Synopses & Reviews
"Baseball is not a Summer snap, but a business....
A player is not a sporting man. He is hired to do certain work and do it as well as he possibly can."
John Montgomery Ward, nineteenth-century America's most-talked-about (both reviled and applauded) baseball player, spoke these words shortly after the failure of the great player rebellion of 1890, a revolution Ward almost singlehandedly fomented. That year, four out of every five National Leaguers, taking great economic risk, deserted professional baseball's establishment to create an "outlaw" rival organization: The Players' League. Team owners, the players felt, treated them like chattel: they "dished saltpeter in their sidemeat and gave them shameful financial
beatings if they misbehaved," writes Bryan
Di Salvatore in this fascinating, rigorous, and brisk biography.
A Clever Base-Ballist is also a keenly observant narrative of late nineteenth-century America. In it can be found the likes of Mark Twain, Hawaii's King Kalakuau, and Moses Fleetwood Walker, the major league's first black player. It travels from the groaning boards of Delmonico's restaurant to the boisterous pages of the 1880s entertainment press to the Egyptian desert, where the target of one thrown baseball was the Sphinx's right eye.
Handsome, erudite, and brilliantly talented, Ward made front-page headlines across the country when he married New York actress Helen Dauvray. And when they weren't branding him a terrorist, owners trumpeted the college-educated Ward as the sport's premier role model. An unblinking antidote to "good-old-days" syndrome, A Clever Base-Ballist is an accessible, compelling, and unconventional biography of an unconventional and, until now, obscure American.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 449-457) and index.
About the Author
Bryan Di Salvatore's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Outside, among other publications. He lives in Missoula, Montana.