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Thread: 19th Century Base Ball Books

  1. #1
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    19th Century Base Ball Books

    Can anyone recommend some really good books about Baseball in the 19th Century? I have The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Baseball, The Beer and Whisky League, and Where They Ain't.

    Thanks,
    James Sontag
    Axes grind and maces clash!

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by jsontag View Post
    Can anyone recommend some really good books about Baseball in the 19th Century? I have The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Baseball, The Beer and Whisky League, and Where They Ain't.
    The standard survey is Harold Seymour's "Baseball: The Early Years". It is over fifty years old now, and showing its age, but still the best place to start. Seymour essentially created the study of baseball history as an academic discipline, and he repeatedly surprises me with insights beyond those of later writers. Just be aware that it is the first word on the subject, not the last.

    Once you are past the survey level, then you should narrow things down a bit. The early period (roughly 1840s through 1860s) has received some good attention. Melvin Adelman's "A Sporting Time" is probably the finest book since Seymour. George Kirsch's "Baseball and Cricket: The Creation of American Team Sports" also has merit, though this is a new edition of a book from 1989, and would have benefited from more updating. Adelman's is from the same era, and has stood up better. John Thorn's "Baseball in the Garden of Eden" is a recent worthy addition, though I don't agree with all his interpretations. Finally, Peter Morris has several good books. His "A Game of Inches" is outstanding. It isn't solely about 19th century baseball, but much of it is. Also take a look at his "A Sporting Time".

    If your interest lies more in the professional era, the books out there tend to be more narrowly focused. And frankly, there are a lot of bad ones out there. If you have a specific interest, I would be happy to give it a shot.

    If you are just starting to read on the subject, start with the Seymour. It will give you the overall picture, and you can figure out from there what interests you.

  3. #3
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    Rrhersh, thank you so much for your information. I will have to check for the titles you recommended. My main interests are National League/National Association from the 1870's, Players league, etc. Pretty much from the 1870's to 1900.

    I forgot I also have Old Time Baseball by Harvey Frommer.

    If you don't mind my asking, what are some books to stay away from? That would be a huge help if I come across any on Amazon or other online bookstores.

    Thanks again,
    James Sontag
    Axes grind and maces clash!

  4. #4
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    Do you suggest Fifty-Nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had, A Game of Brawl: The Orioles, the Beaneaters, and the Battle for the 1897 Pennant by Bill Felber, The Players League: History, Clubs, Ballplayers And Statistics by Ed Koszarek, Nineteenth Century Baseball: Year-By-Year Statistics for the Major League Teams, 1871 Through 1900 by Marshall D. Wright?
    Axes grind and maces clash!

  5. #5
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    I've heard good things about But Didn't We Have Fun? but I haven't read it.

    This is actually information I could use myself.
    The Evil Empire shall strike back again!
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  6. #6
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    I have "But Didn't we have Fun", it was pretty good. Won't say great, but pretty good. Kind of the same with the Radbourn book- it had a lot of good points- particularly about how talented Sweeney was naturally- but the idea that it had to semi-create a maybe love-story seemed a little silly to me.

    I have a very soft spot for "A Tale of Four Cities" which is the day by day of the 1889 season in both the League and the Association entirely presented in newspaper clippings from the season. Really fun read about a really fun season.

    And as Hersh says- "A Game of Inches"- both volumes- are outstanding.

  7. #7
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    A Tale of Four Cities sounds really good, especially with contemporary newspaper accounts.

    I have The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Baseball, and I saw that a few years ago they published a newer revised edition. Do I need to get that one as well?
    Axes grind and maces clash!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by jsontag View Post
    A Tale of Four Cities sounds really good, especially with contemporary newspaper accounts.
    Reading this one now. It is really interesting to see not only how things were reported then as compared to now, but also in how brutal the press could be toward players and umpires, not shying away from extremely harsh criticism and insults.

    One of the more moving pieces, a "what if" that fortunately never happened, came in a piece from Indianapolis manager Bancroft, who mentioned that league rules forced them to make up postponed games (two against Philadelphia) on a league off-day on May 31 instead of traveling to Johnstown for a scheduled exhibition game.

    In other words, the Indianapolis club avoided being in Johnstown on the day of the great flood -- May 31, 1889. The hotel the Hoosiers would have been staying at saw only 9 of the 70 occupants saved. The league rule essentially saved the ballclub, whose roster included an 18-year-old rookie fireballer named Amos Rusie.

  9. #9
    The book "Textile League Baseball: South Carolina's Mill Teams, 1880-1955" by Thomas K. Perry was a good read... It's an interesting look at how semi-pro baseball flourished in the Southern United States after the Civil War.

  10. #10
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    I did read 59 in '84 recently and enjoyed it.
    Rockies fan living in Texas

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