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Where They Ain't; The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, The Team that Gave Birth to Modern Baseball

Solomon, Burt

85 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0684854511 / ISBN 13: 9780684854519
Published by The Free Press, New York, 1999
Condition: Very good Hardcover
From Ground Zero Books, Ltd. (Silver Spring, MD, U.S.A.)

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viii, [2], 342 pages. Major League Standings, Career Records, Notes. Index. Cover has some wear and soiling. Burt Solomon is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and National Journal, where he has covered the White House and many other aspects of Washington life. In 1991 he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. He is also the author of the acclaimed Where They Ain't, a history of baseball in the 1890s. GQ named it as one of the 20 best books of the millennium, and the Boston Globe said it "possesses the pace, sense of character, and evocative power of a novel." Greedy owners, spoiled players, disillusioned fans -- all hallmarks of baseball in the 'nineties. Only in this case, it's the 1890s. We may think that business interests dominate the sport today, but baseball's early years were an even harsher and less sentimental age, when teams were wrenched from their cities, owners colluded and the ballplayers held out, and the National League nearly turned itself into an out-and-out cartel. Where They Ain't tells the story of that tumultuous time, through the prism of the era's best team, the legendary Baltimore Orioles, and its best hitter, Wee Willie Keeler, whose motto "Keep your eye clear, and hit 'em where they ain't" was wise counsel for an underdog in a big man's world. Under the tutelage of manager Ned Hanlon, the Orioles perfected a style of play known as "scientific baseball," featuring such innovations as the sacrifice bunt, the hit-and-run, the squeeze play, and the infamous Baltimore chop. The team won three straight pennants from 1894 to 1896 and played the game with snap and ginger. Burr Solomon introduces us to Keeler and his colorful teammates, the men who reinvented baseball -- the fierce third baseman John McGraw, the avuncular catcher Wilbert Robinson, the spunky shortstop Hughey Jennings, and the heartthrob outfielder Joe Kelley, who carried a comb and mirror in his hip pocket to groom himself between batters. But championships and color were not enough for the barons of baseball, who began to consolidate team ownership for the sake of monopoly profits. In 1899, the Orioles' owners entered into a "syndicate" agreement with the ambitious men who ran the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers -- with disastrous results. The Orioles were destroyed (and the franchise folded), the city of Baltimore was relegated to minor-league status just when the city's industries were being swallowed up by national monopolies, and even Willie Keeler, a joyful innocent who wanted only to play ball, ultimately sold out as well. In Solomon's hands, the story of the Orioles' demise is a page-turning tale of shifting alliances, broken promises, and backstage maneuvering by Tammany Hall and the Brooklyn and Baltimore political machines on a scale almost unimaginable today. Out of this nefarious brew was born the American League, the World Series, and what we know as "modern baseball," but innocence was irretrievably lost. The fans of Baltimore, in fact, would have to wait more than half a century for the major leagues to return. Where They Ain't lays bare the all-too-human origins of our national game and offers a cautionary tale of the pastime at a century's end. Bookseller Inventory # 72662

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Where They Ain't; The Fabled Life and ...

Publisher: The Free Press, New York

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very good

Edition: First Printing [Stated].

About this title

Synopsis:

A colorful and sometimes unforgiving portrait of America's greatest pastime at the turn of the century focuses on the trials and tribulations of that era's best team, its owner, and its top hitter Wee Willie Keeler. 25,000 first printing.

Review:

"Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it" is one of those perfect axioms that begs the question, When is baseball gonna finally remember and get it right? Subtitled "The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball," Solomon's splendidly energetic examination of one of the sport's most powerful and storied franchises stands as a fascinating--and cautionary--study of how a team, regardless of quality, can simply implode. And what a team the Orioles of the 1890s was: manager Ned Hanlon and stars Wee Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Hugh Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Dan Brouthers, Iron Man McGinnity, and Joe Kelley all deserve their plaques in Cooperstown. As a unit, they created "scientific baseball," redefining the way the game was played and dominating the National League. Yet, by 1903, to Baltimore's horror and confusion, there were no more Orioles. A series of self-destructive choices successfully conspired to export their best players to Brooklyn and remove the franchise--now a member of the American League and playing in New York as the Highlanders--from the Major League standings for nearly half a century.

A fine reporter and writer, Solomon does a remarkable job of bringing the past into the present, exploring how little has changed in terms of baseball business and organizational stupidity through the years. With its marvelous cast of real--and fully realized--characters, Where They Ain't reads as much like a novel as it does like history, and though we know how it ends, it remains an important story worth telling, learning from, and certainly remembering. --Jeff Silverman

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