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A Clever Base-Ballist: The Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward (edition 1999)
A Clever Base-Ballist: The Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward by Bryan Di Salvatore
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679442340, Hardcover)No matter how far back you go, the state of the game has always been remarkably similar to what it is today: greedy owners, economic imbalances among franchises, unequal markets, grumbling players. Using the multilayered life of 19th-century Hall-of-Famer and lawyer John Montgomery Ward as his way into the story, Bryan Di Salvatore roots around in the contemporary sources of the game's early years. For the record, Ward's career on the diamond spanned from 1878 to 1894, split between shortstop and the mound. As a pitcher, he sported an impressive 164-102 mark, won a staggering 47 games in 1879, and even hurled a perfecto; at short, he fielded his position well and hit with authority if not power. "Ward was the sort of player that other players appreciate as a teammate and curse as an opponent," Di Salvatore explains. "He beat you invisibly as often as he beat you visibly." He later managed, and like DiMaggio, he wooed and wed one of the leading actresses of the day.
The key to his legacy, though, can be found in the last, marvelously understated line of his Cooperstown plaque: "Played important part in establishing modern organized baseball." "For a strange, brief period," Di Salvatore writes more definitively, "John Ward was the most important man of his profession." Educated and charismatic, he was one of the first players to fully understand that a boy's game was also a man's trade, and was determined to make America realize the same. In 1885, he helped form the first players union to fight, among other inequities, the reserve clause that virtually tied players to a club forever, and a salary cap limited to whatever the poorest team in the league could afford. Four years later, he led a full-scale player revolt that formed the Players League. Though the league didn't last long, Ward, never silencing himself, continued to play and manage, eventually serving as counsel to the Brooklyn Dodgers and president of the Boston Braves. "Baseball," he once wrote, "is not a Summer snap, but a business in which capital is invested. A player is not a sporting man. He is hired to do certain work, and do it as well as he possibly can." It's a contemporary notion from out of the shadows of the past. The triumph of A Clever Base-Ballist is just how alive and resonant that past is. --Jeff Silverman
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:59 -0400)
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