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Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Gameby John Thorn
Synopses & Reviews
Think you know how the game of baseball began? Think again.
Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Forget Alexander Joy Cartwright and the New York Knickerbockers. Instead, meet Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton, and Louis Fenn Wadsworth, each of whom has a stronger claim to baseball paternity than Doubleday or Cartwright.
But did baseball even have a father—or did it just evolve from other bat-and-ball games? John Thorn, baseballs preeminent historian, examines the creation story of the game and finds it all to be a gigantic lie, not only the Doubleday legend, so long recognized with a wink and a nudge. From its earliest days baseball was a vehicle for gambling (much like cricket, a far more popular game in early America), a proxy form of class warfare, infused with racism as was the larger society, invigorated if ultimately corrupted by gamblers, hustlers, and shady entrepreneurs. Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. He shows how the sports increasing popularity in the early decades of the nineteenth century mirrored the migration of young men from farms and small towns to cities, especially New York. And he charts the rise of secret professionalism and the origin of the notorious “reserve clause,” essential innovations for gamblers and capitalists. No matter how much you know about the history of baseball, you will find something new in every chapter. Thorn also introduces us to a host of early baseball stars who helped to drive the tremendous popularity and growth of the game in the post-Civil War era: Jim Creighton, perhaps the first true professional player; Candy Cummings, the pitcher who claimed to have invented the curveball; Albert Spalding, the ballplayer who would grow rich from the game and shape its creation myth; Hall of Fame brothers George and Harry Wright; Cap Anson, the first man to record three thousand hits and a virulent racist; and many others. Add bluff, bluster, and bravado, and toss in an illicit romance, an unknown son, a lost ball club, an epidemic scare, and you have a baseball detective story like none ever written.
Thorn shows how a small religious cult became instrumental in the commission that was established to determine the origins of the game and why the selection of Abner Doubleday as baseballs father was as strangely logical as it was patently absurd. Entertaining from the first page to the last, Baseball in the Garden of Eden is a tale of good and evil, and the snake proves the most interesting character. It is full of heroes, scoundrels, and dupes; it contains more scandal by far than the 1919 Black Sox World Series fix. More than a history of the game, Baseball in the Garden of Eden tells the story of nineteenth-century America, a land of opportunity and limitation, of glory and greed—all present in the wondrous alloy that is our nation and its pastime.
Think you know how the game of baseball began? Think again. Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Forget Alexander Joy Cartwright and the New York Knickerbockers. In Baseball in the Garden of Eden John Thorn reveals the real history of the game.
Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball, traces the games origins from its earliest days as a vehicle for gambling. He shows how the New York version of the game prevailed and explains the crucial role that a small religious cult played in shaping baseballs creation myth. Colorful figures such as Jim Creighton, perhaps the first true professional ballplayer, and Albert Spalding, the ballplayer-entrepreneur who chose Abner Doubleday as baseballs father, made the game our national pastime—the perfect sport for nineteenth-century America, a land of glory and greed.
No matter how much you know about the history of baseball, Baseball in the Garden of Eden will surprise, enlighten, and fascinate you.
Now available in paperback, the and#8220;fresh and fascinatingand#8221; (andlt;iandgt;The Plain Dealerandlt;/iandgt;, Cleveland), and#8220;splendid and brilliantand#8221; (andlt;iandgt;Philadelphia Daily Newsandlt;/iandgt;) history of the early game by the Official Historian of Major League Baseball.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Who really invented baseball? Forget Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown and Alexander Cartwright. Meet Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton, and other fascinating figures buried beneath the falsehoods that have accrued around baseballand#8217;s origins. This is the true story of how organized baseball started, how gambling shaped the game from its earliest days, and how it became our national pastime and our national mirror.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;Baseball in the Garden of Edenandlt;/iandgt; draws on original research to tell how the game evolved from other bat-and-ball games and gradually supplanted them, how the New York game came to dominate other variants, and how gambling and secret professionalism promoted and plagued the game. From a religious societyand#8217;s plot to anoint Abner Doubleday as baseballand#8217;s progenitor to a set of scoundrels and scandals far more pervasive than the Black Sox Fix of 1919, this entertaining book is full of surprises. Even the most expert baseball fan will learn something new with almost every page.
About the Author
John Thorn was named the Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball by Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig in 2011.andnbsp; Thorn founded and edits andlt;iandgt;Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, andlt;/iandgt;a semiannual scholarly publication. He was the coauthor of andlt;iandgt;Total Baseball, andlt;/iandgt;a well-known baseball book, and many other baseball books, notably andlt;iandgt;The Hidden Game of Baseball. andlt;/iandgt;He often appears on ESPN, the History Channel, and the MLB Network. He was the chief consultant and on-screen historian for Ken Burns's series "Baseball." He serves as publishing consultant to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Museum of the City of New York.
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