From an award-winning graphic artist and baseball historian comes a strikingly original illustrated history of baseball’s forgotten heroes, including stars of the Negro Leagues, barnstorming teams, semi-pro leagues, foreign leagues, and famous players like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Joe DiMaggio before they achieved notoriety.
From a young age, Gary Cieradkowski had a passion for baseball’s unheralded heroes. Inspired by his father and their shared love of the sport, Cieradkowski began creating “outsider” baseball cards, as a way to tell the little-known stories of baseball’s many unsung heroes—alongside some of baseball’s greatest players before they were famous. The League of Outsider Baseball is a tribute to all of those who’ve played the game, known and unknown.
Shining a light into the dark corners of baseball history—from Mickey Mantle’s minor league days to Negro League greats like Josh Gibson and Leon Day; to people that most never knew played the game, such as Frank Sinatra, who had his own ball club in 1940s Hollywood; bank robber John Dillinger, who was a promising shortstop and took time out between robberies to attend Cubs games; and even a few US presidents—this book is a rich, visual tribute to America’s pastime.
Meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated using a unique, vintage baseball-card-style, and filled with a colorful and rich cast of characters, this book is a prized collector’s item and will be cherished by fans of all ages.
The League of Outsider Baseball CHAPTER 1 THE BUSH LEAGUERS Everyone starts somewhere.
Since the earliest days of organized baseball there has been a hierarchy of leagues, organized by their level of talent, all leading up to the major leagues. Today there is a very rigid and regulated system and each big league club has an allotted number of teams at each level that they can have control over.
Up until the 1950s this was not the norm. Some teams like the Cardinals and Dodgers had vast farm systems with outposts in almost every state. There was even a saying that went something like “it ain’t a town unless it’s got a Cardinals farm team in it.” These forgotten little towns and the teams that once played there are where the term bush league comes from, meaning far away from the bright lights of the major league cities.
While the Cardinals and Dodgers had a continuous flow of new talent to fill their rosters, other teams were shortsighted or too cash-poor to have much of a farm system. The St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators fell into this category and their inability to develop fresh talent reflected in the two trading the position of last place in the American League year after year.
It’s always staggering to think that of the millions of players who pass through the ranks of the minor leagues, only a select few make it all the way to the big leagues. Take, for example, the year 1930: The National and American Leagues both consisted of eight teams each with 25 players on the roster. That’s just 400 jobs available at the top level of the game. Now consider that every summer day in 1930 an estimated 4,000 players were playing their hearts out on 160 minor league teams, trying to make the big leagues. For every Hank Greenberg making a name for himself that year there were thousands of guys named Buckshot May and Pinky Pittenger toiling in obscurity for teams like the Des Moines Demons and Jersey City Skeeters.
Everyone starts somewhere, and this chapter will show you how a few rose up from the anonymous thousands to become legends of the game.
Gary Joseph Cieradkowski is the artist and writer behind The Infinite Baseball Card Set blog. An award winning graphic artist and illustrator, chances are you have visited or bought something he designed: Bicycle Playing Cards, the music department of Barnes & Noble, the Folgers Coffee can, and the graphics for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, still regarded as the best designed ballpark in the Majors. Growing up a New York Mets fan in the 1970s, Gary learned to live with pain and disappointment until he married his beautiful wife Andrea. The two live happily in Northern Kentucky, unless they discuss the merits of the designated hitter rule.
“Gary Cieradkowski is to me the most interesting artist working in baseball today. His bold graphic style recalls America's poster kings of yore--Edward Penfield, J.C. Leyendecker, Fred G. Cooper--and his love of the game breathes new life into heroes long gone.”
– John Thorn, Official Historian for Major League Baseball
“Cieradkowski's artwork is able to capture the player far better than the photos you find in a typical baseball card. These players are more alive, more real than any faded photo. I almost expect them to leap off the card and demand $50 in exchange for an autograph.”
– Jim Caple, ESPN
“Gary Cieradkowski's colorful and nuanced baseball art and cards are a romantic and captivating journey into the game's glorious past delivered from a unique and detailed perspective.”
– Charlie Vascellaro, Author of Hank Aaron: A Biography
“What began as a formof therapy has become this season’s most beguiling and idiosyncratic book.”
– Chicago Tribune
“The League of Outsider Baseball can be read as a reclamation project, although it is also more than that. The illustrations, rendered in vivid throwback style, recall the beautiful old tobacco cards that were manufactured at the turn of the century.’ Based not on photographs but rather on research and imagination, they offer a new lens through which to look at, or think about, these players, a way of bringing them to life."
– David L. Ulin, LA Times
“Every few years, a baseball book comes along that isn’t quite like anything before it. The latest candidate for the oddball baseball hall of fame book is The League of Outsider Baseball, a hugely enjoyable volume filled with so many jaw-dropping facts that you will want to start reading from cover to cover.”
– Allen Barra, Dallas Morning News
“Cieradkowski’s work leaps into my top 5 nonfiction baseball books.”