Ken Clarke's Reviews > The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball

The Old Ball Game by Frank Deford
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's review
May 04, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

Frank Deford has been one of my favorite writers, OK, sportswriters, since the '60s when he worked for Sports Illustrated. The guy can make any subject sound interesting. In The Old Ball Game Deford doesn't have to work too hard because Christy Mathewson and John McGraw remain two towering figures in the game a century after their prime.

Before Michael Jordan or Mickey Mantle or Red Grange, Christy Mathewson was the country's first sports hero. He was tall, handsome, polite, college-educated at a time when only 6 percent of Americans, and even fewer baseball players, held college degrees.

As refined and smooth as Mathewson was, John McGraw was rough, loud, profane. Loud and profane were common traits of baseball players of his day, but McGraw was the champion of both categories. Together with the New York Giants, Mathewson as star pitcher, McGraw as manager and innovator, they brought the game to modernity.

Deford tells their story with his usual wit and easy style. America and baseball were very different a century ago than they are now. Let Frank Deford tell you all about it.

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