Albert G. Spalding America's National Game

ISBN 13: 9780803292079

America's National Game

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9780803292079: America's National Game

Albert G. Spalding's addiction to what he saw as a peculiarly American sport began early on the sandlot in Rockford, Illinois. One of the first professional baseball players and later a manager and club owner, he branched out to become a leading manufacturer of sporting goods. America's National Game, published a few years before his death in 1915, lays out the beginnings of baseball and its advancement while dispensing Spalding's vivid reminiscences and firm opinions. The essential nature of the game, he thought, was warfare. And the opponents took many forms: among them the evil syndicates trying to control the sport, and more inwardly and importantly, the temptations familiar to every young man.

Baseball's lasting debt to Spalding becomes clear in Benjamin G. Rader's introduction to this Bison Book edition, which makes America's National Game available in its entirety for the first time in paperback and adds an index.

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Review:

Before he became a tycoon in the sporting-goods business, Spalding was one of the guiding lights of professional baseball's infancy. He was a star pitcher--the first to notch 200 career victories--an innovative team owner, a power broker, and, in the end, an éminence grise. And, if he is mostly remembered today as a name branded into the hide of fielders' gloves, his on-field legacy and influence continue to draw immodest breath in this, one of the more curious volumes of the baseball canon.

On one level, Spalding has penned a comprehensive early history of the game, much of it actually reliable. On a second, deeper level, America's National Game, first published in 1911, survives as his testament, the gospel not just according to Albert, but according to how he suggests his own enormous contributions be remembered. Spalding was a true believer: "To enter upon a deliberate argument to prove that Base Ball is our National Game; that it has all the attributes of American origin, American character and unbounded public favor in America, seems a work of supererogation. It is to undertake the elucidation of patent fact; the sober demonstration of an axiom; it is like a solemn declaration that two plus two equals four."

If the numbers don't always add up--Spalding takes full credit for saving baseball and America from gamblers and drunks by helping found the National League in 1876 and then breaking the precursor of the first players' union 14 years later--there is much to recommend in this preservation of an opinionated man's convictions and vivid memory. This was a tremendously important book when it first appeared. Almost a century later, it continues to stand on its bully pulpit as it opens a fascinating, if not always reliable, window into the past. --Jeff Silverman

About the Author:

Benjamin G. Rader, a professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the author of American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports (1990).

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Spalding, Albert G.
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