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Nineteenth Century Stars: 2012 Edition (The SABR Digital Library) by Robert L. Tiemann, editor - Sports & RecreationsWith almost 150 years of baseball history, the stories of many players from before 1900 were long obscured. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) first attempted to remedy this in 1989 by publishing a collection of 136 fascinating biographies of talented late-1800s players. Twenty-three years later, "Nineteenth Century Stars" has been updated with revised stats and re-released in both a new paperback and in ebook form.
Baseball didn't begin as the strictly professional business it is today. Back in the late 1800s, the game changed rapidly: rules, teams, and even leagues varied wildly from year to year. From that primordial soup of competition, camaraderie, and commerce rose the game as we know it.
"Nineteenth Century Stars" collects the biographies of 136 men from baseball's early era, the players and club members who played and shaped the game pre-1900. While some stars of the era have "name recognition" and inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, most would be unknown to modern baseball fans were it not for this book. Alongside Louis Sockalexis, Dummy Hoy, and Alfred Reach are the tales of Icebox Chamberlain, Lipman Pike, and Toad Ramsey. The photographs may be black and white, but the life stories can be quite colorful. These men were more than just baseball players: some owned businesses, others were doctors, one became an evangelist (and a few even became murderers).
Nineteenth Century Stars is a labor of SABR's Nineteenth Century Committee. Founded in 1983, the committee first released the book in 1989. Since then, both SABR and the committee have grown more than ten-fold, and interest in baseball's origins has increased. Many wonderful new books on the era are appearing, but Nineteenth Century Stars remains one of the founding works of the nineteenth century baseball canon, including the works of many writers, including Robert L. Tiemann, Mark Rucker, John Thorn, Joseph M. Overfield, Paul Adomites, Richard Puff, and L. Robert Davids.
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By Robert L. Tiemann
When baseball evolved in the nineteenth century from a child’s game to adult social recreation to professional sport, the very best players emerged into the public consciousness to become America’s first sports heroes. More than three dozen of these long-ago stars have been enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but scores of other outstanding pre-1900 players have fallen into obscurity. With this book, the Society for American Baseball Research, through the efforts of its committee on the 19th century, attempts to bring some forgotten stars back into the limelight. By going beyond the published statistics, SABR authors have tried to achieve greater insight into the careers and lives of these men and into the nature of baseball in their time.
You’ll find some real characters in these pages. There were “glory boys,” fan favorites and boo-targets. There were alcohol abusers, rule-breakers and game-fixers, team jumpers and company men.
And there were innovators. The game these men played was constantly changing - in its rules, its strategies, its tactics. The first known box score from 1845 shows only eight players to a side, but nine were used a year later. Games were initially won when one team reached 21 aces (runs) and led after even innings, nine innings not being adopted until 1857. A batted ball caught on the first bounce put the batter out through 1863, and the “foul bound out” remained on the books until 1885. Pitching resembled horseshoes, soft and un- derhand, until Jim Creighton took the baseball world by storm with fast underhanded pitch- ing in 1859. Overhand deliveries were not allowed until 1884. Teams relied on one pitcher as much as possible until Chicago’s Larry Corcoran and Fred Goldsmith were formed into the first pitching rotation in 1880. Gloves and catcher’s masks were unknown until the mid- 1870s, and veterans like Bid McPhee disdained the use of a glove until well into the 1890s.
As pitchers like Boston’s Jim Whitney and Charlie Buffinton began to dominate and fielders like Cleveland’s Fred Dunlap and Jack Glasscock became more expert, scoring fell off dramatically by the mid-’80s. So the pitcher’s movements were restricted greatly in 1887, and the pitching distance was increased in 1893, fueling a resurgence in scoring in the ‘90s. That last decade of the century was dominated by great teams and managers like Frank Selee’s Boston Beaneaters and Ned Hanlon’s Baltimore Orioles, teams that excelled at ag- gressive baserunning and offensive teamwork.
The earliest known admission charge (50 cents) for a ballgame was imposed in 1858, and the first enclosed commercial ballpark was built in 1862. The first professional league, awarding the first pennant. was formed in 1871. “Minor” leagues appeared as early as 1877, and two and even three “Major” leagues competed for fans and players in the 1880s. Playing
schedules expanded to six games a week, and top salaries rose from below $2000 in 1869 to near $5000 in just over twenty years. The establishment of a monopoly by the National League in 1892 and depression times during that decade led to a significant drop in salaries and a shrinking of the minor leagues. At the turn of the century, one minor league, the West- ern League, changed its name to the American League and broke the National League’s mo- nopoly, leading to new levels of prosperity. At the same time, the adoption of the foul strike rule altered the scoring balance again. All of these changes were played out on the field every day by the players.
This project was conceived by SABR 19th Century committee chairmen Mark Rucker and John Thorn several years ago. Although they have turned the committee chairmanship over to Bob Tiemann, they remained active in this project, along with many others. Biogra- phies have been submitted by thirty-one SABR members, with Joseph M. Overfield leading the way with twenty-five biographies. The sketches were reviewed for accuracy by Bob Tie- mann, Bob Davids, Vern Luse, and Bob McConnell. Richard Puff, Len Levin, and Paul Adomites did the copy-editing. Mark Rucker developed the book design and selected the photographs. Bob Tiemann put together the statistics. Paul Adomites, SABR Publications Director, coordinated this multi-pronged effort.
From the first real shortstop, Dickey Pearce, and the first professional player, Jim Creighton, to turn-of-the-century standouts like George Davis and Fred Tenney, 136 biographical sketches of players and managers are included here. No particular criterion was used in selecting the players included, except that Hall-of-Fame members are excluded, and despite special efforts to get sketches of certain men, many worthy players remain absent from these pages.
Come meet the men who were there at the beginning, as baseball itself was taking shape. The Society for American Baseball Research is pleased to submit to you this work on “Nineteenth Century Stars.”
Nineteenth Century Stars: 2012 EditionBy: Robert L. Tiemann, editor