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The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's Game Kindle Edition
|Length: 338 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Achorn turns his attention to old-time professional baseball, visiting the nascent days of the American Association, more notably, the American Association that turned baseball into a nationally beloved sport .[An] entertaining history of baseball's overlooked early years.”
A thoroughly enjoyable re-creation of the gusto, guts, glory and grime of the game's early days.”
The Summer of Beer and Whiskey strengthens the baseball fan's understanding of that raw, unvarnished era of baseball 130 years ago that eventually evolved into the smooth product we see today. Achorn writes passionately and presents an excellent history lesson.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch
The Summer of Beer and Whiskey hinges on the hard-fought 1883 pennant race between Von der Ahe's ascendant Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics. The book is rich in newspaper accounts of the race, along with accompanying caricatures of the players. But Achorn also includes insightful digressions on topics ranging from the sport's persistent problems with racism and alcoholism to the peculiarities of 19th-century baseball, which featured barehanded fielders, one umpire per contest, and pitchers who could take a slight running start before each throw.”
Bill Littlefield, NPR's "Only a Game"
"The author makes a convincing case that it was an exceptionally entertaining time to be a baseball fan in St. Louis."
"Edward Achorn ... favors us with a realistic and colorful look at early professional baseball."
The Daily Beast
"The time machine travels back to the 1880s as brewer Chris von der Ahe purchases the forerunner of the St. Louis Cardinals, with the singular purpose of selling more beer."
Los Angeles Times
"When it comes to baseball history, Edward Achorn has carved out his own territory, re-animating the 19th century game."
The New Yorker - The Sporting Scene blog
Combining the narrative skills of a sportswriter with a historian's depth of knowledge and stockpile of detail, Achorn has produced a book that is both entertaining and informative.”
The Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel
The Summer of Beer and Whiskey” is full of great stories and interesting tidbits of history.”
Achorn takes us back to when baseball was expressed in two words and one leagueuntil the American Association was founded in 1882.” --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B00BOE1DZC
- Publisher : PublicAffairs (April 30, 2013)
- Publication date : April 30, 2013
- Language: : English
- File size : 2160 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 338 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #225,928 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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THE SUMMER OF BEER AND WHISKEY is an outstanding history of the American Association in the summer of 1883. The American Association was a rival major league (rival to the National League). The Association was in its second season in 1883 (the National League was in its eighth). Achorn argues that baseball was dying out in the late 1870s and early 1880s because so many gamblers were involved that it was seen as corrupt. Also, the National League catered to the well off, charging 50 cents and forbidding the sale of alcohol at games and the playing of games on Sundays.
The American Association would change all that. They would charge only 25 cents for tickets, and would play games on Sundays, allowing the less fortunate to enjoy a game on their only day off. The league also allowed the sale of beer and whiskey at games. Thus, the American Association became known as "The Beer and Whiskey League." Achorn argues that they saved baseball. People became mad for baseball that summer. It didn't hurt that the American Association had a red-hot pennant race that went down to the wire.
Achorn brings to life some wonderful characters--players, managers, and owners of the time. It is a cast worthy of Dickens, but these are real people. Perhaps the most memorable is Chris Von Der Ahe, a German immigrant who was instrumental in founding the league. He knew next to nothing about baseball, but he had money to spend, and he saw owning a ball club as a way to sell the beer his brewery made. His St. Louis Browns became the most successful team in the American Association's ten-year run. When the Association folded, four of its teams were absorbed into the National League, Von Der Ahe's Browns being one of them. They later changed their name to Cardinals. Achorn argues that Von Der Ahe belongs in the Hall of Fame. But the Hall seems to have ignored the American Association. One of its biggest stars, Harry Stovey, led the Association in home runs four times. He also led the NL in home runs twice. When he retired, Stovey had hit more home runs and stolen more bases than anyone alive. Why is he not in the Hall of Fame?
Achorn's book is a masterful history. His description of the pennant race is enthralling. As Abe Lincoln once said, "People who like this sort of thing will find this just the sort of thing they like.
In the early 1880s, baseball appear to be fading away. In the 1870s, a series of gambling scandals had rocked the game. The National League (the main league of the day) reacted by cracking down on gambling, but also beer sales at ballparks. With the hopes of attracting a more affluent crowd, they raised ticket prices to fifty cents (a lot for a working man). No games were played on Sunday. Then, in 1883, a new league was formed (American Association, not to be confused with the American League), which set ticket prices at twenty-five cents, allowed games on Sunday, and sold beer at the ball parks. Achorn makes the case that this league (known as the Beer and Whiskey League) helped save baseball. The tight pennant race of 1883, between Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns, caught the public’s attention. At the end of the season, fans were gathering at empty ballparks to watch the scores being posted on the scoreboard as the results were telegraphed in. Achorn tells the story of the race in a way that brings it to life, capturing the excitement of the fans along with the personality of the players and coaches. Philadelphia won the pennant by one game, but they were floundering at the end of the season with worn-out pitchers. They were so beaten that they declined to play a series against the Boston Red Stockings, the winner of the National League pennant, which would have been the first “World Series.” They were welcomed home with a parade that rivaled the welcome given to veterans returning from the Civil War.
One of the key personalities in the story was the owner of the St. Louis Browns, Chris Von der Ahe. He was a German immigrant who owned a grocery store, then a beer garden. He risked it all on establishing a team, and made a fortune but later lost it. He is portrayed as impulsive, overbearing, but extremely generous. Interestingly, one of the players he recruited was Charlie Comiskey, who later founded the Chicago White Sox and who was remembered on their ball field (Comiskey Park) until 2003 when they changed the name to a corporate sponsor. Von der Ahe died in 1913. At his funeral, the “Reverend Frederick H. Craft wove baseball imagery into his homily:
“’First base is enlightenment; second base is repentance; third base is faith, and the home plate is the heavenly goal!’ He declared. ‘Don’t fail to touch second base, for it leads you onward toward third. All of us finally reach home plate, though some may be called out when they slide Home.'” (259)
Weaving into the larger story is the account of race relations at this stage of the game. There are two other African American ball players who played in the majors long before Jackie Robinson was born. Fleet Walker played for Toledo, a team that joined the American Association in 1884, and even before then William Edward White played for the National League’s Providence Grays. However, segregationist ideals were to win out and it wouldn’t be until 1947 when Jackie Robinson was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers that the racial barrier was broken.
The American Association lasted only a decade. In 1892, the league’s top four teams joined the National League. These include the St. Louis Cardinals (formerly the Browns), the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates (formerly the Alleghenys) and the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (who joined the league in 1884 and are now the Los Angeles Dodgers). Achorn tells the story of how the Pittsburgh Pirates earned their name (given to them by sportswriters) after the “Alleghenys” tried to “steal” two ball players who had committed to play for the Philadelphia Athletics. (245). The Athletics eventually folded, but when a new team was organized in the city (which by then already had the Phillies), they adopted the name Athletics (which left Philadelphia for Kansas City and now are in Oakland). Another American Association team that must have had a similar reincarnation is the Baltimore Orioles.
I enjoyed this book. My only suggestion is that I would have liked to have seen the year put more into context of what was happening outside of baseball. Achorn does this a little, such as referring to a joke about a player who, the year before upon President Garfield’s assassination, was asked about the event. The ballplayer responded by asking what position Garfield played. He also mentions the shooting of Jesse James, in connection to the governor of Missouri attending a ball game. The governor had made it a priority to wipe out the James Gang and had recruited members of the gang to shoot Jesse. When Robert Ford was convicted of the murder of Jessie James, the governor pardoned him two hours after the trial and then sent him $10,000 in reward money.
If you love history and baseball, I recommend this book.