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Fifty-nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Early baseball history with little or no rules

    I have always been a baseball "nut" but I have never been exposed to the early history of the game with its raw beginning when there were few, if any, rules used. The beginnings of rules were in place but seldom used in the correct way. Today's baseball players from the street game through to the professional ranks probably would not have fared well in the early days. Edward Achorn takes us to the days when no one wore a glove with which to catch the baseball; no pitcher threw from what we know today as the rubber but rather had a box approximately 6 X 4 foot that they could roam and pitch from any area within that box; there was one umpire-if one could be found-and that umpire was very often biased against one of the teams or some players on a team and used that bias to sway the outcome of a game; there was no decent way to travel from city to city other than slow trains with no decent accommodations; no base was awarded because of a hit batsman and most pitchers did aim at batters and were not punished even if a batter was badly hurt; over night sleeping accommodations were not in very good hotels; food was take-what-you-could-get; brothels were in every city and in between and were used very frequently by most players; Syphilis and other sexual diseases were rampant since there were so many women available of every class and character; unless a player was unable to walk, he had to play because there were no substitutes, even with split open fingers, hands, or other extremities; crowds were small and very brutal towards players, even their own cities team; pitchers on many teams pitched every day regardless of their tired arms and were generally given a day off only when they could not move their arms but they still usually had to play another position in case they would have to pitch-like it or not. I think I have given you a good background of the game in the 1800's.

    Charlie Radbourn is not well known but he should be to any baseball fan. Charlie played mostly for the Providence Grays of the National League in an era when that league was the only "major" league. There were several other leagues that came and mostly went after a short season not being able to last financially or able to obtain and keep good players. The era was mostly the 1880's when Charlie Radbourn did his phenomenal work for Providence. It seems impossible that he made it through 1883 with an arm that became very sore but Charlie suffered through getting paid meager wages for almost every day hard work. But he loved it and management knew they had a real gem of a pitcher in Charlie. He actually quit the team in 1884 when the other good pitcher had left the team because he wanted more money. Charlie wanted his salary plus the salary of the man that quit but the team owners refused that request. Eventually they gave in and paid Charlie both salaries. This rejuvenated him to go on to set a record of fifty-nine wins in 1884, the most wins ever by a pitcher in professional baseball.

    This excellent book not only tells so much about baseball but also a lot of history of the time. I would recommend this book to any age baseball fan as well as any amateur or professional player. To think of the conditions and salaries these men played for opens ones eyes so wide and makes the reader happy to be living in today's baseball era. We have modern stadiums with the best playing fields possible instead of a rock and uneven dirt field; equipment that playe

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2015

    Well written, nicely set historically

    The book was a good and pleasant read. The historical context around Radbourn was very detailed and accurate, as well as not straying off into tangents as some such books do. Details of Radbourn's and other players' lives is interesting and captures the culture of 1884 baseball very well. A very enjoyable, interesting book for all fans of baseball and its history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2012

    Great reading if you love baseball and the early years of the ga

    Great reading if you love baseball and the early years of the game.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Top notch

    This was a real page turner. The author delivered the perfect mix of history, business, characters, and game details. I look forward to more baseball books by this, he painted a great picture of 19th century america.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    Wonderful! A summertime must read!!

    A delightful and insightful look into baseball as we've never known it, as seen through a look at an amazing season in the life of Old Hoss Radbourne, in the summer of 1884!

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  • Posted February 25, 2012


    Really WELL DONE account of how baseball was played in the nineteenth century !! That was always a FOGGY period to me UNTIL I READ THIS BOOK !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Must read for lovers of baseball

    This book tells how baseball really started and how hard it was for the players mentally and physically. Todays players need to read and see how must better it is today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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