ROGERS HORNSBY: A Biography by Charles C. Alexander


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A thorough yet static portrait of one of the most accomplished players of baseball's ""golden age."" ""I have never been a yes man,"" declared Rogers Hornsby in a 1950 interview, and this statement sums up his character. Alexander (History/Ohio Univ.; Our Game: An American Baseball History, 1991) depicts his subject as a man of strange contrasts: a teetotaler but also an inveterate gambler; a devoted son but by most accounts an absentee (and occasionally indifferent) father. Born in 1896, Hornsby was raised by his widowed mother and spent his youth working the stockyards in and around Fort Worth, playing industrial-league ball whenever time permitted. Initially undersized and unspectacular, he eventually grew into a player worthy of reckoning, generally acknowledged as the sport's greatest right-handed hitter. In 1915, at the height of a talent war initiated by the upstart Federal League, Hornsby joined the National League's St. Louis Cardinals and quickly became the senior circuit's best-known, best-paid star. But he had a prickly nature and wore out his welcome with the Cards (and their brilliant martinet of a general manager, Branch Rickey) after he led the team to their first World Series championship in 1926. Gradually, after playing relatively short stints for a succession of teams including the Giants, Braves, and Cubs, Hornsby became something of a baseball vagabond; itinerant employment, failed marriages, and mounting gambling debts frequently brought him to the brink of insolvency. However, owing to his professional reputation--he was named by baseball writers to the ""all-time all-stars"" in 1957--he remained involved in some capacity with the game until his death in 1963. Alexander conveys an impressive wealth of facts, though his narrative seldom jumps off the page; nor does he satisfactorily explain how the game changed during Hornsby's career.

Pub Date: July 27th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt