Simply the Best: The Story of the 1929-31 Philadelphia Athletics

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Our baseball appetites were wetted through great radio broadcasts, often heard in the car, courtesy of Vin Scully of the Dodgers, or Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges of the Giants. For a kid, often my only amusement was baseball on the radio. There was no Internet.

We had one television in the house. I had no TV in my room.

1929 World Series ATHLETICS beat Cubs

If I did not like what my parents watched, tough. I had no video games. Eventually, I got into the Strat-o-Matic baseball board game, playing an entire season in which I broadcast the games into a tape recorder, kept detailed records and typed up AP-style dispatches on an old Olivetti, but in the late s that was still a few years away. I could not wait to get home from school on Fridays, not because it was the weekend, but because that was the day The Sporting News arrived in the mail.

I lapped up every word.


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I enjoyed track because my dad was into it, but all of that was just prep time for baseball. I would listen to baseball on the radio. I do not mean it was on in the background while I did something else. I mean I would sit next to the radio and keep score. Tied at one, the game went into extra innings.

The rule was that every team had to be represented, which was the only reason the Mets had a player in the game, or so I thought.

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Seaver was stocky, boyishly handsome, and threw heat. They said he had pitched college ball for coach Rod Dedeaux at nearby USC, which perked my ears up, that was sure. A Trojan! In , Seaver was as effective as any pitcher in the league. Sandy Koufax was retired by then.

Don Drysdale had an off year. So did Juan Marichal. Bob Gibson was injured. If Seaver had gotten more run support he would have won 20 instead of 16, and possibly the Cy Young as well as the Rookie of the Year honors that went to him. I gravitated to Seaver. He was not on my hometown team.

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I had to scrape for any information I could find on the guy. The Sporting News was a big help. The Mets were so bad , though. If he was pitching against the local team on the radio, I was glued to it. I was not into the Mets. They were 3, miles away and terrible anyway. I rooted for California teams. My natural inclinations were towards things of a West Coast variety.

Ritter wrote a book called The Glory of Their Times. It may just possibly be the greatest baseball book ever written. Ritter went around the country interviewing old-time baseball players from the late s, s, s, s, maybe early s at the very latest. These guys now ranged in age from 65 to Just awesome. X-Mas I devoured that book.

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What this says about me, I do not really know. I was eight, nine years old, completely infatuated with a book that told the story of a game played 50 or 60 years prior to my birth. I was a freak, a hybrid. Who cares, I loved it. Then the record came out, with the actual interviews recorded. There was no Major League ball in California in the s.

So a young boy in California learned about New York City; the hotels, the subways, the streets, the ambience of the town. I was fascinated by all of it. The players all dressed in suits and ties, with starched collars and bowler derbies, when they were out of uniform. I came to love the concept of the well-dressed athlete away from the ballpark, especially since in my day by this time players were beginning to resemble anything from golf pros to ragamuffins in terms of their casual attire. The thing I came to admire was the intelligent athlete. All the old-timers talked about Ty Cobb, who they mostly despised but nevertheless admired for his brains and competitiveness.

Cobb came from Southern wealth. He was educated and knew Shakespeare, Greek philosophy, religion, mathematics and history. He dressed impeccably, like a Wall Street banker. Kennedy had done. Cobb got in on Coca-Cola stock at the beginning. It made him rich beyond his dreams. I was an O. Simpson fan when he was running wild at USC. I liked John Havlicek of the Celtics because he epitomized the hard-working athlete who was always in better shape than his opponents.

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Pete Maravich was like the circus coming to town. But football and basketball paled in comparison to baseball.


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Tom Seaver was a baseball player, and more to the point, a pitcher. I was a budding Little League pitching star. Seaver seemed to resemble some of those old-time baseball players described in The Glory of Their Times. He was a college man, of course, well read with political savvy and a social conscience. His father was a Stanford man, a corporate executive. Despite his well-rounded persona , Seaver was known to be the hardest-working player on the Mets, if not all of baseball.

He was one of the first baseball players to benefit from weight training, which he had started doing with his USC teammate, a baseball player who also won the Heisman Trophy, Mike Garrett. But in keeping with The Glory of Their Times theme, Tom Seaver was not just an impressive baseball player and young man.

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He was, it seemed, a reincarnation. Seaver was Christy Mathewson! Cobb was an interesting character who fascinated the heck out of me, but in the end there were all these disturbing descriptions of his racism, his blind temper, the way his own kids abandoned him.