19 to 21
John Shiffert has been a sportswriter off-and-on since he was in the 11th grade at Germantown Friends School . . . which is longer ago than he cares to admit. A native Philadelphian currently living in exile outside of Atlanta, he is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, a true red Phillies fan who is still enjoying re-living the 2008 baseball season, a certifiable history nerd, and the author of three baseball history books, the most recent of which, "Base Ball in Philadelphia," is the story of the game in the City of Brotherly Love from 1831 to 1900. His fourth book, on that very same 2008 baseball season, "The Breaks Even Out and Midnight Comes Quickly for Cinderella," is now available.
Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org
19 to 21... A Review of Baseball History
Volume 13, #7, April 6, 2015
Book Review – "The 20th Century Phillies by the Numbers"
Let’s remember, in this day of PEDs, multi-million dollar players, billion-dollar owners, absurd major league baseball trade rumors, bloggers who take themselves and their expertise way too seriously, and seemingly endless three hour marathons, that baseball is a game; it’s supposed to be fun.
Maybe baseball was more fun in the 1950s. Maybe a lot of fans have forgotten those eras, if not the fun inherent in the game. Fortunately, at least one baseball fan/author hasn’t forgotten, and he keeps reminding us of the fun of the game.
He’s Henry Roth "Ted" Taylor, AKA, "The Glenside Kid," and "The 20th Century Phillies by the Numbers" (Biblio Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-62249-242-8) is his eighth entry into the baseball-themed field. And, like all the rest, this latest installment from Taylor’s alter ego, "The Glenside Kid," does indeed remind us that baseball is fun. Certainly, anyone who reads Taylor’s work will pick that up very quickly.
Before hitting some of the high points of Phillies by the Numbers, a brief re-cap of the career of the author is necessary, unless you’ve already read Taylor’s previous work, "The Glenside Kid," in which case you’ve also read the best baseball-themed autobiography extent. If you haven’t, note that Taylor grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside, PA in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and has undertaken the "Glenside Kid" persona as his alter ego. Although a fan of all sports, except possibly cross country, Taylor makes it clear that baseball is his game, and, in fact, he played the game in youth baseball, high school and for Millersville State, in addition to coaching at Ursinus and Philadelphia U.
Despite his credentials on the diamond, it could be said, in fact, it will be said, that Taylor’s career in uniform was a prelude to an even more distinguished career as a baseball expert, in multiple facets of the game; baseball cards, baseball card publishing, memorabilia in general, history, research, writing, newspapers, radio, journalism, poetry, PR, biography and the ultimate in fandom – launching an historical society.
It is this latter field, in conjunction with the co-founding of the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society, that Taylor has devoted the majority of his previous literary works. Having already authored a trilogy of books on his "growing-up" team (the A’s by the Numbers, the Ultimate A’s reference book and a short bio of Al Simmons), it is fair to say that Taylor is the top living expert on Mr. Mack’s legacy.
Nonetheless, there were two major league Philadelphia teams while Taylor was growing up, at least until he was 13 when "They Took My Team Away" as he explains in Chapter 15 of Phillies by the Number, and many fans of The Glenside Kid have wondered when The Kid was going to turn his literary efforts towards that other bunch, the Phillies.
As it is, Taylor had been working on Phillies by the Numbers for four years, and reports he was somewhat blocked, maybe in the manner of Andy Seminick guarding home plate, until he turned to his alter ego, The Glenside Kid, for help. While Phillies by the Numbers is first a research work – did you know that John Vukovich wore seven different numbers for the Phillies – it didn’t really take off until The Glenside Kid offered to help Taylor out, and boldly inserted himself into the narrative. Thus, we have a research/reference book that is really much, much more. In addition to being a lot of fun, it also gives us an anecdotal history of the Phillies from roughly the Whiz Kids to the turn of the Century. Sort of a "Phillies by Remembrance From Robbie to Curt," or, if you rather, from 36 to 38.
It’s easy to tell that Taylor has, in his inimitable fashion, inserted himself into the research aspect of the book, making for a more lively and entertaining read than say, "The Baseball Encyclopedia." The last five chapters simply beg to be read, so much so that, if you peruse the Table of Contents, it is highly tempting to read Phillies by the Number backwards, starting with "Philadelphia’s Third Big League Team" (the old "Negro League" Philadelphia Stars, and a nice addition to the book) and moving on to "Cy Williams, Dick Allen, Del Ennis, Why the Hall Not?" and then "The Phillies New Stadium was Almost in the Suburbs" (what a concept!) "They Took My Team Away" (Ted hasn’t gotten over that yet, and it’s been 61 years) and "The Phils Trade that Changed Baseball." (think, Curt Flood)
(As for the preceding chapters, recalling that the book covers only the 20th Century, Taylor lists the fruits of four years of research, such as every number worn by every player, lineups by decade, Phillie Hall of Famers, managers, coaches, narratives of the 1915, 1980 and 1983 World Series, and short bios of a couple hundred notable players. So, Phillies by the Numbers works as a reference book, too.)
And, that would be OK, as long as you didn’t miss two of the additional outstanding aspects of this most enjoyable work (it’s almost as much fun as "The Glenside Kid" book). First, the artwork, graphics and illustrations are great, starting with the from cover, an adaptation of the 1954 Phillies program (as noted, Taylor is a memorabilia expert), and including, yes, a couple of additional scorecards because, as everyone knows, "You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Score Card!" And, since Taylor has collected more baseball cards than RAJ has collected snotty comments about his ability as a GM, the book is loaded with photos of classic cards of classic, and some not so classic (Tommy Glaviano?) Phillies, taken largely from his own collection.
However, it’s the other contribution to the fun that gives this book as much pop as Del Ennis or Mike Schmidt or Greg Luzinski. It’s "The Glenside Kid Remembers…" inserts sprinkled throughout the book, wherein The Glenside Kid, and Taylor, in effect give a personal history of baseball in Philadelphia. (This is such a great idea that I may want to do it myself some day.) Without completely giving away the store, here are a couple of examples…
As noted, Taylor was primarily an A’s fan up until the time of the Whiz Kids. As an eight-year old boy who had recently lost his father to cancer, Taylor was thrilled when his uncle, Ernie Lay (who would become his stepfather a few years later, but that’s another story) assured him he could get them tickets to the World Series. Well, one member of the family saw the two games in Shibe Park, but it was Ernie’s wife, Ted’s Aunt Florence, who worked for Western Union, and who didn’t even like baseball. Although Lay was one of those people who knew people, and one of the biggest Phillies fans on Earth, he couldn’t score the tickets, and uncle and nephew had to listen via radio. "How fair was that?" asks The Glenside Kid.
An even better "Glenside Kid Remembers…" story dates from Taylor’s days co-running what was at the time the biggest baseball card and sports memorabilia show in captivity. Housed in this era in the wandering halls of the late, lamented Spring Garden College, the show inevitably featured former baseball greats as guests. Well, for the second show, Taylor and partner Bob Schmierer scored with Eddie Sawyer. Being a PR guy at heart, Taylor had a promotional exhibit-type card with Sawyer’s likeness printed up, along with another card that was a reproduction of the famous T-206 Honus Wagner card. (Yes, I still have copies of both cards.)
So, Sawyer appears at the college and asks Spring Garden staffer Pat Dieterly to "tell Mr. Taylor I’ve arrived." Now, if Sawyer had said this to another Spring Garden employee, Helen Cauley, who also doubled as a Phillies usher (one of the famous "Hot Pants Patrol") at the Vet, well, Helen would have unquestionably known who she was talking to, and acted appropriately. However, Pat, although a very nice person, wasn’t a baseball fan and didn’t know who this gentleman was who was asking for Ted. Well, Sawyer says, "I’m the guy on the card." So Pat gets on the PA system and announces that, "Honus Wagner is here to sign autographs." Much merriment ensued…
You get the picture, this book is a lot of fun. You need to get a copy through TTA LLC, P.O. Box 273, Abington, PA 19001, both to renew your love of baseball, and to get to know The Glenside Kid.