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Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (2011)

by John Thorn

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1689119,695 (3.98)7
Think you know how the game of baseball began? Think again. Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Did baseball even have a father--or did it just evolve from other bat-and-ball games? John Thorn, baseball's preeminent historian, examines the creation story of the game and finds it all to be a gigantic lie. From its earliest days baseball was a vehicle for gambling, a proxy form of class warfare. Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. He shows how the sport's 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. Full of heroes, scoundrels, and dupes, this book 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.--From publisher description.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A fantastic history on the beginning of the National Pastime. Thorn discounts the long held beliefs of baseball's origins and presents the games true evolution. Along the way he tells a fascinating and extremely well researched story. A must read for baseball fans and history buffs alike. Thorns depiction of 19th century America, and more specifically New York, is almost as interesting as the baseball history. A very informative and readable book. ( )
  SethAndrew | Sep 7, 2016 |
It starts slowly, but this history of baseball in the nineteenth century is fascinating and very readable. Who knew that Theosophists were instrumental in naming Abner Doubleday the inventor of baseball? or who knew that the first World Series was played in 1884, not 1903? ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
John Thron takes as his point of departure the debunking of the myth that Abner Doubleday, in one fell swoop, invented the American game of baseball. In doing so, he takes us on an exciting tour of nineteenth century baseball. This is a history book just as exciting as Roger Angel's best paeans. Highly recommended for any baseball fan! ( )
  flexatone | Sep 17, 2012 |
In Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Thorn achieves an admirable balance between a story about baseball and a detailed reference work. The scope and attention to detail of this work may turn off some readers, but you don't have to be an academic to enjoy the twists and turns and historical details Thorn assembles here. Some wonderful individual stories weave in and out of the more than 100 years of history presented, with plenty of curiosities, historical coincidences, and baseball trivia for anyone. But, in addition, Thorn has the ability to 'tell the story', so, although at times the historical details burden it a bit, he delivers an almost epic tale for any fan of baseball or early American history.

Os. ( )
  Osbaldistone | Oct 12, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Thorn can probably lay claim to knowing more baseball minutiae than any other living human. (With that authority he has often been a source for reporters, myself included.) However, this expertise is, oddly enough, at the heart of the book’s main weakness. Names, dates, places and citations so casually flood these pages that even sophisticated consumers of baseball lit will be in danger of drowning in them.
 
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Think you know how the game of baseball began? Think again. Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Did baseball even have a father--or did it just evolve from other bat-and-ball games? John Thorn, baseball's preeminent historian, examines the creation story of the game and finds it all to be a gigantic lie. From its earliest days baseball was a vehicle for gambling, a proxy form of class warfare. Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia. He shows how the sport's 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. Full of heroes, scoundrels, and dupes, this book 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.--From publisher description.

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