Picks and Pans Review: Baseball: the Illustrated History of America's Game

updated 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/14/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Donald Honig

Honig, author of such books as Baseball When the Grass Was Real, is to the major leagues what the Durants were to the somewhat larger question of civilization. His affectionate, informative historical prose, however, is only a minor part of this book.

Most of it is devoted to Honig's skill at finding the photographs—more than 1,100 of them—that make the volume so enjoyable to peruse. Photography being what it was, most of the pictures from baseball's earliest days are primitive. Even the head shots and very posed action pictures are fun, though, especially when they offer a chance to see the faces of such now mythic characters as Cy Young or Honus Wagner.

Honig also offers more than just Hall of Fame faces. There are photos of such players as Austin McHenry, a Cardinal outfielder from 1918 to 1922 who died at 27, Nelson Potter, a pitcher who compiled a 92-97 record in the '30s and '40s, pitcher Bob Rush, who served 10 seasons with the Cubs before joining Milwaukee in 1958, Rico Petrocelli, a third baseman whose 13-year career, all with the Red Sox, ended in 1976, and Houston's longtime second baseman Bill Doran. There are too few off-the-field pictures; seeing Joe DiMaggio in his tux or Hank Greenberg in an Army uniform whets the appetite for more.

Alan Trammell's name is misspelled; so are Howie Pollet's and Ginger Beaumont's. For the most part, though, Honig is a model of accuracy, and his prose is straightforward, never getting in the way of the details or the lore. (Crown, $45)

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