figures who significantly impacted the games, such as former Dodgers owner, Charlie Ebbets and Marvin Miller, the influential head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Provided for each person is a basic career overview, including statistics, awards, and teams played for, and other accomplishments. Especially insightful are the entries for all current major league teams for which Spatz provides the history of league affiliations and playing fields, pennant and post-season history, and lists of players who have won the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year Awards, followed by the team's players who have led the league in batting, home runs, runs batted in, wins, earned run average, and strikeouts.
The Historical Dictionary of Baseball distinguishes itself by its breadth and its attention to lesser known, indeed forgotten, aspects of baseball history. There are entries for all teams that have ever had major league status as well as all leagues considered to be professional. For example, St. Louis, Missouri, is easily associated with the Cardinals in the NL and the former Browns in the AL, but the city was also the home of the Red Stockings for one year, 1875, of the National Association; the Maroons of the Union Association (which lasted just one season, 1884) and for two years in the NL; the Terriers in 1914 and 1915 in the Federal League; and the Stars from 1922-1931 in the Negro National League.
The volume is rounded out by entries for all current and many former playing fields, selected terms and rules, such as hit-and-run and the infield fly rule, organizations, and awards. By providing a historical context for all of the topics, Spatz gives the reader a nuanced appreciation for the evolution of the sport. For example, the entry for home plate traces the size of the bases (one-foot square in 1868) to its current five-sided slab. Entries on Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Japan survey the country's baseball history and also provide a list of its most notable major league players in the U.S. Extensive cross-referencing helps the reader navigate the...