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The Great 19th Century Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Hardcover – March 1, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For the true baseball fan, the past is never just the past; it's always prologue. This comprehensive and engaging volume performs a valiant CPR on professional baseball's infancy and early childhood, returning the Dark Ages from 1871-1900 to vivid life. Unlike most sports encyclopedias, it goes way beyond statistics, though there are, of course, pages of those. It's the prose that truly covers the bases here. Meticulously researched, with a grandstand full of enlightening anecdotes, its clear history brings the distant past into the present by showing how closely related--and far afield--the era of Anson and Spalding and Keeler is to that of Griffey and Maddux and Gwynn.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; 1St Edition edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556115008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556115004
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 2.1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For some reason, 1900/1901 seems to be a magical boundary for baseball history books. There are two possible reasons for this. First, 1900 or 1901 (depending on how you look at it) marked the beginning of the twentieth century, and, in the eyes of many, the "modern era" of baseball. Second, 1900 was the inagural season of the American League, the renamed incarnation of Ban Johnson's Western League. In 1901, the American League elevated itself to major-league status, initiating the two-league format that exists to this day.
While those are certainly convenient benchmarks, they arbitrarily overlook what came before as somehow "irrelevant" or not "modern". David Nemec's book proves that baseball is a story of gradual evolution, rather than an overnight coming of age. It can be argued that modern baseball began in 1871, the year that the first professional baseball (or Base Ball) league began play. The National Association of Base Ball Players officially recognized baseball as a business -- even if the Supreme Court still refuses to do so. Players were openly paid to play what many had argued was an amateur sport of gentlemen, clubs, exercise, and grand feasts. The NA had its share of problems -- gambling, contract-jumping, rowdiness, and organizational chaos. Teams came and went -- Philadelphia had three separate teams in 1875. One team, the Boston Red Stockings, was dominant in a field of teams with questionable talent. All a team needed to do was pay a $10 fee and they were in the association. Hence teams from Chicago and Boston were forced to play squads from Middletown (Connecticut), Fort Wayne (Indiana) and Keokuk (Iowa).
The National League of 1876 changed all of that. Unlike its predecessor, it centered around teams, not players.
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By A Customer on April 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A tremendous work on the games beginings. This book containsnumerous photos of 19th century baseball which brings the game alive.Every season is reviewed with complete statistics of team standings and players. There are many side articles on individual players, teams and accomplishments. The rules of play for each year are updated and there is a player and pitcher register for all who played.
A historical and statistical must! END
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By A Customer on September 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The season stories and sidebars are all excellent. So are the photos. This isn't really a criticism, but I do wish the season stats for each player had been a bit fuller. I'd be glad to take a smaller type size if it meant getting in stats like batter strikeouts, sacrifice hits, etc. The same with the career stats. I like the way the author sorts the players according to the most prominent positions they played, but it would help not to have to look up stats like doubles and triples in other encyclopedias. This isn't really a big deal, just a suggestion if the author ever does a new edition of this wonderful book.
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Format: Hardcover
The period before 1900 is perhaps the most neglected era in baseball history, yet that's the period during which the game evolved into its present form. With some variations, what you saw at the turn of the 20th Century is pretty much what you see today but what passed for MLB between 1876 and 1899 is largely unknown among modern baseball fans. This volume (it's a little too large to simply call a "book") goes a long way toward telling the story of how baseball evolved.

David Nemec is one of the most readable and entertaining historians of the game's prehistoric days, and this is a great blend of Nemec's text, vintage photos and copious stats. Yearly standings and leaders plus individual and team stats resemble the same presentation seen in the later editions of the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedias from the late 60's through the mid 90's, solid but not as thorough as Total Baseball. The reason I give this edition four stars instead of five is because the section listing individual player stats is very brief, with cursory info on each player and a single line of career numbers, very similar to the Neft/Cohen Sport Encyclopedia: Baseball...there's just not a lot of "there" there.

What separates the 19th Century Baseball Encyclopedia is Nemec's writing, which (as mentioned) is much fun to read. Neither MacMillan nor Neft/Cohen include such a great narrative as this, and it's enhanced by several sidebar charts and stories that help fill things out. It's not like reading one of Bill James Historical Baseball Abstracts, which are far more opinionated and even preachy at times, but Nemec loads up story after story to weave an impression of what the game and the men who played it were like over 115 years ago.
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By A Customer on February 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the few books I felt compelled to buy in hardcover, even though it's priced like an encyclopedia. 19th century baseball is one of the Dark continents of Baseball history, and it has sorely needed a book like this one. The book is well organized and readable. It is organized year-by-year, with text explaining the noteowrthy happenings of that year, and complete rosters of every team in every major league. The statistics are a little brief, but that gap is filled by Total Baseball. Anyone interested in 19th century baseball should have this on their shelf
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