22 January 2015

Peter Morris, Base Ball Founders and Base Ball Pioneers

Peter Morris, et al, Base Ball Founders. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013.
                   _____, Base Ball Pioneers, 1850 - 1870. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.

Base Ball Founders is the second volume of a project exploring the early development and spread of baseball in the late nineteenth century, when it went form a New England variant of a traditional children’s game to the National Pastime in only fifty years.

The “et al” above is a top-notch team of baseball historians, led by Morris, an inaugural winner of the Henry Chadwick award for lifetime achievement. He and William Ryczek, Jan Finkel, Leonard Levin, and Richard Malatzky, with occasional others, take turns penning chapters about important teams of the time. In Founders, they focus on the Boston to Philadelphia corridor where the New York derivative of rounders developed into what we now call baseball. New York City, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts are each represented by six to ten teams. Each team record gives a club history, and some have player biographies or accounts of significant games. Each also includes a list of resources consulted.

Base Ball Pioneers, the companion volume, explores the game’s dispersal. Following the same format, Pioneers covers teams in ten outlying areas, from Maine and Connecticut, to San Francisco. Each volume is nicely indexed, and this set is a valuable reference. It works especially well when paired with David Block’s Baseball Before We Knew It and John Thorn’s Base Ball in the Garden of Eden, by providing a human face for the history told in those titles.

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