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

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Overview

In 1884, Providence Grays pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn won an astounding fifty-nine games—more than anyone in major-league history ever had before, or has since. He then went on to win all three games of baseball's first World Series.

Fifty-nine in '84 tells the dramatic story not only of that amazing feat of grit but also of big-league baseball two decades after the Civil War—a brutal, bloody sport played barehanded, the profession of uneducated, hard-drinking men who ...

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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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Overview

In 1884, Providence Grays pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn won an astounding fifty-nine games—more than anyone in major-league history ever had before, or has since. He then went on to win all three games of baseball's first World Series.

Fifty-nine in '84 tells the dramatic story not only of that amazing feat of grit but also of big-league baseball two decades after the Civil War—a brutal, bloody sport played barehanded, the profession of uneducated, hard-drinking men who thought little of cheating outrageously or maiming an opponent to win. Wonderfully entertaining, Fifty-nine in '84 is an indelible portrait of a legendary player and a fascinating, little-known era of the national pastime.

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Editorial Reviews

Cait Murphy
Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Pure Grit is the best book out there on 19th-century baseball. Old Hoss Radbourn would be pleased that he is finally getting his due—and angry that it took so long.
Joseph J. Ellis
“This is a beautifully written, meticulously researched story about a bygone baseball era that even die-hard fans will find foreign, and about a pitcher who might have been the greatest of all time.”
Sean Callahan
…an astonishing book about 19th-century baseball…Fifty-nine in '84 is a romantic book, equal parts heroic quest, tragic tale and doomed love story.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In his first book, Achorn, an editor at the New Providence Journal, takes an in-depth look into the game of baseball when it was still in its infancy, especially the hard-nosed players rarely seen in today's incarnation of the national pastime, including one of the greatest pitchers that most of today's fans know nothing about. In the 1884 season, pitching for Providence, R.I., Radbourn—the son of English immigrants—endured one of the most grueling summers imaginable in willing his team to the pennant. The stress on his right arm, which caused such deterioration that he couldn't comb his own hair, also gave him a baseball record of 59 wins that will never be broken, in a year of “unparalleled brilliance.” Achorn wonderfully captures this era of the sport—when pitchers threw balls at batters' heads, and catchers, playing barehanded, endured such abuse that some would need fingers amputated. It's no wonder that, in some circles, as Achorn writes, baseball was thought to be “one degree above grand larceny, arson, and mayhem, and those who engaged in it were beneath the notice of decent society.” From the early stars of the game to archaic rules that seem silly by today's standards, there's plenty to devour (and learn) for even the biggest of baseball savants. (Mar.)
Library Journal
A team winning streak of 20 games is always notable, but what if one pitcher accounted for 18 of the wins? What if he pitched 73 complete games in one season, on his way to 59 wins? We would hail this pitcher as the greatest ever, and Achorn (deputy editorial pages editor, Providence Journal) makes a convincing case that Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn should be so honored for his 1884 season with the National League's Providence Grays. This is not just a recitation of bare-handed baseball and old-time brawling, but a story that, with its larger-than-life protagonist, numerous exploits, and a love interest, reads like a novel. Hugely appealing for baseball die-hards.
Kirkus Reviews
A loving reanimation of the 1884 baseball season, during which Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn won 59 games and hurled his team into the first World Series. As Providence Journal deputy editorial page editor Achorn dutifully notes, 1880s baseball, flourishing before motion pictures and audio recordings, is a game both familiar and surpassingly alien. Preserved in sometimes skimpy, and always biased, newspaper accounts, the achievement of Radbourn, the Providence Grays' ace pitcher, is indeed astonishing. Well before the introduction of relief pitchers, the starters were expected to play the entire game and to pitch often, sometimes on consecutive days-and sometimes even both ends of a doubleheader, as Radbourn did on Memorial Day, winning both. He won the next day, too. Achorn digs into Radbourn's Illinois background and follows his ancestors back to England. Little Charles learned to love hunting, purebred dogs, baseball and later on, Carrie Stanhope, the legendary woman who ran a Providence boarding house and eventually married Radbourn. The author charts Radbourn's swift rise in an era when pitchers flamed out quickly because of arm injuries; Radbourn and his colleagues lived with continuous pain. Achorn pauses occasionally to portray the pitcher's rivals and teammates and to identify the differences in yesteryear's game. The fielders used only their bare hands-even catchers had but minimal protection; foul balls were not strikes; a single umpire, often corrupt, called each game. The author also supplies needed cultural history-e.g., the train ride from the East Coast to Chicago took three days; Buffalo Bill arrived in Providence that same season. An unabashed fan, Achorn occasionallydrifts into excess and cliche (catchers needed "dauntless courage"; the Chicago team "ate weaker clubs for breakfast"), but he capably delivers an entertaining story. A thoroughly researched panegyric to a man and an era. Agent: David Miller/The Garamond Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061825873
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 335,642
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Achorn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for distinguished commentary, is the deputy editorial pages editor of the Providence Journal.

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Prologue: Old Hoss Is Ready 1

1 The Importance of Grit 7

2 I Am a Pitcher 16

3 Raging, Tearing, Booming 29

4 Lucky Man 46

5 Treasure from the Gold Country 60

6 Brimstone and Treacle 73

7 Pneumonia Weather 88

8 She's Yours, Rad 102

9 Red Fire 118

10 A Working Girl 136

11 An Ugly Disposition 149

12 Rendezvous of the Wayward 168

13 Crackup 179

14 Drunk Enough to Be Stupid 193

15 The Severe Wrenching 208

16 Inward Laughs 230

17 A Promise Kept 251

18 The Best on Earth 262

Epilogue: Called Out by the Inexorable Umpire 281

Acknowledgments 303

Appendix 305

Sources and Notes 319

Index 357

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • 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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  • 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

    EXECELLENT !!

    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 November 10, 2011

    The Hoss

    A different time but Hoss had a huge will to win; an amazing story and record that will neber be broken

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    Posted July 13, 2011

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    Posted June 19, 2010

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    Posted January 3, 2012

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    Posted May 18, 2010

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