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Before They Were Cardinals: Major League Baseball in Nineteenth-Century St. Louis (Sports and American Culture) Hardcover – July 31, 2002
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"Cash has produced a fine example of how sports history can be used to illuminate the history of a place. This is good history, and it is a good story."—Lawrence O. Christensen
Examines the infancy of major-league baseball in St. Louis during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
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The author also includes excellent discussions of Chris Von der Ahe and the origins of what became the Cardinals. Von der Ahe, a well-known St. Louis businessman, formed the St. Louis Brown Stockings in the American Association in 1880. He owned a beer garden and boardinghouse near a baseball field on Grand Avenue, and seeing that his bar always picked up before and after baseball games played there, he understood that baseball fans would be good patrons for his business. Mustachioed, Roman nosed, and speaking with thick accent, Von der Ahe was the prototype spotlight grabbing major league baseball team owner. He referred to himself, in his thick accent as "der poss bresident," and the fans loved it. He spent freely, indulged his players, and built an early baseball dynasty in the 1880s. Von der Ahe loved the celebrity his ownership brought him, for now he was not just a prosperous businessman but both a prosperous businessman and a public figure. It was an unbeatable combination, perhaps the real attraction for baseball ownership up to the present, and something repeated many times by many different owners since. In a city rich in baseball history, no one has been more significant in shaping the game in early St. Louis than Chris Von der Ahe.
Cash also details the collapse of the American Association in 1891 and the incorporation of the St. Louis franchise into the National League. Von der Ahe lost his fortune, had to sell the team, and it did poorly in the 1890s but eventually emerged as the fabled St. Louis Cardinals of the twentieth century, which has won more pennants and world championships than any other National League team.
This is an important study of baseball history, as well as in urban history. It is a decided cut above most other writing on the history of baseball, which concentrates on players and cute stories. Unlike so many works on the subject, it is firmly grounded in the documentary record and in the most recent historical thinking. Well done, Jon David Cash! "Before They Were Cardinals" is both a fine historical study and an entertaining reading experience.
This is a superbly researched book. Nearly every fact is documented and footnoted, primarily from first-hand accounts published by various newspapers and journalists at the time. Reading the Notes at the end of the book is just as interesting as reading the book itself. Drunkards, cheaters, womanizers . . . baseball in its infancy makes today's issues (steroids, over-paid players) pale in comparison.
The casual baseball fan will most likely be bored by this book, but to those who love baseball history and lore (especially involving the historic St. Louis Cardinals), this is a must-read book.
The book itself was very well written and gave some real insight into the St. Louis-Chicago rivalary.
It was also interesting to read about the labor problems of baseball from 125 years ago. Odd to see really not much has changed just the dollar amounts the player's receive.
It was also neat to see how the beer makers of the 1800's were involved with the game and how without beer St. Louis probably doesn't have a team now.