Author Spector examines legacy of baseball

Author Spector examines legacy of baseball


For many good reasons, St. Louis has been described as “The Greatest Sports Town in America,” principally because we are the home of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, the legendary franchise which has already won more National League Penants than any other team, and which was the home team of such immortals as Rogers Hornsby, Stan “The Man” Musial and Albert Pujols. With such inspiring role models, it is small wonder that Greater St. Louis is also home to the Khoury Leagues and numerous weekend baseball and slow-pitch softball leagues, where everyone from the smallest rookies to those well into the sixth decade of life continue to enjoy the National Pastime.

Al Spector, a native of St. Louis who now resides in Cincinnati, is living proof of the truth of the title of his new and highly entertaining and informative book, Baseball: Never Too Old to Play the Game (Cincinnati Book Publishers, $18.95, paper). Spector’s Dad “put a baseball and bat in his hands as soon as he could grip them,” and he is still enjoying the game at the age of 60. Born in St. Louis in May 1946, Spector moved to University City in the third grade, and graduated from U. City Senior High School in 1964. The lifelong baseball fan and player went on to get a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla (then the Missouri School of Mines). Spector went on a long and successful 33-year career with Proctor & Gamble, retiring in 2002 as the Director of Worldwide Quality Assurance.


After his Dad introduced him to baseball while he was a child, Spector’s organized baseball “career” began with the St. Louis-based Khoury League. (Half a century ago, the all-Jewish Khoury League team at Jackson Park Elementary School took the three-state championship in a legendary series). Spector himself, while not part of that team, moved on to play varsity baseball at U. City High, playing first baseman on the 1963 Missouri State Championship team.

“I played four years of varsity baseball at Rolla,” Spector told the St. Louis Jewish Light in an interview from his home in Cincinnati. “I then shifted to softball for many years, and was reintroduced to baseball twice, once in my 40s and again in my 50s. I am still playing at 60.” He added that his book aims to “capture the essential experience and challenge of continuing to play baseball while growing older at the same time.”

Spector has written extensively about baseball and other subjects for many years, including an article published in the St. Louis Jewish Light headlined “Touring Baseball Diamonds and Synagoues — Seeing the World Through Baseball’s Eyes,” in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue.

Spector jokes that he retired from his long and successful career at Proctor & Gamble “because work was getting in the way of playing baseball.”

He plays at least 75 baseball games a year, but that is only part of his very busy retirement schedule. He does management and quality assurance consulting with large and small firms. In addition, his “real passion” is focused on volunteering with local Cincinnati social programs called “Every Child Succeeds” and “Cincinnati Intervention to Reduce Violence.” Spector and his wife, Ann, also enjoy researching their family trees and traveling extensively to sightsee and visit family and friends, including two grandsons. He also “works out daily,” and is already working on another book.

Spector describes his book as being “about baseball in its purest sense; it refers to Major League baseball and its players, but it is largely about the game itself and the pure joy of being a player or fan…The book is intended to honor and address the role that baseball plays in our intergenerational relationships, our culture and our lives. If you are a fan, male or female, and can relate to baseball, this book is for you,” he says.

Indeed, Never Too Old to Play the Game evokes childhood memories in any reader, especially those who can remember going to Cards or Browns games with your Dad, joining in the singing of national anthem, tasting the soda and ballpark hot dogs and watching players like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson or Ozzie Smith generate summer magic. The book evokes the memorable scene in the movie Field of Dreams, in which a re-born young Dad greets his son as asks him to “play catch.”

As important as the Cards and Browns have been to the history and pleasure of St. Louis so are the countless “weekend warriors” of baseball and softball, who remain Forever Young as they enjoy Sunday afternoon games with their friends or members of synagogue and temple leagues, or with their children and grandchildren. Greg Rhodes, executive director of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and himself the author of six books about baseball, says of Spector’s terrific volume, “This is a book about a love affair…between Al and baseball, a fond recollection and entertaining description of his life-long connection with the game. A baseball stream of consciousness as childhood memories and stories intertwine with Al’s experiences in senior leagues. A perfect companion to the summer game we all love.”

Spector has been invited to do a special off-season program on his book by the Greater St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, which promises to be a memory-evoking, humorous and moving event. For baseball fans generally across the nation, but especially for those in his native St. Louis, Spector’s Baseball: Never Too Old to Play The Game is just what the doctor ordered to snap us out of the winter ice storm doldrums to enjoy spring training and get ready for another Championship Season with our Cardinals and with our own amateur baseball love affairs.