Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Book review #5

Taking a break from the regional publications, I read John Morris' Bullet Bob Comes to Louisville. Morris is a former outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals and his book is a collection of short tales from his career. There's not really anything too special in this book. Some mildly humorous tales, some mildly touching tales, but nothing that stands out as a "Ooh, you have to read this book" story. If you're a Cardinals fan and you remember John Morris, then maybe you might want to pick it up. Otherwise, I cannot really recommend it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Book review #4

In my continued quest to collect regional baseball publications, I asked for and received a copy of Pete Morris' Baseball Fever: Baseball in Early Michigan for Christmas back in 2004. Just recently got around to reading it. I had high expectations for the book because I know Pete through SABR and the caliber of research and writing he is capable of doing. My expectations were met. This book is a fascinating history of the game of baseball and its growth through Michigan during the 1860's-1880's.

Probably the best aspect of this book is Morris' examination of the role baseball played in society during this time period. Ball clubs were a means to create town pride and competitions between towns were an important part of the growth of baseball. It was interesting also to see how early games were very friendly. Being a good host to a traveling team was more important than the result of the game. As the popularity of the game grew and teams sought to improve their results, "professional" players were added, usually by offering someone a job in a particular town. Eventually this professionalism grew to the point where the Cincinnati Red Stockings formed the first professional team.

The effects of professionalism extended out to Michigan, even though it was one of the furthest west states and away from the hubbub of the major metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Another great aspect of Morris' research is his examination of how baseball spread despite being geographically removed and his evidence that contrary to some beliefs, the conclusion of the Civil War did not play much of a role in the growth of baseball, at least in Michigan but probably not elsewhere.

The only negative aspect of Morris' book is a tendency late in the book to provide details of virtually every tournament in Michigan. These tournament reviews tend to get a little dry and tedious but don't distract from the overall quality of the book. This is one of the best regional baseball books I have read and one that covers a distinctly unique time period as well as geographical area. I highly recommend it.