An Encyclopedic Knowledge of the Game

Matthew TaylorContributor IJune 25, 2009
"Only books about the Yankees and Notre Dame sell."

If you're an O's fan and you happen to have $55 burning a hole in your pocket ($34.65 if you go Orioles-Encyclopedia-Century-History-Highlights/dp/0801891140/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245937994&sr=8-1">the Amazon route) you may want to check out "The Orioles Encyclopedia: A Half Century of History and Highlights."

I have an immediate soft spot for the exhaustive 821-page effort, which took more than six years to compile and features 425 rare photographs along with nearly 400 player profiles. (Note: I don't have a copy myself. I'm just a messenger.)

For one thing, the author, Michael Gesker, grew up in my native Catonsville (I suppose the area just breeds diehard baseball fans).

Then there's the fact that the original publisher dropped the project "because only books about the Yankees and Notre Dame sell." The publisher neglected to mention that you have to sell your soul to root for either team.

And I'm a sucker for a sentimental baseball story like Gesker's tale in The Catonsville Times of how he got hooked on the Orioles .

"One day, he and two friends took a public bus to Memorial Stadium to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Kansas City Athletics.

When the game ended, the three boys ran to the parking lot where the home team's players parked their cars.

Out walked Clint Courtney, the Orioles' catcher known as 'Scrap Iron' whom Satchel Paige once called 'the meanest man I've ever met.'

Gesker and his buddies casually walked up to Courtney and said, 'Hey, Mr. Courtney! Can we get a ride home?'

They knew Courtney lived on Midvale Avenue, in Catonsville, in a house previously owned by Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

They also knew that was just around the corner from Gesker's home on North Beechwood.

Courtney responded, 'Yeah, come on. Get in the car,' and the three had their ride home.

For Gesker, now 60, it was 'really a memorable moment,' he said."

Press Box also has written about Gesker's "Encyclopedia of the Orioles."