Peter Golenbock never fails to deliver outstanding baseball stories in his books.  His latest literary project - Baseball Heaven is an other winner.

When I cracked open a copy of Baseball Heaven - Up Close and Personal, What It Was Really Like In The Major Leagues, from chapter one, focused on big league pitcher Elden Auker of mainly the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns of the 1930s and early 1940s, I was hooked. In fact, the first 60 pages of Baseball Heaven are hearing Auker tell his stories. I never heard the name of Elden Auker before reading Golenbock's conversations with him, and now I'm a huge fan of the late pitcher.

You learn something new in each chapter of Baseball Heaven.

Baseball Heaven Peter Golenbock - Amazon Books
Baseball Heaven Peter Golenbock - Amazon Books

Chapter Five is a conversation Golenbock had with Albert "Happy" Chandler in 1981. Chandler was baseball's commissioner when the game integrated in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the game's color barrier.  The gutsy, career decision made by the Kentuckian who would be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown in 1982 had huge ramifications for the National Pastime, as well as society in general.

Golenbock takes readers by the hand, and walks through the process that Chandler traveled, before allowing the Brooklyn Dodgers to bring the first Black ballplayer to the National League.

With each of the 18 chapters in Baseball Heaven readers will feel as if they are eavesdropping, listening to those from other eras of baseball set their records straight. Listening to Golenbock shoot the proverbial breeze with hall of famers, non-players, guys who filled out expansion club rosters, to wonderful souls who loved every minute playing a game for what would be a lucrative living.

Dock Ellis, Gary Carter, Ralph Branca, Bobby Thomson, and Del Webb (former New York Yankees' owner) are in Golenbock's starting lineup in Baseball Heaven.  This work, without mention of modern day stars Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Shohei Ohtani, should attract and maintain the interest of baseball fans that want to know details of how history was written.

At a time when the internet was many years away from actually up and running, when  cell phones were only  seen on episodes of TV's Star Trek in the 1970s, and the words "look it up" were the only search engine, I applaud Golenbock on being able to locate his subjects.  Of course, when speaking with Golenbock recently by phone prior to his heading out to take in a Sunday afternoon Tampa Bay Rays home game, one piece of paper in particular was responsible for much of his success.

"Michael Burke of the Yankees (Burke was the team's president during the years that CBS was the majority owner of the ball club, starting with the 1965 MLB season) wrote a letter for me.  He said to show this to former players, requesting that they give their cooperation to me for the book I was writing on the Yankees."

Another major assist for Golenbock to connect with those he sought out was Mary Appel. In the early 1970's, Appel's generosity of phone numbers and addresses for former players such as Elston Howard provided a treasure trove of stories he was in search of. It was Yankees from the 1949-1964 era who Golenbock traveled to find.

When in college, and reading Lawrence S. Ritter's baseball classic The Glory of Their Times, Golenbock tells of his wanting to emulate this iconic baseball "bible" for the rest of his professional life. And he has done so. With books penned on Yankees stars and Brooklyn Dodgers' Bums, and so many others, Golenbock has asked and had answered so much that so many fans would have wanted to know.

Baseball Heaven is another grand slam slugged over the Fine Schaefer Beer sign standing above Brooklyn's Ebbets Field's scoreboard. Going back in baseball time with Golenbock is a journey always worth taking more than once.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at Don can be contacted via email at 

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