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But Didn't We Have Fun?: An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843-1870 Hardcover – January 21, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
If you think baseball's rich history begins with the American League in 1901, or with the National League in 1876, or even with the National Association in 1871, think again. Thanks to Peter Morris, now we know that the game's pioneer days―the nearly four decades prior to the first professional ‘league'―might have been the richest of them all. (Rob Neyer)
Peter Morris takes us on a fascinating and highly entertaining journey through the earliest―the very earliest―days of our National Pastime. To read this book is to see Baseball emerging from its womb and blinking its eyes and stretching its arms as it begins to take shape and through trial and error grows into its remarkable and compelling existence. (Donald Honig)
Abner Doubleday just struck out. If you ever wondered where baseball came from―really came from―this story is for you. It's the real story of how America's game is much more about America than it is about a game. Entertaining and informative, I think Morris is headed for another medal. (Will Carroll)
In this title, which is sure to be popular, prolific baseball historian Morris engagingly describes the poorly appreciated early years of the game as it evolved to adopt a consistent set of rules. The well-known but much-misunderstood contributions of the New York Knickerbocker Club are reviewed fully, together with the fascinating depictions of the development of umpiring, professionalism, and sportsmanship. A fine addition to all collections. (Library Journal)
Morris, a baseball scholar and historian, shows us around the ancient, pre-professional era of baseball with charming familiarity and dense, nuanced detail. (Abe Lebovic am New York)
Entertaining and informative. (Jonathan Yardley The Review of Higher Education)
Morris is very clear: The pioneers did have fun. (Book Digest)
An entertaining, enlightening journey. For fans and non-fans alike, Morris's book serves as an interesting window into the leisure culture of the nation leading up to and following directly after the Civil War. (Wilson McBee Popmatters)
Morris's study of baseball's evolution during its pre-professional years is a model of careful scholarship, use of original sources, and elegant writing. (CHOICE)
As the pages turn, professional baseball comes together before our eyes, and a bunch of diverse tributaries of proto-baseball flow, year by year, into the mighty, formalized, commercial river that we know today as the National Pastime. (Ted Anthony Associated Press)
Dedicated statistics geeks will revel in the seemingly inexhaustible supply of arcane facts and figures…. A useful reference for diehard baseball historians. (Kirkus Reviews)
The text is an intriguing study for students of baseball history curious about how aspects of the game developed. (Publishers Weekly)
Concise, clear, and colorful, this book is a delight to mind and spirit. (The Boston Sunday Globe)
[T]horoughly researched, entirely engaging…Morris achieves his main purpose, and more. He traces the game's westward advance-often along canal and railroad routes-and its evolution toward competitiveness and standardized rules. As he does, he takes the reader deep into the culture of 19th-century America, as revolutions in transportation and mass communication pushed everything, even casual pastimes, toward professionalization and commercialization. (Providence Journal)
Morris's love of baseball is palpable throughout the book…. His enthusiasm adds to the charm with which he tells his story. (The Historian)
[Scholars] may find that Porter's challenging, almost taunting tone inspires them to express their own beliefs and conclusions more forcefully, in keeping or at odds with what they will read in his essay. (Journal of Genocide Research)
Top Customer Reviews
By the nature of things it takes a while for such knowledge to work its way from specialists to books for the general reader. There have books published quite recently that could have been written forty years ago.
There are numerous possible examples illustrating this point. Perhaps the best is the anachronistic expectation that early baseball players and organizations were motivated pretty much like modern baseball players and organizations. We often see sniggering condescension at the early Knickerbockers for wasting their time on banquets when they should have been practicing. The implicit assumption is that their motivation was to win games, but they kept getting distracted; or if this wasn't their motivation, it should have been. This is a hopeless way to approach history, and utterly commonplace. If we are to understand the Knickerbockers we need to understand their motivations, not impose our modern expectations on them.
It is a great pleasure to see in Peter Morris's new book. He makes available recent work, combined with his knack for ferretting out an impressive collection of old accounts. He puts the familiar events into context, and allows us to approach the early players on their own terms. This is a modern history of early baseball.
This isn't to say that there are no points to disagree on. There certainly are interpretations that can be disputed.Read more ›
What you will discover in "But Didn't We Have Fun?" is that the game of baseball actually evolved from any number of "ball and stick" games that were popular with youngsters around the country during the 1840's and 1850's. Something called "town ball" was all the rage in a number of eastern cities while "wicket" was the game of choice in Connecticut. Other games being played at the time were "cat ball", "sock ball" and something called the "Massachusetts game". The size of the balls and sticks varied and the rules were certainly different in almost every commmunity. What would eventually come to be known as baseball got a huge boost in the 1840's and 1850's when grown men latched onto the game and formed social clubs whose primary reason for being was playing the game. In this meticulously researched book Peter Morris brings his readers back to those halcyon days when baseball was played simply for enjoyment.Read more ›
This is especially problematic in the area of class/race, which is barely dealt with but which certainly affected these early clubs significantly. The south is hardly mentioned, nor the far west (admittedly little-populated in this period); and it's pretty easy to decry professionalism when your club might be made up entirely of men that can afford to play for free. Also there's not enough discussion I think of the makeup of the audiences, though there is a bit of space devoted to remarks on the "youthful" nature of the game and it's partisans. Still, all in all, worthwhile for fans of early baseball and mid-nineteenth century Americana.
For a novice in baseball history (which I certainly am), then, a worthwhile and easy read, but perhaps not the serious intellectual and cultural history that those more serious students of the game might want.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
BUT DIDN'T WE HAVE FUN? AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF BASEBALL'S PIONEER ERA, 1843-1870 tells of a generation of mid-19th-century Americans who moved from countryside to cities and... Read morePublished on June 9, 2008 by Midwest Book Review
A baseball fan knows the outline of the story: Doubleday, Cartwright, The New York Knickerbockers and Cooperstown all converged in 1839 and "baseball" was created. Read morePublished on May 23, 2008 by J. D Morrow
Simply put, I have over 70 baseball books and Peter Morris's one of the best! You want to know how baseball started? Why Americans played the game? Why and how baseball changed? Read morePublished on April 28, 2008 by Marc Ranger