West Virginia Baseball

A History, 1865–2000


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About the Book

West Virginia sprang into existence as a state in the midst of the Civil War, and “base ball,” as it was called then, was close on the heels of statehood. A game in 1866 hosted by the Hunkidori Base Ball Club in Wheeling, is considered the first “match game of Base Ball.” Some historians contend the game spread via the movement of soldiers who were from urban areas. The real roots of baseball are not the romantic image of rural boys in sandlots or lazy father-son afternoons. It was born and came of age as an urban sport, a social pursuit of well-heeled young men that in the early days often involved banquets and shows following each game.

The author traces the history of minor league and independent league baseball in West Virginia. Baseball below the minor leagues has a rich and comparatively unexplored history, and West Virginia has made substantial contributions to this legacy. Chapters examine the chronological history of baseball and the larger economic and cultural changes that have influenced it. Eras include baseball as a social game (through 1873); the emergence of professional baseball (through 1895); its second boom (through 1905); the deadball era (through 1920); the Martinsburg dynasty (1914 to 1934); as a miners’ sport (1920 to 1941); the Middle Atlantic League (1925–1942); the Mountain State League (1937–1942); the postwar years (1945–1955); the nadir (1955–1985); and “A Minor Miracle” (1985–2000), a chapter that heralds a comeback in the popularity of professional baseball.

About the Author(s)

William E. Akin is a professor emeritus of history from Ursinus College. His articles have appeared in The Historian, American Quarterly and American Historical Review. He lives in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

William E. Akin

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: 11 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2570-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0642-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Introduction      1

1. “A Social Game of Ball”: Statehood and Base Ball, 1865–1873      5
2. “Wheeling’s a Swell Town to Play In”: The Emergence of Professional Baseball, 1874–1895      22
3. “A Progressive Community Must Have a Base Ball Team”: Baseball’s Second Boom, 1895–1905      40
4. “No Better Advertisement Than a Good Baseball Team”: North Central West Virginia in the Deadball Era, 1905–1920      57
5. “Oh, Summer in Kanawha”: River Towns in the Deadball Era, 1905–1920      73
6. “The City Is Baseball Crazy”: The Martinsburg Dynasty, 1914–1934      90
7. “Baseball Was the Miners’ Sport”: Coalfield Baseball, 1920–1941      108
8. “Hit the Ball and Run Like Hell”: The Middle Atlantic League, 1925–1942      124
9. “Dark and Dusty”: The Mountain State League, 1937–1942      140
10. “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Nothing No More”: The Post-War Years, 1945–1955      156
11. “Folks Don’t Seem to Like Baseball Like They Used To”: The Nadir, 1955–1985      173
12. “There’s Nothing Like Baseball to Keep Your Mind Off Your Troubles”: A Minor Miracle, 1985–2000      190

Notes      203
Bibliography      215
Index      221

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “rich”—Sports Collectors Digest
  • “thoroughly searched and highly detailed”—Goldenseal
  • “Akin’s work is an important contribution to the history of the national pastime and to the history of West Virginia. Well researched, well organized, and well written”—Nine
  • “informative and interesting work…comprehensive…an important contribution…recommend[ed]”—West Virginia History
  • “William Akin has…provided a superb contribution to baseball literature that should be a model for anyone thinking of writing the history of baseball in any state.”—Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game