“With elegance, wit and precision, John Thorn traces the lineage of baseball, a melting pot of cultures and diversions that became quintessentially American. Baseball in the Garden of Eden is a must read for anyone who claims to know the game.”
—Jane Leavy, Author of The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and The End of America’s Childhood and Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy
“Baseball’s creation myth—Abner Doubleday in a Cooperstown pasture in 1839—has the merit of being enchanting but the defect of being false in every particular. Now comes another of John Thorn’s many contributions to our understanding of baseball, proof that the game is even older and more interesting than most fans know.”
—George F. Will, Author of Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball
“What a garden of delight! John Thorn takes us through the tangled history of the game’s origins with great good humor and flair. He accepts nothing on face value, but gives all sides their due. A pleasure for fans, but also for anyone with an interest in history and myth.”
—Kevin Baker, Author of Strivers Row
“No one knows baseball history as well as John Thorn or writes about it more ably. And there is no one better suited to record—with affection, amusement and sometimes hilarity—the chicanery, misrepresentation and downright lies that have obfuscated the fascinating story of the origins and development of our national game.”
—Robert W. Creamer, Author of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life and Stengel: His Life and Times
“No sport clings to its myths like baseball, which means it takes a baseball historian of the first rank like John Thorn to turn those myths upside down and inside out. Baseball in the Garden of Eden offers enlightenment for every fan. It is also a joy to read.”
—Michael Shapiro, Author of Bottom of the Ninth and The Last Good Season
“An invaluable, enduring and unique history of the early game and how it swiftly changed, in some ways for the worse, and yet survived and thrived."
—David Nemec, Author of The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Baseball
“The One True Game’s old creation myths are nowhere near as interesting and as much fun as the truths that Thorn digs up about the conspiracies, vices, and raucous behavior of baseball’s earliest innings.”
—Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter
“No one, absolutely no one, knows more about the history of our national pastime than John Thorn, and this new book ought to settle once and for all many of the questions fans have about baseball’s origins. Superb.”
“John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden reveals a secret history of the early game that is more fantastical (and funny) than any concocted story.”
—Jim Bouton, Author of Ball Four
"If you love history or baseball, you will enjoy Thorn’s impeccably researched tome; if you love both, you will be mesmerized."
—Dave Sheinin, The Washington Post
A prominent baseball historian's delightfully literate take on the mythmakers who shaped the story of the game's creation.
A glittering 1889 banquet at Delmonico's—Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain attended—welcomed home Albert Goodwill Spalding's baseball team from a world tour. A rousing speech by baseball executive A.G. Mills, insisting on the game's exclusive American provenance, drew table-thumping cries of "No rounders!" This patriotic desire to claim baseball for our own, to distance it particularly from any British influence (rounders or cricket), led eventually to the appointment in 1905 of the Special Baseball Commission, charged with establishing once and for all the game's true origins. The stacked Commission settled on Civil War hero Abner Doubleday as the inventor and Cooperstown, N.Y., as the garden from which the game sprang. As scholars and sophisticated fans have long known, and as sabermetrics pioneer Thorn (editor:New York 400: A Visual History of America's Greatest City with Images from the Museum of the City of New York, 2009, etc.) meticulously demonstrates, the Commission was spectacularly wrong: The game surely pre-dated Doubleday and, in fact, had many fathers and a variety of evolutionary strands before knitting itself into the baseball we recognize today. The author autopsies the game's short-lived, prelapsarian era before moving to the time when codification of rules made baseball attractive as a spectator event, a business and a perfect vehicle for gambling. He charts the cheating, gambling, drugs (only alcohol then), color bans and the host of other sins already a part of the game's history before the Commission ever convened. Thorn expertly sifts the mix of high and low motives accounting for the anointment of Doubleday and Cooperstown, resuscitates names and teams vastly more important to the game's origins and cheerfully limns a parade of Gilded Age entrepreneurs, hucksters, journalists and promoters, whose charming fantasy of baseball's ancestry persists in the popular mind.
A singular treat for baseball fans.