John Holway saw his first game in Yankee Stadium in 1940. A rich friend bought box seats for $3.00 each right over the Red Sox dugout. As they hustled in late, there, framed in the tunnel entrance (now gone) stood Jimmie Foxx menacingly waving his bat, cheeks bulging with tobacco, arms bulging with muscles. Lefty Grove pitched, and each inning he walked straight toward the kid, paused at the dugout lip, gazed over his head, scoping out blondes, spat, and disappeared. The ten year-old was so excited, he didn’t even notice that Joe DiMaggio hit a homer, or that a skinny sophomore named Williams was playing left field.
The next year he watched Joe hit in his 35th game and Ted go 1-4 in pursuit of .406. Very few living men can say they saw that.
In ’44 another rich friend bought a war bond for $18.75, his ticket to see an exhibition in Washington. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth hobbled to the plate to accept the cheers.
The next year Holway joined a gaggle of kids at the railing in old Griffith Stadium to see Satchel Paige warming up, He used a Dizzy Dean windmill windup and slung the ball side arm. Across the field Josh Gibson was warming his own pitcher and tossed his head back to laugh like a jolly black Santa. It was the last time those two titans ever faced each other. The kid isn’t sure, but he thinks the Monarch shortstop was a rookie named Jackie Robinson.
The next time Holway saw Paige was in the 1948 World Series. In the press lounge afterward, he spied Cy Young, sitting quietly with his cane in a corner, had a beer at the bar with Tris Speaker, and pissed it off right next to Rogers Hornsby.
A paratroop lieutenant wounded in Korea, Holway wrote the first book in English on Japanese baseball. Back home he became an economics analyst for the Voice of America.
John spent many hours with Ted for a biography, which has now grown to a 1,000-page trilogy with many tales never told before. He’s seen most of the greatest sluggers in history, from Babe to Mantle, Sadaharu Oh, and Barry Bonds. He saw Ted’s 1946 blooper homer, Buckner’s bobble, and Barry’s #70.
Buck Leonard started him on a 30-year journey through Negro League history. It led to 70 interviews with Satch, Cool Papa, Double Duty etc. and yielded five books plus the Casey Award for the best baseball book of 1988.
He and Dick Clark spent decades delving into blackball statistics, which had never been compiled, and published them in the 1990 Macmillan Encyclopedia. It won the They are now greatly expanded and won SABR’s Bob Davids and Henry Chadwick Awards. He hopes to merge his data, now greatly expanded, with the work of younger sleuths into the most definitive study ever done.
Switching to military history, John produced an oral history of the World War II Red Tails, the basis of the George Lucas movie. Next: more true tales, of the 24th Regiment in Korea, America’s last segregated outfit.
He has written for the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, etc, plus magazines from New Delhi to Moscow, Tokyo to Buenos Aires, and has appeared on CNN, ABC, and the History Channel.
John has also eaten hot dogs in 70 big league parks, the world record, from Jersey City to San Juan to Tokyo,
He has visited 35 countries around the world and studied four languages – Japanese, Chinese, French, and Nepali. The last one was picked up trekking around Annapurna looking for old-time black players who might have retired there.
Gabriel Schechter has been a SABR member since 1991, and from 2002-2010 worked as a researcher at the Hall of Fame library. Gabriel’s blog site, charlesapril.com, has been going since 2008. As a freelance editor, researcher, and fact-checker, he has aided in the publication of dozens of baseball books. His own publications include:
Victory Faust: The Rube Who Saved McGraw’s Giants, published in 2000
Unhittable! Baseball’s Greatest Pitching Seasons, published in 2002
AMERICA’S PASTIME: Historical Treasures from the Baseball Hall of Fame, published in 2005
This Bad Day in Yankees History: A Calendar of Calamities, published in 2008
In addition, he has provided the captions for two collections of photos by award-winning photographer Neil Leifer, one covering his baseball photos and the other his football photos.