Exploring Baseball’s Great Moments in a Book

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Dennis Eckersley was a standout starter and closer for several major-league teams.Jon Gudorf Photography, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

By Ben Abel

As someone who loves baseball and began watching it at 15 years old, I wasn’t around for many of the great classic moments in the game.

My first World Series proper was the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. That World Series was a sweep by the Athletics with the exciting earthquake happening before Game Three.

When I discovered Baseball’s Great Moments this past summer in a “free” store, I needed a book to read while on holiday and thought I should grab it and take a read.

The classic moments

Now there are literally so many great moments in baseball that one book couldn’t really take in all of them. This book alone covers 1946 to 1981. The book itself was updated in 1982.

The forward was written by none other than Stan Musial, a baseball legend who needs really no introduction to even the casual baseball fan. He explains that Joseph Reichler himself was a writer with the Associated Press as an editor and then later moved to the Commissioner of Baseball’s Office. To say that Reichler has the credentials would be an understatement.

The chapters in the book

Given the size and scope of the book and the number of events covered there, I’m really at a loss to pick which events are the most important. One thing that did strike me though is how the writing is so captivating. I actually felt like I was living those events while reading about them.

Roger Maris’ controversial 61-homer total is here, of course, as you would expect it to be, but so is a breakdown of the careers of pitcher Warren Spahn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Spahn) and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Stan Musial.

Spahn pitched for the Boston and then Milwaukee Braves and concluded his career with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. They faced each other for 18 years (1946-63) in the National League. Spahn lamented that Musial knew how to hit pitches off him including over 100 hits with 14 being home runs.

Spahn had some truly dominant moments in those seasons and at age 39 and 40 threw no-hitters and in August of 1961 won his 300th game.

How about a re-write with some newer events?

The 1980s

Now that in itself would be a tall task but I am willing to hazard a guess about a number of impactful events in the game of baseball since the book ends with The Los Angeles Dodgers’ dramatic win over the Montreal Expos in the 1981 NL pennant race.

One of the most dramatic moments of the 1980s, as many well know, is the1988 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the same Dodgers.

In Game One, an injured Kirk Gibson hobbled to the plate and hit a home run off A’s reliever Dennis Eckersley.

Just one year later, the A’s were part of more World Series drama when the Loma Prieta Earthquake hit the Bay Area, postponing the start of Game Three.

Earlier in the 1989 season, Pete Rose received his ban from baseball when Commissioner Bart Giamatti was able to substantiate claims about Rose betting on baseball games.

The 1990s

The 1990s too had many great moments, including Jim Abbott’s no-hitter in 1993.

Abbott pitched with only one hand, his left, because he was born without a right hand.

As much as Abbott’s no-hitter was inspirational, there was Mark McGwire’s breaking of the home run record, previously held by Roger Maris, when he hit 70 home runs in 1998.

It wouldn’t be until 2010 that McGwire admitted to using steroids in his career, including the 1998 season.

Barry Bonds (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bonds) would later hit 73 home runs in 2001 and, like McGwire, has been the subject of ridicule for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds holds the record for most home runs not only in a season but also in a career. (https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/HR_career.shtml) He finished with 762, seven better than Hank Aaron, but writers voting for the Hall of Fame refused to reward him.

Ben Abel has been an avid sports fan since the 1980s. He has contributed to Sports Betting Dime and Overtime Heroics, covering hockey, baseball, and football as well as other sports. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Contact him on Twitter @lebaneb or via email at info@abelmarketing.ca

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