#Shortstops: Bisher’s Book

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Craig Muder

Furman Bisher is alive and well, thanks to the incomparable Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Somewhere in Northeast Ohio, Bisher’s legacy also lives on.

It was 1981, and I had finished my schoolwork as a seventh-grader at Reed Middle School in Hubbard, Ohio. Our class was spending part of the morning in the school library, a hodge-podge area that lay at the center of a school built on a hillside.

With little to do but explore – and having no desire to look through the library’s cache of film strips – I traipsed up the stairs to the second floor to explore the sports book section. On a stand-alone shelf was “Strange But True Baseball Stories” by Furman Bisher. As was the case with every other book in those days, affixed to the inside back cover was a paper packet containing a 4 x 6 card noting dates the book had been checked out.

If the card was to be believed, the book had not been read since November of 1971. The musty smell seemed to confirm this.

The book, first published in 1966, featured 26 vignettes from baseball history and was written for the younger reader. Bisher had picked unusual moments from baseball’s past, some featuring stars like Stan Musial and Lou Gehrig while others highlighting players I did not know like Nippy Jones and Howard Ehmke.

Pulling a plastic chair up to a simulated wood table, I sat down and was quickly transported back in time.

Bisher, a nationally known writer and the sports editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had condensed decades of baseball history into a primer for the young baseball fan. Suddenly, the statistics I had only known via encyclopedic pages came to life via colorful narratives, a variety of quotes – some that I’m sure were at least partially fabricated – and a handful of black-and-white photos.

The stories of the game – which serve history’s connective fibers – were preserved in this seemingly forgotten book. But the memories of these stories stayed with me forever.

Years later, I would sometimes correspond with Bisher for work. I wished I had told him what so many others likely shared: That Bisher, through his writing, had inspired a lifelong love of the game.

I never did.

Bisher’s work, however, endures along with thousands of other titles in the Hall of Fame Library, preserved forever in Cooperstown.

Meanwhile, I hope and pray that edition from Reed Middle School – a building that has long since been demolished – sits in some remaindered book pile or perhaps in a comfortable home. Those pages and bindery, so seldom viewed or handled in their heyday, held words that stay with me to this day.

“If I have helped the reader learn to enjoy the ‘hot stove’ game,” Bisher wrote in the book’s introduction, “then my purpose has been achieved.”

Bisher passed away in 2012, his purpose fulfilled.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series