Academic journal article Base Ball

Witness to and Participant in Early Professional Base Ball History

Academic journal article Base Ball

Witness to and Participant in Early Professional Base Ball History

Article excerpt

Witness to and Participant in Early Professional Base Ball History Review by Harold V. Higham America's National Game: Historic Facts Concerning the Beginning , Evolution, Development and Popularity of Base Ball, With Personal Reminiscences of Its Vicissitudes, Its Victories and its Votaries. Albert G. Spalding. American Sports Publishing Company, 1911. Reprint by Bison Books, 1992, 542 pp., $19.95 (paper).

This is an important book for those seriously interested in 19th century baseball. As a book authored by an actual participant in the game, it is all too rare. And this tome is not by just any participant: Albert Goodwill Spalding was a ballplayer, an executive, a league power behind the throne, and a sporting-goods magnate.

Spalding began his career as a star pitcher in both the amateur and professional game. He played for clubs enrolled in the National Association of Base Ball Players, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, and the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. In 1876, together with his brother Walter Spalding, he embarked on a business venture that ultimately became the largest sporting-goods business in the world. At the age of 27, he retired from active play and became an owner of the National League franchise that to this day remains the oldest professional sport franchise to have operated continuously in the same city (the club today known as Chicago Cubs). He was also heavily involved as a baseball statesman in the labor pains experienced by Organized Baseball during the last quarter of the 19th century, often spearheading suppression tactics against upstart leagues and unionizing activities. He remained an active participant in league governance until the rival American League reached a detente with the senior circuit.

Some thirty years after the inaugural year of the NL, Spalding induced Henry Chadwick, the "Father of Base Ball," to compile a history of the game from antiquity to the New York Knickerbockers and beyond. When Chadwick died Spalding picked up the torch, utilizing the former's records and scrapbooks to form the volume, while promoting his own agenda for baseball's past and future. While the contributions of Chadwick may not be easy to quantify, it is known that in addition to the manuscript pages which were copied to Spalding by Chadwick, his widow gave all his memorabilia, files, and archives to Spalding, whose own widow ultimately donated them to the New York Public Library. …

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