Happy Book Birthday to Red Barber

Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Red Barber: The Life and Legacy of a Broadcasting Legend (Nebraska, 2022) by Judith R. Hiltner and James R. Walker.

About the Book:

Born and raised in rural Mississippi and the even balmier climes of central Florida, Red Barber, at the age of thirty-two, became one of New York City’s most influential citizens as the play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers. When he arrived in 1939, Barber brought the down-home drawl and idioms of his southern roots to the borough, where residents said they could walk down any street and never miss a pitch because his voice wafted out of every window and every passing car. From his colorful expressions like “rhubarb” and “sitting in the catbird seat” to his vivid use of similes—a close game was “tighter than a new pair of shoes on a rainy day”—Barber’s influence on his contemporaries and the many generations of broadcasters who followed him cannot be overstated. But behind all the base hits, balls, and strikes lies a compelling story that dramatizes the shifting expectations and roles of a public figure—the sports broadcaster—as he adapted to complex cultural changes throughout the course of twentieth-century American life.

A Word from the Authors:

In the year since the publication of Red Barber: The Life and Legacy of a Broadcasting Legend, we’ve taken great pleasure in talking about our book on many radio shows, podcasts and at several Society for American Baseball Research chapter events. We also received excellent reviews and notices in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Booklist, NINE, the New York Post, the Bradenton Times, and the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Prior to publication we received warm endorsements from Bob Costas, Hall of Fame broadcaster; John Thorn, MLB’s Official Historian; Jane Leavy, award winning biographer of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle; and radio icon Bob Edwards, who worked with Barber for over a decade on NPR’s Morning Edition. Our Barber biography has recently been released as an audiobook by Tantor Media with outstanding vocal talent Phil Thron providing the narration.

We’ve gotten some excellent news on the awards front as well. Red Barber was second (out of ten finalists) for Spitball’s Casey Award for the best baseball book of the year. It also was one of three finalists for the Seymour Medal given by SABR for the best book in history or biography. It was the only book selected as a finalist for both awards. Our biography of the “Old Redhead” was number four on Sports Collectors Digest‘s list of forty top books in baseball. It was also one of Booklist‘s top ten in sports and recreation for the year. Book List is published by the American Library Association.

As first-time collaborators, we were especially pleased that readers did not report any noticeable differences in the writing styles or rhythms of Hiltner and Walker. We wanted to speak as nearly as possible with the voice of a single author. We also received some national notice in an AP distributed story on how we came to collaborate on the first comprehensive biography of Red Barber. 

We could not be more pleased at the reception that our biography of Red Barber received. It made all the hard work we put into the project more than worthwhile. In the months since our book was published, we’ve begun to realize how deeply gratifying, challenging and intense the experience of researching and writing the biography has been. We grew a lot as we learned more about the complexity, energy, and buoyancy of Red Barber, an engagingly imperfect man who was willing to acknowledge his flaws and who kept trying to be a better professional, and most importantly, a better human being.


“A thoroughly researched work with rich detail.” – Bob D’Angelo, Sports Bookie

“Hiltner and Walker do an incredible job in building their character assessment of Barber. There is impeccable research support to all facets of the book.” – Bevis Baseball Research

“Barber, like Scully, made his baseball listening audience more intelligent. So does this book. Forever we are thankful for both, as this monumental effort makes us feel even more enlightened.” – Farther Off the Wall

“Baseball fans will enjoy this serious biography of an evolving adult who set a high standard for broadcasters, players and fans.” – George Vecsey Blog

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