The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball

The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball

The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball

The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball


The authoritative compendium of facts, statistics, photographs, and analysis that defines baseball in its formative first decades. This comprehensive reference work covers the early years of major league baseball from the first game-May 4, 1871, a 2-0 victory for the Fort Wayne Kekiongas over the visiting Cleveland Forest City team-through the 1900 season. Baseball historian David Nemec presents complete team rosters and detailed player, manager, and umpire information, with a wealth of statistics to warm a fan's heart. Sidebars cover a variety of topics, from oddities-the team that had the best record but finished second-to analyses of why Cleveland didn't win any pennants in the 1890s. Additional benefits include dozens of rare illustrations and narrative accounts of each year's pennant race. Nemec also carefully charts the rule changes from year to year as the game developed by fits and starts to formulate the modern rules. The result is an essential work of reference and at the same time a treasury of baseball history. This new edition adds much material unearthed since the first edition, fills gaps, and corrects errors, while presenting a number of new stories and fascinating details. David Nemec began the lifetime labor that helped produced this work in 1954 and admits it may never end, as there always will be some obscure player whose birth date has not yet been found. Until perfection is achieved, this work offers state-of-the-art accuracy and detail beyond that supplied by even modern baseball encyclopedias. As Casey Stengel, who was born during this era, was wont to say, “you could look it up.” Now you can.


In June 1953 I took a chunk of the money I’d saved from my Cleveland Plain Dealer route and bought a copy of Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson’s The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball. I knew it for the treasure it was almost the moment I began digging into it, but by the end of that summer I’d also begun to feel a slight sense of dissatisfaction.

It wasn’t so much that each player’s season and career statistics were confined to his position, his batting average and the number of games he had played, although that certainly left me wishing for more. But what really gnawed at me was that I could get almost no picture from Turkin and Thompson’s book of the great teams throughout baseball history and, specifically, who played for them. Oh, I knew the starting nine for the 1927 New York Yankees, and of course I knew my champion 1948 Cleveland Indians down to the most obscure substitute, but I yearned for an encyclopedia that would assemble for me in their entirety the 1884 Providence Grays, the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 1940 Cincinnati Reds—to say nothing of all the Federal League and National Association teams with great names like the Brooklyn Tip Tops and the Elizabeth Resolutes.

It took me until the winter of 1955 to recognize that if I wanted those team rosters, I was going to have to create them myself. And as long as I was at it, I decided to go the whole nine yards and draw up a complete roster for every major league team from 1871 through 1950, where Turkin and Thompson left off in their encyclopedia’s first edition. So I hunkered down in my bedroom with a stack of 3 x 5 cards and got to work. Using the alphabetical register of players in the encyclopedia, I started with the first name, Abadie, John, and headed the top card in my pile 1875 Centennial, Abadie’s initial major league team.

Right away I realized that I’d undertaken one mammoth project, and there were many days when I was on the brink of quitting, but somehow I kept pushing ahead. My grades in school hit bottom that winter, my social life was zero, but it was worth it. By blowing every spare moment I had, I managed to plow through the whole encyclopedia by March 1956, and finally one evening I arrived at Zwilling, Edward Harrison and the end of my long, long road.

I still have those hundreds of 3 x 5 cards. I dug them out from the cigar box where they were stored in the fall of 1969 when Macmillan unveiled the first edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia with its yearly rosters of all the regular position players and pitchers for each major league team, and I dug them out again in 1974 when Neft and Cohen went a step further than Macmillan . . .

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