Retired professor honors hall of famers in book

John Wood combines his lifelong love for baseball and his curiosity of human nature in his book titled, “Beyond the Ballpark: The Honorable, Immoral, and Eccentric Lives of Baseball Players.” Photo credit: Joy Moton

As a young boy listening to the voice of an excited announcer and the roaring crowds at the World Series over the radio, John Wood knew baseball would become one of his lasting passions.

“Once baseball gets in your blood, it’s pretty hard to get out,” Wood said.

Wood is a retired professor of religion at Baylor and former professor of ethics. After suffering a heart attack two years before retiring, Wood decided to get started on his bucket list. One of the first things he wanted to accomplish was writing about the sport he loved so dearly. This resulted in him writing a book titled, “Beyond the Ballpark: The Honorable, Immoral, and Eccentric Lives of Baseball Legends.”

“I’m just really curious about human nature. But also since I taught ethics at Baylor, I was interested in their moral lives-so not just what they did on the diamond in the ballpark, but what they did away from the park,” Wood said.

Wood’s book discusses the character and lives of 50 Hall of Fame baseball players.

Wood said he always had an interest in the individual history and personalities of baseball players due to his professional background. After conducting a significant amount of research on each player, Wood divided them into different categories of good guys, mixed bags, eccentrics and tragic cases. He wanted to try to find out why these people did what they did, why they went into baseball, how they treated others and what some of the defining moments in their lives were.

“Baseball heroes are portrayed as human beings whose lives are influenced by so much more than their common love of baseball,” said Dr. Jeter Basden, director of ministry guidance at Baylor.. “His book is great reading for even the most casual baseball fan.”

Along with reading books and articles and reaching out to people, Wood took his research further by visiting the gravesite of each player. Wood estimated that he visited around 35 states to get to each gravesite.

“There’s something about where you end up,” Wood said. “When life is over, what they have on their gravesite tells how they’re wanting to be remembered or how their family wanted them to be remembered.”

Wood’s book has been nominated among 10 other books for the Larry Ritter Book award, which recognizes books that are written about people who played baseball in the early 1900s. Wood also said his book has been listed as one of the top 40 books of baseball last year.

“John’s book is an invaluable addition to baseball’s rich past,” said Robert Darden, a professor in the department of journalism, public relations and new media. “His unique combination of vivid history and elegant philosophical insight at each gravesite brings long-lost baseball heroes and villains to life.”