The Secret History of Early Baseball

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baseball historian John Thorn debunks baseball’s creation story and reveals that from its earliest days. He reveals how baseball was a vehicle for gambling, a proxy form of class warfare, that was infused with racism like the larger society, and was corrupted by hustlers and shady entrepreneurs. In Baseball in The Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, and tells a tale full of heroes and scoundrels, scandal, greed, and glory.


John Thorn

Comments [7]

Marie from New Jersey

Born and raised in Scotland in the 1940's. We played rounders in the street from April to September. Ro from Soho has provided an accurate description of the game.

Mar. 31 2011 07:34 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Bat-&-ball games have been played "since there were boys"? I guess keeping girls out dates back just as long! So I'm glad--& surprised--at the mention of "base-ball" in Jane Austen as a girls' game! (Yes, I wasn't allowed to play Little League baseball....)

Mar. 31 2011 01:29 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Theresa from Brooklyn -- That's very interesting, thanks. Your comment had me googling the subject and I came across this quip by an internet wag: "The original title of Pride and Prejudice was Pride, Prejudice, and the Suicide Squeeze."

Mar. 31 2011 01:26 PM
Margaret Hanlon

I played a game called "Rounders" in Ireland in the 60's at my all girl school. We had a bat and competed with other schools.

Mar. 31 2011 01:23 PM
Ro from SoHo

Please ask your guest about 'Rounders'? I am Brit who grew up playing 'Rounders' which has a very long, many centuries (since Tudor times), tradition in the UK.

The structure and layout of the field is strikingly similar: four bases around a central field with a 'bowler' or pitcher who threw the ball to the batter who stood in front of the defending catcher. The bat was similarly round. Each team of nine took turns in batting and fielding. After the batter had successfully hit the ball, he/she then ran from one base to another to be safe trying to make a full 'round'.

There is no structural similarity to cricket.

Mar. 31 2011 01:21 PM
Theresa from Brooklyn

"Base-ball" is mentioned in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1799). Seems to have been a game that was played by girls (!)

Mar. 31 2011 01:13 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Called strikes are introduced in the 1850's. Before that, did the batter have an unlimited number of pitches?

Mar. 31 2011 12:34 PM

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