Early Professional Baseball and the Sporting Press

Shaping the Image of the Game

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About the Book

The book analyzes the process by which the collective image of professional baseball was formed. It traces both the negation and the affirmation of ideas in the sports press that would impede or promote the growth of baseball from a recreational pastime to a team sport spectacle in the mid–19th century. The American collective image grew as a result of sports reportage, conversations about baseball in social and work groupings, game attendance (and changing values toward work and play), and reports of gambling.
Newspaper editorials and news stories and letters to the editor are studied as to shifting and complex and inter-related sentiments toward playing baseball. Much of this interactive complex was influenced by the English sports ideal and newly formed attitudes toward recreation. Above all, the sports press was the primary shaper of the image of professional baseball.

About the Author(s)

R. Terry Furst is an assistant professor of anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) in New York City.

Bibliographic Details

R. Terry Furst
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 184
Bibliographic Info: 16 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6985-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0625-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction 1

I. Changing Views Toward Man, Recreation, Leisure and Health 9

Muscular Christianity and the Y.M.C.A. 15

Periodicals, Sport Magazines, Newspapers and the

Dissemination of Ideas About Physical Fitness 17

II. The Amateur Ideal in Baseball 23

The Rise of Sportsmanship in England 23

Social Class, Status and Amateurism in England 26

The Amateur Rower in England 27

The Amateur Rower in America 28

The Influence of the English on American Sport 30

III. The Origin of Baseball and the Early Years of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club 34

The Abner Doubleday Myth 41

The North American Indian and the Origin of Baseball 42

The Origin and Structure of the Knicker­bocker Base Ball Club 43

Baseball Clubs Before and After the Knickerbockers 53

The First Convention and the First Association of Baseball Players 56

IV. Positive Press 60

 Well-­Publicized Events in the Early History of Baseball 62

 Recognition and Acclaim of the Skill of Baseball Players and Adoption of the Fly Rule 66

V. The Baseball Public and the Spectacle of Baseball 74

 The Public 75

 The Baseball Consumer 76

 Composition of the Baseball Public 77

 The Baseball Public and the Press 80

 The Baseball Spectacle and Rule Changes 82

 Baseball Strategies 84

 The Appeal of Baseball 85

 The Rowdy Behavior of the Baseball Audience 87

 Club Rivalries 89

VI. The Disreputable Image of Baseball 93

 Professional Athletics of the Early Nineteenth Century 93

 Substitution and Revolving: Disreputable Practices in the Transformation of Baseball 97

 Gambling and Corruption in Baseball 99

 The Championship of Baseball: The Quest for Supremacy 106

 The Impact of the Championship on Baseball 110

 The Moral Image of Baseball 110

 African Americans in Baseball: The Early Years 111

VII. Compensation and Image in Professional Baseball 115

 Precursor of Direct Payment to Players: The “Benefit Match” 115

 Admission Charges and Sharing of Gate Receipts 119

 Sinecures: An Indirect Form of Player Compensation 121

 The Adoption of the Rule Prohibiting Compensation to Players 122

 Some Issues Surrounding Salaries 123

 Player Compensation, ­Socio-­Occupational Background and the Professionalization of Baseball 126

 The Cincinnati Red Stocking Team of 1869–70 129

 Player Compensation and the Image of Professional Baseball 132

 The 1870s: A Time for Decisions in Organized Baseball 134

 Attempts by the Press to Define the Terms Amateur and Professional 136

 The Image of Professional Baseball 139

Chapter Notes 145

Bibliography 161

Index 167

Book Reviews & Awards

“Furst does an excellent job of using press accounts as a window into how the public embraced the game, despite its rebukes of practices that endangered baseball’s integrity. The book should be of interest not only to baseball history enthusiasts but also to those interested in the history of sports journalism”—Nine.