But Didn't We Have Fun?: An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843-1870

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Overview

The story of baseball in America begins not with the fabled Abner Doubleday but with a generation of mid-nineteenth-century Americans who moved from the countryside to the cities and brought a cherished but delightfully informal game with them.

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Overview

The story of baseball in America begins not with the fabled Abner Doubleday but with a generation of mid-nineteenth-century Americans who moved from the countryside to the cities and brought a cherished but delightfully informal game with them.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
…entertaining and informative…One of the many virtues of But Didn't We Have Fun? is that Morris has dug deep into contemporary accounts and isn't in the least reluctant to quote from them.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Morris (Game of Inches) explores the earliest days of baseball through the voices of players and journalists who wrote about it in the 27-year period in the mid-19th century before professional baseball emerged. The earliest versions of bat-and-ball games-some of the variants are "town ball," "wicket" and even "patch ball"-were eventually displaced and standardized in 1845 when the Knickerbocker Club of New York City published rules that eliminated such practices as throwing the ball and hitting a base runner (an act sometimes known as "soaking") to make an out. The text is an intriguing study for students of baseball history curious about how aspects of the game developed, such as the foul ball, sliding, balls and strikes, and the role of the umpire. As the game spread from its origins in New York and its popularity grew, Morris writes that two factors brought the pioneer era of amateur play to an end: the Civil War and the increasing seriousness of players who changed games from ceremonial pastime to cutthroat competitions. Morris has done vast research and quotes many of his sources at length. His focus on a detailed account of baseball's development, however, does not provide much insight into the people who played the game. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Boston Sunday Globe
Concise, clear, and colorful, this book is a delight to mind and spirit.
Library Journal

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 fascinating depictions of the development of umpiring, professionalism, and sportsmanship. A fine addition to all collections.

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How America's pastime got its swing. In the three decades before the Civil War, baseball was in its infancy. There were no standardized rules for the game, much less a consensus on what to call it: Depending on location and the culture of its players, it might be known as wicket, town ball, round-town, the Massachusetts game or countless variations thereof. Using first-person recollections, recorded statistics and newspaper clippings, Morris (Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, 2007, etc.) identifies the era as crucial to baseball's emergence as the national sport. Some facts about the early game-each presented in assiduous detail-will likely surprise modern enthusiasts: e.g., the procedures of the game before designated pitchers; players having to actually hit a player with the ball to record an out; and the traditional use of a single ball during the game, typically memorialized by shellacking and proudly displaying it. While Morris considers the official founding, in 1845, of the Knickerbockers as the first important baseball club, he also puts baseball's far-flung evolution in context, jetting from town to town across the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest to illustrate how other locations began to adopt the game-or resist it via strict laws that prohibited public ball playing. The author also emphasizes the game's origins as a courtly, gentlemanly pursuit, conveying the ethos of an era when the spirit of baseball was pure fun and social comity, not the profit-driven venture it is today. Morris also debunks the persistent legend of Abner Doubleday as the founder of baseball. Dedicated statistics geeks will revel in the seemingly inexhaustiblesupply of arcane facts and figures, but casual baseball fans may be overwhelmed. A useful reference for diehard baseball historians; others can leave this one in the clubhouse.
Providence Journal
[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.
Book Digest
Morris is very clear: The pioneers did have fun.
The Historian
Morris's love of baseball is palpable throughout the book…. His enthusiasm adds to the charm with which he tells his story.
Journal Of Genocide Research
[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.
CHOICE
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.
The Boston Sunday Globe
Concise, clear, and colorful, this book is a delight to mind and spirit.
Stefan Fatsis
I first heard about Peter Morris because he was one of America’s preeminent Scrabble players. Now he has achieved an even greater distinction: one of America’s preeminent baseball historians. But Didn’t We Have Fun? is exhaustively researched and artfully written—an invaluable contribution to the early history of our sport and our country.
Rob Neyer
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.
Donald Honig
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.
Will Carroll
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.
am New York - Abe Lebovic
Morris, a baseball scholar and historian, shows us around the ancient, pre-professional era of baseball with charming familiarity and dense, nuanced detail.
Review Of Higher Education - Jonathan Yardley
Entertaining and informative.
Popmatters - Wilson McBee
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.
Associated Press - Ted Anthony
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566637480
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 3/25/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 387,361
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Morris's most recent book is Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero. His A Game of Inches was the first book ever to win both the Seymour Medal and the Casey Award as the best baseball book of the year. He lives in Haslett, Michigan.
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Table of Contents

Introduction     3
Before the Knickerbockers     11
The Knickerbockers' Game Becomes the New York Game     26
The New York Game Becomes America's Game     39
How the Game Was Played     58
Bats, Balls, Bases, and the Playing Field     76
Customs and Rituals     101
Club Life: The Common Threads That Bound the Players Together, and the Activities They Shared     122
Intercity Competition and Civic Pride     135
The Civil War: The End of an Era, Part One     152
Competitiveness and Professionalism, and What They Wrought: The End of an Era, Part Two     160
The Cincinnati Base Ball Club and the Red Stockings     184
Looking Backward     202
Moving Forward: "Muffin" Ballplayers Start a New Tradition     213
The Doubleday Myth     227
The Knickerbockers' Original (1845) Rules     229
Acknowledgments     231
Notes     233
Selected Bibliography     267
Index     273
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Very good reading about the early years of baseball. Very inform

    Very good reading about the early years of baseball. Very informitive. If you love the middle 1800's & baseball....you'll love this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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